Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn’t Know About the Magic Kingdom

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Throughout the world, Disney Parks delight guests with their magic, thrills, and sense of comfort and nostalgia. But so many guests know little about each park’s fun and fascinating history and facts. Most significantly, the original Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom are brimming with incredible trivia.

The Matterhorn Was the First of Its Kind

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
credit User101002 via Wikimedia Commons

The Matterhorn Bobsleds are unique to Disneyland and also hold a unique distinction. This attraction was the first steel tube roller coaster ever built. Previously, engineers made similar rides out of wood.

Building the track with hollow steel tubes creates a smoother and more thrilling ride because they could bend the metal tubes to make sharper curves. The credit for the bobsled vehicle goes to Disney Legend Bob Gurr, while the mountain and track design goes to Fred Joerger.

Live Mermaids

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
tob catrina via canva.com

In 1959, 1965, and 1967, Disneyland’s original Submarine Voyage was host to something very unique — live mermaids. The women who slipped into these fins were seen sunbathing atop the rocks in the attraction’s lagoon.

A sight to behold, these mermaids created a fun and whimsical aesthetic for guests. But their appearances were phased out for the health and safety of the performers. The biggest culprits were diesel fumes, high amounts of chlorine, and some enthusiastic men who jumped in the water to get closer to the mermaids.

Disneyland Opening Day Hosts and Guests

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Image credit Warner Brothers via Wikimedia Commons

The televised opening of Disneyland aired on ABC on July 17, 1955. Since the park was the first of its kind, thousands, including high-profile celebrities, flocked to the historic event.

We see Danny Thomas and his family throughout the various lands, Irene Dunne helps christen the Mark Twain Riverboat, and Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. take a spin on the Autopia.

The opening day hosts were also noteworthy. The primary host was Walt Disney’s friend, popular television personality Art Linkletter, while the co-hosts were actor Bob Cummings and actor (and future President) Ronald Reagan.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Statues

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
image credit Boris Dzhingarov via Wikimedia Commons

The serene and lovely Snow White’s Grotto is located beside Sleeping Beauty Castle and has a fascinating history. Initially, it was thought the statues were donated and gifted anonymously to Walt Disney. However, according to D23 magazine, Italian artist Leonardo Parma created the eight figures.

They were sculpted from Carrara marble but presented a design challenge. Each was roughly the same size. And since Snow White is taller, Imagineer John Hench conceived a design for the grotto area that solved the problem.

Using height and forced perspective, Snow White sits high and further back, while the dwarfs sit lower and closer to the guests. Due to wear, the figures were eventually replaced with fiberglass statues. But they used the original molds, maintaining the integrity of these beautiful sculptures.

Movies Filmed in Disneyland and Walt Disney World

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Image credit Theme Park Tourist via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the popularity of the parks, only a few filmmakers have had the privilege to film inside Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The Walt Disney Company is very protective, so naturally, it does not grant permission to film often and easily — and it’s usually only Disney-produced films. These include Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks and Tomorrowland and Miramax’s Marvin’s Room.

But there’s also been a few non-Disney movies, as well. Before Disney owned 20th Century Fox, they allowed them to film a brief scene for That Thing You Do. This is likely because the movie’s director, Tom Hanks, has a history with Disney as the voice of Woody in Toy Story.

There’s also the bizarre Escape from Tomorrow, a black-and-white horror movie filmed without permission. The most fascinating is the 1963 comedy 40 Pounds of Trouble. It’s a beautiful, if sometimes wild, time capsule for Disneyland fans.

A Park by Any Other Name

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Image credit Juliancolton via Wikimedia Commons

Many probably don’t know the evolution of the names of the world’s most popular theme parks. Walt Disney originally intended to call Anaheim’s park “The Mickey Mouse Park,” which evolved into “Disneylandia” and eventually Disneyland.

In the 1960s, Walt and his brother Roy began developing what they called “The Florida Project.” After Walt’s death, Roy insisted it be named Walt Disney World to honor and celebrate his brother.

Liberty Square Authenticity

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Image credit David Bjorgen via Wikimedia Commons

In Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, one land takes authenticity to a new level. Disney fashioned Liberty Square after colonial states of the 1700s. The swirling dark sections on the sidewalks throughout the land reflect the sewage that would exist. They double down on the authenticity with no restrooms in the area.

The Society of Explorers and Adventurers

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Image credit CasinoKat via Wikimedia Commons

A little-known fact is that Disney Parks have shared lore featuring a fictional society of various characters. The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, or S.E.A., is a group of scientists, artists, explorers, and researchers who dedicate their lives to adventures and conservation worldwide.

The concept originated in Tokyo Disney Sea, but mentions of the society also exist in Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor and Disneyland’s and Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise.

The Disneyland Hotel’s Original Owners

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Image credit Robert J. Boser via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that The Disneyland Hotel originally had outside ownership? From 1955 to 1988, the owners were oil tycoon and businessman Jack Wrather and his wife, actress Bonita Granville. One of the towers was even named Bonita.

The hotel expanded over that time and was a mutually beneficial and successful partnership. But after Wrather died in 1984, Granville’s heart was no longer there. By 1988, then-CEO Michael Eisner negotiated ownership of the Walt Disney Company.

Main Street U.S.A. Window Tributes

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Image credit Theme Park Tourist via Wikimedia Commons

Next time you’re on any Main Street U.S.A., look up. The building’s windows on both sides of the street contain tributes to notable individuals and Disney Legends such as Marc and Alice Davis, Mary Blair, Rolly Crump, Tony Baxter, Bob Gurr, Ub Iwerks, and Elias Disney. They’re small but lovely touches.

Frontierland’s Petrified Tree

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Image credit Theme Park Tourist via Wikimedia Commons

Most guests walk by one of Frontierland’s most striking features without notice. In 1956, Walt Disney bought the remains of a petrified tree, measured roughly between 55 and 70 million years old.

He gave it to his wife Lillian as an anniversary present; in 1957, she, in turn, gifted the tree to Disneyland Park, joking that it was too big for their mantle.

Sleeping Beauty Castle Is Technically Backwards

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
CrispyCream27 via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most iconic buildings in the world, Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is a lovely, quaint, and artistic masterpiece. It uses forced perspective to make it appear taller. But many are unaware that what we see as the front of the castle is the back.

As the story goes, designer Herb Ryman presented Walt with a castle model. Walt thought the back looked more inviting and attractive. So Ryman flipped it around, and the rest is history.

The Music of Main Street, U.S.A.Steven Miller via Wikimedia commons

There are many fascinating facts about Main Street, U.S.A., in the various parks. They did not construct the buildings to actual scale to help retain a quaint feeling. Moreover, Walt Disney modeled the land after his childhood hometown, Marceline, Missouri.

One of the loveliest things about the land is the turn-of-the-century music loop of classics that plays daily. You can hear songs such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and Disney songs like “Flitterin'” and “Married Life.”

Interestingly, we also hear ragtime versions of songs from non-Disney musicals, including Oklahoma, The Music Man, Meet Me In St. Louis, By The Light of the Silvery Moon, On Moonlight Bay, In the Good Old Summertime, and Hello, Dolly!

The Enchanted Tiki Room’s Original Concept

Behind the Ears: 14 Things You Didn't Know About the Magic Kingdom
Steven Miller via Wikimedia Commons

The lively and wholesome Enchanted Tiki Room has delighted guests since 1963. The fifteen-minute show features over 200 animatronic figures, such as birds, flowers, and Tiki masks.

But did you know that Walt Disney originally wanted the Tiki Room to be a restaurant with live birds? Once the logistics of having live animals became apparent, it was re-themed to a show. It became the first attraction to feature more sophisticated animatronics.

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