The below interview with DisneyLies.com's creator was conducted early in 2004. It was originally scheduled to be printed in the March issue of Metropole magazine. However, the magazine disappeared from the face of the earth before the interview saw the light of day (really!). We present it here for your entertainment (and because they gave it to us for free).
Lying About the Mouse:
The Truth About DisneyLies.com
by Ben Styles
The Walt Disney Company has made a name for itself by vehemently defending its copyrights. It's sued prominent cartoonists for lampooning Mickey Mouse, sued a daycare center that was decorated with Disney characters, and is leading a global campaign against video piracy. So why would someone start a Web site that seems to be just asking for trouble from "the mouse"? Good question.
DisneyLies.com appeared in mid-November of 2003 and within a month was receiving thousands of hits a day. We spoke with its creator about the site, Disneyland, and Disney's legal department.
Metropole: To start off, could you explain why you asked that your real name not be used in this interview. Are you afraid of a lawsuit?
DisneyLies: I don't believe that DisneyLies.com violates any copyrights, and I don't put my name on anything if I can help it. I prefer to let the lies speak for themselves.
Metropole: For our readers who have never visited your site, give us a quick rundown of what those lies are. What kind of information can be found there?
DL: Well, first off, shame on anyone out there who knows about the site but hasn't visited. If you're a Disney fan, you can't know the whole truth until you know what isn't the truth, and that's what DisneyLies.com is all about. Or something like that.
As for the site's content, it's mostly about sex. Some of it's obvious stuff, and some a bit more obscure.
There's an extensive collection of photographs of female Disneyland guests exposing themselves on Disneyland attractions. Most of these were taken on Splash Mountain -- it's almost a tradition for well-endowed young women to lift their shirts when the attraction's automated camera snaps a photo of the ride vehicle plunging down the large final flume. But any of the attractions in which pictures are taken are fair game for "Disneyflashing" -- Space Mountain, Goofy's Bounce House, even Superstar Limo for the ten minutes it was open.
Officially, these photos don't exist. Cast members remove them from circulation as soon as they are detected, and they are supposed to be deleted. Guests are told that the pictures didn't come out, the exposure -- no pun intended -- was bad, the film was clouded by x-rays -- whatever. But the fact is that much of the time a sharp-witted cast member will copy the digital file onto a disk before the official deletion and then provide it to a Web site like DisneyLies.com for the entertainment of males between the ages of 13 and 28 who have no life and can't get a date.
There are also quite a few of what we call "hit and run" photos. This is where a woman will stand in front of a landmark like the castle, lift her shirt just long enough for someone to snap a picture, and then hustle before someone can notify security. More daring "runners" will do this while standing with a costumed character -- usually Mickey, Goofy, or Donald -- but they really have to run after snapping the shutter because an employee is right there, and being caught means being banned from the park.
We've had some people send us photos where they -- always a guy -- were standing with one of the princess face characters and made a grab for her chest or pinched her behind. That's totally out of line and we don't publish anything like that. In fact, we anonymously send those on to Disney, and we've heard that one or two of the guys have been arrested for harassment.
We have hundreds of megabytes of video captured from Disneyland Resort security cameras available on DisneyLies for download as well. It's no secret that couples of all gender combinations have been known to, shall we say, "get frisky" on Disneyland attractions, and it's also no secret that Disneyland has security cameras everywhere for "security and safety" reasons. Put those two together with a couple of particularly wild grad nights and you know where that bootleg Guests Gone Wild video they sell on the Internet came from.
There was once a ride in Tomorrowland called Adventure Thru Inner Space that was a long, slow ride through near darkness in a two-person omnimover vehicle that provided semi-privacy for its occupants. The ride was nearly legendary for its attractiveness to people who should get a room. Lord knows how many current Premium Annual Passport holders were conceived under these circumstances.
Video surveillance wasn't great during Adventure Thru Inner Space's heyday, but from a voyeuristic perspective things have improved quite a bit since then. We have only two short films from Inner Space on DisneyLies, but current attractions are prurient gold mines. The Haunted Mansion is a big one. It's another omnimover attraction, and since they don't have that cast member dressed as a knight in the ride any more people think that they're practically all alone. The fact is that some of the ceilings are semitransparent scrim hiding catwalks, several walls have peek holes, and there are cameras everywhere.
The Main Street Cinema is another area that gets a lot of activity -- it's dark and there's often nobody in there, so particularly desperate couples sometimes pop in and take a chance. The site's got video of a couple newlyweds caught on Tom Sawyer Island after dark, major nudity on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and a virtual orgy on Pirates. There was a steamy incident with a couple of cast members in the secret room at the top of the Matterhorn, too. Stuff from Disney California Adventure is just starting to roll in as guests learn where the hot spots are. I can tell you things get pretty steamy in the back row of Muppet*Vision 3D when crowds are low. We've got pages and pages of "wet t-shirt" type pictures from the Grizzly River Run as well.
At this point we're serving 50 to 100 gig a day of this material. People really eat it up! I'm hoping that we can get some really unusual stuff in the near future. I'd like to see a couple of cast members take their costumes home and make some amateur films for us. That would really drive up hit counts.
You may have heard that there is a video of a woman getting naked and doing certain unmentionable things on the Monorail. It's true, it happened, and you can buy the video online, but we don't use it on our site because it happened at the wrong park -- the Monorail nudity all took place at Disney World, and we're not into that park at this juncture.
Metropole: Wow -- I had no idea that kind of stuff was going on! When I visited the site I missed all of that!
DL: Not a big surprise. You've really got to look.
Metropole: Well, with sex covered, what about death? A few people have died at Disneyland over the years. How do you cover that?
DL: No, no -- we don't do that. DisneyLies is a positive site. We don't dwell on fatalities or make fun of people who were killed on attractions. Oh sure, we might taunt some poor SOB who was walking in the wrong place and got his foot run over, but a fatal popcorn incident will never be mentioned.
Disneyland itself has become more sensitive to this kind of stuff in recent years. In the fire station on Main Street there is a chalkboard where the number of park injuries and deaths used to be recorded. These days, the board is left blank.
Metropole: What else do you have on the site that might be considered controversial?
DL: All sorts of pictures: Costumed characters without their heads on. Snow White coming out of a men's room. A pot of dead fish hidden below decks on the Columbia. A crazy looking old man streaking down Main Street. Michael Eisner's goiter. We've got it all.
Metropole: Again I'm amazed. I didn't see any of that. But so far none of this sounds like lies -- more like things that Disney wouldn't want to reveal. And most of what I found on the site was humorous descriptions of rides and misinformation about park history. What exactly do you consider a "lie" for your site's purposes.
DL: It's pretty cut and dried, actually. We make a point of giving out just enough real information to show that we know what we're talking about and then piling on the baloney. One visitor described the site as "a great mix of humor and near-useful information." I like that.
Metropole: I visited a few Disney-oriented Internet discussion forums to see what other people thought of DisneyLies.com, and I noticed that you occasionally post to these groups. Do you make a practice of posting misinformation in these groups as well?
DL: Never. I don't say anything I don't believe to be true in e-mail or in online forums. If I did that, I think I'd pretty quickly find it impossible to get help when I need to do research, and I think I'd end up alienating a lot of people. I confine my lying to the Web site and interviews.
Metropole: Oh great. So are you trying to tell me that all that stuff about porn on DisneyLies.com is just so much hooey?
DL: I don't think I ever used the word "porn," so no.
Metropole: Well, about the naked pictures then. Is any of that true?
DL: Are you going to believe me at this point?
Metropole: I don't know, should I?
DL: Not really, but I suggest you just let it go. It'll help keep things running smoothly.
Metropole: Swell. Okay, in the interest of damage control, let's stick to things I've actually seen on your site for a moment. DisneyLies has a section called "Homework Help" -- what can you tell me about that?
DL: One of the first e-mails we got was from a kid who seemed to be very obviously looking for information for a homework assignment. We sent him a real answer, but it got us to thinking -- what if kids don't realize that the site is all lies and use it for research? And then we thought that if a kid was going to believe a site that says at the bottom of every page that it's full of lies, then he deserves what he gets. So to assist budding plagiarists, we began to post bad answers to homework-type questions we've received as well as full-blown essays that kids can copy and pass off as their own work. We even show them where to put their name.
Metropole: An example of this on your site would be an essay titled "Michael Eisner: Führer of Big Business."
Metropole: The Eisner essay seems to be essentially an essay about the second world war that has had every instance of "Hitler" changed to "Eisner."
DL: Interesting. I hadn't noticed that. Now that you mention it, there are a number of parallels between Eisner and Hitler -- they both invaded France and formed pacts with Japan, for example. Of course, there are some rather significant differences, too. Eisner's a pretty good guy in comparison to Hitler.
Metropole: Who isn't! But what have you got against Michael Eisner.
DL: It's nothing personal. I think he did great things for the Walt Disney Company. I also think that of late he has been a bit of a dictator and has sacrificed the company's philosophy and long-term well-being for quick profits.
Metropole: Which explains why he so often comes under attack on your Web site.
DL: Not at all. We say stuff about Eisner because it's funny. That he may deserve it is just icing.
Metropole: Your site also has an extensive collection of Disney urban legends -- effectively lies from other people.
DL: No, no -- we don't need any help making stuff up. Technically, in a folkloric sense, urban legends don't have to be untrue. The term "urban legend" refers to the method in which a story is told and propagates -- it may or may not be true.
Metropole: So are any of the urban legends on your site true?
DL: Sure! Disneyland really did turn away guests with long hair at one time, producers of a True Life Adventures film really threw lemmings off a cliff, you can't buy gum in Walt Disney's house, and the pirate captain in Pirates of the Caribbean really was modeled after Charles Manson. The one about Jessica Rabbit not wearing underwear is true, too. The lie is in our "behind the legend" portion of the site. For example, it's true that Walt Disney was frozen, it's not true that he will be thawed in 2055 for a world tour. They're going to have to wait until 2100 at least.
Metropole: Do you worry that Disney's fabled legal department is going to come after you for spreading all these lies?
Metropole: Come on now, it must have crossed your mind.
DL: Well sure, that's why we have a link on the home page for Disney lawyers. I honestly think that will take care of the problem. And if it doesn't -- can you imagine Disney taking us to court for inviting kids to steal an essay about Michael Eisner invading Poland? Somehow I think they'd look pretty silly. And in any case we steer clear of using copyrighted material, and everything we do is parody, which is protected speech.
Metropole: So you would actually welcome an attempt by Disney to sue you.
DL: Heck no! I tell you what, you get them to sue you and we'll see how it goes. If you come out in one piece, then I'll invite them to give it their best shot. I'm not giving you great odds, by the way.
Joking aside, the point of DisneyLies isn't to harass Disney, it's to give people an alternate way to enjoy it.
Metropole: What's next for DisneyLies?
DL: It's kind of early to ask that. The site's only been up since mid-November and we're still fleshing out parts of it. We can't have a "next" until that's done. At that point we'll probably look at having someone put together an actual site design for us. And we want to open a little online store -- sell t-shirts and bumper stickers that say "Bring back Pandaland!" and "Tell the truth! Tell a lie! Tell the truth! Tell a lie!" -- stuff like that. We need to figure out some way to make money from this, too.
Metropole: Speaking of making money, I see that you have a link on your site for people to make donations.
DL: Right. To cover operating costs.
Metropole: So how much money have you made so far, if you don't mind my asking.
DL: Not at all. If you were to go on our site right now and donate $10, then we will have made $10 in total. That's an approximation.
Metropole: Not a lot of people making donations, is that what you're saying?
DL: Loud and clear, but that's pretty much what we expected. We have a plan for making money, but it involves robbing a liquor store in between site updates. I somehow don't think DisneyLies.com is going to be a big cash cow.
Metropole: So it's really just a hobby?
DL: No, more of a quest. I think humor is important in a healthy life. Everybody needs some or they'll waste away. And I feel that if the site spreads enough lies, then at some point someone who is less than a discerning reader will stumble on one of the pages, take it at face value, and go around quoting it as gospel until they are shown what a complete moron they were for believing something so outrageous in the first place. If we can make that happen to just one person, I'll laugh so hard that I'll be healthy for a hundred years.
I'd also like to show those Disneyland annual passport holders who treat the park like they own it that they are really making fools of themselves.
Metropole: So you think Disney fans take it too far.
DL: No, not all fans, not even most fans. I have an annual pass, and I go to the park whenever I can. I can recite the Haunted Mansion soundtrack with the best of them and show you where the secret time capsule is buried. If I didn't know way too much about Disney, I wouldn't be able to write for DisneyLies.
I don't have a problem with people who go to the park a lot -- even every day -- and then go home, get online, and spend all night chatting with other fans, discussing current events and rumors, complaining about problems or wondering "what would Walt do."
There was a recent incident where a temporary construction wall -- one of those plywood things they put up so that you can't see what's being built -- in front of a hush-hush bit of work in Tomorrowland fell over in high winds and hit a guest. There was a post about it on my favorite Disney discussion board, LaughingPlace.com. One of the first responses to the news was along the lines of, "So after the wall fell over, could you see any of what was being built?" This should, I suppose, bother me because someone might have been injured and Disney rumors and secrets shouldn't be anything close to a priority at a time like that. The reason it didn't bother me was that 1) the person asking the question made it clear that they knew that the injured people came first, and 2) the fact is that every Disneyland fanatic -- myself included -- wondered about what was behind that wall when we heard that it had fallen over, and we all knew how incredibly geeky that made us.
No, the fans that bother me are the ones that treat Disneyland like it's theirs to the exclusion of others. These are the few people who complain loudly about trivial things while inside the park, make a show of their know-it-all attitude, heckle rides they've been on a thousand times at the expense of first-time visitors, and badger cast members for inside information and won't stop even when the cast member says that they'd lose their job if they said anything. I also have no time for people who abuse the park -- don't steal the apple from Snow White's Scary Adventures and then put it up for sale on eBay or try to sneak into an off-limits area to take pictures for your Web site.
There's been a recent controversy because Disneyland changed its policy of giving out line-skipping passes to anyone who came to City Hall on Main Street and said that they had a disability. Disneyland's now being much more selective about who they are giving these passes out to, because a lot of people were gaming the system, getting passes because they knew they could instead of because they needed them. These people screw things up for everyone else, and they've screwed things up for legitimately disabled people who could really use these passes. I've got no use for "fans" like that.
I also have very strong feelings about the folks at a certain Web site who put on monthly, unofficial "Death at Disneyland" tours. They take groups of people around to all the places people have died at Disneyland -- the Innoventions building, the petrified tree, Fantasia Gardens, the Main Street popcorn cart and Disneyana shop, etc. -- and tell the stories behind the incidents. They also go into gory detail about the time a dead horse had to be cut up with a chainsaw near the hub. It's disgusting, repulsive, and exploitive.
Metropole: Wow, you'd think that Disney's lawyers would try and find a way to stop that. They really hold these tours?
DL: But after reading this, maybe someone will start. And there really are things that some fans do that annoy me.
One group that doesn't bother me particularly but that I find sadly humorous are the Disney know-it-alls who are full of misinformation. These are the people who say that Brigham Young's hearse is on display in front of the Haunted Mansion, that there is a secret network of tunnels beneath the park, that Walt Disney used to entertain guests in an apartment in New Orleans Square, and that the Pirates of the Caribbean song mentions rape. Sadly, even some official Disneyland tour guides repeat some of these legends (albeit not the rape one).
I'm also entertained by fans who find hidden Mickeys everywhere.
Metropole: You're referring to Mickey Mouse silhouettes worked into attractions by Disney employees.
DL: Attractions, books, films -- pretty much everything. Hidden Mickeys are real things, but people go overboard looking for them. They say that everything that has three circles on it is a hidden Mickey -- from the Main Street pawnbroker's sign to an Autopia car with a missing tire. There are, again, even some tour guides who do this. But the fact is that most legitimate hidden Mickeys -- that is, those that were actually placed on purpose -- are pretty obvious once you see them. You can find hidden references to other characters, old attractions, and things like that in the park, too. There's an old sign for the Eyeore section of the parking lot in the Indiana Jones queue, and several tributes to the old Monsanto House of the Future in Tomorrowland. What you won't find is a rock in the Disneyland Railroad's Primeval World Diorama that Imagineers built to look like half of Yoda's head.
Metropole: Now that you're making up.
DL: Not at all -- you really won't find that. And to answer your real question, there was actually a note on a hidden-Mickey's discussion board from someone who "discovered" this rock.
I want to mention that there are some Disneyland fanatics that I have a lot of respect for, too. These are people who use their powers of Disney trivia for good -- helping other guests who are lost or want to know the best place to watch a parade from, for instance. And there are plenty of Disney cast members who go out of their way to try and make the Disneyland experience special and keep the park on track.
Metropole: Do you think most Disneyland cast members fall into this category?
DL: I certainly hope so. There are a few too many who talk about personal things or when they are going to go on break in earshot of guests, but I think that for every one of them there are several who try to put on a good show and keep a smile on their face evenwhile doing menial tasks like emptying trash cans.
Metropole: Do you consider yourself a Disney fanatic?
DL: I don't know. My friends and relatives do, and I guess that's what counts. I do think about Disneyland a lot, and I spend a lot of time on the discussion boards.
If you want to talk about real obsession, there's a guy who runs a site called Atommobiles.com who is creating a three-dimensional ride-through movie of the old Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction on his home computer. He's been working on it for years, and when it's complete it'll be accurate down to the last bolt. That's obsession, and it's only about one ride. I seriously admire the guy's dedication.
There are some pretty extensive Web sites about other rides, too -- Pirates of the Caribbean, the various Haunted Mansions, the Jungle Cruise, all of the Autopia's various incarnations. There are also detailed sites dedicated to hidden Mickeys, past attractions, memorabilia -- there's even one guy who has collected every post card ever sold at Disneyland. I know of a guy who's working on a site devoted to the origin of every piece of building material used in the castle, including lot numbers and dates of delivery.
Metropole: With so many people loving Disneyland, have you had any bad reactions to DisneyLies.com.
DL: Only a few, and most of them seem to be from people who only saw a page or two, or who don't get that the whole thing's done to get a laugh. We got one complaint that the photo we used of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was insensitive, considering the recent tragedy there. We've also gotten a couple of e-mails from people pointing out inaccuracies on the site, which amazes me since you have to search pretty hard for anything even close to accurate.
Then again, I also got a note from a woman who described herself as a tall, shapely blonde from Phoenix who wanted to know if she could meet me at the park some time, so it all kind of balances out.
Metropole: You mentioned the Big Thunder photo. You don't have a lot of visuals on the site. Why is that?
DL: We're very picky about the photos we put on the site. First, the photos have to be either ours or ones that we've obtained the right to reproduce. And second, we don't put up any photo that's an accurate representation of what we're talking about. It's easy to go into Disneyland and take pictures of all the attractions. It's hard to go in and find something exceptionally inaccurate.
Metropole: Like the photo of the queen in Fantasyland.
DL: That's a good example. There's a nice detail built into the Snow White's Scary Adventures building -- the evil queen occasionally looks out through the curtains of a window above the ride. On the site, we talk about the time Imagineers took the figure's clothing to be cleaned and forgot to turn off the mechanism for opening the curtains, so guests got an eyeful every few minutes until someone reported it to management. We've got a photo of the naked queen on the site, with a bit of blurring thrown in to make it appropriate for a family audience. I get a lot of requests for the photo without the blurring.
Metropole: I'll bet! Turning away from Disneyland, let's talk about California Adventure for a moment. It gets skewered on your site.
DL: Everything gets skewered on the site. Personally, I really enjoy Disney California Adventure. It's pleasant, it's got good entertainment, and it's very relaxing. My son likes it as much as he likes Disneyland.
What bothers me is that you can kind of tell that DCA didn't have enough resources behind it when it opened. There's too much of an emphasis on shopping and not enough E ticket attractions. I don't even mean thrill rides. I just think that they could have gone to a higher level with what they have.
For example, there's a film called Golden Dreams that shows California's history. It's actually quite good, but with more money, they could have done the whole thing with animatronics instead of film and hired a narrator who wasn't Whoopie Goldberg.
But DCA's problems are being worked out and new attractions added. There have been some really good special events at DCA, like the showcasing of X Games competitors and Earthquake Simulation Week, and they have a couple of excellent play areas for little kids. The new Silicon Valley area promises to be a winner, too.
Metropole: What about Downtown Disney? You don't say much about it on the site.
DL: That's coming. We'll have plenty on Downtown Disney after the DCA section is fleshed out a bit more. After that, we'll be doing Disney films and then biographies of every single Disney employee. There's still plenty of work to do.