Disney Urban Legends
Legend: Tom Sawyer Island is really in the state of Missouri.
Behind the Legend: On the same day he dedicated Tom Sawyer Island in July of 1955, Walt Disney signed a secret pact with the state of Missouri, annexing the island to that state. The California legislature was furious, seeing it as yet another attempt by Missouri to gain a foothold in southern California as part of its long-term goal over cornering the then-profitable market for American-made televisions.
Fortunately, Walt Disney was no fool and he saw the politics behind Missouri's move. He played the whole thing as a publicity stunt, and never gave Missouri the opportunity to increase its holdings (he had never promised any such aid, although he cannily allowed Missourian negotiators to believe he would follow their lead).
Today, the fact that Tom Sawyer Island is part of another state is evident in several ways. For example, the island has little in the way of plumbing and it is rare for Disney to sell anything from an outdoor vending cart on the island because of accounting problems caused by the difference in sales tax. And, of course, anyone caught committing a crime on Tom Sawyer Island is put in the precarious position of either having to wait to be annexed or commit a federal crime by using the rafts to cross state lines back into California. Weather patterns on the island are also significantly different than in the rest of the park.
Legend: Because of the advertising value of having its products featured at Disney theme parks, Coca Cola provides Disneyland with all of its beverage products free of charge.
Behind the Legend: This is true, but highly misleading. For years, Coke has had an advantage over rival Pepsi because it provides its products free of charge to all of its customers. The company makes up the loss by requiring that beverages only be sold in official cups or containers -- and charging an enormous amount for those contains. The container charge is based on a sliding scale depending on the customer. Individual consumers, purchasing beverages at a grocery or convenience store, pay only a few cents for the can or bottle in which their beverage comes. At the other end of the scale, movie theaters and theme parks like Disneyland pay as much as $2.00 for a single drink cup, making the exorbitant prices charged for drinks at those locations completely understandable.
The Legend: Mickey Mouse never appears at two places in Disneyland at the same time.
Behind the Legend: Can you imagine the confusion of a small child who saw Mickey in his movie barn, exited to see Mickey signing autographs in the gazebo at Toontown's center, and then walked past "it's a small world" to catch a glimpse of Mickey on a float in a passing parade? This used to happen quite a bit, forcing parents to make up ridiculous stories like, "that one's Minnie dressed up like Mickey," or "it's one of Mickey's helpers," or "the characters are just people in costumes." Even so, many children had their blind faith in things that are fun but couldn't possibly be true ruined for life.
Fortunately, in January of 2004 Disney took steps to make sure that this kind of problem can never again arise.
A master computer now coordinates all appearances of Mickey Mouse (and, soon, other Disney characters). If Mickey is appearing in a parade, his meet-and-greet in Toontown is closed. If he's signing autographs in Disney California Adventure, he's not signing them in Disneyland. And just to make sure that the effect is perfect, the computer ensures that there is enough time between appearances for "Mickey's" supposed travel and costume changes.
Although the system works well, there are still a number of bugs. For example, a family that visited Disneyland in the morning and then hopped on a plane and visited Walt Disney World in the afternoon and saw Mickey in both locations could be told that Mickey simply got on a plane at the same time they did. However, if half of the family went to Disneyland and the other half went to Walt Disney World on the same day and brought home time-indexed videos of their trips that both showed Mickey at around the same time, that explanation would not hold water. For this reason, a plan is being hatched (to be rolled out some time next year) to coordinate Mickey's appearances globally so that he does not appear in two places on the planet simultaneously.
The Legend: There is a private club in New Orleans Square.
Behind the Legend: Club 33 exists in a hidden cavern beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It is a members-only establishment, open exclusively to initiates who have taken a sacred oath and endured a grueling hazing marathon. The "33" of the club's name represents both the number of lashes traditionally doled to members who dare reveal the contents of secret ceremonies, and the average entrée price. Club slogan: "Come for the sacred rites and intrigue -- stay for the pie!"
The Legend: No one is ever declared dead on Disneyland property.
Behind the Legend: For fear of bad publicity, Disney has a policy of not allowing any part of the Disneyland Resort to be listed as a place of death on a death certificate. To prevent this from happening, Disney has a two-tier process for handling serious medical conditions or accidents in the park. First, a quick-response team -- always ready out of public view -- rushes to the scene and spares no expense to either stabilize the injured individual or get him/her to an ambulance ASAP. If there is no hope or the team arrives too late, the "problem" is dropped into the park's underground pneumatic system and quickly, unceremoniously ejected onto Harbor Boulevard.
The Legend: Children are sometimes abducted from Disney parks by kidnappers.
Behind the Legend: Technically not true, since no one is ever declared kidnapped on Disney property.
The Legend: All of the plush animals sold at Disneyland are stuffed with clothing taken from third-world children.
Behind the Legend: Disneyland plush is stuffed with puppy hair, leaving the puppies cold and bald but alive. Toys are, however, assembled by third-world children.
The Legend: The basement storage area beneath the Refreshment Corner on Main Street still exists, but it is no longer used because it is cursed and anyone who goes in there dies.
Behind the Legend: True.
The Legend: Disneyland doesn't allow men with long hair into the park.
Behind the Legend: Disneyland has always had a very strict code of dress and conduct, but that code has changed over the years. When the park opened, men with long hair were banned, largely to keep out the "bad" element (e.g., the Beatles, the Monkees, and other influential young adults with spelling difficulties). Clothing that showed more than a modest amount of skin, Klan robes, sombreros, and Mormons were also off limits. Today, most of these standards have changed with the times. Women show up at the park in bikinis, you see the occasional sombrero, and Mormons no longer have to wear special badges. Klansmen still routinely have the crap beat out of them at the main gate, however.
The Legend: Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was not allowed to visit Disneyland in 1959.
Behind the Legend: True -- his hair was too long.
The Legend: A marker beneath Sleeping Beauty's Castle shows the exact center of Disneyland.
Behind the Legend: The marker really does show the park's center, but it was not always beneath the castle. When Disneyland was first being laid out, a team of surveyors under the guidance of Walt Disney located the park's original center using a gigantic piece of string. The original center is at the middle of the large compass south of the castle. Over the years, as the park was added to, the exact geographical center has moved many times. But it was only after the construction of Mickey's Toontown that Disneyland executives decided the park had expanded enough to warrant a new marker. Using the ultra-high-resolution camera on one of Disney's "communications" satellites, a detailed survey of the park's new borders was made, and the new center calculated -- this time taking into account such technicalities as the non-Euclidian nature of surface geometry when measuring angles on the curved surface of the Earth. In a midnight ceremony shrouded in secrecy, the current marker was placed on the newly calculated spot.
The Legend: One of the Three Little Pigs molested a Disneyland guest.
Behind the Legend: This is a very strange legend, particularly considering that the Three Little Pigs are cartoon characters and do not even really exist (the supposed victim could not have been referring to a costumed character, since the Three Little Pigs costumes don't have articulated hands). FYI, the woman who complained that she had been molested by Practical Pig had previously claimed that there were fairies in her purse and that Santa Claus was the father of her son.
The Legend: The Skyway was closed permanently after a guest fell from one of the cabins.
Behind the Legend: Wrong on three accounts: 1) It wasn't closed permanently, it was (in Disneyland's terms) "closed extended -temporarily with intervening uninstallation." 2) He wasn't a guest, but an international industrial espionage agent. 3) He didn't fall, he was pushed.
The Legend: Women lift their shirts for the Splash Mountain camera.
Behind the Legend: Like it's a big surprise that this is true. There are some women (you know who you are Amy, you slut) who will lift their shirts for anything. Just ask any Disneyland cast member who sells balloons or things that are shiny.
The Legend: The Refreshment Corner café on Main Street (hosted by Coca-Cola) used to openly sell cocaine.
Behind the legend: No Disneyland location has ever openly sold illegal drugs, although there is a mind-altering substance in the park's churros that makes eaters think the treats are actually worth more than 75 cents.
The Legend: Disneyland once charged a guest $250 for a cookie recipe.
The Legend: Guests of the Disneyland Hotel had their room burglarized, and although their camera wasn't taken, after its film was developed photos of the thieves with the guests' toothbrushes stuck in their nether regions were found.
Behind the legend: Not possible -- Disney Guest Services would not make prints of film with images like that, so if this incident had actually occurred, the guests would have never found out what happened to their toothbrushes.
The Legend: An amorous couple on Adventure Thru Inner Space was preparing to exit the ride when they discovered a bloody hook hanging from the side of their omnimover.
Behind the legend: Because Adventure Thru Inner Space is long gone from Disneyland, this legend is difficult to track down. However, it is quite possible, and fits well with the fact that a) a homicidal maniac with a hook for a hand did escape from prison and lost police somewhere near Disneyland and, b) couples who "go too far" before marriage always come to a bad end.
The Legend: The Mad Tea Party ride was inspired by the book, Go Ask Alice.
Behind the legend: True
The Legend: Alligators dwell in the sewers beneath Disneyland.
Behind the legend: There are no sewers below Disneyland, and therefore no alligators in them. The secret tunnels are infested with mutant rats, however.
The Legend: Disney dollars often contain traces of cocaine.
Behind the legend: This is true because, due to the ease with which Disney dollars are laundered (in the "organized crime" sense), more than 60% of illegal U.S. narcotics transactions are carried out in theme-park currency.
The Legend: Organ thieves are at work in Disneyland!
Behind the legend: True! One night, a Haunted Mansion security guard was knocked unconscious. He awoke hours later naked, in a bathtub filled with ice in a hotel room. On the bathroom mirror was written "Go to the hospital!" He got dressed, went to the hospital, had some hot cocoa to warm up after all that ice, and waited to see what would happen. A short time later, he was contacted by the police and told that the Haunted Mansion's grand ballroom organ had been stolen! (It was later recovered by a team of Navy SEALs)
The Legend: Disneyland is the only man-made object visible from the moon.
Behind the legend: No, you can see the Great Wall of China, too.
The Legend: A 1943 copper penny is good for admission to Disneyland.
Behind the legend: The reason is lost in obscurity, but ticket-booth cast members are instructed to give a Disneyland ticket to anyone who gives them a 1943 copper penny. To get a ticket to Disney California Adventure, you have to present a 1918 24-cent airmail stamp that has a picture of a biplane flying upside down on it.
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