Walt Disney World features many of the seminal attractions in the theme park industry. These rides are so popular that The Walt Disney Company feels comfortable adapting several of them into major motion pictures. They also enjoy their own merchandising lines and claim the sort of brand appeal that fosters an indelible connection between Disney theme parks and its signature attractions.
Still, there’s a lot that took place during the creation of each one as well as changes that transpired after they’d operated for a set period. Even self-proclaimed Disney experts are unlikely to know the full history of many of its most acclaimed rides. Also, it’s always fun to learn more about the amazing innovations crafted by Disney Imagineers. Here, then, are 29 facts about eight of the signature attractions at Walt Disney World.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
1) While not as aggravating as It’s a Small World, the music in the waiting line for this roller coaster can still drive cast members crazy. Fourteen songs play during a 20-minute loop, meaning that workers are forced to listen to the same clips a dozen times every four hours.
2) On the plus side, Buffalo Gals, which became legendary due to its usage in It’s a Wonderful Life, is one of them.
3) The town of Tumbleweed, the setting for the ride, has experienced an extinction-level event, a flash flood. A sign proclaims that the population started at 8,015 before declining to 247 and, finally, 15.
4) If you’ve ever wondered about the backstory of the crazy dude in pajamas relaxing in a bathtub, his name is Cousin Elrod. He doesn’t seem to mind all the tragedy unfolding around him. Then again, it might have driven him crazy.
5) In a Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs-esque twist, the source of all the trouble is a well-meaning scientist prophetically named Professor Cumulus Isobar. In order to boost the climate of the arid region, Mr. Isobar built a rainmaking machine and, well, you know how that turned out.
6) There are four majestic but man-made mountains at Walt Disney World that stand above the rest, six if you count water parks. All four at Disney theme parks are on this list, but Expedition Everest stands tallest, at least in a literal sense. Yes, it’s taller than Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Splash Mountain. You may not have noticed since Disney employs forced perspective with so many of their structures.
7) Entitled Forbidden Mountain, it is eight inches short of standing 200-feet tall, making it the tallest artificial mountain in the world.
8) The famously broken Yeti that highlights the thrill ride is simultaneously the largest and most complex audio-animatronic in Disney’s storied theme park history. It stands 25-feet-tall, the equivalent of three Yao Mings with another two and a half feet to spare.
9) The poor Yeti only lasted a few months before tearing up during the second half of 2006. Almost a decade later, Disney employees still haven’t solved the problem of how to fix it safely.
The Haunted Mansion
10) The infamous Hitchhiking Ghost called the Prisoner (and unofficially named Gus) actually makes a second appearance during the ride. If you pay attention, you’ll see him during the Graveyard scene. He stands near the Executioner, fittingly enough. I guess the Governor calls or he escapes before his justice is administered.
11) Perhaps the scariest aspect of the entire ride is that the books in the Library are all for lawyers. Titles include Modern Legal Forms and Corpus Juris, which translates as The Body of the Law. Apparently, Haunted Mansion poses the difficult question, “Would you rather be haunted or sued?”
12) The 1960s television program Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color provided a preview of Haunted Mansion at Disneyland in 1965. That probably frustrated theme park tourists of the era since the attraction wouldn’t open until 1969. Disney’s death in 1966 delayed the interior design of the ride.
13) If the music in the Attic scene seems familiar, it should. A macabre version of Here Comes the Bride plays, but there’s so much going on that you may not have realized. Disney is so proud of this twisted joke that they recreated it in the 2003 Eddie Murphy movie of the same name.
It’s a Small World
14) The original plan was for several different songs instead of a single monotonous one. Walt Disney intended for every doll to sing the national anthem of its home country. The combating sounds proved dissonant.
15) The climactic area where all the children of the world sing that infernal song is called The White Room.
16) The room immediately after it with Goodbye posted in dozens of languages is (fittingly) called the Goodbye Room.
17) While the ride was originally built for Pepsi, the initial sponsor at Walt Disney World was Mattel. There is no current sponsor, though.
18) Do you know the names Nile Nelly, Wamba Wanda, and Sankuru Sadie? Of course not. They’re three of the 15 boat names for the vessels currently used on Jungle Cruise. Other great ones include Congo Callie, Amazon Annie, and Senegal Sal.
19) Sankuru Sadie holds the unfortunate but almost prophetic distinction of being the only boat ever to sink at Magic Kingdom. Disney restored the boat and kept it in service. So, if you ever ride it, you have the added thrill of knowing that it’s Walt Disney World’s Titanic.
20) The part of the downed airplane by the Hippo Pool is the back half of the plane Disney falsely claims was used in Casablanca. You can find the other half on The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios. Yes, it’s during the Casablanca scene.
Pirates of the Caribbean
21) While Walt Disney died three months too soon to see this ride open at Disneyland, it was the last one that he officially supervised.
22) The Walt Disney World version of the attraction is the only one that lacks a series of cannon fire shots made by drunken pirates.
23) If you visited the park prior to 1997, you likely remember the Pooped Pirate who was too tired to chase women. He got a makeover to become the Gluttonous Pirate, possessing a treasure map complete with an X marking the spot. Disney decided the entire scene was a bit serious (some might say sexist) in tone, so they lightened the mood a bit by having an incompetent pirate lament his ability to deduce an obvious treasure location.
24) You ride Flight 5505 on your flight. This is an inside joke. The opening date for Soarin’ at Walt Disney World was May 5, 2005 aka 5/5/05.
25) The scenes at Yosemite Park involved a nightmarish amount of bureaucratic red tape. Disney had to negotiate with the United States Department of the Interior, who grudgingly agreed to allow the company to film for no more than four hours. As you might imagine, the film crew was under a tremendous amount of stress that day.
26) Soarin’ was originally intended as an attraction at the World Showcase. Disney executives couldn’t settle on which country would be the best fit for a ride about…California, so it wound up as a part of The Land.
27) Most steel roller coasters are warmer during the day since the heat conduction is more significant when it’s hotter outside. Space Mountain operates differently as an indoor ride that requires lubrication. This gel solidifies as the day progresses. When it’s jelly-like, its friction slows down the ride cart. At night, the substance is harder, thereby providing less resistance, and less resistance means a faster ride. Ride it at night, folks!
28) Space Mountain appears in the wildly underappreciated Disney animated film, Meet the Robinsons. It’s in…I kid you not…Todayland.
29) All six living astronauts from Project Mercury, the first true spaceflight mission involving humans rather than animals, attended the opening of Space Mountain. Gus Grissom, the second man to fly in space, was the only one who couldn’t be there because he died in a tragic fire several years before.
Source: Theme Park Tourist
Banner Photo Credit: Todd Freimiller