Disney day in #tripping month: our 26-letter guide to the darker side of the Magic Kingdom
All this month, we're tripping out with daily adventure stories. From jewel encrusted skeletons in Germany to the less glamorous high-rise estates of London, we travel high and low, far and wide to find the most interesting stories. Check back daily on dazeddigital.com/tripping.
Disney: enchanting films, 400 immense toy stores, and fantastical resorts that attract millions of dazzled children on a daily basis. But behind the glittery façade lies a collection of not-so-kid-friendly secrets – from child dictator fanboys to feral cats and human remains, we take a trippy thrill ride through the Magic Kingdom.
A IS FOR ASHES
Most families choose to spread their cremated relative's ashes in places of picturesque rural idyll. Others have less conventional ideas – including one woman who decided to spread her loved one's ashes while careening down the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride at Disneyland. She was caught on CCTV emptying the urn and the ride had to be closed for 45 minutes while they dealt with the incident.
B IS FOR BOULDERS
In 2011, a ‘rock element’ (read: giant boulder) that was part of the Big Thunder Mountain rollercoaster crushed several park-goers as they attempted to enjoy the attraction. One man was left with serious injuries, others were also injured by the decorative feature and the ride had to be closed until further notice.
C IS FOR CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW
A Disney actor who played the part of Captain Jack Sparrow in the park revealed some dark and dirty secrets about working at the park. In an explicit interview, the actor said that he was propositioned with blowjobs from lecherous park-goers, going on to describe the people at Disney as “Nazi’s in Mickey hats” and declaring he was "half-relieved" to have lost his job.
D IS FOR DELICIOUS SCENTS
The sudden shift in scent when you enter any Disney park is down to special vents and pipes which pump out gases called ‘Smellitzer', which give off scents that match the part of the park that you’re in, such as the smell of the sea when you’re near the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (forget those ashes).
E IS FOR EXCLUSIVE CLUBS
Few people are aware that Disney runs one of the most elite clubs in the world, with a waiting list of up to ten years. The 33 Club is Walt Disney’s version of a VIP lounge, with an extravagant bar and restaurant.
In 2012, it was reported that Disney was offering memberships for a staggering $25,000 to celebrate its 45th birthday. Some claim that the use of the number 33 is synonymous with the Illuminati, with others believing that Walt was a member of the Freemasons and that Club 33 functioned as a meeting place for the secret society.
F IS FOR FERAL CATS
Disneyland by night is a world away from its daytime glory. With divers collecting the rubbish from lakes and water rides and litter pickers using large machines to scrape chewing gum off the floor, it’s hardly the fantastic world of wonder it is during the day. Over 200 feral cats roam the park by night, on the prowl for the hordes of rats that scurry around the children's wonderland. Disney actually looks after the animals by spaying the adults and providing shelter for any kittens.
G IS FOR GUERILLA TACTICS
A horror film named Escape From Tomorrow evaded Disneyland security and legal action to film inside the park and is now set for an October release. Actors had to use guerilla tactics to ensure that they could complete the film, such as having the scripts on their mobile phones.
The film premiered at Sundance but Disney decided not to take legal action. Executives reasoned that if Disney spoke openly about the film, it would attract more media attention and thus gain a wider audience.
H IS FOR HUGS WILL COST YOU
It won’t be cheap if you want to hug Tinkerbell. At some resorts, it's been reported that Disney charges customers $5 to hug the characters, and customers are only entitled to 4 hugs for every $5 they spend.
I IS INERT BONES
In the 60s, the skeletons that were placed around the park were actually real human remains. Roy Disney, the executive at the time, was said to have received the remains on loan from UCLA. They were eventually returned to their country of origin, where they were given an appropriate burial.
J IS FOR JOYLESS SOUPS
It conjures up some pretty grotesque imagery, but Disney planned to include shark fin soup on the menu for wedding banquets at the Hong Kong outpost of the Magic Kingdom. An animal rights campaign and pressure from schoolchildren and environmental groups meant that Disney was forced to remove the dish from the menu.
K IS FOR KICKING OFF
After Disneyland Paris first opened in 1992, there were reports of actors in costume being beaten up by French visitors who had taken a dislike to Euro Disney. As a result of this, guards had to be put in place to follow the actors and ensure that no harm was brought to them by angry visitors.
L IS FOR LOVE IS NOT ALLOWED
Disney has a policy where employees are not allowed to date one another, hence the term “DON’T DATE DISNEY”. The worst offence? When actors portraying characters from different films hook up, thus wrecking the entire Disney mythology.
M IS FOR MEDIA BACKLASH
If French civilians were busy assaulting Disney actors (see above), members of the French media weren't exactly overjoyed when Euro Disney opened. Some journalists said that they wished the park would burn down; another described it as “cultural Chernobyl" – a phrase which would later become media shorthand for referring to the resort.
N IS FOR NORTH KOREAN DICTATORS
Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea, used to enter Disneyland under a false name to enjoy the rides and attractions as a child. Even more weirdly, Jong-un’s half brother, Jong-nam, was deported from Japan in 2001 when he tried to enter the country with a false identity. When he was quizzed by officials about his reasoning for entering the country, he said he wanted to go to Disneyland Tokyo.
O IS FOR OPEN 24/7
Disneyworld is one of the few locations that remains open all year round, having only closed down three times since it’s opening: in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd hit Florida; in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and in 2002 due to a significant power failure.
P IS FOR PROPOSITION 65
Hide your kids, hide your wife. As you cruise under the arched gates of Disneyland, these signs are dotted around. The high level of lead which is used on the attraction buildingworks is apparently so dangerous that it can disrupt developed of the brain and nervous system. Ecological officials described the level of lead in the park as "toxic".
Q IS FOR QUALITY
Recently, over 5,000 park-goers have signed a petition in favour of closing the park due to the falling standards in quality. The petition particularly points out the large number of broken rides, the lack of stage shows and the food which is considered to be "terrible". Disney released a statement saying that they take visitor comments "very seriously" and that they help to "evaluate processes and procedures".
R IS FOR ROLLERCOASTER DEATHS
There have been over a handful of deaths at Disney World Florida since its opening, and the majority of these have been put down to negligence from Disneyland in not following the health and safety regulations of rollercoasters.
S IS FOR SPACE MOUNTAIN
For Space Mountain, Disneyland use as many computer calculations per launch as NASA uses when they launch a space shuttle. However, NASA only actually does it once every so many months, Disneyland Paris do it once every 27 seconds or so to keep up with the amount of users that enjoy Space Mountain.
T IS FOR TRIM THAT TACHE
During the 60s and 70s, mainstream America was revolted by hippies and their apparently lax standards of grooming – as a result, Disney implemented an anti-facial hair policy. Even now, there are regulations in place about facial hair, which must be trimmed back and kept to a minimum. Even the actors for Captain Jack Sparrow at the resorts are only allowed to use glue-on beards and mustaches.
U IS FOR UNDERGROUND LAIRS
Disneyland allegedly contains an underground lair which hosts a series of secret rooms and tunnels, used by actors to get around the park and to get ready for their day as Disney characters. The channel of tunnels is rumoured to span nine acres long, and is also home to garbage shoots and breakrooms.
V IS FOR THE VAULT
The mystery of the ‘vault’. What even is the vault? What is in it? Is it even real? It’s basically one of the biggest Disney mysteries and it’s believed to be the place where Disney put all its editions of the home videos to bring out and release them whenever it wants. For years, rumours have flown about that Walt Disney was cryogenically preserved on ice in the vault – but whatever's actually in the vault remains a mystery.
W IS FOR WEIRD WILD RIDE
Mr Toad’s Wild Ride was an attraction at Disneyland as part of their ‘Fantasyland’ series; it is one of the few remaining rides at Disneyland to still be in use since it was opened in 1955. Users will crash through doors and libraries before finally coming to the end of the ride where a dragon attempts to set fire to them and then passengers are deposited in hell and handled by rubber demons.
X IS FOR X-RATED
At the opening of the park, Disney had an intimate apparel shop on the main street which sold various lingerie options. The shop was run by the 'Wizard Of Bra's' who would assist customers with their perfect fit. The shop only actually remained open for half a year before it was closed.
Y IS FOR YOU'RE FIRED
Disney has a pretty unique policy when it comes to their dismissals, with plenty of stories emerging from past employees about being sacked for the dumbest of reasons. One man was sacked for giving out his real name when he was being photographed at an event, and another man was sacked for leaving his post in Disneyland to pose for a picture with another actor.
Z IS FOR ZEALOUS WITH THE MOUSE EARS
There's a pair of Mickey Mouse ears everywhere you look at Disneyland: hidden on rollercoasters, on the ground, on the sides of buildings... The widespread usage of the iconic ears has gained the title 'Hidden Mickey', and competitions have been set up for the people that can find the most Mickey Mouse ears with a reward of £6,000 and a free trip to Disneyland.