- Disney theme parks are among the most visited destinations around the world.
- There are fascinating secrets and facts behind some of the most iconic Disney rides, like the ride that’s powered by french fry oil and the hidden basketball court inside another ride.
- Read on for 18 surprising facts you may not have known about Disney rides.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Disney parks are among the most visited destinations around the world.
Visitors from just about every corner of the earth flock to Disney theme parks in Florida, California, France, China, Japan, and Hong Kong, with more than 157 million people entering the gates of a Disney park in 2018. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World alone welcomed 20.8 million visitors in 2018, according to an annual report released by Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM in May 2019.
Guests at the Disney parks get to enjoy dozens of rides and attractions both classic and modern, especially as all of the parks worldwide continue to expand and give guests more to see and experience.
But even die-hard Disney fans probably don’t know every secret about their favourite rides.
Here are some of the most mind-blowing facts about 18 Disney rides, from the ride that’s powered by french fry oil and the iconic spinning teacups that give you the secret option of different speeds.
Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean cost about as much to build as the entire park itself.
Per CNBC, Disneyland cost $US17 million to build when it opened in 1955, equivalent to around $US163 million in 2019. But one of the original Disney park’s most beloved attractions cost around that much to build: Pirates of the Caribbean.
According to author Kendra Trahan’s book “Disneyland Detective: An Independent Guide to Discovering Disney’s Legend,” New Orleans Square, the area of Disneyland that houses the classic dark ride among swashbuckling pirates cost around $US15 million, so that the ride itself could be built underground.
Pirates of the Caribbean also happens to be the last Disneyland ride that Walt Disney himself oversaw – he died in December 1966, and the attraction opened three months later, per Disneyland News.
Walt Disney himself only personally designed one Disneyland attraction.
Though Walt Disney certainly had his hand in plans for the parks on both coasts, according to Disneyland News, he only personally designed one attraction at the Anaheim park: Tom Sawyer Island, which takes guests into the trails, caves, and waterways said to have been travelled by Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn themselves.
The attraction opened on June 16, 1956, nearly a year after Disneyland’s opening on July 17, 1955.
There’s a secret basketball court inside the top of the Matterhorn Bobsleds.
The classic steel coaster in Disneyland’s Fantasyland area houses a hidden secret at the very top: a basketball court.
Although you won’t find any NBA players secretly shooting hoops up there, the Disney Channel program Walt Disney World Inside Out, which ran from 1994 to 1997, confirmed that there was in fact a basketball court smaller than a regulation half-court inside the attraction, which served as a resting space for climbers that used to periodically scale down the side of the Matterhorn mountain.
According to a Disney cast member interviewed on the show, Walt Disney himself wanted to put “the strangest thing” he could in that empty space, asking ride operators and mountain climbers what they’d like to see there. After noting they wanted to play basketball, a hoop was installed – but there isn’t confirmation that it still exists to this day.
The Disneyland Railroad steam trains are powered by french fry oil.
The Walt Disney Company touts its commitment to environmental sustainability, and they demonstrate it with its unusual way of powering one of its rides: with cooking oil.
Since 2009, the Disneyland Railroad steam trains have been run on bio-diesel made from recycled cooking oil used to make park favourite fried foods like french fries, saving around 200,000 gallons of petroleum diesel each year, according to Disney Parks Blog.
Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad actually became a ‘runaway train’ when it derailed in 2003.
But some incidents are more morbid than others, like the time in 2003 when a wheel assembly fell off a ride vehicle on Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and caused the coaster to crash, killing a 22-year-old rider and injuring 10 others, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health released a report two months after the accident that placed the crash at the fault of park maintenance workers, ride operators and a mechanic, who didn’t properly correct inspection issues.
Spinning lovers can choose how fast their teacup spins at Disneyland’s Mad Tea Party.
If you don’t mind going for a fast spin after enjoying a turkey leg or a Mickey bar on your next Disneyland visit, you’ll want to pick your teacup on the Mad Tea Party accordingly. As Disney blog All Ears noted, the orange diamond cup spins the fastest, followed by the purple cup. The cups with hearts spin the slowest.
The ‘It’s a Small World’ theme song is one of the most played songs in music history.
Whether you love it or hate it, the ubiquitous theme song to “It’s a Small World” is very likely one of the most played songs in music history. According to Time magazine in 2014, the song had been played an estimated 50 million times since the song was composed by Disney staff writers Richard and Robert Sherman for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair pavilion ride, which was then installed in Anaheim as It’s a Small World in 1966.
The “happiest cruise that ever sailed” can be found at every Disneyland park around the globe except for Shanghai Disneyland, and the cheerful theme song is now played somewhere on the planet every hour of every single day, according to ABC News.
There’s a hidden ‘wedding ring’ embedded in the ground at Disney World’s Haunted Mansion.
The Haunted Mansion, located in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, is one of the most ghoulishly frightening attractions in an otherwise whimsical, happy park. Aside from cast members who won’t crack a smile and theatrical dust and cobwebs designed to maintain its unkempt appearance, there are lots of hidden Disney Easter eggs and secrets for guests to discover in the ride’s queue and interior.
One such secret was the “diamond wedding ring” that used to be located in the line’s cement walkway, which has been the source of many legends, myths, and stories over the park’s history. According to Theme Park Tourist, a Disney parks blog, the “ring” is actually just remains of a pole that used to exist for crowd control, but it remained stuck in the shape of a diamond ring in the cement.
The ring was removed as part of a renovation of the attraction in 2007, but a replacement ring was returned to its rightful spot after Disney fans protested in 2011.
A teenager attempted to scare her cousin on the Haunted Mansion ride in 1991 and was critically injured.
Per the Orlando Sentinel, in 1991, a 15-year-old from Sarasota, Florida, attempted to scare her cousin on the Haunted Mansion by jumping from her “doom buggy” to another, where she fell and received critical injuries. She eventually recovered from her injuries.
The Hall of Presidents attraction features one of only three official Presidential Seals in the United States.
The Magic Kingdom’s attraction celebrating US leaders past and present opened on October 1, 1971, and is updated with each new elected president. It remains a lifelike historical representation of many of the most important periods in American history.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Disney paid such close attention to detail within the Hall of Presidents attraction that the Presidential Seal in the waiting room’s rotunda is one of only three such seals to exist, with Disney receiving permission from Congress to place it there. The other seals are located in the Oval Office at the White House and at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and the exhibit’s building is modelled after Independence Hall, according to The New York Times.
Each president’s costume is designed using fabrics and sewing techniques of the time they served in office.
According to D23, the official Disney fan club, each animatronic president in the Hall of Presidents is given a costume designed using fabrics, styles, and sewing techniques based on their time in office, which means early leaders’ suits were hand-stitched, while recent presidents’ suits were made with updated sewing machines.
Two people lost fingers on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Walt Disney World in 2014.
Though ride safety instructions will remind guests to keep hands, feet, and legs inside their ride vehicles at all times, two guests lost fingers on the dark ride within two weeks of each other in 2014, according to The Miami New Times.
First, a visitor from the United Kingdom had the tips of his ring and pinky fingers severed off on the boat ride, with a 12-year-old visitor suffering injuries to four fingers on the same ride a little more than a week later.
Some of those screams you hear on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror are pre-recorded.
While many of the screams coming from Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios thrilling attraction Tower of Terror are coming from terrified guests, Travel + Leisure reports that many of the screams passersby will hear from the ground outside the ride are actually pre-recorded, seemingly as a way to boost the terrifying ambiance.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the only Disney park that has none of its opening-day attractions.
Since opening in 1989, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is perhaps the park that has undergone the most changes, despite its continued celebration of the film industry and Hollywood. First, the park received a name change, going from the Disney-MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2008, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
As the park continues to undergo tremendous expansion, it’s the only park worldwide to contain none of its original rides. Per Theme Park Insider, the park had five attractions and rides on opening day, and its last original attraction – The Great Movie Ride – closed in 2017.
There’s a reason you’ll never see rainwater dripping off Spaceship Earth at Epcot.
As Epcot’s signature attraction and the first thing most guests see as they enter the park’s gates, the massive geodesic sphere seems like it would be a nightmare for passersby during Florida’s notoriously heavy rains and hurricanes.
But according to the Chicago Tribune, Spaceship Earth features a hidden drainage system that lets rainwater flow through and into well-placed gutters, which then channel it through Spaceship Earth’s support legs beneath Future World, where it flows out and replenishes the water supply in World Showcase Lagoon, located in the back half of the park.
Epcot is home to the second-largest aquarium in America.
Though Walt Disney World’s Epcot is undergoing a major makeover, one of its most beloved themed areas, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, hosts a 5.7-million-gallon saltwater aquarium, which Visit Florida notes is is the second-largest aquarium in the United States, behind the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
The Chicago Tribune noted that Epcot’s The Seas aquarium is so large, Epcot’s Spaceship Earth could fit inside it, and there would still be room to drive a Disney bus around it.
Expedition Everest is the most expensive roller coaster ever built.
According to 2011’s Guinness World Records, the hallmark roller coaster at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was the most expensive in the world, costing more than $US100 million to build. As of 2019, the Yeti-themed thrill ride still holds this title, according to Best of Orlando.
The coaster took six years to design and plan before greeting guests upon its opening in 2006.
It’s also the tallest attraction at Walt Disney World at 199.5 feet high, per Best of Orlando. Structures at 200 feet or more are required to feature a red flashing light to alert planes overhead, so engineers made the ride hit just below 200 feet to prevent that feature.
Plenty of people continue to try and steal parts from Disney rides
Among the most popular legends of the Disney parks is that people try to scatter the ashes of loved ones throughout the parks, but fans also try and take home some unsolicited souvenirs during their times at the parks, too.
In 2019 alone, Walt Disney World reported $US20,000 worth of missing pieces from Magic Kingdom attractions, including a set of sails from Peter Pan’s Flight and three seats from Space Mountain. In a separate incident, a former Disney employee was caught trying to steal costumes and wigs worth $US7,200 from inside the Haunted Mansion.
There’s a profitable market for Disney parks memorabilia, which gives many seemingly useless items an incredibly high resale value.
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