15 Overlooked Details of Disney History and Imagination at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is held together by intricate details that bring the imagination to life. Every detail is well thought out by creative Imagineer masterminds. While some details are obvious, other details may blend into the background. Pay close attention as I take you on a tour of 15 overlooked details that are a must-find on your next trip to Walt Disney World.
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1. Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom)
Take a walk with me through the interactive queue of the Haunted Mansion where you will find many hidden tributes to Disney legends and one of the largest areas of hidden Walt Disney World details. As you run your fingers over the keys of the massive stone pipe organ, pay attention to the name Ravenscroft carved into the stone front. Ravenscroft refers to Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft who is the voice for one of the singing busts in the graveyard scene inside the attraction. You may also recognize Ravenscroft’s infamous voice in some Disney films and his notorious non-Disney character, Tony the Tiger.
When dragging your body past the cemetery, stop for a brief moment to read the tombstones. Find “Master Gracey’s” headstone that reads “Laid to rest. No mourning please at his request. Farewell.” This headstone pays tribute to the talented special effect’s Imagineer Yale Gracey (September 3, 1910 – September 5, 1983) who created the infamous grim grinning ghosts throughout the Mansion. Disney artist and animator, Marc Davis (March 30, 1913-January 12, 2000), who worked on many animated films, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and also designed characters for many Disneyland rides and shows, is honored with a tombstone: “Grandpa Marc.” Another tombstone to look for is “Haunting Harriet,” which refers to another Disney legend, Harriet Burns (August 20, 1928-July 25, 2008) who was the first woman hired in the Walt Disney Imagineering Department.
Further on down the queue, Sea Captain Culpepper Clyne’s tomb is ready to crumble into pieces as water squirts from cracks in the stone. You might ask yourself who Sea Captain Culpepper Clyne is. Well, he was created for this attraction by Disney legends Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey. Sea Captain Culpepper Clyne was actually going to play a bigger role in the Haunted Mansion. He was going to have his own room dedicated to him because the Haunted Mansion was where he lived. He killed his wife and buried her in the fireplace. Later he drowned out at sea. Legend had it, he returned to his room to haunt. Needless to say, he was cut from the Haunted Mansion, however, his tomb in the queue is a reminder of who this mysterious sea captain used to be.
The Haunted Mansion is filled with endless mystery and details. Scan the property to see the footprints stamped in concrete that belong to the caretaker and his dog. Follow the footprints to the doggie door in the gate that leads into the house. And for more fun, try to see how many times the number 13 appears around the Haunted Mansion!
2. Liberty Bell, Liberty Square (Magic Kingdom)
The Liberty Square bell has been proudly displayed in Liberty Square since 1989. This symbol of freedom is a beautiful tribute to the United States of America. The bell was cast in Annecy-le Vieux, France, by the Paccard Fonderie using the exact same mold as the original Liberty Bell. Comprised of copper, tin, lead, zinc, arsenic, gold, and silver, the Liberty Bell stands eight feet tall and weighs two and a half tons.
3. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Fantasyland (Magic Kingdom)
A wonderful thing Disney Imagineers incorporate into new attractions is a little piece of Disney history from past attractions/Disney movies. In the queue of Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid in Fantasyland, Imagineers hid an outline of the Nautilus submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Another tribute to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea can be spotted in Prince Eric’s Village on the weather vane on the rooftop of the cartographer’s shop.
4. 10 Hidden Pascals – Fantasyland (Magic Kingdom)
By now everyone has heard of all the Hidden Mickeys found in and around both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but have you heard of hidden Pascals? Pascal, Rapunzel’s loyal pet chameleon in Tangled, has cleverly escaped Rapunzel’s tower and hidden himself throughout the Tangled Rest Area in Fantasyland.
What’s fun about this challenge is that while searching for this ever-changing little guy, you may discover tons more beautiful Walt Disney World details Imagineers have incorporated into this area!
5. Test Track, Future World (Epcot)
An opening day attraction that ceases to exist today at Epcot is World of Motion. World of Motion was a Guest favorite that took visitors on a slow-moving OmniMover on a trip through transportation history. Test Track now occupies the space and with that space comes many references to this classic attraction throughout its queue and attraction.
Look for the World of Motion logo (blue and white reversed “c” with blue dot right in the middle) everywhere from the paneling around the Test Track entrance, on garbage cans throughout queue, to the actual ride itself! Be sure to read all the signs on this course ! A sign with a bold “82” references the year Epcot opened (1982) and another sign reads, “FN2BFRE.” This refers to the World of Motion theme song Fun to Be Free! How many more references to World of Motion can you find on Test Track?
6. The American Adventure Pavilion (Epcot)
The magnificent American Adventure Pavilion, located in World Showcase at Epcot, took Disney Imagineers five years to complete. This beautifully crafted house’s façade is made up of 110,000 bricks and the design inspiration came from the classic Georgian style of the late 1700s, Colonial Williamsburg, Independence Hall, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and the Old State House in Boston. What Guests don’t realize is that this house is actually five stories tall! Forced perspective (larger windows and doors), creates a three-story façade!
7. Totem Poles – Canada Pavilion (Epcot)
Many details added to all Disney Parks have unique back stories. The totem poles in front of Canada Pavilion were carved by Tsimshian artisan David Boxley, who in 1990 created a totem pole to be displayed in front of the pavilion’s Trading Post. When observing the eagle totem pole, take in all the intricate details Boxley included. The pole tells a cultural tale about a boy who freed an eagle from a net on a beach. The eagle pays the boy back when the boy and his tribe have no food and are starving by providing him with food – paying him back for his kindness in the past. The bottom of this totem pole tells of a beaver family teaching a human family respect for all creatures. The whale totem pole tells the tale of the first Potlatch, which is a ceremonial feast celebrated by the Nagunaks and creatures of the undersea world.
8. Water Bridge (Between Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon)
Leave it to Disney to create a little bit of magic in and around the waterways around the Resort. One fascinating and out-of-the-ordinary bridge to witness is the bridge connecting Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. The road actually goes under the water instead of the other way around. If you are interested in witnessing this water bridge, take a ferry boat from Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness. As you cross the water bridge, watch as cars entering the Kingdom pass below your boat. If you are traveling under the bridge, hold your breath!
9. Hand-Carved Mediterranean Revival Architecture (Disney Springs)
It is definitely worth your while to pry your eyes away from storefront windows to take in all the hand-crafted details that Imagineers put into the buildings within the Town Center of Disney Springs. The style is called Mediterranean Revival and is a style of architecture popular back in the 20s and 30s. If you look close enough, you will find images of orange blossoms – a tribute to the town’s citrus growing history.
10. Disney’s Contemporary Resort
The 90-foot tall, 10-floor high, tile mural in the atrium of Disney’s Contemporary Resort may one of the many Walt Disney World details often overlooked by Disney fans. This awesome mural was created by Disney legend Mary Blair. Mary Blair’s talent has been lent to such films as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. She created the character design of Disneyland’s “it’s a small world” thanks to Walt Disney’s request! Mary’s style is inspiration for Disney artists today! Next time you visit Disney’s Contemporary Resort, take time to take in all the whimsical detail of this mural. And for fun, see how many hidden Mickeys you can find in this mural!
11. Tree of Life (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
Bestow upon the majestic beauty of the iconic Tree of Life – the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom. Just as the Castle is a symbol for the Magic Kingdom, so is this 145-foot masterpiece, symbolizing diversity, beauty, and nature in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This huge tree may look like an ordinary baobab tree from afar, however, there are over 300 animals carved in the trunk and surrounding roots! There are many trails that take guests within the roots of this tree. It’s fun to discover off-the-beaten-paths that allow Guests the opportunity to get up close to the intricate details of this tree. Look closely to find yourself a hidden Mickey!
12. Pandora – The World of Avatar – Flaska Reclinata (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
Pandora has an abundance of plant life that are rich in detail. One would think when visiting Pandora that these species of plants are actually real! The Flaska Reclinata is worth stopping to take a look at and interact with. This interesting plant is the largest plant on Pandora and with the help of Guests’ gentle touch, the plant can “re-seed” itself! Once Guest lay their healing hands on this plant, groans erupt from the root of this plant and steam poofs out! Just one example of the many interactive Walt Disney World details found in the resort.
13. Tiffins Restaurant, Discovery Island (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
If you are hungry for more than just a dining experience, stop in to Tiffins, a restaurant specializing in international cuisine, located on Discovery Island in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This authentically detail-oriented restaurant has three galleries full of artwork inspired by Imagineers’ explorations to Africa, Asia, and South America. You will definitely want to book a seat at this fine-dining excursion! The Grand Gallery’s walls are lined with artwork depicting different animal species. This room is a tribute to all the animal species that the Disney Conservation Fund works to protect. The Trek Room and Safari Rooms are filled with unique artwork reflecting the travels of the Park’s creators!
14. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
Towering over Sunset Boulevard, high into the sky above Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror terrifies Guests who dare enter this dusty hotel. Disney legend has it that back in 1939, on Halloween night, a thunder storm trapped several guests in the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. A party of five – a couple, a bellman, a child actress (notice that she was holding a Mickey Mouse Doll when she vanished), and her governess vanished from the hotel elevator.
In the lobby of this terrifying hotel are actually authentic antiques that date back to the Renaissance. French bronze statues are placed around the lobby, including some by famous 19th-century artist Moreau, who decorated many luxury hotels during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Pay close attention to the sheet music under the trumpet. It is a copy of What! No Mickey Mouse? (What Kind of Party Is This?), which was composed in 1932 by Irving Caesar.
15. Toy Story Land (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
Andy’s backyard is littered with tiny (and not-so-tiny) details that the Imagineers work hard to authenticate, bringing to life Andy’s world. If you look hard enough, you can find references to all three Pixar movies and even some Pixar dates – all hidden in plain sight. Take a walk with me in Andy’s 25-foot footprints through Toy Story Land to catch up on some of these playful details.
As we all know (and if you didn’t know, you know now) that the founding date for Pixar was February 3, 1986. Pay close attention to anything that has numbers in or on it throughout Toy Story Land as these numbers pop up in some unexpected places. As you wait in the standby queue of Slinky Dog Dash, look at the barcode on the Dash and Dodge Mega Coaster Kit. Its numbers are 231986 (February 3, 1986) and it was made in Emeryville. Emeryville, California is where Pixar headquarters is located. There is another barcode at the end of the ride when the coaster is approaching the loading dock. This barcode reads 231986 10 1 1971 (February 3, 1986 – Pixar’s founding date and October 1, 1971 – the day Walt Disney World officially opened).
These are just two of the fun ways Imagineers incorporate Disney/Pixar history into new exciting lands! See if you can find any more hidden Pixar/Disney references! I’m confident that there are tons more Walt Disney World details!
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