37 fun Walt Disney facts that might surprise you

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I like trivia. I always have. 

For some reason, the random stuff – like Ozzie Smith’s batting average in 1987 or lyrics to a song I liked in 1993 – just stays in my head. 

I’m losing that, little by little as I get older. I’m no longer a Jeopardy-level trivia guy if I ever was, but I’d still dominate “Celebrity Jeopardy”. 

If I ever get famous, Blossom had better watch out. 

But, after all these years, I’ve found a suitable outlet for decades of accrued knowledge, useless and otherwise. 

Fatherhood. 

Like Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold, I love bestowing former useless accumulations that have gathered dust in my brain since they weaseled their way in. 

Road trips are the perfect outlet for such knowledge, but I don’t limit myself to that. If some outside stimuli unlock the tumblers in my mind, then I’m liable to share interesting facts about anything and everything. 

And so, without further ado, are some interesting facts about Walt Disney and the Disney universe:

37. The massive oak tree in Liberty Square is 175 years old

The Liberty Square tree in Magic Kingdom was growing on Disney property 8 miles away from where they wanted it. So they moved it.

First, they created props to hold up the massive tree, then used a firehouse to mine away the dirt surrounding the root system, which was then trimmed.

Disney’s people bored holes through the tree and ran metal rods through to create handles and transported it to the spot where it now resides.

Main Street Magic Kingdom Flag at Night
The flags on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom differ from the American flag to avoid violating flag etiquette (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com

36. The flags on Main Street are not American flags

The flags waving above Main Street are not actually American flags.

Specifically, the flags differ slightly, missing a star or a stripe, which means they can be left up permanently without violating American flag etiquette. 

35. Walt Disney once worked with Salvador Dali

Walt Disney worked with Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali to create “Destino” in 1945, a 6-minute short.

34. The vultures in ‘The Jungle Book’ were meant to be based on The Beatles

The vultures were meant to sound like The Beatles.

However, they ended up sounding like a 50-year-old Liverpudlian longshoreman.

Ok. The second half of that is an opinion more than a fact. 

Meet Mickey Poster at Disney World
The original Mickey Mouse’s first words were “hot dog” (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

33. Mickey Mouse’s first words were ‘hot dog’

Mickey Mouse’s first words were spoken in the 1929 short “The Karnival Kid”.

If you watch The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, you know that hot dogs remain among the cartoon character’s favorite snacks. 

Read Also: Disney Characters at EPCOT: What Characters are at EPCOT? [2022]

32. Julie Andrews almost passed on the part of Mary Poppins

Andrews wanted to be Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” and held Disney off until that part went to Audrey Hepburn. 

Mary Poppins at EPCOT
The Mary Poppins character at EPCOT (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

31. Pamela Lyndon Travers disliked the movie version of her book ‘Mary Poppins’

The author who wrote the Mary Poppins book, P. L. Travers, famously disliked the movie and pretty much everything to do with it.

As a result, she never worked with Disney again.

Tom Hanks played Disney in the movie about making “Mary Poppins” in “Saving Mr. Banks”.

30. Mosquitoes are rare at Disney World

The Walt Disney World Resort is located in Central Florida. The resort features a lot of water and a lot of woods and forests. Consequently, it should be a massive breeding ground for mosquitoes.

However, Walt Disney World Resort has an extensive mosquito prevention and monitoring program.

The program involves mosquito predators like bats as well as various intricate drainage ditch system that keeps the water in the park moving. Mosquitos need stagnant water to breed.

Disney also reportedly keeps live chickens in several places around the park, routinely testing the chicken’s blood for signs of mosquito-borne illnesses. 

Walt Disney at Wax Museum Orlando
Walt Disney won a total of 26 academy awards. Pictured is a wax likeness of Disney at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Orlando, Florida (photo by Ritu Manaj Jethani/shutterstock.com)

29. Walt Disney won a total of 26 Academy Awards in his lifetime

Many of the awards were for short films which were frequently based on fairy tales like “The Three Little Pigs” and “The Ugly Duckling.” He also won awards for multiple short subject documentary films. 

During World War II, Walt Disney Studios made propaganda films including “Der Fuehrer’s Face” which featured Donald Duck in a nightmare setting working in a German factory.

That cartoon won an Academy Award in the category of Best Short Subject Cartoon.

Walt Disney Presents at Hollywood Studios
The Walt Disney Presents exhibit at Hollywood Studios shares information about Disney’s history (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

28. Disney himself never won an award for a full-length feature

He received an honorary Oscar for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

“Fantasia” also earned Disney an honorary Oscar.

“Mary Poppins” was nominated for Best Picture but didn’t win.

“Pinocchio” won Best Original Score and Best Original Song, but these awards did not go to Walt himself. 

He also earned the Irving Thalberg Award for his career contributions to the industry.

27. Walt Disney had a secret apartment at Disneyland

When Disneyland California opened in Anaheim, the huge amusement park had a secret apartment for Disney and his family overlooking Main Street.

The lamp would be lit to alert staff that he was in residence. That lamp remains lit all the time now in his honor. 

The Goofy character is actually a dog (dog photo by smrm1977/shutterstock.com)

26. Goofy is a dog

The Goofy character was born as Dippy Dawg.

Dippy was an older version of the character and had a white beard.

Read Also: Is Goofy a cow or a dog? What type of animal is Goofy? A full analysis

25. Walt Disney loved Peter Pan

Disney was enamored with Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up – for obvious reasons.

But he also played Peter Pan in high school. 

Pirates of the Caribbean Signage
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie is Disney’s highest-grossing movie (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

24. ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ is Disney’s highest-grossing movie

Adjusting for inflation, the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie is the highest-grossing movie by Walt Disney Productions.

The movie is actually the 8th highest-grossing production for Disney movies overall, but everything above it is a Marvel movie, a Star Wars movie, a Pixar Studios movie or “Avatar” – which was made by 20th Century Fox.

“The Lion King” is the highest-grossing Walt Disney Pictures animated movie on the list at 11th.

23. Walt Disney had help designing Mickey Mouse

A man named Ub Iwerks met Disney while working at an art studio in Kanas City, Missouri in 1919.

The two founded an animation film studio called Laugh-O-Gram Studios which fairly quickly filed for bankruptcy. However, when a New York film distributor named Margaret Winkler bought their short animated film “Alice’s Wonderland,” it became a hit and the boys were in business. 

When Walt moved to California to join his brother Roy O. Disney and founded Disney Brothers Studio, Walt convinced Iwerks to move West as well.

When a copyright case cost the company the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney and Iwerks created Mortimer Mouse. Iwerks eventually refined a sketch done by Walt that would become Mickey.  

The two ultimately had a falling out and Iwerks went on to a lengthy career in animation. In 1989, long after both he and Walt had gone on to the great beyond, Iwerks was named a Disney legend.

Magic Kingdom Walt Disney Statue
The Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

22. Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago in 1901

Walt Disney was born in 1901 and lived to be 65 years old. A heavy smoker, he developed lung cancer which led to his demise.

Walt Disney’s wife Lillian – born in 1899 in Idaho – outlived her husband by 31 years. Disney passed on Dec. 15, 1966. She passed on Dec. 16, 1997.

They had two children. Lillian remarried three years after Walt’s passing.

21. Disney Pictures Studio’s first Academy Award was in 1948

Disney Pictures Studio’s first Academy Award for a live-action film was in 1948 for a documentary called “Seal Island”. 

The Germany Pavilion Garden Railway
The Germany Pavilion Garden Railway at EPCOT is a joy for railroad fans (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

20. Walt Disney was enamored with railroads

Disney’s fascination with railroads began in his early life.

Later in life, he built the Carolwood Pacific Railroad miniature train system in his backyard. It featured an incredible 2,615 feet of tracks.

19. Bobby Driscoll was the first actor to win an Academy Award in a Disney feature

Driscoll received the award in the Juvenile Actor category in 1949 for his work in “So Dear to My Heart” about a boy trying to raise a champion lamb for the county fair. 

18. Hailey Mills also won a juvenile acting Oscar for ‘Polyanna’ in 1960

Mills won a juvenile acting Oscar for “Polyanna” in 1960.

Julie Andrews won the Best Actress award the next year for the portrayal of Mary Poppins.

Mickey and Minnie Topiary at Disney World Florida
Mickey and Minnie topiaries at Disney World in Florida (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

17. There are 12 Disney parks spread over six resorts all over the world

In California, there is Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. At Walt Disney World Florida in Orlando, there are the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.

In China, there are Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland.

And in Japan, there is Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. In France, you have two theme parks: Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park. 

16. Walt Disney enlisted in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps at the age of 16

In 1918, a 16-year-old Walt Disney joined the Red Cross and served with the Ambulance Corps.

He tried to join the military but was too young. Disney doctored his birth certificate to appear as though he was 17 to qualify for the Red Cross.

He arrived in France just after the end of the war. 

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom
The Disney World Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, inspired by the movie (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

15. When ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ came out, that was the accepted plural

The term dwarves – which first came into usage in the early 1800s – gained in popularity on the heels of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”.

14. The Walt Disney World Resort is over 30,000 acres

To illustrate, that’s roughly the size of San Francisco.

13. The Walt Disney family was rumored to have used cryonics

Though rumors continue to swirl, Disney’s family denies the use of cryonics after his passing. 

The epcot ball at night
EPCOT Spaceship Earth was designed by Buckminster Fuller (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

12. Spaceship Earth is based on the work of a guy named Buckminster Fuller

The centerpiece of the EPCOT park, Spaceship Earth, was based on Buckminster Fuller’s work.

Fuller was an architect, engineer and futurist. The geodesic dome was Fuller’s concept.

The grooves, which give the spaceship its golf ball look, are the series of 1-inch gutters all the way down the building that transport water into the World Showcase Lagoon.

Rise of the Resistance Storm Troopers Hollywood Studios Orlando
50 stormtroopers arrest guests as they arrive at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Hollywood Studios (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

11. There are 50 Stormtroopers in the Star Wars Destroyer hangar

You don’t really have time to count since you’re being arrested by the Empire and all.

But when guests arrive in the Star Destroyer hangar during the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride, they are met by 50 First Order stormtroopers. 

10. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has the first 100% complete Millennium Falcon ever built

They never needed a full, life-size Falcon for the movies so the two built for Disneyland and Hollywood Studios are the first two ever made. 

9. ‘The Jungle Book’ was the final Disney movie made under Walt’s supervision

Conversely, “The Aristocats” was the last film he approved. 

Several Cars on Disney's Tomorrowland Speedway
The cars on the Tomorrowland Speedway go 7 mph (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

8. The cars on the Tomorrowland Speedway go 7 mph

The ride is a favorite among many park guests. It became one of the original Walt Disney World attractions after its success at Disneyland in California.

Rock n Roller Coaster Ride Sign Hollywood Studios
The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is the fastest coaster in the park (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

7. The Rock ‘n’ Roller is the fastest coaster in the park

The Rock ‘n’ Roller at Hollywood Studios travels 0-60 in under three seconds.

However, the Test Track at EPCOT – which is not a coaster – reaches speeds of 65 mph. 

Magic Kingdom Fall with Pumpkins
Some characters can only be seen during the spookiest of seasons (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. Guests may see rare characters at Halloween

There are several Disney characters who only come out during the spooky season, including Jack Skellington and Sally. 

Rabbit from the Winnie the Pooh gang can also be a rare find as are the cast members from less popular Disney movies like “Meet the Robinsons” and “Tarzan”.

Bambi’s Thumper and Miss Bunny used to be around the Animal Kingdom for the 75th anniversary of the movie, but that’s another of the rare sightings. 

5. Disney World tickets were $3.50 for adults on opening day

Kids could get a ticket for only $1.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland once used real skeletons

When Pirates of the Caribbean opened in Disneyland in 1967, there were real human skeletons – remains that had been donated to the UCLA Medical Center – on display. 

They have since all been removed … allegedly. 

PeopleMover Disney World
Disney World’s Magic Kingdom PeopleMover (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

3. The PeopleMover was envisioned as 1986

In the early designs for Disneyland, Tomorrowland with its PeopleMover and technology was supposed to be in the year 1986.

Read Also: 5 best Disney resorts for adults, a guide with pricing and tips

2. The futuristic hotel The Contemporary was built in 1971

The hotel featured a unique plan. On-site, the frames of the structure were built. However, the rooms that were built in concrete pods were built off-site.

When finished, the pods were loaded by crane into the frame. The idea was to save time and money and allow for the rooms to be removed and changed out if necessary.

But the plan didn’t go smoothly and cost much more than just building the thing in a traditional style would have. 

1. The Magic Kingdom is on the second floor

Florida – if you haven’t noticed – is pretty flat.

However, the entrance to the Magic Kingdom is up a hill. It’s not because Disney decided to build on one of the few hills in Florida. In fact, Disney wanted workers to be able to move freely – and mostly unnoticed throughout the park – so they built up.

The first floor can’t be seen by the public.

In fact, it serves as an “underground” system of passageways and rooms that allows workers, characters and more to access various parts of the park, deliver concessions and remove garbage with minimal interaction with the public. 

Do you know some little-known Disney facts? Share them with us in the comments!

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