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The Truth Behind 10 Urban Legends About Disney Theme Parks

Disney characters

Disney's theme parks are pretty extraordinary places as it is. Enormous fibreglass castles, giant mock hotels with drop towers within them and sprawling faux mountains are all par for the course. But that hasn't stopped a number of myths and urban legends building up around them over the years.

Often, these myths are stated as fact, rather than fiction. So we thought it would be fun to take a look at 10 of the most enduring Disney urban legends to see if there is really any truth to them.

10. The army discharge

Walt Disney

The legend: It is said that the first three theme parks at Walt Disney World all opened on October 1, because that was the date that Walt Disney was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army for drawing cartoons on Army trucks. Walt is said to have been so proud of this event that his successors felt the date should be used for future park debuts.

The truth: This one is total garbage. For starters, Walt Disney was never actually in the U.S. Army. When the US joined the fighting in the First World War, he was too young to enlist. Instead, he joined the American Ambulance Corps of the Red Cross, lying about his age in the process. He left the service in October 1919, but not on the first of the month. On top of this, while the Magic Kingdom and Epcot officially opened on October 1 in 1971 and 1982 respectively, Disney-MGM Studios actually opened on May 1, 1989.

9. Andy's Coming

Toy Story characters

Image © Disney

The legend: If you yell "Andy's coming!" at Toy Story characters in Disney theme parks, they will stop what they are doing and lie flat on the ground.

The truth: The Orlando Sentinel tested this one out, and was informed by a Walt Disney World spokeswoman that yelling the phrase won't lead to the comedic sight of the characters flopping to the floor. However, that doesn't mean that it has never happened. Videos posted online suggest that it has, but that Disney has stamped out the practice for safety reasons.

8. Headless characters

Mickey Mouse

Image © Disney

The legend: Disney was sued by visitors who claimed that their children had seen headless characters backstage, causing them severe distress.

The truth: The reality of these cases is a little less bizarre. In fact, at least two lawsuits have cited headless characters, but there were many other factors involved too. One case involved security staff falsely accusing a family of shoplifting, and dragging them backstage. Another saw a former Mouseketeer brought backstage after being held up at gunpoint in Disneyland's parking lot. Both distressing events, regardless of the presence of beheaded characters.

7. The ghost

Pirates of the Caribbean

Image © Disney

The legend: During the construction of Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom, a welder named George was killed (either by electrocution or a falling beam). He haunts the attraction to this day.

The truth: Cast Members still warn new employees about the ghost. But in reality, there was no George.

6. The Contemporary

Disney's Contemporary Resort

The legend: The rooms at Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort were designed so that they could be removed at any time, allowing a new one to be slotted into place. However, the steel frame settled, trapping the original rooms in the structure.

The truth: Yesterland has helpfully debunked this one. The United States Steel Corporation, which built the Contemporary, did use it as a proving ground for modular construction techniques. Finished rooms (with utilities such as plumbing already installed) were slotted into the steel frame, having been manufactured on an assembly line. However, there was never any mention of the rooms being replacable.

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There are 13 comments.

Ha! Disney cremated my butt. That's what they want you to think!

So true!

So true!

Disney on Ice. How much more a confession does one need?

Disney on Ice. How much more a confession does one need?

What about the story of the boy dying of a heart attack on mission to mars?

Yes-that really happened. I was there that day. But I think he had a heart condition.

We were there in MK Kingdom 1994 when the accident happened The whole park 'froze' on high alert. Rumors started right away that an employee fell And died!

Thanks for setting the record straight for Us.

On the Lilly Belle tour, the guide tells history of Disneyland. Part of it included the Matterhorn. She said that Walt wanted to build it, and the city said he couldn't build it that high unless it's a recreational facility, so he had the team make a half court inside, and came back for the permit. So I don't know about this 1959 and 1970s laws. I just know what the guide on the Lilly Belle told us.

George is indeed real. As a former skipper of the World Famous Jungle Cruise, next door neighbors to those really bad egg pirates, I can attest his existence. Whenever Pirates goes 101 and needs an evac (riders stuck on boats for over a set period of time during an e-stop) they ask Jungle to help assist the process. I've helped evac pirates 5 times during my time. Strangely enough, 3 of those evacs happened just on one day . . . when I tested the waters and gave George a hearty "Good Morning George!" as I was learning the process that morning going through all the backstage egress areas. According to the rumors, George wasn't a morning person, but does like the occasional Good Night.

There was also another instance of George during one of those evacs same day. A buddy of mine was at unload messing with his brand new phone since there was nothing else he could do and he can't leave his post. He's all alone, all guests in his zone have left, no managers, or anyone else, which does make this a little far-fetched. His claim was that George ripped his phone out of his hands and threw it in the river damaging the phone, and that he heard a whisper "Turn your radio on!" I seriously doubt he threw his brand new phone in the water just to tell this story, maybe he's klutzy and it slipped out of his hands? Either way, if it really happened, it'd be an experience he'd never forget.

Here's another Disney urban legend you probably haven't heard: The dead boat.

Legend has it there was a famous skipper back in the day of the stripey top boats of yesteryear. When he passed, the skippers sent a "dead boat" down the rivers in his honor. Some of those that knew him real well went on a little safari to watch the boat go through the course. They say that among the usual jungle noises, they saw the boat lights go on and you could distinctly hear his usual whistle. I didn't stick around long enough to catch this, as it was somewhat of a tradition around the time he passed, as a way for him to have his final farewell cruise, again, and again, and again, every 10 minutes, for the rest of our lives.

The skyway in Magic Kingdom in Disney World was closed shortly after a cast member fell to his death. I was working that morning, had just started as a cast member for Tomorrowland attractions. The woman training me told me he was cleaning the front of the cab when another cast member started the ride without giving the proper two warnings. It started and he grabbed hold of the outside and tried to hold on, only losing his grip as he was near the dumbo ride and fell. He died on scene but the news reported he died at the hospital because "no one dies at Disney". As part of my training that day, we rode the skyway. Even though they had the place where he fell blocked off with the wooden walls, you could still look down inside and see the blood on the ground. Not sure if that is why they closed that one or if it were already in the works for closing. I don't recall the exact year for this but it was like 2000 or 2001.


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