In recent months, we've posted a series of articles about hidden secrets at Walt Disney World's theme parks. While we were putting those articles together, we were struck by just how much effort Disney puts into intricate details that almost nobody will ever notice (we picked out 10 examples in this article). As that article pointed out, Disney's Imagineers go to almost ridiculous lengths to ensure that guests are fully immersed in the theme of each land. Authentic materials, plants and other items are imported from all over the world - even when a cheaper substitute could be used without many people ever noticing the difference. It's not just the rides, restaurants and other stuctures that receive this type of treatment, however. Even the most mundane elements of a theme park are viewed by Imagineers as essential parts of the show. Here are five striking examples!
5. Trash cans
Disney is fanatical about ensuring that its parks are kept clean and tidy. That means that every single one of its theme parks features dozens of trash cans, all carefully-spaced to ensure that guests will never be more than a short walk away from one. Cast Members are instructed not to walk past stray bits of litter without scooping them up and dropping them into a nearby bin. All those trash cans, though, could end up looking pretty ugly and out-of-place. After all, do trash cans really belong in the Wild West (Frontierland), the jungle (Adventureland) or the future (Tomorrowland)? Any standard-issue garbage receptacle would destroy the theming of those areas. Instead, Disney goes out of its way to ensure that its trash cans not only fit into the theme of an area, but even add to it.
There are whole websites dedicated to documenting Disney's trash cans. The company has even turned them into a line of merchandise, with trash can-themed salt and pepper shakers going on sale at Walt Disney World's Marketplace Co Op in 2014. Then, of course, there are the trash cans that actually interact with guests. Push the Talking Trash Can (above) may no longer appear in Tomorrowland at Disney's Magic Kingdom, but there's always the cheeky talking trash can in the Electric Umbrella Restaurantat Epcot.
4. Manhole covers
Manhole covers are one of the dullest, most generic products that you can buy. In order to keep costs low, almost every cover is designed to be basically identical. Disney could save money by buying generic manhole covers - but that's not the company's style. Instead, the Imagineers at Walt Disney World have ordered up customized manhole covers that include a Mickey Mouse logo in the center. Almost nobody will actually notice these - but Disney has incurred the extra expense just in case. Take a look at the manhole covers at any Disney park and you're likely to find that they are of a unique design.
3. Pavements and walkways
Once upon a time, pavements and walkways were simply a way of getting from A to B. Amusement parks paid little attention to them, and they were usually made of bland concrete. That wouldn't do for Walt Disney, who ensured that the ground under our feet would be themed along with everything else at Disneyland. He even designed the pavements to change gradually as you left one land and entered another, like a transition from scene-to-scene in a movie. There are numerous examples of Disney theming its pavements. In Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, for example, notice the brown "stream" flowing down the middle of the streets - in frontier times, this acted as a urine trough to catch waste from horses! At Epcot, As you walk from Morocco to France in the World Showcase, notice that the walkway becomes darker. This is intended to represent the Strait of Gibraltar (it's not geographically correct, however, as the Strait actually lies between Spain and Morocco). Elsewhere at Epcot, the pathways in Future World are pretty to look at after the sun sets - tiny lights in the ground light up.
2. Restaurant chairs and tables
Tables and chairs, again, are essential items - but not ones that we often pay much attention to. Of course, Disney's Imagineers pay a lot of attention to them. The Flame Tree Barbecueat Disney's Animal Kingdom features a host of pagodas to provide shade for diners. Each is themed around a different combination of predator and prey, such as anteaters and ants and owls and rabbits. Paintings on the ceilings of each pagoda match the theme. Appropriately, the tables are decorated by the prey, with the chairs showing the predators.
1. Popcorn turners
Popcorn is an essential part of the diet of many theme park visitors - and Disney's theme parks sell a ton of it. It would be easy to procure a bunch of generic popcorn turners for the various carts around the park. But, naturally, Disney has instead made them much more fun to look at. Next time you are at Disneyland, take a look at the various popcorn turners, each of which features a different character. Over the near the Matterhorn, the character is a yeti. In Tomorrowland, it's the Rocketeer. Seasonal favorites come out in time for the holidays, such as Oogie Boogie (near the Haunted Mansion Holiday) and Santa Claus on Main Street USA.