Disneyland has a lot to hide. Well, that sounds nefarious, so how about, Disneyland has a lot for you to discover. And I don't mean wait times and ride descriptions. I mean the deep, rich, hidden legacy of the park. Its real secrets.
No one knows Disney history better than Disney historian Jim Korkis. In this book, the latest in his best-selling "Secret Stories" series, he unearths still more Disneyland gold and presents it in bite-sized stories that you can enjoy while waiting in line, sitting in a monorail, or whenever you have a few moments to fill with fresh Disney knowledge.
With over 90 "mini chapters", organized by theme park "land", plus a special section devoted to some of the attractions that exist beyond the berm, you're sure to discover new lore about the Happiest Place on Earth, including Roastie Toasties, the Jungle Cruise elephants, Ray Bradbury's Halloween Tree, the (new) Redhead from Pirates of the Caribbean, the Matterhorn Garden, Star Tours, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, and so much more that the pixie dust will dance in front of your eyes for days.
A Word from Walt
The Story of Disneyland
Part 1: Main Street, U.S.A.
Fort Collins Buildings
The Ghost on the Fred Gurley
Lincoln’s Gettsyburg Address
Part 2: Adventureland
Harper Goff: The Jungle Cruise
Marc Davis & John Hench: Jungle Cruise Elephants
John Hench: Tiki Room Memories
Tiki Room Song
Little Man of Disneyland
Tony Baxter: Tarzan’s Treehouse
Tarzan’s Tree House
Swiss Family Robinson Tributes
Part 3: Frontierland
Big Thunder Mountain Artifacts
Ray Bradbury Halloween Tree
Columbia’s Maritime Museum
Birth of Fantasmic!
The Pope House
Part 4: New Orleans Square
Herb Ryman: Concept Art
Fireflies in Pirates
Music of New Orleans
The Pirates’ Redhead
The Hat Box Ghost
Part 5: Critter Country
Ducks at Disneyland
The Brers and the Briar Patch
Joel Chandler Harris
Joyce Carlson: Splash Mountain Hats
Proposing on Splash Mountain
The Real Winnie the Pooh
Heffalumps and Woozles
Part 6: Fantasyland
Disney Coat of Arms
Sleeping Beauty Castle
The Castle Spires
Pinocchio Village Haus
John Hench: Snow White Grotto
History of Pixie Hollow
Herb Ryman’s Christmas Tree
Merlin’s Sword in the Stone Ceremony
The Matterhorn Garden
Mary Blair Doll
Dumbo Band Organ
Part 7: Mickey's Toontown
Minnie Mouse’s House
Business as Usual
Part 8: Tomorrowland
The Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port Story
Secret Origin of Space Mountain
John Hench: Space Mountain
Edna Disney on Space Mountain
The Ever-Changing Star Tours
Star Tours: The Other Adventures
What the Hoth?
Part 9: Beyond the Berm
I’m Going to Disneyland
Bill Evans and the Berm
Grand Californian Resort & Spa
Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire
Birnbaum Travel Guide
John Hench: The Disneyland Experience
The Cinematic Disneyland
Everyone considers themselves a Disneyland expert, and with good reason.
Disneyland is the oldest of the Disney theme parks and has been in existence for over sixty years, so it is the most familiar. It is generally ranked as the highest attended Disney theme park each year and the one most frequently revisited. More people have spent time there and returned than any other Disney park.
Disneyland is the most documented of the Disney theme parks, with numerous books, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as websites recording almost everything about the place.
So, it seems like the height of hubris is to suggest that there still might be some “secrets” left to share. Yet, in 2017, rising to a challenge from my publisher, I was bold enough to produce a book of stories rarely told, never told, or told incorrectly in the past about the Happiest Place on Earth. Readers liked the book.
That should have been the end of the story because surely I had uncovered everything left to be found. Yet, while researching that first book, I re-examined the many interviews I have done over the years with Imagineers who worked on the park and the slowly decaying oddball newspaper and magazine clippings and fun facts that I had saved in my storage boxes and I thought I just might have enough for another volume.
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and other Disney theme parks worldwide are patterned after Disneyland but are not identical. At best they are comparable, with several things sharing the same name being distinctly different.
Disneyland is unique. It was the first of its kind in outdoor entertainment. It was personally designed by Walt Disney who talked directly with the people building it and mingled with the guests and cast members to get their reactions, which prompted changes. Walt even had his own small apartment over the firehouse on Main Street, U.S.A. that is still maintained today.
Disneyland is ever-changing yet ever the same. Over the last six decades, it has experienced many additions and removals. But even today, with all of that, there is the feeling that this was where Walt lived and that his spirit still somehow remains.
For most people alive today, it is difficult to remember a time when there was no Disneyland and take for granted how its many innovations forever influenced outdoor entertainment and the hospitality industry.
Despite its limited space, Disneyland is always in a state of flux, with even a whole new land themed to the Star Wars movie franchise to debut shortly. While Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is reminiscent of the way it was when it first opened in 1967, significant changes have shifted the focus to the movie franchise with the addition of new figures and staging.
Everything in this book was in existence when the book was written, but that does not guarantee that in a short time some things will be hopelessly outdated or completely gone, making the book more of a document of ancient history than a brief glimpse at some hidden treasures.
Every effort has been made to give credit to the many talented people who remained anonymous, sometimes for decades, but whose contributions created the Happiest Place on Earth. However, the Disney company is notorious for incomplete documentation, so confirming facts was challenging; but every effort was made to do so from multiple sources.
I have also tried to avoid the most common “secrets” that are often repeated and are sometimes inaccurate, except in those instances where I could add new information or a new perspective. Often a “fun fact” that was correct when Disneyland first released the information is no longer true years later.
There are plenty of other reliable sources to help a fan find Hidden Mickeys or identify the names of the people on the upper windows of Main Street, U.S.A., so it didn’t seem necessary for me to do so. I have also tried to remember that even though something may be common knowledge to me, it may still be a secret to others.
The purpose of this book is to record some of the information that is rarely if ever shared. Hopefully, it will present some surprising revelations not just for the most recent Disneyland fan but also for the veteran afficianado who calls the park their second home. This book really is nothing more than some trivia notes, quotes, and anecdotes to bring joy and information to those who love Disneyland and want to know a little bit more about it.
Please join me once again in re-discovering the often hidden magic and stories that transformed all of our lives and continues to take us to new Neverlands that enchant, enlighten, and entertain.
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for over three decades. He is also an award-winning teacher, a professional actor and magician, and the author of several books.
Korkis grew up in Glendale, California, right next to Burbank, the home of the Disney studios. As a teenager, Korkis got a chance to meet the Disney animators and Imagineers who lived nearby, and began writing about them for local newspapers.
In 1995, he relocated to Orlando, Florida, where he portrayed the character Prospector Pat in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom, and Merlin the Magician for the Sword in the Stone ceremony in Fantasyland.
In 1996, Korkis became a full-time animation instructor at the Disney Institute teaching all of their animation classes, as well as those on animation history and improvisational acting techniques. As the Disney Institute re-organized, Jim joined Disney Adult Discoveries, the group that researched, wrote, and facilitated backstage tours and programs for Disney guests and Disneyana conventions.
Eventually, Korkis moved to Epcot as a Coordinator for the College and International Programs, and then as a Coordinator for the Epcot Disney Learning Center. He researched, wrote, and facilitated over two hundred different presentations on Disney history for Cast Members and for such Disney corporate clients as Feld Entertainment, Kodak, Blue Cross, Toys “R” Us, and Military Sales.
Korkis has also been the off-camera announcer for the syndicated television series Secrets of the Animal Kingdom; has written articles for several Disney publications, including Disney Adventures, Disney Files (DVC), Sketches, and Disney Insider; and has worked on many different special projects for the Disney Company.
In 2004, Disney awarded Jim Korkis its prestigious Partners in Excellence award.
If you have a question for Jim Korkis that you would like to see answered here, please get in touch and let us know what's on your mind.
I was about 15 when I interviewed Jack Hannah with my little tape recorder and school notebook with questions printed neatly in ink. I learned to develop a very good memory because often when the tape recorder was running, people would freeze up. So, I sometimes turned off the tape recorder and just took notes which I later verified with the person. I always gave them a chance to review what they had said and make any changes. I lost a lot of great stories, although I still have them in my files for future generations, but gained a lot of trust.
I was very, very lucky. I was a kid, and it never occurred to me that when I saw their names in the end credits of the weekly Disney television show that I couldn't just find their names in the local phone book and call them up. Ninety percent of them were gracious, but there were about ten percent who thought it was a joke and that maybe one of their friends had put me up to phoning them.
It was like dominoes. Once I did one interview and the person was pleased, he put me in touch with others. After some of those interviews were published in my school paper and local newspapers, it gave me some greater credibility. Later, when they started to appear in magazines, I got even more opportunities.
JIM: You know, one of the proudest things for me about my books is that not a single factual error has been found.
To do my research, I start with all the interviews I've done over the past three decades, some of which are some available in the Walt's People series of books edited by Didier Ghezz. When necessary, I contact other Disney historians and authorities to fill in the gaps. And I have amassed a huge library of books, magazines, and documents.
When I moved from California to Florida, I brought with me over 20,000 pounds of Disney research material. The moving company that had just charged me a flat fee was shocked they had so severely underestimated the weight, and lost thousands of dollars. That was over fifteen years ago and the collection has only grown since that time.
About The Vault of Walt Series
JIM: I was fortunate to grow up in the Los Angeles area at a time when I had access to some of Walt’s original animators and Imagineers. They shared with me some wonderful stories. I wrote articles about their for various magazines and “fanzines” of the time. All of those publications are long gone and often difficult to find today.
As more and more of Walt’s “original cast” pass away, I realized that their stories had not been properly documented, and that unless I did something, they would be lost. Everyone always told me I should write a book telling these tales and finally I decided to do it.
JIM: She actually contacted me. Her son, Walter, loved the Disney history columns and articles I was writing and would send them to her. I was overwhelmed that she enjoyed them. She was appreciative that I tried to treat her dad fairly and not try to psycho-analyze why he did what he did.
She also liked that I revealed things she never knew about her father. As we talked and I told her I was doing the book, I asked if she would write the foreword. She agreed immediately and I had it within a week. She even invited me to go to the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and give a presentation. She is an incredible woman.
JIM: Obviously, the ones about her dad were a big hit. She especially liked the chapter about Walt and his feelings toward religion. She told me that it accurately reflected how she saw her dad act.
JIM: That’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. I tried to put in all the stories I loved because I figured this might be the only book about Disney I would ever write.
One chapter that I have grown to love even more since it was first published is the one about Walt’s love of miniatures. I recently found more information about that subject, and then on the trip to Disney Family Museum, I was able to spend hours examining some of Walt’s collection up close.
About Who's Afraid of the Song of the South?
JIM: I wanted to read a “Making of the Song of the South” book, but nobody else was ever going to write it. I wanted to know the history behind the production, why Walt made certain choices, and as many behind-the-scenes tidbits that could be told. I didn’t want to read a sociological thesis on racism.
Fortunately, over the years I had interviewed some of the people involved in the production, had seen the film multiple times, and had gathered material from pressbooks to newspaper articles to radio shows of the era.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Song of the South. I wanted to get the facts in print and let people make up their own minds.
JIM: I thought I knew a lot after being actively involved in Disney history for over three decades, but writing this book showed me how little I really know.
For example, I learned that it was Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck for decades, who did the whistling for Mr. Bluebird on Uncle Remus’ shoulder. I learned that Ward Kimball used to host meetings of UFO enthusiasts at his home. I learned that the Disney Company tried for years to make a John Carter of Mars feature. I learned that Walt himself tried to make a sequel to The Wizard of Oz. I learned that Disney operated a secret studio to make animated television commercials in the mid-1950s to raise money to build Disneyland. And so much more.
Even the most knowledgeable Disney fans will find new treasures of information on every page of this book.
JIM: Walt Disney was not racist. That is one of those urban myths which popped up long after Walt died, and so he was unable to defend himself.
In my book, I make it clear that Walt had no racist intent at all in making Song of the South. He merely wanted to share the famous Uncle Remus stories that he enjoyed as a child, and he treated the black cast with respect and generosity.
Many people don't realize that the events in the film take place after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction. So many offensive Hollywood films made at the same time as Song of the South, even one with little Shirley Temple, depicted the Old South during the Civil War in an unrealistic manner. Walt's film got lumped in with them, and he was a visible target for a much larger crusade.
With John Cawley: