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 theme park 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.
A Word from Walt
The Story of Disneyland
Part 1: Main Street, U.S.A.
Train Station Clock Capers
Emile Kuri: Interior Decorator
A Mezuzah on Main Street
Disneyland Comic Books
The Osmond Brothers Discovered
The Dapper Dans
Grand Canyon Diorama
Alcohol in Disneyland
First Baby Born at Disneyland
Part 2: Adventureland
The Jungle Cruise
Marc Davis Speaks
Bill Evans Speaks
The Dominguez Palm
Back Story of Indiana Jones Adventure
Secrets of the Temple
Enchanted Tiki Room
Part 3: Frontierland
The Secret Origin of Churros
The Man Who Sank the Mark Twain
Tom Sawyer’s Island
Tom Sawyer’s Island Dedication
Legend of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Secrets of Big Thunder Mountain
Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition
Sailing Ship Columbia
Part 4: New Orleans Square
Haunted Mansion Back Story
Pepper’s Ghost Illusion
The Bride in the Attic
The Pirates Story Explained
Blue Bayou Restaurant
Recipe for Monte Cristo Sandwich
The Nazi Influence
Part 5: Critter Country
The Snore in Splash Mountain
Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
The Secrets of Harbour Galley
Part 6: Fantasyland
The Disneyland Wienie
Disneyland Time Castle
Items in Time Castle
Sleeping Beauty Castle
King Arthur Carrousel
Castle Feral Cats
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
First Death at Disneyland
Snow White’s Grotto
Snow White Wishing Well
Part 7: Mickey's Toontown
The Back Story of Mickey’s Toontown
Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin
Part 8: Tomorrowland
The Kidnapping of Richard Nixon
The Star Tours Back Story
The Geese Droids of Star Tours
Origin of Space Mountain
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Part 9: Beyond the Berm
Beyond the Berm
Disneyland Parking Lot
Citizens of Buena Vista Street
Mr. Limpett's Hidden Cameo
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
How many secrets are really left to be discovered about Disneyland?
It is important to remember that even if you are one of those Disneyland fans with dozens of books about the park on your bookshelves, quick links to multiple popular Disneyland websites, or even a well-used annual pass, there is always something else to learn, even if it is just a different perspective on a familiar fact.
Many Disneyland fans are new to the wonders of the park and often something that may seem common knowledge to you will be a secret to them. Since Disneyland is a living entity that keeps growing and changing, there will always be new secrets and forgotten older secrets to share with Disney fans.
“It has been said that Disneyland will never be completed. In fact, I said it. That there will always be something new and unusual and that’s our hope,” stated Walt Disney in 1961.
Because of that, this book is not meant to be the ultimate, definitive guide to Disneyland secrets.
As the subtitle states, this book contains trivia notes, quotes, and anecdotes. It is meant to provide a few moments of amusement for those who love the Happiest Place on Earth and to perhaps enhance their appreciation in a different way than other guides.
Think of it as a selection of tasty condiments to spice up a well-loved entrée.
I grew up believing that ketchup was the only acceptable dipping option for French fries. When I saw others using mustard, Ranch dressing, barbeque sauce, and other selections, I was appalled at this blatant heretical action and questioned the sanity of the people who seemed to have veered so far away from the obvious correct choice.
Over the years, I have found that occasionally sampling these alternatives was not only enjoyable but provided me with a greater satisfaction when I returned to using my favorite ketchup.
I hope that the short selections in this book may also spark a greater appreciation and understanding of Disneyland for even the most frequent and knowledgeable guest as well as the curious newcomer.
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:
The last place you'd expect to find a former Nazi interrogator is Disneyland's New Orleans Square. But that's where we found one.
The mural in the breezeway of Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle depicting in several panels the story of Cinderella was brought into a physical reality by famed mosaicist Hanns-Joachim Scharff and his wife, along with his daughter-in-law, Monika. Dorothea Redmond came up with the design, but Scharff was the one who did the tedious work of cutting, trimming, and pasting together the individual pieces of glass and tile.
Scharff studied art history at the University of Leipzig and was inspired and drawn to mosaics as a youth during a visit to Italy. He was also later responsible along with Monika for the mosaic entrance to The Land pavilion at Epcot.
However, his first assignment for a Disney theme park was in 1966 for New Orleans Square in Disneyland. Scharff did thirty table tops in the Creole Café, the mosaic thresholds for the French Market, and worked on two of the quaint specialty shops. The threshold designs were based on original art work from mid-19th century New Orleans.
Scharff was also a German Luftwaffe interrogator for the Nazis during World War II. He was called the “master interrogator” for all of Nazi Germany and was often called in to assist other interrogators. His techniques were so effective that after the war, he assisted the U.S. military in incorporating his methods in their interrogation training programs.
Continued in "Secret Stories of Disneyland"!
Especially at Christmas time, with the park chockful of holiday decorations, Jews visiting Disneyland will be hard-pressed to find anything to honor their religion. But if you know where to look, Main Street has a year-round mezuzah and a holiday menorah.
A mezuzah is a piece of parchment (usually in a small metal case) featuring particular verses from the Torah. In Rabbinic Judaism it is affixed to the doorframe to fulfill the Biblical commandment to inscribe the words of the Sherma Yisrael (a Jewish prayer) “on the doorposts of your home.”
A mezuzah should be placed on the right side of the door or doorpost, in the upper third of the doorpost, and slanted toward the room into which the door opens.
On Disneyland’s Main Street, there is a doorway along the Emporium on the west side of the street just before the entrance to New Century Jewelry (originally the location of the Upjohn Pharmacy, a favorite location for doctors visiting the park in the early days) that features the name of a fictional resident in gold-leaf lettering: Dr. Benjamin Stein. It is a bit unusual because the name is not on one of the upper-floor windows like so many other names and it does not represent a person who contributed to Disneyland.
To the right of the door is a mezuzah. Dr. Stein does not exist on the Main Street at Walt Disney World, only Disneyland.
In 1995, former Disneyland president Paul Pressler expressed concern that, during the holidays, there was nothing in recognition of the celebration of Chanukah.
In the tradition of its founder, Walt Disney, Disneyland was known for welcoming all religions, but during the holiday season, all the decorations in the park seemed to reference only Christmas and Christian symbols. Walt Disney World had an annual exhibit in the American Adventure attraction at Epcot that acknowledged the Jewish seasonal celebration.
So this location was themed to acknowledge a simple turn-of-the-last-century general practitioner and a menorah is placed in one of the upstairs windows. The welcoming sign on the door states: “Have a fever? Have the flu? Come on in and we’ll cure you!”
In September 2004, the mezuzah was stolen and had to be replaced.
Continued in "Secret Stories of Disneyland"!