Disney is one of the closest things we have to magic. Kids dream of visiting the theme parks, getting the chance to hang with Mickey Mouse and gaze up in awe at Cinderella’s castle. People of all ages can rattle off moments in Disney films that made them smile or wipe a tear from their eyes.
But few of those people enchanted by Disney magic take a look behind the curtain, peeking at what casts that truly captivating “spell.” Well, these rare photos are finally revealing what exactly goes into making Disney — from its movies to its parks — the most bewitching brand on the planet.
1. This photo from the set of Mary Poppins gives a detailed look at those mid-20th century special effects. The “street” was one big sound stage, and the “nannies” blowing around were actually costumed stuntmen.
2. Businesswoman Charlotte Clark created the first Mickey Mouse plush doll prototype Walt and Roy Disney eventually used to sell character merchandise. Here, you can see Walt cuddled up in a huge pile of them.
3. To get the animation just right for Cinderella, Disney producers filmed live-action shots for reference. Apparently, actress Helene Stanley was a natural at balancing plates and walking down stairs.
4. This building was located on 2719 Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles, and it was where The Walt Disney Studios operated from 1926 to 1940. Some of the most classic Disney films were made there, such as Pinocchio and Snow White and Seven Dwarves.
5. Cameras captured Walt tinkering with a custom-made Pinocchio marionette in his office. You can see the gears in his head spinning, as if he’s playing out a movie in his imagination. That’s also one heck of a classy shirt.
6. Anyone who’s seen Fantasia remembers that opening scene where Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” blares. This photo is an example of the impressionist lighting used to highlight the actual musician’s movements before it was eventually made a cartoon.
7. The train Walt Disney is riding in this photo was actually his own miniature train called the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. He had it set up at The Walt Disney Studios before it was eventually transferred to his home in Holmby Hills, California.
8. Taken on Walt Disney World’s opening day, this photo shows people pouring into the park’s iconic centerpiece, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It was a day full of excitement and potential for Walt and Roy.
9. The Mine Train at Frontierland ran for 17 years, from 1960 to 1977. The ride brought visitors through different environments such as caverns, forests, and deserts, and the entire area contained 204 lifelike animals.
10. Toby Tyler, a classic Disney film, was about a young orphan who ran away to join the circus. In it, this chimp played a character named Mr. Stubbs, and Walt wanted to get some face time with the talent between takes.
11. Walt Disney frequently invited live animals to come to the studios so artists could sketch them and get an idea of how they looked and moved for more realistic animation. These two baby deer were brought in while making Bambi.
12. One of the most iconic attractions at the Disney theme parks are the spinning tea cups, appropriately called the Mad Tea Party. Based off the Mad Hatter’s frantic get together in Alice in Wonderland, the ride takes a nice photo.
13. Ever the hands-on man, Walt Disney talked to production workers during the making of Alice in Wonderland. The tall camera stand directly behind Walt was called a multi-plane camera, and it gave added depth to the cartoon.
14. You can only look at this photo and wonder what Walt was thinking as he sat alone at this table in Tomorrowland. The man had such an incredible imagination, he was most likely cooking up his next incredible creation…or schmoozing up the camera.
15. This photo was taken in 1961, and there’s a very good reason why Walt looks especially happy: he’s posing next to his newly-minted Disneyland Monorail expansion, which would help visitors travel around the parks with ease!
16. The film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was about a sea monster that actually ended up being this submarine piloted by the character Captain Nemo. An artist named Harper Goff designed the “monster,” and the movie took home best visual effects at the Oscars that year.
17. Walt’s walking along the train tracks of the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train attraction in Disneyland in this photo. He was probably just admiring how good the “tilted rock” portion of the ride was, and he couldn’t wait for the guests to experience it.
18. Taken way back in 1935 this old photo of Walt shows, if you look carefully on the wall to his right, the silhouette of his most iconic character of all time standing proudly. Yep, it’s none other than Mickey Mouse himself!
19. Two Disney employees are seen here touching up a street sign near Walt Disney Studios. One thing Walt always wanted to ensure when it came to his work and theme parks was that they were always inviting to visitors, so keeping things clean was imperative.
20. Here, we see Walt looking up at a parrot inside Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, which featured singing animatronic birds perched all over the ceiling. This was Disney’s first attempt at a bird-themed environment. The second was not so great.
See, right outside of Disneyworld is another part of the franchise that’s a little less magical. Located in the middle of Bay Lake is an 11-acre island that is also part of Disney’s bird-themed schemes. Or at least it used to b.
The island was originally meant to be a pirate-themed part of the park called Blackbeard’s Island. There were plans to have it equipped with rides, dining, and hotels, all of which were, of course, pirate-themed.
As plans developed further, hundreds of tropical birds and plants were brought in to really amp up the freebooter vibes. Flamingos, peacocks, and of course dozens of mangroves among them. It was getting piratical fast!
Soon enough “Blackbeard” didn’t seem to encompass the whole theme of this wild islet, so they retitled the place. And just a few weeks later, on April 8th, 1974, the newly named Treasure Island opened its docks.
However, it quickly became clear that exotic birds alone weren’t drawing the kind of crowds Disney hoped for. So, in an attempt to fix this, everyone went back to the drawing boards to come up with an even wilder plan.
This time around the island would feature a giant walk-in aviary as well as several Galapagos turtles for visitors to interact with. The newly re-worked portion of the park was re-named Discovery Island. Again.
Unfortunately, even Discovery Island started to sink in 1989. It was revealed that there had been several instances of foul fowl play going on between employees and the exotic birds kept there.
A two-month long investigation proved that birds were being hunted and even beaten to death. In the end, Disney was charged with 16 state and federal charges of bird abuse.
Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal
The case was settled in court, with Disney paying out $95,000. All of the exotic animals on the island were then relocated to the empire’s newest attraction, Animal Kingdom.
Of course, the steep payout proved too much for Discovery Island to recover from, and in 1999, the little island shut its shores for good — but under rather mysterious circumstances.
All That’s Interesting
Over the next decade, the isle sat completely untouched and, like much of early Disney, sort of faded into a memory. Until 2009 when the derelict Discovery Island got its first and final visitor.
A photographer named Shane Perez heard about this strange forgotten corner of Disney World and was determined to investigate. Unfortunately, this exploration dream was easier dreamt than done.
First of all, the public was strictly prohibited from visiting the island. And it wasn’t exactly easy to access anyway. Surrounded by alligators and deadly bacteria-infested water, Disney’s security was more or less organically set.
But did that stop Shane and his two friends from making their dreams come true? You bet your Mickey it didn’t! Stuffing their cameras in watertight bags, the friends waited ’til the cover of darkness and began their swim.
Despite the dangerous bacteria and deadly reptiles, the crew soon made it safely ashore Discovery Island… where they suddenly made a chilling realization about this “abandoned” place.
Though the park had been out of operation for over a decade, all the lights were on! As the three friends crept further inland, they couldn’t shake the feeling that they weren’t alone here.
As the group traced the creeky overgrown walkways, they soon came to the old aviary dome. But when they opened the doors, they heard a piercing screech that stopped them in their tracks.
It turns out, not every bird had left the island for Animal Kingdom. The friends stood face to beak with a vulture chick who was definitely not too happy to have visitors.
The guys snapped a few photos but had to quickly skedaddle when the bird was making so much noise they became worried about getting caught. Even though they had only covered half the island, they knew it was time to leave.
Disney Peter Pan
Before the first ferry started running, the boys packed up their cameras and once again made the harrowing swim back to reality. Of course, they hadn’t seen all the island’s secrets, but what they did find still felt like a discovery.
However, there are rumors that the island may not be as much of a never-never land as we thought. Apparently, there are some plans to eventually re-open the shores once again as “Lost Island.”
Who knows, little Easter Eggs like this are what make Disney a truly special place. Even a born-and-bred Mouseketeer would still be shocked to learn some lesser-known facts about the place where dreams come true.
For instance, the office you pass while waiting in line for the Indiana Jones Adventure ride is filled with relics from the movies; the troop transport truck outside is from the desert chase scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The park has only had three unscheduled closures throughout its history. They include the day after JFK was assassinated, the day of the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and on September 11, 2001.
When the park first opened in 1955, tickets were just $1! It would cost an adult $3.50 to enter the park in 1971, $9.50 in 1981, $33 in 1991, $48 in 2001, and $85 in 2011. Today, admission to Disneyland costs between $97 and $135.
Disneyland / Instagram
There is a small basketball court hidden at the top of the Matterhorn. Strange yes, but at the time, there was an Anaheim city ordinance that prohibited structures from exceeding a certain height unless it was a sports facility.
Invisible Theme Park
It was only in 2012 that cast members were allowed to rock mustaches, beards, or goatees. All wanted facial hair must be grown in prior to the start of a working period, be kept maintained, and hair must not be longer than a quarter of an inch in length.
There are more than 200 feral cats in the park. They’re actually encouraged as they keep rodents at bay (not Mickey and Minnie, though) and out of sight of the park guests. Disneyland has feeding stations set up around the park.
Disneyland Cats / Instagram
Walt Disney constructed a secret apartment on the 2nd floor of the Main Street Firehouse, and it’s said that Walt Disney’s spirit still resides there!
Walt Disney loved the park so much, he’d often stand in line and wait with guests. He wanted his experience to mimic the guests’ so he could make sure there was enough magic and enjoyment in his theme park.
Disneyland sells about 2.8 million churros and more than 14,000 bowls of Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder every year. Every two days, Disneyland sells enough popcorn to create a 200-foot-high stack of kernels.
Disneyland / Instagram
There’s a myth that the purple and orange teacups on the Mad Tea Party ride spin the fastest. They all spin the same speed depending on the person spinning the cups.
Since Disneyland has opened in 1955, more than 84 million Mickey Mouse ears have been sold in the California theme park. This makes the mouse ear hats the most popular tourist souvenir of all time.
Today, Disneyland hosts more than 60 different rides and attractions for guests. On its opening day, Disneyland in California had only 18 rides and attractions. Just 13 original rides, like the Jungle Cruise, the Disneyland Railroad, and Peter Pan’s flight, still stand.
There’s a secret pet cemetery hidden behind the Haunted Mansion attraction. It used to only be visible to those using the wheelchair accessible entrance, but today, anyone can see it.
All the plants in Tomorrowland are edible! The Imagineers believe that in the future all free space will be used to grow food. so the garden in the park is filled with red kale, white kale, green sage, strawberry guava bushes, and some orange trees.
There’s a real human skull amongst all the fakes decorating the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Imagineers wanted the skeleton’s sleeping quarters to look more real, so they obtained a human skull from the UCLA medical center!
Details make Disneyland a special place, but seeing others enjoy the park makes it a truly special place. Disney characters love interacting with park guests, but even they have to draw the line somewhere.
Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie always get into trouble, which is probably why Donald is so protective of these actual ducks. On the other hand, maybe he’s chasing them out of the park because they didn’t buy tickets.
You want to dress comfortably when you’re out and about in the Disney heat, but make sure you don’t wear anything that could lead to an awkward situation. Minnie surely loves all kinds of music, but even she doesn’t need to see a shirt covered in mouse skulls.
Disney is where dreams come true… unless another tourist gets in your way. This poor man realized he was blocking a photo session of a surprise proposal, but it was already too late. On the bright side, he gave the couple a goofy photo they would never forget.
Reddit / SpnkyHappy
Did Woody and Jessie get caught sleeping on the job? Not quite. If you shout “Andy’s coming!” at the Toy Story characters in Disney, they will instantly drop to the ground and pretend to be inanimate.
Dean Norris is best known for playing tough guys, so it’s nice to see him embracing his inner princess. The Breaking Bad actor shared this photo via Twitter and joked that he was auditioning to be the eighth dwarf. That actually sounds like a movie worth seeing!
The internet is filled with wacky photos from the top of Splash Mountain, but this one takes the (urinal) cake. These friends expertly posed as if the camera caught them during their morning bathroom routine. That’s a lot of props to carry around on vacation, but it was definitely worth it.
Beware of dog! Goofy was probably just palling around with this toddler, though this picture makes it look like he’s getting ready to swallow the kid whole! Either way, we can only hope Goofy remembered to chew a breath mint before picking up the kid.
Tigger loves attention, so much so that he won’t let anyone else’s face appear in a group photo. Hopefully, he’ll someday learn that the Hundred Acre Wood is large enough for more than one big personality.
Most kids are thrilled to meet their favorite Disney characters, but this girl can’t wait for Sleeping Beauty to beat it. Maybe she could’ve been a better sport, but then again, the princess shouldn’t be interrupting strangers’ breakfasts first thing in the morning.
Everybody knows Gaston failed to woo Belle, but here he is striking out for a second time. Even for cartoons, Tinder dates can go off the rails. Maybe he shouldn’t have turned down that engagement ring from earlier!
We’re all used to seeing Hollywood love triangles in the tabloids, but this takes it to the next level! We expect this kind of behavior from Donald Duck, but from Goofy? It’s almost enough to break your heart.
Don’t worry — no horrific accident occurred here. One Disney guest just saw a golden opportunity to pay homage to cartoon classics by placing his head under this vault. Though he wasn’t in any danger here, we can only hope that no nauseous visitors got sick on that walkway earlier in the day.
Disney World is full of surprises! Case in point: Cristina was over the moon once she finished her Disney race, but then her boyfriend topped that by proposing! However, one of their fellow racegoers looks like she was even more blown away than Cristina.
You can’t beat dad humor! Where other people would’ve just seen a magic lamp decoration, this father recognized a prime photo opportunity. Coincidentally, this picture depicts exactly how you feel after eating your way through every country in Epcot.
Every kid dreams of going to Disneyland, but there can be too much of a good thing. This little girl couldn’t even keep up the energy for a nice family photo. Somebody get that tired kid some sugar, STAT!
They say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. However, the guys in the Chip and Dale costumes appear to be enjoying their jobs a little bit too much here. Don’t they know it’s rude to stare, especially when you’re wearing a mask with giant eyeballs?
It turns out that Disney characters aren’t happy to see everybody. For this Little Mermaid, spotting her arch-nemesis Ursula on a guest’s shirt was enough to take her voice away. Awkward moments like this happen even under the sea.
Every parent who brings their kids to Disney deserves a medal, but this dad clinched first place! When his daughter dressed as Ariel for the day, he did the right thing and cosplayed as the great King Triton. He really earned that crown!
Would you get excited if we told you that a celebrity was making eyes at you from across the room? What if we told you that the celebrity was Mickey Mouse? It has to be hard to resist his charms, especially when he’s wearing his finest gloves and bowtie.