Most Disneyland fans know the basic secrets of the “Happiest Place on Earth,” like the hundreds of hidden Mickeys around the park, but we bet that even the most experienced Disneyland veterans have never heard some of these behind-the-scenes facts.
From the dozens of feral cats that are “employed” by Disney as pest control to the secret train car that’s dedicated to Walt Disney’s wife Lillian, here are 22 of the most fascinating secrets about Disneyland that will make you feel like an expert.
Disneyland has a hidden members-only club
Club 33 is the most difficult-to-access spot in Disneyland. Hidden in plain sight in New Orleans Square, this 5-star restaurant was originally envisioned by Walt Disney as a quiet place to personally entertain corporate sponsors and special guests. If you want to eat at Club 33, you have to either know someone who is a member, or put your name on the 14-year waiting list and pay up to $100,000 in membership fees.
Unlike Walt Disney World, Disneyland does not sell alcohol anywhere in the Magic Kingdom, except inside the secretive Club 33.
There are secret menu items all over Disneyland.
Yes, even Disneyland has secret menus. Besides the Mickey Mouse-shaped bread bowl, you can also get off-the-menu ice cream nachos at the Golden Horseshoe and loaded tater tots at River Belle Terrace, both in Frontierland.
Disneyland constantly pumps scents into the park, like the smell of fresh popcorn and baked goods on Main Street.
Have you ever noticed that Main Street always smells delicious? Or that the Haunted Mansion has a musty scent? There’s a reason for that. Disney Imagineers invented the Smellitzer machine that can pump scents through hidden vents in the park.
Former Disney employee Jody Jean Dreyer wrote in her Disney memoir that the Imagineers understood that scent is a strong trigger for memory, which can help us associate Disneyland with childhood nostalgia, just by getting a whiff of popcorn.
Disneyland Railroad has a secret car dedicated to Lillian Disney that is only open to a select few guests every day.
The elaborately decorated Lilly Belle car. Harsh Light/ Wikimedia Commons
If you want a special experience aboard the Disneyland Railroad, get to the park very early, just as it opens, and ask a cast member to ride the Lilly Belle car.
Named after Walt Disney’s wife, this special car only allows for a few guests to ride every day. The train car is decorated like a Victorian parlor, with plush velvet seats and artifacts from Disney history, including a scrapbook and Disney family photos.
Sleeping Beauty’s castle has a working drawbridge but it has only been used twice.
Yes, the Sleeping Beauty’s castle drawbridge really works but it has only been lowered twice in Disney history: once on opening day in 1955, and once when the new Fantasyland opened in 1983.
Walt Disney used to work and host guests in a secret apartment above the firehouse on Main Street. You can still see the windows of the apartment today.
Walt Disney’s secret apartment above the fire department. Vamsi/ Wikimedia Commons
The apartment looks almost exactly like it did when Walt was alive.
Disneyland employees are not allowed to point with one finger, or tell a guest, “I don’t know.”
There are many rules Disneyland cast members have to follow, but two of the most important in guest relations are that you should never point with one finger or answer a guest question with “I don’t know.” Pointing with your index finger is considered rude in some cultures, so Disney cast members will always point with two fingers instead (some former employees insist that this could also be a nod to Walt Disney’s smoking habit).
As part of the immaculate Disney guest experience, cast members are required to come up with an answer to any question — even if they have to research an answer or ask a colleague — to avoid frustrating guest experiences.
There’s a basketball court inside the Matterhorn ride.
It may sound like an urban myth, but in the backstage area of the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride, there is a small attic space with a basketball hoop and a cramped area for cast members to play quick games between shifts.
If you ask nicely, you can ride the front of the monorail with the conductor.
Although it’s no longer an option in Disney World, anyone can ask a monorail conductor to ride in the first car in Disneyland.
You can also ask to steer the Mark Twain riverboat.
Disney fans of all ages can earn their “captain’s license” by asking to steer the riverboat. Don’t worry: “steering” the boat is just Disney magic, and it’s impossible to crash.
Disney uses forced perspective to make you think objects — like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle — are taller than they really are.
The bricks toward the top of Sleeping Beauty’s castle are smaller than the bricks at the bottom of the building. This makes the 77-foot castle look taller than it actually is. The buildings on Main Street are designed the same way. From the ground, each building looks like it is three stories-tall, but the second and third floors are actually a lot smaller than the first floor. This optical illusion gives the impression that Main Street is more grandiose than it really is.
Every Disney park has at least one “weenie” — Walt Disney’s term for a landmark that catches your eye immediately.
Disney historian Jim Korkis said that the term “weenie” or “wienie” came from a game Walt used to play with his pet poodles:
“[Dad] would go to the refrigerator and pull out two uncooked hot dogs, one for himself and one for the dog,” Diane Disney Miller — Walt’s youngest daughter — once told Korkis. “He would play with her, wiggling the hot dog around, and she would go wherever he moved around and was so happy when she finally got her treat.”
Disneyland’s main weenie is of course, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, but there are other visual focal points designed to draw visitors in throughout the park, like California Adventure’s Fun Wheel or Tomorrowland’s Spaceship Earth.
The C-3PO and R2-D2 in “Star Tours” are real movie props from the “Star Wars” movies.
Disney historian Jim Hill said that George Lucas wanted the Star Tours simulator to “look and feel authentic,” so he loaned Disneyland real props from the original “Star Wars” movies.
A telegraph inside Disneyland’s telegraph office repeats Walt Disney’s Disneyland opening day address in Morse code on a loop.
The telegraph taps out a Morse code translation of a portion of the speech Walt Disney made on Disneyland’s opening day in 1955: “To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”
A special decorated horse on King Arthur’s Carousel is dedicated to Julie Andrews.
Jingles was Walt Disney’s favorite carousel horse and in 2008, the elaborately decorated horse was presented to Julie Andrews as a nod to her classic role in “Mary Poppins,” and to recognize her service as a Disney parks ambassador.
Disney uses a special paint color called “no see ’em green” to detract attention from backstage areas or places under construction.
Disneyland invented the drab paint color known as “go away green” or “no see ’em green” that’s specifically designed to draw your eye away from it. The grey-green paint helps camouflage areas of the park that Imagineers don’t want you to notice.
Hundreds of feral cats call Disneyland home. They take care of any rodent problems.
Disney has acknowledged that these stray felines exist and have the run of the park to help keep mice and other pests away.
The man behind Tony the Tiger provides the singing voice for the Haunted Mansion’s “Grim Grinning Ghosts.”
Thurl Ravenscroft— who died in 2005 — was the booming bass voice of the famous cereal mascot, sang the Haunted Mansion’s “Grim Grinning Ghosts” theme song, and also was behind the classic Christmas song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
There are two time capsules buried underneath Disneyland.
One time capsule was buried in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle on the park’s 40th birthday in 1995, and the other was placed underneath Buena Vista Plaza in California Adventure in 2012.
Doritos were invented in Disneyland.
Frito-Lay owned a restaurant in Disneyland when the park opened in 1955 called Casa de Fritos. The restaurant came up with a simple way of re-purposing stale tortillas that would otherwise be thrown away by flavoring and frying them. After the fried tortilla snacks were a huge success with Disney guests, Frito-Lay transformed Doritos into a national brand.
All of the plants in Tomorrowland are edible.
It was Walt Disney’s idea to make the plants in Tomorrowland completely edible. This subtle detail is a reference to Disney’s fantasy future, complete with sustainable agricultural technology.
Chewing gum is not sold anywhere in Disneyland.
To make the parks cleaner, all Disney parks have banned the sale of gum on the property. They can’t, however, stop you from bringing in your own pack.