As one of the most enduringly popular entertainment companies in the world, The Walt Disney Company has naturally been the subject of outlandish rumors and speculation over its 91 years-and-counting lifespan. Given that the company’s products and intellectual properties have had such a formative impact on millions of people young and old, it’s understandable that numerous myths and legends have cropped up, most of them designed to shatter or enhance the company’s carefully constructed public image. While it’s easy to write off some of the more outlandish urban legends surrounding Disney, there is some truth hiding behind even some of the crazy ones…but most are still more fiction than fact. Here are 10 unbelievable Disney urban legends and the truth behind them.
10. Casablanca Plane
The Legend: One of the less fantastical Disney urban legends surrounds the Lockheed Electra 12A airplane used in Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ “The Great Movie Ride” attraction. When it was opened on May 1, 1989, Disney proudly claimed that the plane was the same model used in the classic 1942 film, Cassablanca, only to have this claim debunked in the early 1990s when newly-unearthed sources claimed that a prop — not a real plane — was used in the film production, so naturally Disney’s plane couldn’t be the real one.
Is It True or False?: This is one myth that seems to have been double debunked, as Werner Weiss, a curator at Yesterland, discovered that a real plane was used in certain scenes of Casablanca in addition to props. The only remaining question is whether or not the Hollywood Studios plane is in fact the real deal or not.
9. Space Mountain Beheading
The Legend: Space Mountain is one of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Theme Park’s most popular rides, even 40 years after it was first opened. The ride’s ubiquity with all things Disney World have led to some rather disturbing stories over the years, most famously with the urban legend that a rider was beheaded after standing on the ride. Surely this was just a scare tactic designed to frighten children to behave on the ride?
Is It True Or False?: Well, it turns out there was a beheading on Space Mountain…but not of a person. The unfortunate victim was actually a crash-test dummy that had its head knocked off as it bumped out of its seat. Good thing too, because this prompted engineers to test ride clearance heights throughout, ensuring that it wouldn’t happen to any actual people.
8. Yelling “Andy’s Coming!” Makes Park Toys Fall Down
The Legend: Disney World is widely known for having strict guidelines when it comes to guest experience, as they don’t want anything that could “break the magic”, such as seeing costumed characters without their masks on or having two of the same character in a guest’s field of vision. As such, there have been some interesting myths that have sprung up as a result of this dedication, including the belief that any Toy Story character will immediately fall to the ground motionless if someone yells “Andy’s Coming!” in their vicinity, much like they do in the films.
Is It True or False?: Images of costumed Toy Story characters lying prone after having “Andy’s Coming!” yelled at them went viral a few years ago, sparking the belief that this was a Disney-mandated policy. It turns out that these were isolated incidents, as Disney spokespeople dispelled the rumor, stating that they have a policy in place against the practice for safety concerns.
7. Human Remains in the Haunted Mansion
The Legend: There are a lot of famous places in the world that people wish to have their ashes spread when they die. Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction is probably the most infamous House of Mouse destination that people have attempted to dump their loved ones’ ashes at over the years. Surely this is not something that people actually do though, right?
Is It True or False?: It turns out that there are more ashes scattered around the Haunted Mansion than you might think. Former Disney employee David Koenig confirmed the rumors in his 1994 book Mouse Tales, detailing how a family once requested extra time on the ride to hold a memorial for a deceased 7-year-old boy, but went a bit too far in their impromptu service when they were observed sprinkling a powedery substance on the attraction. Park workers had to close down the ride to clean up the suspected ashes and despite strict policies against the practice, it is believed that this type of incident has happened all over the park, not just in the Haunted Mansion. To be fair, it’s probably impossible to clean up all remains anyway, so it’s best to just not think about it.
6. Matterhorn Mountain Basketball Court
The Legend: The Matterhorn mountain is a prominent fixture of Disneyland, housing the Matterhorn Bobsleds roller coaster. There has been speculation over the years about what might be housed in the mountain’s summit (it is a man-made structure after all), with many speculating that a fully functional basketball court of all things was built inside.
Is It True or False?: This legend is totally true, as there is indeed a basketball court inside the Matterhorn. It’s actually only a half-court, as there was nowhere near enough room to build a full court. When the Matterhorn was built, there was a considerable amount of empty space in the upper levels. Allegedly, Walt Disney actually gave the go-ahead to fill it with a basketball court. So no, the Matterhorn isn’t a second home for any Disney villains after all.
5. The Haunted Mansion Ghost
The Legend: It’s only fitting that a Haunted Mansion urban legend would emerge involving a ghost, but the best part about this piece of Disneyland myth is that multiple park patrons have claimed to have caught the ghost on film. It’s even believed by some to be the ghost of Walt Disney, walking the park at night, keeping watch over his creations.
Is It True or False?: Well, it’s true that amateur video has cropped up that shows a ghost-like figure wandering Disneyland, but given that there’s no conclusive evidence that ghosts really exist, this legend is really dependent on the eye of the beholder. We’re not buying it, but it’s hard to deny that an actual haunting would only help The Haunted Mansion’s scare factor.
4. Mickey Mouse Suicide
The Legend: The early days of Disney animation hold a certain mystique in the American consciousness, especially when it comes to some of the darker, controversial content that was produced in the early 20th century (just look at the banning of and subsequent fascination with Song of the South). One of the more infamous urban legends to emerge out of the early Disney era is that there was a lost cartoon called “Mickey Mouse in Hell” or “Mouse Suicide.” Apparently this lost cartoon was so disturbing it compelled a Disney employee tasked with watching the whole thing to commit suicide afterwards.
Is It True or False?: The video has surfaced online (you can view it here). Whether or not the video is a legitimate creation is still up for debate, as this legend has been pretty much debunked as just being a very believable example of “Creepypasta”, a name given to urban legends that crop up on the internet. Still, watch that video at your own risk.
3. The Lion King’s Dirty Sky Message
The Legend: Disney films have built a bit of a reputation for containing hidden messages that generally skew towards the sexual. The Lion King is one of the most popular examples, as it’s been claimed by many observant viewers that the word “sex” is spelled out by a dust cloud for a few frames.
Is It True or False?: It’s true that you can see a word spelled out in the aforementioned scene, but the special effects team that worked on the movie debunked the claim by stating that the word is supposed to be “SFX”, put in as an intended Easter egg. This is truly one Disney urban legend that changes from person-to-person, as it’s possible to see either word in the frames. Considering an “F” can easily look like an “E”, this blunder was probably not intentional.
2. Disney World is a Death-Free Zone
The Legend: In keeping with their corporate policies that help make Disney parks as magical as possible, there exists an urban legend that says that Disney can claim to never have had anyone die in their parks, as these persons are always removed from the park before being legally declared dead.
Is It True or False?: This legend is definitely false, as there have been a few reported cases of persons declared dead at Disney parks. While it is unknown if Disney actually has a policy dictating that guest can’t be declared dead on company property, as this is obviously not something the company would want to be public knowledge, it seems that even Disney magic can’t keep the Grim Reaper at bay all the time.
1. Walt Disney Cryogenically Frozen
The Legend: The greatest Disney urban legend of all of course involves Walt Disney himself. Disney passed away from lung cancer on December 15, 1966, but that didn’t stop the myth that Disney actually had himself cryogenically frozen until a cure could be found from becoming a fixture in popular culture (such as in this popular Family Guy gag).
Is It True or False?: Although Disney-truthers never seem to go away, this is an urban legend that has definitely been debunked. While Disney was interested in being frozen prior to his death, he never put this wish in his will and was later cremated. Anyone still looking for Walt Disney’s cryogenic chamber under the Pirates of the Caribbean can probably give up the ghost (pun intended).