We love Disney. An entire world devoted to the stuff of fantasy is something that grabbed ahold of us when we were kids and has never let us go. Now that we’re grown, we may know in our heads that it’s really some college student playing Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, or that Space Mountain is neither in space nor a mountain.
But still, we maintain a little bit of that sense of make-believe, where a small corner of our brain — the part that still knows the words to “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” or cries at “Bambi” — holds on to the fantasy and refuses to let it go. To us, Disney represents a whole new world, and we darned sure don’t want to see it in a new realistic point of view.
So why, then, do we love hearing about all of Disney’s dirty laundry? Admit it, it’s so cool hearing about the shenanigans of the actors playing Disney characters. Or the details of how the various Disney rides work. We all love secrets, and Disney’s real-life secrets are almost as enticing as its fantasy world.
“It’s like why people are so curious about how a magician does his tricks; it’s so enchanting and captivating, you have to know what the secret is,” says David Koenig, author of five books about Disney’s famous theme parks, including “Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland,” “Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World” and his most recent book, “The People v. Disneyland: How Lawsuits & Lawyers Transformed the Magic.”
Disney’s fantasy world is so pristine, it’s kinda fun to look for the seams. “Disney puts on such a great show and it’s so secretive about its inner workings and dirty laundry,” Koenig tells Yahoo Travel. “Everything is so perfect on stage in their show. Real life is not that way. You know there has to be more.”
There is — much more. Life at Disney can get messy and slightly disturbing. So Yahoo Travel talked to Koenig and some other Disneyland insiders to get some secrets Disney does not want you to know.
2The characters sometimes get sued
Who would sue Winnie-the-Pooh? Or Donald Duck? Yes, those beloved characters have actually been dragged into courtrooms, victims of our overly litigious society.
In 2008, a woman sued Disney because she felt that an employee dressed as Donald Duck had behaved inappropriately at Epcot (the lawsuit was settled). And then there was Tigger, who had multiple allegations against him in 2004. (It was a bad year for Tigger.)
In another case in the early 1980s, a performer playing Winnie-the-Pooh at Disneyland was accused of slapping a young girl. During the trial, the performer actually delivered part of his case in costume.
“After a recess, he came back out in the costume, skipping, doing a little dance, throwing kisses to everyone,” says Koenig. “As soon as the opposing attorney saw the costume skip out, he basically did a faceplant. Like, ‘Oh gosh, we’re cooked now.’”
Yes, they were. The Winnie-the-Pooh performer testified his costume had stumps for arms that would have been unable to hit anyone in the head. He said that when he noticed the girl behind him about to hit him, he quickly turned around and must have made contact with the costume’s ears.
“It was a jury trial but it deliberated very, very quickly,” says Koenig. Winnie-the-Pooh emerged victorious, of course. Fortunately, he did not countersue his accusers for attorney fees and honey.