“Disney World is finally complete, the culmination of my life’s work oh shit we forgot to build air holes!”
But the fact that you’re walking on top of a secret city isn’t even the sinister part. If you’ve ever been to a Disney park, one thing will stand out: It’s clean. Thousands and thousands of people are all around you, most of them kids, and there is zero trash on the ground. No sticky gum residue, no used condoms or old panties to be seen anywhere. Everything is clean. Have you guessed why? Because people are popping up out of the ground to clean that shit up, like mole people, quickly disappearing back into their subterranean kingdom with you none the wiser. The only way to figure out where they’re coming from is to casually dump a purse full of fingernail clippings on the ground and stand aside to watch what happens.
Now, if you’re into totally ruining everything, you can tour the tunnels for a fee. But only if you’re 16 or older, because the last thing 14-year-olds need is something else to be cynical about. Just know that you’re in for seeing a half-dressed Mickey flirting it up with Ariel while the Mad Hatter pays for his tuna salad in the cafeteria.
When Walt Disney designed his park, he realized that his teeny-tiny apartment on Main Street wouldn’t be large or roach-free enough to host big-time visitors. So in addition to building a second apartment for himself and his family above the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, he also commissioned a secret VIP lounge for entertaining dignitaries and celebrities. As for the name of the secret club, you could say it was simply the street address on the door, 33 Royal Street. Or you could count up the number of original sponsors that made Disneyland happen and do the conspiratorial math. (It was 33. There were 33 sponsors.)
“Pay millions of dollars to sponsor a club that only like a hundred people will ever see!”
So how exclusive is this club? Membership is rumored at 500 people. Total. In the world. Sure, you can submit a written application to get on the waiting list, the same list that often goes years without bumping anyone up. But just know that if, by some miracle of the Lord of Disney, you’re moved to the top of the list, you should be ready to shell out $25,000 initially, then $10,000 a year for the privilege of just getting in the door.
Once inside the club, as if that will ever happen, you’ll find yourself in a restaurant in line with turn-of-the-century French decor, except that the rooms are decorated with actual props and concept art from Disney movies. And antiques selected by Mrs. Disney herself. If, on the other hand, you live the rest of your years as a regular schmuck like the rest of us, just know that people are secretly partying in secret rooms at Disneyland. Oh, and at the California Adventure Park, too. Same deal. You’re not invited.
Another place you should never expect to visit is the suite in Cinderella Castle at Disney World. Originally intended as (yet another) living space for Walt, the 650-square-foot apartment wasn’t finished when Walt died, so it was never actually occupied. Fast forward to 2007 and the Disney company had the amazing idea of refurbishing the suite and granting overnight access to random guests. People. Got to live. In. Cinderella Castle. Overnight.
Once you’ve banged there, the Mile High Club just seems so lame.
The secret suite is only accessed by a hidden elevator that leads to the fourth floor of the castle. And you can get a reservation by calling 1-800-NOPE. You can’t stay there. Jonas Brothers can stay there. But you can’t.
#3. Scent-Based Mind Control
Visit any Disney park and you’ll find your senses immersed in a world of joy and wonder. Gone are the traffic noises of Anaheim and the swamp stink of Florida. Everything is pleasant here, because Disney has your very sensations under lock and key. Music massages your ear holes while the clean, bright streets make you nostalgic for a time that never actually existed. At the top of the list of sinister ways the park is shaping your experience is the Smellitzer, a patented scent generator that makes sure you’re smelling exactly what they want you to smell.
If you’re riding Pirates of the Caribbean, you might unknowingly get a whiff of sea salt in the air. Or at Spaceship Earth, you’ll smell barbeque as a diorama of Rome burns before your eyes. The Haunted Mansion smells musty and earthy, so you won’t forget that there’s a graveyard right outside the attraction. And Soarin’ Over California pumps a faint citrus smell at you as you fly over simulated orange groves.
Just in case you’re thinking that those odors are built into the rides, they’re not. The Smellitzer uses a series of pumps and vents to launch the smells 200 feet at just the right second. And then an exhaust system sucks the odor out of the room before it interferes with your next sensory experience.
Oh, and the odor-pumper isn’t just limited to immersing you in the rides, either. Walk down Main Street, USA, and you’re going to smell freshly baked cookies, whether there are cookies in the oven or not, thanks to the Smellitzer. During the holidays, you might smell peppermint candies being made, or pumpkin spices near Halloween. On Father’s Day, you should expect to smell bad cologne and disappointment.
#2. The Oil Rig Inside a Nature Attraction
Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park isn’t just a glorified zoo, it’s an entire park dedicated to animal conservation. In addition to riding attractions and watching shows, guests can observe endangered animals like elephants and rhinos. In fact, the first white rhino born in Uganda since 1982 came from an animal that was born at the Animal Kingdom. Good job, Disney. You’re saving the world, just like Captain EO said you would.
Before all that world-changing got started, however, the Animal Kingdom needed a centerpiece, an icon that would symbolize the park’s mission. Behold! The 14-story, 50-foot-wide sculpted work of art, the Tree of Life.
So how did it happen that the one Disney park dedicated to preserving the earth’s animals and resources used an instrument that is associated with endangering animals all over the world? The answer is in the tree itself. Designers knew that they wanted a sculpture that didn’t just look like a tree, but acted like a tree. It would have to bend and sway in the wind, and also be strong enough to handle Florida’s hurricanes. But instead of a root system anchoring the whole thing to the ground, this tree was going to house a 430-seat theater.
So, the story goes that one of the engineers was watching a documentary on offshore drilling when he realized that an oil platform would be perfect for the Tree of Life: It had a wide base for a theater, a narrow center for a trunk and a wide topside that could support flexible branches. Like this:
Long story short: The Animal Kingdom bought themselves an oil rig and built a tree around it. The video below shows time lapse footage of the whole process:
There was only one problem. For some Imaginengineerers, a Disney park without Mickey Mouse would be like a face without eyebrows: grotesque. So they sneaked hidden Mickey Mouse ears all over the damn place out of spite. So, for example, while riding the Spaceship Earth attraction that presents the history of human communication, you probably wouldn’t have noticed these scrolls forming the shape of Mickey’s head:
In those scrolls lie the secret to permanently banishing him from our realm.
And you probably wouldn’t have seen the paint rings left by the artists in the Renaissance section:
Each one also symbolizes a person who was killed for defying Walt.
See it? It’s painted blue, under the arm.
Eventually, even the designers in the Mickey-sanctioned parks wanted to get in on the fun, so hidden Mickeys started popping up everywhere. At least a thousand hidden Mickeys have been reported throughout the parks, and the people who are actually looking for them are nuts. They’ve written books and devoted websites to the world’s least rewarding scavenger hunt.
By the way, Mickey isn’t the only creature lurking in the shadows of the park. Every now and then a new ride will replace an old favorite, but Imagineers don’t want to pretend that the old one never existed. So they’ll leave a remnant as a quiet nod to times gone by. It sounds sweet until you’re on the New Winnie the Pooh ride and turn around to see three mounted animal heads staring lifelessly into the dark abyss.
“Liberate tutemet … ex inferis …“
It turns out that the new Winnie the Pooh ride replaced the old Country Bear Jamboree, and Max, Buff and Melvin were too beloved for the dump. So they were placed in a spot that you’d have to literally turn around in your seat to view. Look at their faces. They’re going to eat you.