Top 10 Dark Facts Behind Disney



Top 10 Dark Facts Behind Disney

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
The House of Mouse has some surprisingly dark secrets! For this list, we'll be looking at all things that the Walt Disney company probably doesn't want you to know. Our countdown includes how the opening of Disneyland was a disaster, the weird connection between the Disney parks and Richard Nixon, the fact that Walt Disney initially didn't allow some women to be animators, and more!
Script written by Savannah Sher

Top 10 Dark Facts Behind Disney

The House of Mouse isn’t always the happiest company on earth. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Dark Facts Behind Disney.

For this list, we’ll be looking at all things that the Walt Disney company probably doesn’t want you to know. We’re excluding discussing the most famous darkest Disney stories because we’ve already covered them on another list.

#10: They’ve Been Sued by Animators

For many, being an animator for Disney Animation would be a dream come true. But as incredible as it might sound to work for Disney, it’s not always talking animals and trips to the theme parks. In 2014, animators and VFX employees from several different companies, including Disney and Pixar, began a legal case over alleged backroom anti-poaching deals which would ensure that people remained in their current jobs. The subtext was that Disney could pay its employees lower salaries without fear of them finding higher paying work or better conditions elsewhere. Disney settled in court for a massive $100 million.

#9: The Opening of Disneyland Was a Disaster

When you think of Disneyland, you probably imagine a place of magic that is always pristinely clean and where it seems like nothing bad could ever happen. But when the park opened on July 17, 1955, it was pretty much an unmitigated disaster. The situation was so bad that the day was forever known as “Black Sunday”. For example, counterfeit tickets were used so there were many more visitors than the park was anticipating, and the lineups to get in were massive, causing traffic jams and allegedly forcing some kids to have to pee in the parking lot. There were also tons of ride breakdowns and shortages of food. Seems like they managed to work out all those kinks though!

#8: Real Human Bones Were Used as Decoration for a Ride

A pirate’s life for me indeed! When Pirates of the Caribbean opened at Disneyland in 1967, it quickly became a fan favorite ride, eventually even spawning a film series decades later. But did you know that there’s an extra level of authenticity to the experience that you may not have imagined? Legend says that the designers and creators wanted to make the ride feel believable, so they actually sourced real human bones for the skeletons. While most of these have reportedly been removed, many say that the skull above the bed in one scene is still one of the originals.

#7: Walt Disney Had Some Opaque Last Words

Walt Disney’s untimely death in 1966 came at a time when the company was expanding rapidly, and it was a major loss for the House of Mouse. He died when he was in his mid-60s from lung cancer, but largely kept his illness a secret. There are a lot of rumors surrounding Disney’s death, but one bizarre fact that is actually true involves his last words. Well his last written words at least. Disney wrote down “Kurt Russell” on a piece of paper and decades later, we still don’t know why. Russell was, at the time, a child actor who had done work for the company, and soon became a star, but no one knows what the significance of this final message was.

#6: They Don’t Let Movies Film in Their Parks

As you would imagine, Disney is pretty protective of its intellectual property. They definitely don’t want anyone producing their own movies in their theme parks . . . especially when the movies don’t exactly paint a favorable picture of the “most magical place on earth”. But people have managed to bypass the system andfilm on site without getting permission. “The Florida Project,”whose last scene was secretly filmed at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park, garnered Willem Dafoe an Oscar nod! Another notable example is “Escape from Tomorrow,” which takes place almost entirely at Walt Disney World Resort. Disney basically pretends that this furtively shot movie doesn’t exist.

#5: They Had a Strong Connection With Richard Nixon

Many celebrities and public figures have made trips to Disneyland over the years, but there are some that the company would probably prefer to no longer be associated with too prominently. One example is Richard Nixon, who had some deep ties to the parks. Because Nixon’s childhood home was close to Anaheim, he was actually given a ceremonial key to Disneyland around the time of its opening. He was also there for the launch of the monorail. But most notably, Nixon actually delivered his famous “I am not a crook” speech right in Disney World, at the Contemporary Hotel.

#4: They Bury What They Feel Doesn’t Help the Brand

The company is known for doing its best to hide away or suppress aspects of its past, including racist and stereotypical portrayals. Down the memory hole they go! But Disney even does this when it originally meant well. For example, in the midst of World War II, Walt Disney decided to make a short satirical propaganda film, partly as a promotional tool for war bonds. The short in question, which actually won an Academy Award, featured Donald Duck, in an extended nightmare, as a German factory worker slaving away, sieg heiling and even briefly reading “Mein Kampf”. But after the war, Disney pretty much buried the movie for half a century. Note to Disney: we know Donald wasn’t a real Nazi.

#3: Walt Initially Didn't Allow Some Women to Be Animators

Some of Walt Disney’s social views were incredibly dated . . .to say the least. One of the most damning was the fact that he was reluctant to hire young, unmarried women to train to be animators in the early days of the company. In a letter from the 1930s, the company wrote to one woman who had expressed interest in animation, “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school.” Yikes!

#2: Disney Leverages Its Power

When Disney broke ground on Disneyland in Anaheim, California, the area was mostly bucolic, full of orange groves and walnut trees, and far from the urban sprawl that it is today. Over the years though, Disney has dominated the city and its municipal government, and has been accused many times of bullying the city into decisions that weren’t fair or equitable, including receiving tax rebates and access to building permits. And it’s not just in California. Disney has faced opposition for many theme parks it has opened worldwide, with major protests taking place when Euro Disney in France was created.

#1: They Pretty Much Own Everything

Is Disney aiming for a monopoly on entertainment? In the world of TV and movies alone, they have famously bought out some, much or all of (deep breath . . . ) Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, the former 20th Century Fox, ABC, FX, National Geographic TV, A&E, ESPN and Hulu. Phew.
So many popular film franchises are Disney property, it’s overwhelming. And now they’re hitting Netflix where it hurts with the streaming colossus Disney+. It’s hard to imagine where the company will go next, since it seems that they already lord over nearly everything we watch.