What do we really know about Walt Disney? We’ve been enjoying the pioneering animator’s works for decades. Many of you reading this visit the theme parks he helped launch on an annual basis. But if we were pressed to tell a stranger what facts we knew about the man, how many could we rattle off?
Empire wants to help. The editors at the site have compiled 90 facts you likely didn’t know about Walt Disney and his parks as the studio marks its 90th birthday. I’m compiling my absolute favorites below, though I have to lead with this one, because it deserves to stand apart from the crowd: “Walt's final words - written rather than spoken - were, rather cryptically 'Kurt Russell'. No one, including the actor himself, has any idea why.” Here are the rest of the ones that stood out, though you owe yourself a look at the full Empire list, which has them laid out with fantastic graphics:
Contrary to rumors, Disney's daughter has assured the press he wasn't cryogenically frozen.
Aged 16, Walt signed up for the army, but was rejected because he was too young. Instead he became an ambulance driver in World War I France.
'Man is in the forest' was a code used by animators to warn colleagues to get back to work when Walt Disney was coming down the hallway.
Main Street is based on 1910 America, while Tomorrowland was designed to represent 1986 - both were chosen because they were Halley's Comet years.
The Matterhorn rollercoaster at Disneyland has a secret basketball court inside it for Disneyland staff to use.
Steve Martin used to work in the magic shop at Disneyland.
The theme parks use a patented 'Smellitzer' device designed to pump certain scents around. Whether it's a waft of sea salt in Pirates of the Caribbean, or vanilla in Main Street, your senses are constantly being played.
It's rumoured that Walt Disney had a phobia of mice. While this is hard to prove, it is a fact that his big-eared creation was named 'Mortimer', until his wife persuaded him that 'Mickey' had a better ring to it…
Apparently, if you send Mickey and Minnie Mouse an invitation to your wedding they'll send you back an autographed photo and a 'Just Married' badge. If you send Cinderella and Prince Charming an invitation, you'll get an autographed congratulatory certificate.
The Disney World resort is about the same size as San Francisco.
Walt Disney's attention to detail was legendary. He placed the bins at Disney World 25 steps away from the hot dog stall, as this was how long it took him to eat a hot dog.
How will any of this color your perspective of the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks, in which Tom Hanks angles for yet another Oscar nomination by playing Disney on screen? The movie, directed by John Lee Hancock, focuses on a very specific moment in the studio head’s life – when he lobbied P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) for the rights to her Mary Poppins property. It reaches theaters on Dec. 13, but we have a recently-released trailer for you to peruse. Think about these bits of trivia, and how they might have shaped Hanks’ performance.