A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

The Truth Behind 12 Popular Disney Park Rumors

Some of these myths about Walt Disney World and Disneyland are completely ridiculous. Others are true. And some, well, are both!

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by imageBROKER/Shutterstock (3454621a) Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort VARIOUS

Disney, debunked

Disney’s theme parks are the most famous in the world. Because of Disney’s massive influence, as well as their seemingly above-average commitment to an image of sheer perfection, rumors surrounding the parks abound. Rumors about how they attain this “perfection,” what things might not be as perfect as they seem, and ridiculously exclusive park experiences that most guests don’t know about, among others. While some of these rumors are completely false—Walt’s dead body frozen underneath Pirates of the Caribbean, anyone?!—others are “certain as the sun rising in the East!” Here are a few secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.

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a hand holding big bbq crispy delicious turkey leg while riding a boat in a big park in the clear beautiful summer day with nice blue sky

The giant turkey legs are actually made of emu meat

False. Yes, those turkey legs people munch on in the Disney parks are huge, but they do come from turkeys. Specifically male turkeys, which, though less common than female turkeys, have larger legs. Not to mention, farmed turkeys can be quite a bit bigger than the wild turkeys that the myth-believers probably use as their reference for turkey size.

Emu legs would be way bigger than the Disney turkey legs are, Disney YouTuber Rob Plays points out. He attributes the popularity of the myth to, in addition to its intriguing craziness, the fact that many U.S. tourists have no idea how big the Australian-native emu actually is. And it didn’t help that in 2017, actor (and Disney prince voice actor) Zachary Levi insisted that the turkey legs are emu in a Conan interview, giving the rumor new life. But no matter how many famous people circulate the myth, it doesn’t change the fact that importing emu meat would be difficult and costly—and mislabeling it would be illegal. Make no mistake, it’s turkey.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock (9730910i) Park guests walk to Woody's Lunchbox, a restaurant, at Toy Story Land in Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla Toy Story Land Preview, Lake Buena Vista, USA - 23 Jun 2018
John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock

You can’t be more than 30 steps from a trash can

True! This not-so-mythical myth says that Walt, when designing Disneyland, was desperate to prevent littering (understandably). So he reportedly visited other theme parks and watched to see how far people would go looking for a trash can before they just dropped their trash, and 30 steps was his magic number. While that part of the legend isn’t really provable, it is true that trash cans are EVERYWHERE—and yet you don’t notice how abundant they are unless you’re looking for it. Disney YouTubers the Super Carlin Brothers tested it a few times and literally couldn’t go ten steps without reaching a trash can.

The “30 steps” rule is also, of course, pretty subjective. A tiny toddler probably could take 30 steps without reaching a trash can, for instance. (Some other sources say it’s 30 feet, not steps.) It’s also worth noting that some versions of this myth say that it is, in fact, the case in all Disney parks; others just specifically name-drop the most popular, Disney World (though it stands to reason that it’s at least true for Disneyland, too, since that’s the only park that Walt himself was actually alive to see open).

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jae C Hong/AP/Shutterstock (6105740ad) Visitors walk through the entrance to the Disney California Adventure theme park, in Anaheim, Calif. A major measles outbreak traced to Disneyland has brought criticism down on the small but vocal movement among parents to opt out of vaccinations for their children Measles California, Anaheim, USA
Jae C Hong/AP/Shutterstock

The park takes your fingerprints so that they can track you

False. One of the Disney World security measures that most perplexes fans and guests is the finger scanner. This process had been around for years but gained new scrutiny in 2016 when the park began requiring children as young as three to do it (it had previously been just for guests ten and up). However you feel about that, you can rest assured that the park is not tracking you. In fact, they don’t even store your prints; they pair them with a number and then immediately delete the prints themselves. And why do they do this? It’s a measure to prevent ticket fraud. By unequivocally pairing a ticket with a person, they hope to prevent people from selling tickets to someone else for a discounted price.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock (10442147a) Guests watch a show near a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Disney World employees are easy targets. Tourists scream at them, sexually harass them and in the most serious cases, physically attack them, according to law enforcement reports Exchange-Disney Workers Abuse, Lake Buena Vista, USA - 09 Jan 2019
John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock

Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World is a giant optical illusion

True! Cinderella’s Castle—and Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle before it—make brilliant use of the “forced perspective” technique to make them appear bigger than they actually are. And it’s not just the castles that do this—many buildings (and supposed-to-be-natural features like rock spires!) throughout the parks use forced perspective—but the castles are the best-known, perhaps most effective example of it. How it works is that, the higher up you get in these structures, the smaller the features (like windows and turrets) get. While efficient, this technique also makes it look like the top of the castle is farther away, making the castle as a whole seem taller. For instance, Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland is only 77 feet tall, but it seems a lot taller!

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by imageBROKER/Shutterstock (1878150a) Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, USA VARIOUS

Disney Cast Members are not allowed to say no

False. No matter how accommodating Disney parks want to be, this would be an ill-conceived, potentially dangerous rule. Cast Members (Disney parks’ nickname for all employees, whether they play a character or not) are, of course, allowed to say no to any request that could present a health or safety risk to the Cast Member or the guest.

And it’s not just potentially unsafe situations that would merit a Cast Member saying “no.” Cast Members, can, for instance, decline to go on a ride with a guest (and must, if there’s something else they’re supposed to be doing at that time). And sometimes, they have to say no (or something to that effect); they can’t just lie if a guest asks if Mickey is available for a meet-and-greet at a time when he’s not. “There are just certain circumstances (such as where it would be rude or too negative/harsh) where Cast Members are strongly discouraged from saying [no],” explains Disney expert Emily Reynolds on Quora. “They can say a simple one-word ‘no’ as an answer, as long as it is the best answer, appropriate, and respectful.” However, there is a three-word phrase that Disney Cast Members are not allowed to say: “I don’t know.” Check out some more surprising rules Disney Cast Members do have to follow.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Damian Dovorganes/AP/Shutterstock (6476118a) CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE Midway-type rides, one sporting the outline of Disney's famous character, Mickey Mouse, are seen, at California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., the latest addition to the Walt Disney theme park family. The park, adjacent to Disneyland, opens Feb. 8 and will feature miniature versions of the best the state has to offer, from historic landmarks to its natural terrain, wrapped around rides, stores and restaurants TRAVEL NEW DISNEY PARK, ANAHEIM, USA
Damian Dovorganes/AP/Shutterstock

There are “hidden Mickeys” all over the park

True! As if there’s not enough fun to be had between the rides, meet-and-greets, and delightfully themed restaurants, Disney Imagineers also snuck a fun scavenger hunt into the parks. In everything from paintings to fountains to rocks, eagle-eyed guests can spot “hidden Mickeys”: distinctive shapes of Mickey Mouse’s round head with two smaller round ears. Next time you visit one of the parks, keep an eye out for some and see how many you can spot! And no cheating—things that are obviously supposed to be shaped like Mickey, like the Mickey waffles or ice creams, don’t count. For a primer, check out these photos of some of the hidden Mickeys we spotted.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Reinhold Matay/AP/Shutterstock (6378753d) Disney What's New Views of the private Cinderella luxury suite at the top of Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. are seen on Friday, Jan. 26,2006. A night's stay at the castle was one of prizes given randomly to unsuspecting park guests recently as part of the launch of Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams" campaign Disney What's New, Lake Buena Vista, USA
Reinhold Matay/AP/Shutterstock

There’s a secret hotel suite inside Cinderella’s Castle

True! This oft-photographed building, which is essentially synonymous with Disney World itself, is not just for show—there is a room where (very lucky) guests can stay. This suite is the only hotel suite within Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and you’ll find the entrance in the castle’s breezeway. That’s right—even though it’s one of the secret spots in Disney parks, the door is hidden in plain sight! You have to ascend an elevator to access the suite itself, and to be able to stay in it, you must be invited or win a sweepstakes. While the thought of getting to stay there might be a little unrealistic, you can at least glimpse it; its stained-glass windows are visible toward the top of the back of the castle. Disneyland also has an invite-only Dream Suite located in New Orleans Square.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gustavo Caballero/South Beach Photo/Shutterstock (9730461l) Toy Story Land Opening Preview at Walt Disney World - General Views Toy Story Land Opening Preview, Orlando, USA - 28 Jun 2018
Gustavo Caballero/South Beach Photo/Shutterstock

If you shout “Andy’s coming” in Toy Story Land, all of the characters will freeze

False. It’s true that Disney Cast Members like to create as immersive an experience as possible. So when rumors started to spread that the Toy Story characters would instantly freeze or even drop to the ground, imitating actual immobile toys, if someone yelled that their human “owner” was coming, they seemed plausible. The rumor originated in 2013 as a meme that quickly went viral. But no, the characters won’t do this. Some theorists claim that the original meme photo was totally staged. Others insist that, yes, the Cast Members did do this at one point, but once the meme went viral and park guests started testing it all the time, the Cast Members couldn’t continue doing it, for safety and sanity reasons.

The rumor gained new life when Hollywood Studios’ Toy Story Land opened in 2018, but it’s still false. If you do say “Andy’s coming” around a Toy Story character, Inquisitr says, the character may say something like, “Andy’s away at college!” and/or “look” around for Andy and then just shrug.

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club 33
courtesy @disneystylist

There’s a restaurant in Disneyland with a 14-year waiting list

True! If you’re a Disney park fan, you’ve probably heard of the five-star, ultra-exclusive Disneyland restaurant Club 33. Well, it is real! To be able to eat there, you have to be an actual member of the club, Club 33, or be invited by one. The idea of corporate sponsors and VIPs having their own special spot in the park came from Walt, but he died before the restaurant actually opened. But open it did, and the Club has been around since 1967, located at the top of a staircase in New Orleans Square. Membership fees to join Club 33 are steep—Travel & Leisure estimates at least $25,000—and while the oft-circulated “14-year” number is a seven-year-old statistic, becoming a member certainly isn’t easy. You reportedly have to write a letter to Club 33 Services—and then they let you know whether they’re even accepting members that year at all.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Janelle Cogan/AP/Shutterstock (6099241a) Park guests depart from Universal Studios, in Orlando, Fla. Leaving more than 100 dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew steamed toward heavily populated Florida with terrifying winds of 140 mph Thursday, and 2 million people across the Southeast were warned to flee inland. In inland Orlando, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld announced plans to close early today Hurricane Matthew, Orlando, Florida, USA - 06 Oct 2016
Janelle Cogan/AP/Shutterstock

There’s a “Disney dome” around Disney World to keep out the elements

False. I myself can debunk this one. In January 2016, my college choir performed at Disney World. And it rained. The whole time. There were very few people watching our performance, and most of them were wearing ponchos. Granted, we performed in Disney Springs, not the park itself, but still, Disney’s Florida property is not immune to rain. If rain seems to be rare there, it’s because of the climate; it is in the Sunshine State, after all. Furthermore, during the same trip, a seagull dive-bombed my friend’s fried dough, seemingly definitive evidence against a Disney dome. (Though the real conspiracy theorists will say that the gulls are part of a scheme to make guests purchase more than one snack.)

However, it is true that Disney does seem to be immune (or almost immune) to many normal technical problems and outdoors-related elements. This is not because of a dome, though, but because of lots of careful planning. They have an incredibly thorough regime to keep mosquitoes out.

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Main street of historic downtown Littleton, Colorado.
Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

The American flags on Main Street U.S.A. aren’t real flags

True…but maybe not for the reason you think! It seems ridiculous that this very patriotic part of Disney World would dare to hang inauthentic flags. But, yes, most of the flags on Main Street U.S.A. are missing a few stars. The oft-quoted reason for this is that it’s illegal to leave up an American flag 24/7, and you must take flags down at sunset. So Disney uses unofficial flags so that they can keep them up at all times. However, Disney YouTuber Rob Plays points out that there’s no such law. It is part of the U.S. Flag Code, but those are “guidelines,” not laws, and “there’s actually no obligation” to follow them.

Plays cites another reason for the inauthenticity of the flags: the “old-timey” feel of Main Street. While there’s no specific time, Main Street U.S.A. is supposed to give the feel of a turn-of-the-century American town. And at the turn of the century, there would not, indeed, be 50 stars on an American flag; Utah became the 45th state in 1896. And finally, two of Main Street’s flags are up-to-date, 50-star flags: the large one on the flagpole at the front, as well as the flag at the Main Street U.S.A. railway station.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mediapunch/Shutterstock (10497503a) 2/1960 Walt Disney Walt Disney 1960

Walt is buried under Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride

False. There are a few variations of this popular park rumor. Some say that Walt Disney, who passed away in 1966, is buried underneath the park he built without specifying which ride. Some insist it’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Others say that’s he’s not just buried, but cryogenically frozen, per his wishes to potentially be resurrected in a future where it was scientifically possible. Still others say that his whole body isn’t frozen—just his head. Yeah, none of these are true. Walt Disney was cremated two days after his death, and even his remains are not anywhere in a Disney park. They are interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Next, learn some surprising facts (that are totally true) about the original Disney park, Disneyland.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.