Theme Park Insider

Vote of the Week: What is the Best Urban Legend about the Disney Theme Parks?

February 6, 2015, 4:45 PM · The Dallas Morning News this week recapped the twisted story behind one of the most enduring "urban legends" surrounding the Disney theme parks — the (false) claim that Disney soon would be building a theme park in Texas. We've lost count of the number of emails we've received over the years from Disney fans and from Texans looking for confirmation of this claim. It's not true — never has been true, but the rumor's persisted in large part because so long as people believe there is a quick buck to be made, someone else will tell those people what they want to hear.

Disney Texas court documents
The prospectus that the defendant is said to have used to lure investors in land around a non-existent Disney theme park project.

Thomas W. Lucas Jr. is on trial in federal court in Texas on fraud charges for allegedly faking and spreading the Disney story to entice people to buy land near the supposed development. Lucas made money on commissions from those purchases, according to prosecutors. But "Disney is coming to Texas" is just one of many false urban legends surrounding the Disney theme parks that have frustrated (and, let's face it, entertained) many Disney fans and parks cast members over the years.

Let's take a look at a few other classics:

Walt Disney's body was frozen and is being kept under the castle

Walt Disney in Disneyland in 1966
Walt Disney's actual last visit to the castle. Photo courtesy Disney

Walt Disney projected a public image of ever-faithful confidence in the future. On his television show, in documentary films, and in his theme parks, Disney celebrated science and the promise of that "great big beautiful tomorrow" that technology could deliver for us. So when Walt died of lung cancer in 1966, many people came to believe that Walt would have made one last bet on technology — that by having his body frozen cryogenically, he could give science the opportunity to revive him at some point. In reality, Walt's body was cremated (which is pretty much the opposite of cryogenics, when you think about it), and his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale. Snopes.com has more links.

The Toy Story characters will fall to the ground if you yell "Andy's coming!"

Andy's coming

In the Toy Story movies, Woody, Buzz and the other toys would fall limp to the floor whenever Andy or another human being would come into the scene. So wouldn't it make sense if those characters in the Disney theme parks would do the same when they heard Andy was on his way? Leaving aside that the characters don't seem to have any problem remaining animated, signing autographs, and posing for pictures with thousands of other human beings every day, this claim went viral several years ago, leading to an epidemic of people shouting "Andy's coming!" at the costumed characters. Whether any characters actually did this in the parks before, or it was just a gag among cast members themselves, Disney managers soon declared that no characters will be dropping to the ground, whether Andy is coming or not. More from Snopes.

Disney's turkey legs aren't really turkey

Eating Disney's turkey legs
Photo courtesy Disney

Disney sells hundreds of turkey legs in its theme parks every day. Many guests love the meaty treats, with those big, over-sized poultry legs seeming like a perfect indulgence while on vacation. But some guests look at those turkey legs and wonder if maybe they're just too big. Sure, a turkey's bigger than a chicken, but is it really that much bigger? And turkeys can be kind of expensive. Maybe Disney is selling something else, — a different, cheaper bird that it's just passing off as turkey meat? Thus, the wild claim that Disney's turkey legs aren't really turkey, but actually emu legs. Never mind that an emu is much larger than a turkey and its meat tastes much different. This story's just wild enough that not just the bird-brained have fallen for it. Dewayne Bevil shoots it down.

River Country was closed because of brain-eating amoebas

Abandoned River Country
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Disney's original water park closed for the season in 2001, then didn't reopen in 2002. But why? According to the rumor, the death of an 11-year-old boy from amoebic meningoencephalitis was to blame. The boy contracted the deadly infection after an amoeba entered his nose and attacked his nervous system. The incident allegedly led the state of Florida to changes its law, barring water parks from using water from lakes in their attractions. Sound plausible? Well, a boy did die from an amoeba infection at River Country... in 1980, 21 years before the park closed. It was one of four cases of amoebic meningoencephalitis traced to fresh-water swimming in Florida that year — none of the others involved River Country. Florida law also doesn't bar the use of lake water in attractions. It just requires that waterpark water be fit for human consumption. So why did Disney close River Country? For the same reason that many attractions and tourism businesses closed in 2001 — because of the world-wide decline in tourism following the September 11 attacks. By the time tourism recovered, Disney had invested in two big, better, more-accessible water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Werner Weiss has the full story.


Please tell us your favorite fake Disney and theme park stories, in the comments.

Replies (32)

February 6, 2015 at 4:56 PM · "Disney bought back the rights to Marvel characters and plan to use them freely in the parks at WDW."

A sad and hopeful wish for many Disney fans. It just ain't happening people, no matter what you hear.

February 6, 2015 at 5:37 PM · Disney is building a theme park in Prince William County Virginia.

Wait, that was actually a real thing, except too many people with money didn't want it.

February 6, 2015 at 5:49 PM · I have worked at The Texas Renaissance Festival for 20 years, a recurring rumor is that "Disney" has bought the festival and and it was going to be the next "Disney" theme park. This has been going on since before I started there. It didn't help that one year a bunch of performers went to Disneyworld and all came back with Disney name tags.
February 6, 2015 at 5:50 PM · I like turkey legs (went to many ren faires in my younger days) but Disney turkey legs just aren't that special. However, if I thought that they were actually emu legs, I would be first in line to buy one. An emu is almost as big as an ostrich and one emu leg would last a week. What a deal for $10 or so.
February 6, 2015 at 7:30 PM · My favorite urban myth is that there are groups of people in the parks who will distract you in line, kidnap your children, take them to the bathrooms, dye their hair, and sneak them out of the park and sell them into slavery.
Trust me, after a bad day of irrational tantrums or embarrassing behaviour at Disney World, people could just come up and ask for my kids, and I would hand them over. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. On busy days you would probably need a fast pass to get the opportunity to offer them up.
(Touch wood - love my kids).
February 6, 2015 at 7:11 PM · Mr. Niles writes: "In reality, Walt's body was cremated ..."

I respond: Prove it!

http://www.amazon.com/7097-050719-theme-park-trilogy-Creative-ebook/dp/B00D3H1PFG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423275012&sr=8-1&keywords=7097-050719

February 6, 2015 at 7:15 PM · I always heard walts head was kept under pirates of the Caribbean
February 6, 2015 at 9:52 PM · Tony Duda says,"Disney turkey legs just aren't that special". I and millions of other people would beg to differ.
February 6, 2015 at 9:56 PM · As far as River Country is concerned, I didn't realize that anybody had died, but I really thought they had closed because of bacteria in the lake.
February 6, 2015 at 10:37 PM · Is the submarine lagoon leaking? True or myth.

Is it true Disneyland is so crowded that no one goes?

February 7, 2015 at 7:39 AM · I remember hearing they couldn't drain the Magic Kingdom sub lagoon because parts of Fantasyland would collapse.
I've heard different variations on the frozen Walt thing, but usually I hear he's in Space mountain.
I've also heard stories of real skeletons in Disneyland's pirates.
February 7, 2015 at 10:31 AM · "Is it true Disneyland is so crowded that no one goes", in the spirit of the NY Yankee great, Yogi Berra.
February 7, 2015 at 4:19 PM · Is the story about the Pirates of the Caribbean ride being haunted and Disney Parks in general having a great deal of ghost/paranormal activity considered an urban legend? If so, those would be my favorite! I super-wish Disney would build an indoor, year-round park in South Dakota (or other location in the middle of the country...)I'd even be willing start an urban legend about that if it would help. :\
February 7, 2015 at 5:08 PM · The Swan and Dolphin hotels are prepped and ready for the next monorail expansion. Thats what those black boxes are at each resort.
February 7, 2015 at 5:20 PM · Cast members seem to perpetuate the urban legend that the gold/brass spike inside the castle entrance was the exact center of Disneyland before the Toontown expansion, however it it is a surveyor's marker marking the centerline down Main Street to the railroad station.
February 7, 2015 at 5:33 PM · Walt's Frozen Head Containment Facility isn't under the Castle, that's PREPOSTEROUS! Everyone knows that the *entrance* to the facility is under the Castle, sure... but it's just a tunnel tht leads all the way to the esplanade; the original facility was located under the parking lot, and the construction of DCA was just a cover-up for an emergency upgrade to the cryogenic facilities. The exact location is marked by the compass rose located in the esplanade between Disneyland and California Adventure. I thought EVERYONE knew that!
February 7, 2015 at 5:48 PM · My favorite legend is that Pirates and Small World must undergo regular water cleaning because so many people scatter the ashes of their Disney-loving relatives during the ride. Maybe Walt is really in Pirates?
February 8, 2015 at 4:36 AM · What about the ghost of George at WDW Pirates of the Caribbean?
February 8, 2015 at 9:41 AM · I'm surprised no one has listed my favorite rumor: that Disneyland's Haunted Mansion was so scary when it opened that a guy DIED of a heart attack in it, so they changed it and made it less scary. As far as I know, the only change in the Mansion's early days was the removal of the Hatbox Ghost, a decision surely much more related to lighting problems than to excpessive terror concerns. (And hopefully a decision soon to be remedied.)
February 8, 2015 at 10:06 AM · So many funny comments. B Goodwin's is my favorite: "Take my kids... please!"

On a serious note: why doesn't Disney start working on a theme park in Texas? At the rate Disney builds, it won't be completed for another 20 years anyway. Surely, Disney could pick up enough land to build a replica of the California Disneyland resort. That's only 160 acres, right?

February 8, 2015 at 12:55 PM · Thomas Caselli, sorry to bring Disney fans into the real world with my turkey leg assessment. I've eaten turkey legs at dozens of venues and Disney turkey legs are solidly average.
February 8, 2015 at 10:51 PM · My favorites were also

Decapitated person on Space Mountain before they had seat belts

Disney does not pay for BIBs of soda only the bottle of coke

February 9, 2015 at 8:47 AM · Would Walt approve of any of the recent changes advanced by current management? This is the myth of Walt Disney. Only he would know what he would approve, but he is unfortunately dead. Everyone is guessing his desires. The Disney Executives are evil and MBA types and are uncreative. They wouldn't know a good attraction from a bad and a popular attraction from an unpopular attraction. They only want money and money is evil. Disneyland is a business, but come on... Frozen is a money grab, APs are troublemakers, price increases are horrible. Walt would never approve. Come to think of it, I think these fans are nuts.
February 9, 2015 at 10:32 AM · Sorta related to the Texas myth, but do you guys remember when we were supposed to get a Disney Quest in ever major city in the country? They actually built and opened the Chicago location, as I recall.
I wonder if that idea might find some more traction if they gave it another go with modern tech. I know I'd visit...
February 9, 2015 at 7:03 PM · I have always thought that a Disney Park in the Greater Houston area would be a great idea. Houston never really gets too cold and is located in the central US. It is also a big destination with travelers from Latin America.
February 10, 2015 at 9:47 AM · According to the 2010 U.S. census, the Texas Triangle Megaregion (Houston-Dallas-San Antonio) is slightly less populated than the Southern California Megaregion. The Texas Triangle had a population of 17.8 million in 2010. Southern California Megaregion had a population of 22.4 million.

Both megaregions have an area of approximately 60,000 square miles, and both megaregions have populations that are growing faster than the rest of the country. Disneyland Anaheim is bursting at the seams with too many visitors. A park in Texas could redirect some of those out of state tourists, and allow families in the center of the country to save money on airfares and driving expenses. The money saved on airfares and gas could allow families to visit Disney parks more often and spend more money when they do visit.

If you think the crowds are bad now, imagine how crowded Anaheim and Orlando will be in 10 years, without another Disney park in America. Of course, Disney could always continue to use the overcrowding issue as an excuse to raise ticket prices to $200 per day.

February 10, 2015 at 11:15 AM · The Houston area could not support a Six Flags Astroworld. That's a horrible situation to be in. Disneyland's attendance increase should not be confused with the need to open a new park in Texas. Attendance would be cannibalized at both Disneyland and Disney World.
February 10, 2015 at 11:39 AM · Anon Mouse, that's a vast oversimplification. How can you compare Disneyland with Astroworld? It's two entirely different situations. Astroworld was no Disneyland.

Astroworld was a decent locals park until Six Flags let it fall apart in the 80's. Astroworld was basically treated like Six Flags' unwanted stepchild. They had two other parks in Texas and decided to direct their reinvestment towards those parks instead.

I do agree with you that there are better locations within the Texas Triangle than Houston. San Antonio and Dallas don't have the overwhelming humidity of Houston in the summertime.

But, how could cannibalizing some of the attendance in California and Florida be a bad thing? Don't you think the crowds are bad enough now? What will they look like in 10 years? 20 Years? Will tickets cost $500 per day by then, just to keep the crowd levels down?

February 10, 2015 at 1:46 PM · And now we see how an alleged con man could convince a bunch of marks to invest in overpriced real estate.

Disney has employed some of the best site consultants in the world. They ruled out a Texas park long ago. And despite what the Texas cheerleaders might wish to believe, Disney's not going to build a park there, nor should it. There are better, more lucrative markets for Disney elsewhere in the world.

February 10, 2015 at 2:10 PM · Robert, was there any truth to those articles written around 2008 that said Disney was studying plans for regional parks, if oil prices continued to rise at the pace of 2000-2008?

Thankfully, oil prices came back down, but the overall trend remains much higher oil prices since 1970. How would it affect Disney's business, if oil prices shot up to $200 per barrel in the next 10 years? What are the "yes-if" conditions that would make Disney look at regional parks?

February 11, 2015 at 1:26 PM · My favorite is that Disney World's 5th park will have all of their old attractions that aren't there anymore.

A cool idea but wouldn't really work out well.

February 13, 2015 at 10:37 AM · Disney probably will not open a park in Texas, but they really should. While there is room for international growth, the fact is that Disney is still strongest in the US, and the existing parks are about as full as they can be. The existing parks may take a dip in attendance for awhile, but with population growth that would go away over time. Texas has more people than any other sate besides California, and its far enough from California and Florida that it would have many people going there wouldn't go at all otherwise. Disneyland wouldn't be affected very much because the majority of their customers are from nearby. DisneyWorld would be affected more, but because of its unique parks, people would still go there to see what's not in Texas. America is big enough to have 3 Magic Kingdoms, considering how packed the other two are already, and how far apart they are from each other. One in Texas still would be far away from the other two, and it would still be a long trip for much of the central US.

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