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When I was much younger and uncovered a Disney fact that Disney Archivist Dave Smith didn't know (completely forgetting that Dave knew a ton of things I didn't know), he graciously told me, "Nobody can know everything about Disney. Certainly not me."


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It is a phrase I often used for years afterward when referring to myself when someone stumps me because that statement remains as true today as it did when Dave first said it.

Every day new discoveries are being made in Disney history. In addition, Disney is constantly changing things, especially in physical locations, like the theme parks, such as removing the authentic Chicago barber chairs in the Walt Disney World (WDW) Harmony Barber Shop in 2012 that had adorned the shops for 40 years to the recent re-hab of the Disney Magic cruise ship where some beloved areas were completely transformed into something different.

I doubt I will ever remember to call it Prince Regal Royal Carousel instead of Cinderella Carousel, and I continue to call a popular WDW theme park Disney MGM Studios despite all the new signage and collateral.

However, I was taken aback when I recently took "The Art of the Theme Show Tour" on the Disney Magic. The guide took the group to the After Hours area on Deck 3 Forward. While she didn't take us inside any of the clubs, she quickly rattled off some information before taking us to the next location.

One of the things that caught my attention was when she claimed, "O'Gill's Pub is based on the Disney film Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959). If you remember the film, it featured leprechauns and one fell in a river and was rescued by fish. The leprechaun granted him a wish and the fish just wanted a place where he could share a pint with his new friend and that is the story of O'Gill's."

The guide didn't wait for questions ... but I had several. I was indeed familiar with the Disney film Darby O'Gill and the Little People. In fact, I wrote about it in a column for MousePlanet in 2008.

I can assure you there was no episode in the film, or in Darby's fanciful stories, where a leprechaun was rescued by fish, let alone given a public house for drinking.

So, I did what I always do when I hear something I never heard before. I kept my mouth shut, but decided to do some investigating. I have seen people terrified when they recognize me on a tour but I have never corrected someone who shared bad information while they were giving a tour.

I have given tours and know how tough it is and how easy it is to have a slip of the tongue where 200 pounds can become 200 tons if you are thinking about the next place to go or studying your audience. I have sometimes gone up to the person after the tour and said, "You know, I never heard such and such. This is the way I heard it."

After the tour, I went back to O'Gill's and, sure enough, there was a cartoonish painting of a pipe-smoking leprechaun standing on a bank near his pot of gold clinking glasses with a sleepy-eyed, smiling pink fish in a black derby and tie standing upright in the nearby body of water. This painting is just to the left of the entrance and to me it was a good sign that the story I had just been told had some basis in fact.

I also thought that it was clever that name of the pub referenced the leprechaun stories of Darby O'Gill and that a fish would have gills and the expression "drunk to the gills" fit in as well. Drunk to the gills was an expression that meant you were so full of alcohol that you were swimming in it "up to your gills."

Then I talked to the bartender about the story. He had never heard it before. When I pointed out the painting, he replied, "There are a lot of things in here. That's what Disney does. The place has been called all sorts of things over the years."

He was right. When the Disney Magic cruise ship launched in 1998, this bar was called "Off Beat." In 2003, it was rethemed and renamed "Diversions."

So I asked another bartender and got the same basic response. In an attempt to satisfy a disappointed Disney guest, they called in somebody from the back who had worked on the ship for many years. He had no idea why the bar was now called "O'Gill's." If the story had been covered in training, it had made no impact and the crew working the area had no curiosity about it.

So when is a story not a story? When no one seems to know the story or understands it or supports it. Perhaps it is different on the Disney Fantasy, where the O'Gill's Pub originated.

According to the official Disney Cruise website: "O'Gill's Pub is a spirited Irish bar located on Deck 4, Aft in the Europa district on the Disney Fantasy. From the whimsical to the cosmopolitan, each venue in Europa is distinctly inspired by the very best in European travel.

"Dark woods and brass accents are reminiscent of the friendly neighborhood pubs throughout Ireland—and flat-screen televisions give O'Gill's Pub a welcome modern-day twist. Exclusively for Guests ages 18 and older, O'Gill's Pub is a great spot for adults to unwind after a fun-filled day, catch the big game and kick off a night exploring the entertainment of Europa."

By the way, O'Gill's offers a red lager draft made especially for the pub, as well as its own private label Irish Cream and vintage Irish whisky.

O'Gill's fits in quite nicely in theme on the Disney Fantasy After Hours adult club area as a collection of European bars, but with just minimal removal of a few items, it could just as easily be a Chicago sports bar.

Apparently, its popularity on the Disney Fantasy prompted its inclusion on the Disney Magic for its After Hours adult club area. O'Gills does not theme in as well with the other two venues: Keys (an Art Deco piano bar meant to suggest the Golden Age of Hollywood and similar locations on Sunset Boulevard) and Fathoms (a generic ocean themed dance club space with overhead jellyfish lighting fixtures that light up—thanks to 400 strands of fiber optics and 250 different colors created by Impact Lighting of Orlando, Florida).

No official Disney website has the "story" of "O'Gill's" that I could find.

However, with some further digging I was able to come up with the story devised by some Imagineering show writer, and here it is:

The Legend of O'Gills

This is the legend of O'Gills the lucky fish, who saved the Leprechaun and was granted a wish.

You see, the Leprechaun was kind of a slacker, and carrying his pot o' gold made him quite knackered.

He stopped for a drink from the loch, when a crab pulled him underwater in a shock.

The Leprechaun was about to drown, but luckily our hero, O'Gills, was around.

With a puff of his pipe, O'Gills tipped his hat, and used his tail to give that crab a deadly whack.

The Leprechaun swam away and thankful he was, and then offered a wish to O'Gills without pause.

The Leprechaun expected a wish for riches or a yoke; he says wishes are never quare, and usually a joke.

But O'Gills puffed his pipe and remained nonchalant, because he knew exactly the kind of wish he wants.

O'Gills smiled and said "gargle" to the Little Man, and then asked him if he could give him a hand.

You see, O'Gills didn't need stuff or riches to spend; he just wanted to share a pint with his new little friend.

So let's raise our glasses for O'Gills wish, and drink to new friends and a lucky fish.

No there is no apostrophe on this official version and apparently the name of the fish is "O'Gills."

Also notice there is no apostrophe in the last sentence when it should be possessive. This seems a careless slip.

My good friend, Werner Weiss (the author of the popular www.yesterland.com Disney history website) will be gritting his teeth reading that last sentence because he is a stickler for correct punctuation and proper nomenclature, and I have learned a lot from him and his high standards.

Even more frustrating is that the official Disney Cruise Line website lists both "O'Gill's Pub" and "O'Gills Pub" as the name of the location, switching back and forth several times on the same page from using an apostrophe.

Even more incredible is the fact that there is an official song for O'Gill's Pub, and here it is. I suppose the intention was that if the group that night was inebriated enough that the bartenders might lead everyone in the pub in a rousing rendition of this song.

Again, this may happen on the Disney Fantasy, but there seemed little hope it would occur on the Disney Magic, if for no other reason than the fact that the crew was completely unaware of the Imagineering backstory.

The Ballad of O'Gills

O'Gills, O'Gills the lucky fish, O'Gills, O'Gills Please make a wish.

Let's tip our hats and have a chat, With O'Gills the lucky fish!

O'Gills, O'Gills The fighting fish, O'Gills, O'Gills You are Irish

Let's join the group And have some scoops With O'Gills the lucky Fish!

O'Gills, O'Gills The drinking fish O'Gills, O'Gills Please make a wish

Let's share a glass With a fine Irish lass And O'Gills the lucky fish!

O'Gills, O'Gills the lucky fish, O'Gills, O'Gills Please make a wish.

Let's tip our hats and have a chat, With O'Gills the lucky fish!

O'Gills, O'Gills The fighting fish, O'Gills, O'Gills You are Irish

Let's join the group And have some scoops With O'Gills the lucky Fish!

O'Gills, O'Gills The drinking fish O'Gills, O'Gills Please make a wish

Let's share a glass With a fine Irish lass And O'Gills the lucky fish!

Not every thing on Disney property needs a story. Often a popcorn cart should just be a popcorn cart, just with nothing conflicting with the rest of the story being told in the area. For instance, a popcorn cart on Main Street U.S.A. shouldn't have a tiny spaceman figure turning the small crank.

Speaking of Dave Smith, I remember being a bit shocked when he told me that the Disney Archives didn't keep a copy of all the stories for Disney locations that popped up after Michael Eisner became CEO.

One of Eisner's famous dictums was that "Everything Speaks!" which was his version of Imagineer John Hench's more sophisticated "Language of Vision" philosophy.

Hench felt that everything that affects the five senses should reinforce the story of the location, and there should be no contradictions.

On Main Street U.S.A., everything a guest sees and touches should look and feel like the turn of the century (one of the reasons the steam trains are on a high berm is so that guests looking back do not see the entrance kiosks and signage), the music and other sounds (for example, horses, train whistles and bell) should recall the turn of the century, everything you smell—from popcorn to fresh bakery goods—should remind you of the turn of the century, and eating those things (and the candy) would also support the turn-of-the-century storyline.

There shouldn't be songs from Miley Cyrus or Kanye West piped into the street to destroy that illusion. Streetmosphere characters shouldn't be carrying iPhones. Guests shouldn't be able to see Space Mountain from Main Street U.S.A.

Eisner simplified Hench's concept to the dictate that everything should have a story even if it was just a McDonald's fry wagon in Frontierland. Suddenly, everything had to have a story; often an intricate and convoluted story like Pleasure Island.

The result was that cast members couldn't remember or understand the story and, so, didn't support the story.

Cast members started to make up their own stories, from a Cinderella horse on the carousel to "Master" Gracey being the master of the Haunted Mansion. Those stories continue to this day because they are simple and seem to make sense even if they go against the original intent of the Imagineers.

Imagineers call these stories "logical erroneous conclusions," meaning that the cast members legitimately saw a vacuum and filled it with something that seemed to make sense, like chess pieces on top of the Haunted Mansion. Now, if you look to the roof, it is hard to imagine that they were never intended to be chess pieces, but are inspired by architectural elements from the time period.

The bottom line is that no Disney guest is going into O'Gill's Pub to be enthralled with the story of a leprechaun and a fish. In fact, after a drink or two, they probably have even less interest, especially if a live sports game is playing on the big screen television.

Nor should a guest have that elaborate backstory shoved down their throats either, because it will not increase their enjoyment of the location. Stories should be sensed instinctually and naturally discovered.

I later talked with the tour guide while she was performing another role on the ship, and it became apparent that she simply memorized a prepared script she had been given.

Unlike the training in the Disney Adult Discoveries tour programs for guests and convention groups at Walt Disney World, she had been given no additional information or interaction with anyone in authority (that is, Imagineers, artists, or even prominent area managers who had been given access to information) to help her understand what she was saying.

As long as she said it with a smile and enthusiasm, that was enough to supposedly satisfy guests for an hour, most of whom would defer to her expertise because she was a crew member and should know.

I did not attempt to offer "this is how I heard it" because in our conversation I saw she had no desire or curiosity to learn anything else.

I have seen cast members so passionate that they want to know the smallest detail that they could add to their library of knowledge and share with others. She was quite content to merely parrot the script, even if she was unsure what some of the things really meant or how they originated.

So, at least on the Disney Magic, the story of O'Gill's Pub is a nonissue—but for those who read my columns and want to know more, perhaps you should look for items I missed in the pub.

Do the clovers in the green carpet hide a magical four-leaf clover? Is there some other clever reference Imagineers have hidden on the walls to the O'Gill's legend? Is the O'Gill's Pub experience significantly different on the Disney Fantasy?

I shared this story because I think it is important to record it for future researchers. Someone put in a lot of time and effort to devise a story that is completely ignored. I was, however, appalled at "The Secret of Castaway Cay" fabricated four-page story in the on-board book.

Not only was it inaccurate, but it showed no glimmer of cleverness. For instance, castaways did not build an airplane runaway in hopes that others would drop by and visit and maybe stay. In truth, that runaway was built by businessman Alvin Tucker and later used by real drug smugglers before Disney purchased the island.

I doubt anyone on the cruise even read the story in between all the advertisements for expensive jewelry, although I did hear guests who loved the Disney Magic Fun Facts in the final issue of the "Personal Navigator" newsletter. I have found that Disney guests are very responsive to the real story.

The true story of Castaway Cay is especially fascinating, including the fact that the scene of Tom Hanks meeting a mermaid on an island cove in the Touchstone movie Splash (1984) was filmed at the location.

In the 1950s, a handful of Spanish treasure was located on the beach by treasure hunters: three coins and a 72 pound silver ingot.

Markings showed that they belonged to Spain's King Philip IV and probably came from the San Pedro, a Spanish galleon hauling treasure back to Spain that was sunk in 1733. This was not surprising since in the 1700s, notorious pirates roamed this area and reputedly even landed on the island.

Actually, there are two Disney-approved versions of the "legend" of Castaway Cay. The one that is pure hogwash and no magic that appears in the current hardcover Guide to Your Disney Cruise that appears in the staterooms on pages 48–51 and an earlier much more interesting, but no less fanciful, version (including the story of May B. Tamara "maybe tomorrow," the postmistress on the island whose name still adorns the post office, so this is the Imagineering attempt to create characters and events like the history of Pleasure Island.)

The tale of Castaway Cay may be a story for another time if only to demonstrate that a true story can contain more magic and wonder than a fabricated one.



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(Send an email to Jim Korkis)

Jim Korkis grew up in the Los Angeles area and since the age of five was a frequent visitor to Disneyland. He was an original member of both the Mouse Club and the National Fantasy Fan Club. He attended all the local conventions where he had the opportunity to interview many of the people who actually worked with Walt Disney. Jim describes his house as looking like "a toy shop and a bookstore exploded and I decided to live in the remains". For over two decades, he has been a freelance writer and a teacher and for a while was a dealer in animation artwork and related resources. His columns concentrate on sharing stories of Disney history that haven't been recorded elsewhere.

From 2006 to 2010, Jim wrote under the pseudonym of Wade Sampson. He finally revealed his true identity in September of 2010. Those articles can be found here.