My Disney Top 5 - Hidden Movie References in Walt Disney Worldby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Happy New Year and welcome to my first Top 5 of 2019. It's hard to believe that this year marks 10 years of me writing My Disney Top 5. My eternal gratitude goes out to the folks behind the scenes here at MousePlanet for the past decade of being the best crew out there and for always helping me tell the stories I want to tell about a subject we all love so much. And, of course, I couldn't do any of this without you readers. Thanks so much for reading, commenting, sending me emails, and for being a wonderful audience to write for. You truly are the best of the best.
If you've read enough of my articles, you're probably aware that I firmly endorse the following credo, paraphrasing Mies, the famous German architect, "Disney is in the details." I've been preaching that ever since I first set foot on Walt Disney World property so many years ago. The whole place comes alive and takes on a whole new meaning when you stop, smell the roses and appreciate the details. Walt Disney World's theme parks, resorts, restaurants, and shops are all canvasses that a team of artists and thinkers have painstakingly put their creative marks on. The details are everywhere and I'm always so dismayed to see guests rushing by them on their way to their next FastPass or dining reservation, heads buried in a map or a smartphone. One of the truly great things about writing for you is that I know you readers appreciate the details. For those of you who may be reading for the first time, I hope I can reveal the true magic of Walt Disney World to you by letting you in on all of the hidden treasures that I've found over the years. These are the things that keep me coming back, time after time... after time.
For the first Top 5 of the new year, I wanted to go subtle. The Walt Disney Company is, at heart, a movie company. That's where it all started. The Disney theme parks themselves are simply extensions of the worlds that Walt Disney and his team of artists and filmmakers wanted to take us all to. Walt wanted us to walk into his stories and the only people he had to turn to at the time to make his visions come to life, were his stable of moviemakers. So, it's no surprise that Walt Disney World is chock full of references to the movies that inspired the attractions. Many of them are obvious. It makes sense, for example, to have the awesome speeder bike from Return of the Jedi right outside of Star Tours in Disney's Hollywood Studios. Some things are a little less obvious, but still very cool indeed, like the sack of apples that Flynn Rider gives to Maximus the horse in the Tangled rest area in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland. You have to look for it, but once you spot it, you can't help but smile and be thrilled that someone on the Imagineering staff thought to include this little detail. Others aren't obvious at all, and are probably bypassed by the average guest thousands of times a day; those are the ones I'm most interested in.
With this list, I wanted to point out the details that are really subtle. They pay tribute to Disney classics, non-Disney classics, and sometimes don't even tie in directly to the attraction or area where they are located. So, let's take a look at some of my most favorite subtle details with my top 5 hidden movie references in Walt Disney World.
5 – The Nautilus in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
This is a wonderful secret that the die-hard Disney fans know about, but I'm more than sure that the vast majority of guests visiting this hugely popular attraction on any given day are completely unaware of. At the entrance to the Winnie the Pooh ride in Fantasyland there's a huge tree typically visited by little kids. If you bend your old body down and head inside the tree, you'll spot a small carving of the Nautilus submarine from the Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
This is, of course, not only a movie nod, but a former attraction nod as well. The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage attraction was directly across from where the Winnie the Pooh attraction sits today. The ride was shuttered in 1994, and when the Submarine Voyage lagoon was finally filled in, Pooh's Playful Spot, a playground was installed pretty much as a placeholder until the Fantasyland expansion was started. Once they started clearing the land to make way for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the tree was moved across the street to be incorporated into Pooh's new interactive queue where it still stands today.
4 – Eddie Valiant Private Investigator Window at Disney's Hollywood Studios
In 1988, it looked like Roger Rabbit was going to be Disney's next big thing, and indeed for a while there, he was. There was even a plan to build a Roger Rabbit themed land in what was then called Disney-MGM Studios. Thirty years later, Roger has just about vanished from the Hollywood Studios landscape. There are a small handful of references throughout the park. My favorite and, once again, as this particular list demands, subtle reference exists above the Hollywood and Vine restaurant in the Echo Lake area of the park. There you will see the office window of private investigator and Roger Rabbit pal Eddie Valiant. Right next to Eddie's window you'll see the silhouetted outline of Roger himself crashing through the window just like he did in the film.
The Disney faithful know this reference, but I'm willing to bet the average guest waiting outside Hollywood and Vine for their table to be ready never looks up; I'll also bet that if they did, many of them wouldn't even get the reference. That's what makes it gold to me.
3 – Echo Lake Crates
Here's one of my favorite details in all of Hollywood Studios. If you head to the aforementioned Echo Lake area and grab yourself a snack at the Dockside Diner, you'll see several wood shipping crates strewn on the "dock." They seem like a nice bit of theming, but if you look closer at the names and addresses of the senders and addressees on each crate, you'll find references to legendary Hollywood films like Casablanca, Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Producers.
The names Charles Foster Kane, Max Bialystock, George Bailey, and Rick Blaine and their locations will all be very familiar to anyone with even a modest knowledge of movie history. The thing I love most about these crates is that they aren't even references to classic Disney movies, just a nod to some of the all-time legendary Hollywood motion pictures of the past.
2 – Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar at Disney Springs
I was never a big fan of Downtown Disney, and I'm not so enthralled with Disney Springs. I think they did a wonderful job with it. It's just not what I ever want to do when I'm down in Walt Disney World. However, I was downright blown away by the fact that they actually dedicated an entire incredibly themed restaurant and bar to a character that has mere seconds of screen time in one of my all-time favorite movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I'm sure most of you remember the famous opening scene of Indy stealing the idol and getting chased by the tremendous stone ball as he barely makes it out of the cave. Once he exits and loses the idol to his nemesis, Rene Belloq, Indy makes a break for it as he is chased to the river's edge by the Hovito tribesmen. As Indy is running for his life down the hill, we hear him call out to his pilot, who is busy fishing off the pontoons of his seaplane. "Jock...start the plane Jock!"
Even though he apparently has a fish on the line, Jock tosses his rod into the river, climbs into the cockpit, fires up the plane, and saves Indy's life as they escape by the skins of their teeth. We then learn that Indy is sharing his seat on the plane with Jock's pet snake Reggie and we learn of Indy's legendary fear of snakes. "I hate snakes Jock! I hate em!" It's a classic scene from a classic film. But who would have guessed that they would create and entire dining and drinking establishment around such a bit part? Jock is never seen or heard from again throughout the rest of Raiders, nor does he appear in the three sequels, and yet Disney created an elaborate backstory and filled the establishment with details that totally fit the bit character of Jock.
Once you walk in, you look around and you say to yourself, "Yeah. Based on those few seconds of screen time, this is what I imagine Jock Lindsey's place to be." To me, it's a stroke of creative genius and a fantastic nod to a classic movie and once again, I can't imagine the average guest has any idea who Jock Lindsey is.
1 – A Wooden Leg Named Smith
Here's the scene in the Disney classic Mary Poppins. Bert, played by Disney Legend and Hollywood legend Dick Van Dyke, sets up the following joke, "Speaking of names, I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith." To which the character of Uncle Albert replies, "What's the name of his other leg?" A classic corny joke which is also retold by the character of George Banks to his boss, Mr. Dawes Senior (also played by Dick Van Dyke) near the end of the film. This is one detail that I know I saw many years ago, but all reports have indicated that it's no longer there. If you looked in the Lost and Found at the Frontierland Train Station of the Walt Disney World Railroad you would literally see a wooden leg named Smith amongst the lost items.
To me, that's just pure genius. The attraction, the train station, the lost and found; these things have nothing to do with Mary Poppins. Legend had it that this was a favorite joke of Walt's and so, somewhere along the line, some brilliant Imagineer decided to include this tribute to one of the company's biggest films in a most unusual place. That's the definition of hidden detail. If anyone can confirm that this little gem is indeed gone, I would appreciate it. Even if it is gone, it will forever represent to me the notion that, as I said above, Disney is in the details.
There are many other small film references hidden throughout Walt Disney World, and the Imagineers show no sign of slowing down with their secret tributes. We were thrilled to spot the Tangled star emblazoned on one of the toy blocks in the newly opened Toy Story Land this past summer. That one nearly made this list, and if the wooden leg truly is gone then perhaps the star would take over my number one spot. I love Tangled and I love Toy Story and the two entities have essentially nothing to do with one another. But that doesn't mean that there can't be a simple little tribute like this one slipped in to please the few die-hard fans like me that are always on the lookout for these small but wonderful details. It's all part of the Disney difference and I was thrilled to see, just this past summer, that that tradition lives on and probably always will at Walt Disney World.
That's my list of my favorite hidden movie references in Walt Disney World. As always, I'd love to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below and let me hear your thoughts and your own favorite movie tributes and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.