Betcha Didn't Know, Part 2

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Last time, we ran out of space while looking at some things that you might not know about Walt Disney World, so today we'll spend a little more time on the subject.

Studios “extras”

In my article about hidden Imagineering tributes, we spoke about some hidden tributes at the MuppetVision theater at the Disney-MGM Studios. If you look to the right after you pass through the turnstiles, you'll see that the box office is closed. But the sign also says that the key is under the mat. It is. Lift up the mat below the window to see the key. Show this trick to someone who hasn't seen this article. Amaze your friends!

You'll be surprised if you disregard the sign near the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Photo by Mike Scopa.

Closer to the front of the Studios, by the theater for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, there is a well with a sign that says, “Do not pull rope.” Interpret that sign as if it said, “Please don't throw me in that briar patch!” Pull the rope. It's been a while, but I believe that there are about a half-dozen possible reactions.

Meanwhile over on Sunset Boulevard, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror looms. But the music and the Rod Serling clip aren't the only things lifted from the classic TV series. While you're in the library, take a careful look around. There are many iconic props from the show lying around. Some of my favorites are the little coin-operated machine saying “Ask a yes or no question,” from a great episode with William Shatner; the book “To Serve Man,” from probably the most famous episode ever (“It's a cookbook!”); and Burgess Meredith's broken eyeglasses from my favorite episode, “Time Enough At Last.”

More Magic Kingdom “stuff"

Actual props from the original TV series inhabit the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Over at the Magic Kingdom, take a break on Center Street, the side street halfway down Main Street, U.S.A. Unfortunately, the malling of Main Street claimed west Center Street (home of the late, lamented Main Street Flower Market) recently, leaving only the eastern half of this lovely cul de sac. Sit there quietly for a few minutes listening to the music and voice lessons taking place upstairs. Alas, the conversations from across the way were lost when the street was replaced by more retail space.

Meanwhile, in Liberty Square, the Haunted Mansion still has more secrets to share. You've heard, perhaps, of the saying, “The opera isn't over until the fat lady sings"? Well, so have the Imagineers. They've put her right at the end of the graveyard scene, right before the hitchhiking ghosts.

Oh, and don't get any bright ideas about jumping from your doom buggy to Madame Leota's table. Many years ago, somebody tried to do just that, and fell 20 feet to the floor below. They've since installed a net, in honor of the fact that many guests check their brains at the front gate, but it's still a long way down.

This “River” doesn't run deep

The native alligators need to find a new watery resting place while the Rivers of America are drained in this 1996 photo. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The Haunted Mansion sits on the banks of the Rivers of America. OK, the river can't be too deep, but it's got to be at least fairly deep for the Liberty Belle to be able to float in it, right? Well, not exactly. As you can see in the 1996 photo above, the river isn't more than about five or six feet deep (about the height of a pickup truck). That's Aunt Polly's that the truck is parked in front of. The round footings along the bottom of the riverbed are the supports for the rail that the Liberty Belle runs along, which had already been removed for replacement.

Riverboat tales

By the way, some of you may remember the days when the Liberty Belle cruised the Rivers of America under a different name. The riverboat, which went into service in 1973, was once known as the Richard F. Irvine. The name was changed back in 1996, during the Rivers rehab taking place in the photo. It was rebuilt from the bottom deck up, but the hull is still original from the Irvine. There also was another riverboat that once traveled those waters. The Admiral Joe Fowler was in use from 1971 through 1980, when it fell victim to a maintenance accident. While going into drydock for rehab, it slipped in the carriage and the hull was destroyed. However, there is still a life preserver with the Fowler name on it that is kept in the hull of the Liberty Belle for good luck.

If you've got old pictures of one of the steamboats and you're not sure which one it is, there's an easy way to tell. The Fowler (like the Mark Twain at Disneyland) has two smokestacks, while the Irvine/Liberty Belle has one.

Mix 'n' match

Did you know that the original Magic Kingdom resorts were themed to fit in with lands inside the park? The Polynesian Village Resort (as it was called then) was themed to match Adventureland, while the Contemporary Resort was themed to match Tomorrowland. In this 1996 photo taken from the late, lamented Skyway attraction, you can see how the architecture of the Contemporary really meshes with the original white color scheme of Tomorrowland.

In this 1996 photo taken from the old Skyway attraction, the Contemporary Resort seamlessly blends with the styling and color of old Tomorrowland. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The “Golf Ball”

Some folks insist on calling Epcot's Spaceship Earth “the golf ball.” Of course, that has decreased significantly since they stuck the Sorcerer's Wand on top of it and diminished its majesty. (Don't get me started.) But let's stick with that golf ball analogy and see where it goes.

A golf ball is 1.680 inches in diameter. Spaceship Earth is 165 feet (1,980 inches). This makes Spaceship Earth roughly 1178.6 times the diameter of a golf ball, or roughly 1,634,691,752 times the volume.

More interestingly, a golfer (say the same scale as a 5-foot, 6-inch golfer) would have to be about 1.23 miles tall. (A 5-foot, 10-inch golfer would be 1.30 miles tall.) An average (40-inch) golf club would be almost three-quarters of a mile long.

Just “wand”-erful

The impact of the wand on Spaceship Earth can be seen in these photos. Photos by Mark Goldhaber.

But let's take another look at that wand. The geosphere of Spaceship Earth reaches 180 feet above the ground (and the supports go more than 110 feet under it). The wand, however, actually dwarfs the sphere, towering 257 feet in the air. In fact, it is by far the tallest structure at Walt Disney World, reaching well above runner-up Tower of Terror (soon to be matched by Expedition: Everest) at 199 feet. This means that the wand is the only structure at Walt Disney World over 200 feet, requiring those lovely flashing red aviation lights.

Well, that's about it for this time. See you next time!

Coming attractions

I'll be at Walt Disney World from October 10 to 18 (if you see me there, be sure to say “Hi”), and I'm sure that I'll be bringing back a bunch of cool story ideas, like all of the Halloween goings-on. Also, in November, you'll be writing the column, with Reader's Favorite Tributes and Secrets. A couple that I've received already have really surprised me. Keep on writing in!

Bonus Factoid of the Week

Ask a Cast Member for a close look at their “Where the Magic Lives” name badge. See if you can spot the hidden Mickey. Tink's not the only one on that pin.