Disney World is teeming with hidden Mickeys, special tributes, and inside jokes.
The Imagineers hide these gems in attractions, restaurants, and resorts. Look up and you’ll find an advertisement in a shop window on Main Street, U.S.A. that’s named after an Imagineer. Or, look down and you’ll see seashells placed into the pavement outside of Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid (maybe by Ariel, herself?). There are so many thoughtful secrets to be found! We’re highlighting some of Disney World’s best-hidden secrets in the parks and beyond!
Main Street, U.S.A. Window Tribute Requirements
Main Street, U.S.A. is full of not-so-hidden tributes in the window advertisements on the upper stories. The names associated with the imaginary businesses are all people who contributed to Disney World in a remarkable way. You’ll see the names of Imagineers, artists, executives, and Walt Disney, of course! The tributes are pretty well known, but did you know there are requirements for the Cast Members to be honored on Main Street?
The late Imagineer Marty Sklar stated there are three requirements for landing a tribute on Main Street:
- The Cast Member must be retired.
- Only employees with the highest level of service, respect, or achievement may be honored.
- It must be agreed upon by the top park management and Imagineering team, which creates the design and copy concepts.
There are some exceptions to the rule. Like Walt’s family! For example, there’s a tribute to Elias Disney (Walt’s father) in both Disneyland and Disney World. His name is printed as “Elias Disney – Contractor – Est. 1895.” It’s believed that 1895 was the year Elias started work as a Contractor. In the Magic Kingdom, his name is located above Uptown Jewelers.
Often the “businesses” named in the windows tie to the individual’s personality or contributions. For example, Xavier “X” Atencio, the Imagineer famous for writing tunes for popular rides, like “Grim Grinning Ghosts” from the Haunted Mansion and “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” from Pirates of the Caribbean, has a window over the Main Street Confectionary that reads “The Musical Quill – Lyrics and Librettos by X. Atencio.”
Windows and Signs
That’s not all. You’ll see cute nods to movies and other Disney media around Disney World too. Located across from Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, you’ll see an ad for voice lessons by Ichabod Crane, who was the main character from the film Sleepy Hollow! Or, one of our favorites is the cartoon cutout of Roger Rabbit bursting through the window shades near Hollywood & Vine. (Private Investigator Eddie Valiant has an ad right next to the Roger silhouette!)
Be sure to look up when you’re wandering around the parks! There’s so much to see!
Joe Rohde Easter Eggs
The legendary Joe Rohde is one of the main masterminds behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom and many more attractions. Rohde loves to leave his fingerprints all over his projects…literally! Slow down when you’re walking out of Flight of Passage in Pandora – The World of Avatar! You might notice three red handprints with initials. The handprints are by Joe Rohde, Jon Landau (Avatar movie producer), and James Cameron (Avatar movie director).
Another tribute to Rohde is located in the Tusker House Restaurant. Look up to the second floor above the hallway leading to the restrooms. You’ll see a sign that says “Jorodi Masks & Beads” placed beside an ad that states the business specializes in earrings. “Jorodi” is pronounced like the Imagineer’s name and the earring ad is referencing the famous giant earrings he wears in his ear!
Don’t Forget to Look Down!
You might be too busy looking up at signs, windows, and Joe Rohde references to notice there’s other stuff happening at your feet! The seashells outside of Under the Sea: Jurney of The Little Mermaid in Magic Kingdom is just the beginning! Imagineers love to put little objects and hidden characters into the pavement and flooring to match the surrounding area.
For instance, in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, there are some gorgeous marble inlays of various Disney Characters at your feet in the main lobby that almost blend in with the floor! We’ve spotted all sorts of fun Disney Characters — see how many you can spot!
This makes your experience at Disney World SUPER immersive. You’ll see peanuts and elephant hoof prints near Dumbo – The Flying Elephant. There are also horseshoe imprints wear the ghost horse “stands” at the hearse outside of the Haunted Mansion. In Adventureland, there are broken pieces of tile and gems lodged into the ground.
Over in Animal Kingdom, look down in the Asia section. You’ll notice plenty of bike tracks that slowly begin to disappear and turn to footprints as you approach Expedition Everest. Why? Folks wouldn’t be able to reach the mountain on bike and have to walk instead!
The newest addition to the Pavement Chronicles is the droid tracks in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Imagineers took rubbings from the original R2-D2 in Star Wars: A New Hope and turned them into three-dimensional wheels. From there, they built a trolley to roll the “feet” through Galaxy’s Edge.
The result is authentic droid tracks made from none other than the real R2-D2 himself! That IS the droid tracks we’re looking for and we’re glad we found them!
Ok, that title sounds a little cryptic. Let us explain. Disney will often use the same face mold for animatronics featured on attractions. If a face works in multiple places, why bother sculpting and molding a new one, right? You’ll have to keep an eagle eye out for these. You’d likely miss them if you’re not on the lookout!
The frightened gravedigger in the final Haunted Mansion scene has the same face as the guy being chased up a pole by a rhino in Jungle Cruise. (You know, the one who gets the “point” in the end?) Also, several Presidents from the Hall of Presidents are moonlighting as characters on Spaceship Earth. Andrew Jackson is featured in the printing press scene, Eisenhower plays a fierce mandolin in the Renaissance era, and Taft is an Egyptian priest!
This can become a fun game for guests! Can you spot the character on Haunted Mansion who looks like another in Carousel of Progress? Spoiler: The old woman who’s sitting in a rocking chair in the ballroom shares a face with the grandmother in Carousel of Progress.
Imagineers love to hide jokes on the attractions! Some of the jokes are references to old attractions, movies, and other Imagineers. Over at Pirates of the Caribbean, you might notice two skeletons playing Chess in the queue. Imagineer Marc Davis had the idea to put the game at a stalemate. Meaning, the Pirates were stuck in the unending game for the rest of their lives (and deaths)! You’ll also spot two pirates in the scene where the mayor is being drowned in the well who look really similar to Smee and Hook from Peter Pan on this ride! Pirates are pirates, so this one makes sense. 😉
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is practically bursting with jokes and references. Specifically, there is a directional sign that points toward “Yensid Valley.” Yensid is the sorcerer’s name in Fantasia from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scene. It’s also Disney spelled backward! You’ll see the Dapper Dans riding a 4-person bike in one scene and the year 1928 above the first tunnel. This is the year Mickey Mouse made his world debut!
One of our favorite references is in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The trash cans have the numbers 3263827 printed on them. This isn’t just a random set of numbers! Do you know the reference?
This is referencing the Trash Compactor number that almost crushed Luke, Han, and Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope! The same trash compactor that houses the sneaky Dianoga monster that’s also hiding in Galaxy’s Edge (he must have escaped?). You’ll find him hiding above a water fountain near the restrooms.
Michael Jackson is Featured on Kali River Rapids
Yes, you read that right. The water ride in Disney’s Animal Kingdom was Michael Jackson’s favorite attraction in Disney World. He loved it so much that the Imagineers commemorated his adoration with a tribute. Look in the last room at the end of the queue. You’ll see a small painting of him riding along in a raft!
We’re thinking Jackson’s sweet dance moves in the Captain EO show at EPCOT earned him the honor of being immortalized on a Disney ride! 😉
Disney will often reuse attraction buildings and place other themed rides inside the structure. Over the years, it has become a habit for Imagineers to pay tribute to extinct attractions in the same building or in other rides. Maelstrom, the attraction located in the Norway Pavilion at EPCOT, was replaced by Frozen Ever After. (Some old-school EPCOT fans were pretty upset about this one!) Disney placed a few of the old attraction’s puffin figures on the ride for ambiance. (For some reason, we don’t think this helped the fans get over it! 😉)
And, most recently, you’ll find a poster advertising “The Great Moving Ride” on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. This reference is to The Great Movie Ride which was housed in the same building. (This also didn’t reduce the sting for many GMR fans!)
There’s a very tough to spy secret hiding in the rockwork over in the queue for The Little Mermaid ride in Magic Kingdom as well. This ride replaces 20’000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage. Imagineers carved the shape of one a Nautilus submarine into the rocks outside in the queue!
Mr. Toad has a few tributes at Disney World. The beloved Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was replaced by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh years ago. You can see a picture of Toad handing his house deed over to Owl on the new attraction in one of the final scenes! He also has his own tombstone in the Pet Cemetery at the exit to the Haunted Mansion. Because Toad well…died (in the ride and by having his ride removed!).
There are two Disney World lounges that are a veritable scavenger hunt full of treasures and both have a distinctly “Adventureland” vibe to them! Jock Lindsey’s is located in Disney Springs and named after the daredevil pilot and sidekick to Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Inside, you’ll find all sorts of tributes to the films. You’ll see the idol from Raiders and character voodoo dolls replicated from Temple of Doom. Look up towards the ceiling and one of the overhangs you’ll see Indy’s trusty satchel peeking over the ledge.
You’ll also spy loads of hidden Star Wars references, like R2-D2’s name on the wall and the head of a lesser-known bounty hunter droid named IG-88 on a shelf above the bar. We’ve been told by Cast Members this was AND wasn’t the real droid head used in Empire Strikes Back, so it’s up to you if it’s the real deal or not!
Perhaps the best item is a giant T-Rex tooth in a display case to the left of the outdoor bar. The note reads “Jock, thanks for getting us off the island. – SS” Fred Sorenson, the actor who played Jock, was an actual pilot. The story goes that Steven Spielberg and his crew were stuck on an island in Hawaii as a hurricane approached while filming Jurassic Park. Spielberg called Fred to fly and rescue them from the coming storm. This one is bigtime rumorsville though and totes depends on the Cast Member you speak to if this is actually a prop from the film or based on an actual note from Spielburg. BUT the actor saving the Jurassic Park crew is totally real!
Looking for Disney inside jokes, references, and a rockin’ good time? Head to Trader Sam’s in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort! The lounge is currently closed but when it’s open, it’s one of the most happening places in Disney World. The atmosphere here is incredible and every shelf and nook and cranny is holding something unique — including some fun ties to Disney World! For example, You can find a life preserver from the now-extinct Maelstrom attraction in EPCOT.
A small Orange Bird figurine sits almost hidden on a ledge. One of the walls has a painting of the nautilus from the also-extinct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage attraction. Likewise, there’s a picture of Walt handling a giant tentacle from the 20,000 Leagues movie! Something that’s a little out of context is that Mr. Toad’s car keys from the extinct Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride are hanging from the ceiling! (He probably had one too many Uh Oas and couldn’t drive home!)
Speaking of Uh Oa, the statue of her that appears when foolish patrons order the large tropical drink is the same Uh Oa that lived in the short-lived Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management.
This hardly scratches the surface for hidden jokes, gems, and secrets at Disney World. We didn’t even get to the references on Muppet*Vision 3D in Disney’s Hollywood Studios! (Hint: Check for the key under the mat when you first enter the queue and look up to find the hilarious reference to Annette Funicello!) We’d be here all day if listed all of the Easter eggs in the theme parks! So, we wanna hear from you! What’s your favorite hidden secret at Disney World? Tell us about it in the comments!
Ok, one last one. (We can’t stop!) There’s a robin featured on Carousel of Progress. Do you know where it’s from? Mary Poppins! We think that’s a cute little nod to the Sherman Brothers who wrote the music for Carousel of Progress and Mary Poppins. OK, now we’re done. Promise! 😉