So in my time here in Disney World, I’ve heard a lot of stories about things that happen in the parks that may or may not be true. Luckily this is where a college education comes in. To the archives we go!
Myth 1: The Little Girl Who Sings “Wishes”
You’ll hear this rumor from just about any cast member who you ask about the Wishes show, the nighttime fireworks that go off in the Magic Kingdom. Supposedly, a little girl in the Make A Wish Foundation wished that she would be able to sing the lead little girl part in the Wishes show. Her wish was granted, and that’s her voice on the soundtrack. According to some cast members, the little girl then died. According to others, she’s alive and kicking.
Neither is true. Maybe the Make A Wish foundation got mixed up in the story because the proceeds of the soundtrack are still donated to the charity? But the child soloist is definitely a little girl named Charity Farris, a child voice-over talent who was never a part of the foundation and is still alive and kicking.
I don’t think Cast Members mean to pass along an untrue and pretty heartbreaking story, but this is rumor that really should be stopped before another million guests hear it.
Myth 2: The Ghost in Pirates of the Carrabean
Or in the Haunted Mansion. Or the Tower of Terror. Or Small World. The fact is that no one has ever died on these rides, but of course you don’t have to haunt the same place you died. This logic is brought to you by Harry Potter.
From what I hear, there is a ghost on the Pirates of the Caribbean. His name is George, and if you don’t say good morning and good night to him, he’ll make the ride break down. This may just be a convenient rumor, as Pirates breaks down roughly twenty-three times a day.
Myth 3: Disney World Never Closes
Okay, so this one comes from guests, who think that Disney World is kind of like the post office. “Neither rain, no sleet” kind of stuff. And that’s true. Rain or shine the parks open. Except for hurricanes. The only time Disney World has ever shut its doors was in anticipation for major hurricanes: Sept. 15, 1999, for Floyd; Sept. 4-5, 2004, for Frances; and Sept. 26 of that same year for Jeanne.
Now, Disneyland is different. It closed on the National Day of Mourning for the death of President John F. Kennedy. It closed for inspections after the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. It was the largest earthquake recorded in North America and no one wanted the guests crushed by falling Matterhorns. And it closed for 9/11. Walt Disney World closed early, but in Disneyland they were just getting ready to open when the news broke.
(Also, after 9/11 the FAA put a 3-mile no-fly-zone over the Magic Kingdom; the Jungle Cruise left out their crash landing jokes around the downed place; and security booths suddenly sprung up in front of both American parks. Disneyland closed early because not a single ticket was sold on September 12, 2001.)
Myth 4: Speaking of 9/11
One of the very touching myths I heard during my college program was that, after 9/11, after closing the park, Disney World employees worked overnight to decorate the park in its Fourth of July, uber-patriotic attire.
I almost didn’t research this one, because I wanted it to be true. But of course, common sense was telling me that Disney would evacuate its employees as well as its guests.
The American flag flew at half-mast the next day. According to one cast member, guests at the American Adventure at EPCOT were moved to tears by the fife and drum corps. According to a guest at Disneyland, a moment of silence was observed after the attacks.
And according to unofficial estimates, September 12-14 2001 was the lowest park attendance in America since the opening of the parks.
Myth 5: Main Gate for Life!
This is a good one, told to me by a fellow cast member, in all seriousness. Apparently, if you give birth inside of a Disney Park, that child gets free admission to the park for life. According to her, this has only happened a handful of times.
This one Disney actually tries to discourage, because it makes women go through unsafe births. But there have been incidents of people giving birth, or starting to, inside of one of the Disney parks. The thing is, there’s a grain of truth to this rumor. In 1979, on July 4th, a woman, Rosa Selcado did go into labor unexpectedly and popped out a little one just off main street. Her name was Teresa, small but healthy, and she got a birth certificate from Disneyland as well as awesome first pictures.
Now, there is such a thing as a lifetime pass. It’s called a Golden Pass and it’s been awarded to quite a few people. Heads of state, animators, and administratives of the Disney company get recognized with a Pass and as Disney Legends, a program that recognizes extraordinary talent. Also among the Legends are Julie Andrews, Elton John, and that guy who played the bratty boy in Mary Poppins.
Myth 6: “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It!”
It sounds inspirational, so it must be Walt, right? Nope. And yet it’s like the entire world doesn’t care and keeps publishing the quote under his name.
Just listen to the man who actually wrote the quote, Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald: “‘I am very familiar with that line because I wrote it! It was written specifically for the Horizons attraction at Epcot and used in numerous ways, from dialogue in the ride to graphics. I find it amusing that the Science of Imagineering DVD series attributes it to Walt Disney, but I guess I should be flattered.’”
To Wrap Up
I started researching these after I heard the Wishes myth again. I thought “well, what if a little Make-A-Wish kid can’t really sing? What if her parents come to the Magic Kingdom and lose it because their daughter passed away?” It all sounded too weird.
I have no illusions about this post bringing an end to the perpetuation of any of the myths outlined above, but maybe we can take a little something away from this. Don’t try to have a baby in Disney World, it’s not safe. Be kind to any ghosts that may be lurking around. If you’re getting something tattooed on your body, make very sure that Walt said it first.