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Disneyland Resort
Uncover 12 Incredible Facts about Walt Disney at Disneyland
December 12, 2023

Walt Disney was an amazing man who created an industry, a brand, and a philosophy that changed the world. He was involved in every aspect of the Walt Disney Company, creating the initial concept and breaking it down into the smallest details.

Some say that Walt was a creative genius, creating a link between art, culture, and commerce. Many want to know more fun facts about Walt Disney and understand what he did and his personal life. In this article we uncover 12 incredible facts about Walt Disney that you can find during your next Disneyland Resort vacation.

Find Baby Walt Disney at Disneyland

Walt was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1901. Disneyland features a Baby Care Center nursery at Disneyland Park, located on Main Street, U.S.A. It’s listed as one of the top places to relax at the resort for parents and caretakers of children.

Just inside the door of the Baby Care Center is a picture of Walt Disney as a baby. How adorable! Not only are the staff inside helpful and friendly for all of your baby’s needs, it is a place that features 1901 décor and details.

Speaking of 1901, look closely at the penny on the Penny Arcade on Main Street, U.S.A.. You’ve got it – its date is 1901! You can read about even more hidden gems at Disneyland here.

Uncover Walt Disney’s Hometown at Disneyland

Walt’s family moved to Marceline, Missouri in 1905. Walt’s father Elias Disney picked up the family and moved to a farm for a change of pace and for health reasons. Walt said of Marceline: “To tell the truth, more things of importance happened to me in Marceline than have happened since – or are likely to in the future.”

There are several references to Marceline throughout the resort. The main one is of course, Main Street, U.S.A. Just like Disneyland’s Main Street, Marceline, Missouri’s Main Street features small shops, a movie theater and Coke Corner! Over the years, Marceline’s City Council recognized its significance in the history of Disneyland. It went full circle and Marceline renamed its Main Street to Main Street, U.S.A.

Main Street U.S.A. was designed by Imagineer Harper Goff, the same designer who helped bring life to the Jungle Cruise. Harper used two US cities to help with the design of Main Street, U.S.A. – Walt Disney’s hometown, Marceline, Missouri and his own hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado. Next time you are in either city, look around and you’ll see some familiar sites.

Look closely for additional references to Marceline throughout Disneyland Resort. Some of our favorite references to Marceline are found in Downtown Disney and at the entrance to the Main Street Cinema. See if you can find them!

Walt Disney’s Laugh O’Gram Studios

When Walt moved to Kansas City, Missouri he started Laugh O’Gram studios. The enterprise itself failed, but not before he created his first cartoon character, Julius the Cat and his first animated series, “The Alice Comedies.” Look for references to Julius the Cat and Laugh O’Gram Studios on Buena Street in Disney California Adventure. Let us know what you find!

Get Away Today hint: If you look closely at the Walt and Mickey statue in front of Carthay Circle Restaurant, Walt’s suitcase has emblems of the original business card from Laugh O’ Gram Studios in Kansas City, among other references to Walt’s early enterprises.

Get Away Today extra: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, and a replica of that building is at the end of Buena Street in California Adventure!

The Fight for a Rabbit

In 1923, Walt Disney moved to California with his brother Roy, and friend Ub Iworks. Together, they started the Disney Brothers Studios. The new studios were completed on Hyperion Ave in Los Angeles. Look for many references to the Hyperion studios, including the Hyperion Theatre in California Adventure. In the original Hyperion Studios Walt and Roy created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt was working for Universal at the time, and the contract stated that the character belonged to Universal. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit remained under another company’s control for decades! After Walt’s initial disappointment, he kept moving forward. He and his wife Lillian sketched out a mouse as a new cartoon character to produce. Walt called him Mortimer Mouse. Lillian suggested Mickey Mouse instead and the name stuck! Later on Mortimer Mouse became Mickey’s nemesis. What became of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit after all these years? Disney was able to secure the rights of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in 2006. When you’re at Disneyland Resort, scan Buena Vista Street for references to Mortimer Mouse, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and other early business enterprises.

Walt Disney’s Famous Mouse at Disneyland

In November of 1928, Mickey Mouse premiered in theaters in New York City. The first film produced was Plane Crazy, but Walt and his early partner Ub Iwerks wanted to make a bigger “splash.”

They created another film called Steamboat Willie that showed to audiences first, similar to the Pixar shorts we all enjoy before new Pixar films. When Steamboat Willie debuted it was one of the first cartoons that included sound! Today, both films can be seen in the Main Street Cinema on Main Street, U.S.A.

Get Away Today extra: Every hand drawn frame for the first Mickey Mouse film can be found in a special exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. In addition, Walt’s sketch of Mickey Mouse on a napkin can be viewed there as well!

Uncover Walt Disney’s Love for Trains at Disneyland

Walt Disney loved trains! Walt and his friends would often meet after work to design, build, and play with trains. Walt built his own miniature, ride-on train in his backyard.

The train system was called the Carolwood Pacific, named after the street he lived on. His locomotive was named after his wife, Lillian, the Lilly Belle! A replica of the Lilly Belle can be found in Main Street Station on Main Street, U.S.A.. The original can be found at the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

Pay attention to the name of the locomotives. The C.K. Holliday and the E.P. Ripley were hand built by Walt and his friends and they still run at Disneyland today.

Get Away Today extra: Walt’s original railroad barn where he built the Carolwood Pacific has been preserved, and it is open on select dates at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. This is where steam locomotive hobbyists still meet to run their homemade trains on miniature tracks.

See Walt’s Daydream Turn into Reality at Disneyland

Walt was a great father to his two girls, Diane and Sharon. On weekends, he would take his girls for fun adventures. On many occasions, he took them to the Griffith Park Carousel which still operates today in Los Angeles. Parents weren't allowed to ride, and Walt thought to himself that there should be a place where parents and children could have fun together. There, on that park bench, Walt created the idea for Disneyland. Originally called Mickey Mouse Park, Disneyland quickly grew into a much bigger idea. The bench and a carousel horse from Griffith Park can be found just inside the Opera House on Main Street, U.S.A.

In order for his dream to be built, Walt assigned a few of his movie set builders, designers, and artists to a new enterprise that he called WED Enterprises (Walter Elias Disney). WED was later changed to Walt Disney Imagineering.

The group worked to design Disneyland, with construction beginning in 1954. The first building to be built was the Opera House, and the second was the Fire Station. Walt had to travel quite some distance to check up on construction, so an apartment for Walt and his family was added to the fire station.

Walt would often stay at the park and when he would arrive, he would turn a lamp on in the window to let cast members know that he was there. Today, Disney keeps the light on because many believe that Walt’s spirit and influence is still alive at Disneyland.

Look just above the Fire Station sign on Main Street, U.S.A. for the lamp. During Christmas time, the lamp is changed to a small Christmas tree with lights. Either way, many Disney fans make sure that the light is on when they arrive at the park!

Get Away Today extra: Walt had plans for another apartment and built his and Roy’s initials into the iron work above the Pirates of the Caribbean. Look closely for WD and RD next time you visit New Orleans Square!

Opening Day and Cast Member Tributes to Walt Disney

Have you heard the opening day speech given by Walt Disney when Disneyland first opened in 1955? There are a few nods to this famous speech in the park:
  • Above the tunnels, after you pass through the Disneyland gates you can see a quote from the speech above on a plaque.
  • The flagpole and plaque on Main Street, U.S.A. where Walt gave his famous opening speech at Disneyland on July 17, 1955.
  • The speech plays out in Morse Code at the New Orleans Station. Listen while you wait for your turn to ride.

Beyond his opening day speech, we love to hear cast members share stories of Walt Disney in the parks. If you happen to strike up a conversation, ask them about one of their favorite Walt Disney stories.

Although it’s becoming increasingly difficult to chat with anyone who worked directly with Walt while he was alive, we do know Walt loved to stop by the Carnation Café to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich, chili and a cherry shake!

Up until 2018, Oscar Martinez worked at the Carnation Café and would tell stories about Walt and serving him his favorite meal. What a treat that was to speak with a real Disney Cast Member who worked side by side with Walt.

Get Away Today extra: The Pirates of the Caribbean was the last project personally supervised by Walt Disney himself. Walt did not live to see the ride to completion, but many theme park experts consider The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction one of the best ever built!

See What Walt Disney Created During Your Disneyland Vacation

Walt Disney created an amazing enterprise that has had an impact on the world through the generations. Next time you are at Disneyland you can look for evidence of these fun facts about Walt Disney!

Get Away Today extra: Did you know there is a guided tour that allows you to walk in Walt Disney's footsteps at Disneyland? This upgrade is called “Walt's Main Street Story Tour” and is available to book during your next vacation, or you could pin this article and use it as your FREE guide to Walt Disney facts and sites at Disneyland!

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Uncover 12 Incredible Facts about Walt Disney at Disneyland

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