Actor Allusion: At The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management, William calls Morris a hockey puck, a favorite insult of his voice actor Don Rickles.
In the Aladdin stage show at California Adventure, Iago may squawk "Aflac!?" like another bird that Gilbert Gottfried has voiced.
All-Star Cast: Most never receive "billing", as it were — it would distract from the immersive nature of the attractions — but an amazing array of name performers and renowned voice actors have contributed to these parks over the years. Some are simply reprising roles from Disney's film, TV, etc. productions, but many others have worked as narrators and even original characters.
We've been teased one or more new "countries" for World Showcase for decades now. Additionally, there were plans to add a Mt. Fuji-themed rollercoaster to the Japan area for a very long time. The idea finally got off the ground (sorta) in the form of Expedition Everest over at Animal Kingdom.
The Haunted Mansion took 18 years from first concept sketch (1951) to actually opening (1969), entering this state several times.
Doing It for the Art: This attitude among the cast members is strictly enforced by the rigorous training and crazy work conditions. Most are not going to get rich working at a Disney park, so they're going to stay only if they really want to work there.
Cracked: To outsiders, this seems like the kind of minimum wage summer job anybody can get. When you see some guy sweating his balls away in a huge furry mascot costume, you don't imagine his job interview was much more intensive than "Are you currently breathing and not a child molester?" But this is actually a very difficult job to get, and a lot of people want it. [...] Those who remain are the ones who are truly into it — many have known all their lives that this was where they wanted to work. They grew up not wanting to be an astronaut or a cowboy, just wanting to work at Disney.
Executive Meddling: Very prevalent in the late Eisner-era, like so many other things at Disney. The Subs getting shut down for the first time, the entire fiasco surrounding Journey Into Imagination, the infamous cost-cutting that went into California Adventure, the Paris Studios park and Hong Kong Disneyland, and other problems.
Tim Matheson played the pilot in Epcot's Body Wars (and the ridefilm was directed by Leonard Nimoy).
Martin Short's unstoppable! He's toplined The Making of Me and the updated O Canada! (both Epcot), teamed up with Chevy Chase for The Monster Sound Show (Disney's Hollywood Studios), and then crossed the pond for CineMagique at Walt Disney Studios Paris. CineMagique also featured Alan Cumming and Julie Delpy.
Eric Idle played Dr. Nigel Channing in Honey, I Shrunk the Audience and wound up becoming an Ascended Extra — not only was the specially-filmed preshow of the Tokyo version focused on him, but in Florida the character was (to much fan controversy) worked into the two revamps of the Journey Into Imagination ride that shared the pavillion with the film.
Patrick Warburton plays the chief flight attendant in the pre-flight videos on Soarin' over California. He also voices the thermal scanner droid in the queue to Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.
The Ellen's Energy Adventure version of Epcot's Universe of Energy features Ellen Degeneres, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Alex Trebek, a cameo from Michael Richards as a caveman, and a voiceover by Willard Scott.
The Timekeeper (aka From Time to Time) was made for Disneyland Paris initially, and thus has appearances by several European stars. Michel Piccoli has the key role of Jules Verne, but there's also Jeremy Irons as H.G. Wells, and a cameo from Franco Nero as Leonardo da Vinci. Gerard Depardieu had a cameo as an airport baggage handler too, though the relevant scene was cut from the American version of the film.
A bunch of cast members from popular TV shows of 1980s and '90s — The Golden Girls, Cheers, Home Improvement — were incorporated into Superstar Television (Disney's Hollywood Studios), where the show's whole gimmick was putting audience volunteers into Chroma Key scenes with the stars. But not only did Late Night-era David Letterman appear in the final stretch, he also contributed to the preshow of the nearby The Monster Sound Show.
Marsha Mason narrates the opening half of Epcot's Living with the Land boat ride.
Originally, The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter had Phil Hartman voice the preshow robot, but when this humorous skit proved a bad fit for the actual attraction, it was retooled and he was dropped. The now much nastier robot's voice was provided by Tim Curry.
Walter Cronkite, Jeremy Irons, and Judi Dench have all narrated Epcot's Spaceship Earth over the years.
Epcot's Ensemble Darkhorse Figment the dragon, of the Journey Into Imagination pavillion, was originally voiced by Billy Barty. Barty passed away in 2000, so the 2003 version of the ride brought in Dave Goelz, aka Gonzo the Great.
The original fireworks show at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Sorcery in the Sky, was narrated by Vincent Price.
Market-Based Title: Honey, I Shrunk the Audience was renamed MicroAdventure when it was exported to Tokyo. As a bonus, while the American and Paris preshows were a narrated slideshow, Tokyo got a specially-shot filmed one in which a Japanese reporter interviewed Dr. Nigel Channing.
Newer Than They Think: That statue of Walt and Mickey holding hands at the end of Main Street is so iconic, most everybody thinks it's been around forever. In fact, it was only installed in 1993!
No Export for You: There's been four video games based on Tokyo Disneyland: Mickey no Tokyo Disneyland Daibōken (Mickey's Great Adventure in Tokyo Disneyland), Tokyo Disneyland: Mickey no Cinderella Shiro Mystery Tour (Mickey's Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour), Tokyo Disneyland: Fantasy Tour, and Adventure of Tokyo Disney Sea.
Old Shame: Splash Mountain is based upon Song of the South, a movie they otherwise don't like talking about. Rumor has it, however, is that people who are hired as Cast Members on the ride are shown the movie during training.
As the parks have aged, Disney has begun talking more and more openly about old rides that didn't quite work out or simply didn't last for very long, such as Flying Saucers or the Viewliner, respectively. But certain attractions, such as the opening year's circus or the Rocket Rods will only ever be acknowledged once every blue moon.
Prop Recycling: Various animatronics from closed rides. Dozens and dozens of America Sings characters were moved to Splash Mountain, and various bits of World of Motion have shown up in everything from Pirates to just hanging around the California Adventure backlot section for atmosphere. It was necessary in Splash Mountain's case to do a lot of reprogramming to make the America Sings animatronics "forget" their old routines.
The licensing deal originally extended to California as well,note Universal has no parks in France so the deal was not extended there, and at the time neither company had a park in China but Universal Hollywood decided to let the rights lapse back to Marvel in 2008... one year before Disney purchased the company. God knows what happened to the poor sod in Universal who made that call.
According to the Haunted Mansion anniversary issue of Disney Twenty-three magazine, plans were made and eventually scrapped for an indoor, perpetual-twilight (think Blue Bayou/Pirates Of The Caribbean) Disney park featuring, at the end of their Main Street USA equivalent, not the familiar princess castle, but the Haunted Mansion on a hill. Crowning Hub Of Awesome!
Early concepts for Disneyland called for Adventureland to be where Space Mountain is now (directly east of Main Street - it was built directly west instead). Some prototype maps even show parts of it existing on both sides of MSUSA.
The original design for Disneyland incorporated numerous orange trees already present on the property. Walt's staff marked trees to be kept and trees to be removed with different colors of ribbon. Unfortunately, all of the trees were destroyed - the bulldozer operator was colorblind.
The Epcot theme park at Walt Disney World was originally planned as a fully-functioning city rather than a theme park, and was a major part of Walt Disney's personal plans for "The Florida Project." After Walt died, the idea fell by the wayside for over a decade. When the plans were revisited, the prospect of building Epcot as a functional city exactly as Walt envisioned it was simply too impossible, so it was re-tooled into a theme park. The basic idea of Disney forming their own city was not forgotten however, and the idea was later realized when Disney created the town of Celebration, FL. Coincidentaly, the original idea for Epcot also inspired the design of Midgar.
Disney's Hollywood Studios grew out of plans for a moviemaking-themed pavillion at Epcot's Future World.
Animal Kingdom was originally going to have a mythology-themed area called Beastly Kingdom where Camp Minnie-Mickey is now, but it was ultimately scrapped. In a way, the forthcoming Camp Minnie-Mickey replacement — an Avatar-themed pavillion — is something of a return to that concept (land of fictional creatures).
Ride revamps that were considered but not implemented:
Retheming the Journey into Imagination ride (Epcot) to Flubber. As ill-fated as the actual, first revamp turned out to be at the end of The Nineties, would this have been any better?
Retheming the Submarine Voyage/20,000 Leagues Under the Sea rides (U.S. parks) to Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Instead, the Florida subs were shut down for good and the land eventually reclaimed for New Fantasyland, while California got a Finding Nemo retheming.
In early 2003 blueprints were leaked for what was called "Project Gemini", a complete redo of Epcot's Future World area in an attempt to solve its Zeerust problem. As part of a three year plan, Future World would be renamed Discoveryland and feature some of the most bizarre decision choices that Imagineering had ever come up with:
Spaceship Earth would become a thrill ride called Time Racers sponsored by Microsoft, though its post show Global Neighborhood would still be sponsored by AT&T for some reason.
Innoventions would be split into six separate buildings and consist of two restaurants, two shops and two exhibits.
The Universe of Energy, Mission Space and Test Track would remain the same, but the Wonders of Life would become a (never-announced) new attraction and a mini car ride would be added to the exterior of Test Track for kids too young to ride the attraction.
The Land would gain an outdoor hedge maze and an outdoor "rainforest" roller coaster, as well as a clone of the Disney's California Adventure attraction Soarin' (which actually did end up happening). The Living Seas would become an attraction rethemed to the Little Mermaid called Under The Sea, while the Imagination dark ride would get a retheme to Monsters, Inc. (of all things).
Writer Revolt: Done on the occasions when Imagineers are forced to tear down a ride to build a new one. They'll often sneak in a Shout-Out to the original version.
Occasionally, the shout out will be in a totally different attraction. At the Magic Kingdom, a tombstone for Mr. Toad is in the Haunted Mansion queue. Also, references to Horizons and Submarine Voyage are in Space Mountain's post-show.
Steve Martin worked at the Main Street Magic Shop at Disneyland in the 1960s, learning comedy and borrowing a few acts from The Golden Horseshoe Revue.
As far as celebrities hosting Disney attractions go, Martin Short is the only one to have hosted something in both halves of Epcot: The Making of Me, a short film in the former Wonders of Life pavilion in Future World where he gives the audience The Talk, and the current version of the Circlevision film O Canada, which pretty much has No Fourth Wall (partly because the theater it's shown in is circular).
Henry Kissinger once took a break from his day job and sold popcorn on Main Street USA. Nobody recognized him.
In the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, when you enter the Portrait Room, the floor lowers as to have you go through a hallway under the train tracks and into a building outside the berm, saving space. In Disney World, on the other hand, the ceiling rises (there's more room in Disney World, so the room doesn't have to move, but they wanted to keep the gags).
The skeletons inside Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, when it first opened, were real human remains. Walt Disney was dissatisfied with artificial prop-skeletons available at the time, so he acquired actual skeletons for the ride prior to his death. All the real skeletons have long since been laid to rest - the skeletons in the ride now are artificial.
In the mid-1970s, Michelle Pfeiffer played Alice from Alice in Wonderland, performing in the Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade.
The gold parts of the outer facade of "it's a small world" in Disneyland are covered in 24K gold leaf. The facade's construction used up all the gold leaf available in the entire United States at the time. Although much, much more expensive at the outset than gold paint would have been, it has long since paid for itself by never needing to be replaced or retouched.
The Main Street Electrical Parade has temporarily returned to Magic Kingdom twice since originally being replaced by Spectromagic, most recently in 2010 where they brought it back for the summer until popular demand saw them change it to an open-ended run. That's what they told everyone at least. The not so well kept secret was that Spectro was in desperate need of refurbishment, and since they needed to get MSEP out of California Adventure because of concerns over crowd control before World of Color opened, they figured bringing it back to Florida was the best way to handle both situations. As of July 2013, the "open ended run" has been going for over 3 years. However, the refurbished Spectro floats have been spotted backstage at MK signalling its return is imminent, athough no one knows exactly when.
The front of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle was originally intended to be the back. Designers weren't entirely satisfied with the original front and decided to turn it around and Walt preferred the result.
Almost all of the windows on Main Street USA in both parks are call-outs to one Disney staffer or another. The one exception is "Benjamin Silverstein, M.D."; there was no person by that name, but having a Jewish name listed meant that Disneyland had a place to hang Hannukkah decorations.
The window for park designer Ken Anderson, listed as "Ken Anderson Bait Co.", is a friendly jibe at Ken's hobby - Ken was an avid fly fisherman, and you don't use bait when fly-fishing.