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Behind-the-Scenes Photos of Disneyland and the Stories They Share

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: 1. Marsaili McGrath / Getty Images 2. Tom Nebbia / Getty Images

When you think of Disney, what comes to mind are its nostalgia-inducing stories and out-of-this-world characters. Many children dream of visiting its theme parks, especially Anaheim’s Disneyland. As the following vintage photos show, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure each guest’s experience is as magical as possible.

It’s a small world after all

One of the most iconic rides at Disneyland is It’s a Small World. Located in Fantasyland, the ride is one of the few to appear at Disney parks across the world. It features over 300 animatronic dolls, but have you ever wondered who was tasked with dressing them all?

Two female Disneyland employees holding dolls from the It's a Small World ride

Photo Credit: Tom Nebbia / Getty Images

As it turns out, employees spent hours ensuring these dolls were dressed to impress. It takes a lot of effort and dedication to make one of the world’s most popular amusement park rides what it is.

From scary robot to Abraham Lincoln

The creation of the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction involved a lot of engineering. Thankfully, Disneyland has many engineers whose jobs are to ensure that attractions run smoothly. As the following images show, the animatronic version of Abraham Lincoln began as a creepy robot.

Robotic face + Personnel sitting around a model of Abraham Lincoln's head

Photo Credit: Tom Nebbia / Getty Images

Walt Disney initially planned a show with talking and moving wax figurines of all the presidents. However, the technology was too expensive, so he settled on creating a single figure: Lincoln. After seeing how popular the attraction was, the decision was made to create the Hall of Presidents at Disney World in Florida.

Scaling the Matterhorn

The Matterhorn Bobsleds is among the most popular Disneyland attractions. It’s made up of two rollercoasters traveling on the Fantasyland and Tomorrowland tracks, winding their way through the park’s replica of the Matterhorn.

Man scaling down a replica of the Matterhorn

Photo Credit: Tom Nebbia / Getty Images

Disneyland employs actual mountain climbers to scale the Matterhorn, giving the impression it is a real mountain. Not a job for the faint of heart, it also involves donning traditional Swiss clothing to ensure climbers are really able to sell their roles.

Personally inspecting the attractions

Walt Disney was heavily involved in every aspect of his vast empire, including what went on in the parks. In this photo, he and Disneyland engineer Louie Francuz inspect the animatronics for the park’s new African Safari area of the Jungle Cruise ride.

Walt Disney and a park engineer standing over animatronic animals

Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

Disney and Fancuz were inspecting the animatronics to ensure they looked realistic enough. We don’t know about you, but we feel the expressions on both the female and male lions look authentic. Pretty impressive, considering this photo was taken in 1964!

The people underneath the costumes

It can get pretty hot under the California sun, so it’s no surprise Disneyland employees will remove their costumes any chance they get. While on break, those playing the parts of Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and Robin Hood (among others) will often take off half of their costume, allowing themselves a much-deserved breather.

Man dressed as Goofy + Disney costumes lined up against a wall

Photo Credit: Tom Nebbia / Getty Images

While employees are now barred from taking photos in restricted areas to keep the park’s illusion alive, no such regulations existed in the 1960s, meaning we get this unique glimpse at the actors underneath these iconic costumes!

The prop junkyard

Anything animatronic is going to experience issues, and as new technology is released, newer props are brought in. This means workers at Disneyland need to swap out the old with the new. As the following image from 1962 shows, the old props ended up in some sort of junkyard – a sad end for attractions that brought people so much joy.

Man sitting on an animatronic alligator while drinking a beverage

Photo Credit: Tom Nebbia / Getty Images

On a more positive note, it appears the park’s staff made use of these old props, even if they were used as places where people could eat and drink while on break.

Draining the Blue Lagoon

One of the most beautiful areas of Disneyland was the Blue Lagoon, with its brightly colored art and sculptures. This image from 1962 shows just how much work went into its maintenance. To ensure the proper repairs and restorations could be completed, work crews had to first drain the lagoon, a not-so-easy task.

Workers inspect the walls of the Blue Lagoon at Disneyland

Photo Credit: Tom Nebbia / Getty Images

Once the lagoon was drained, workers were able to touch up paint, repair broken pieces, and give the whole place a general once-over. Given the high standards Walt Disney had for his parks, we can only assume this process took place often.

Welcoming Sleeping Beauty

In 1957, Walt Disney invited former child star Shirley Temple to help unveil the grand opening of the Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough. Temple got dolled up for the occasion, donning a crown and outfit fit for royalty.

Shirley Temple speaking into a microphone while Walt Disney watches

Photo Credit: Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Disney initially had no intention of Sleeping Beauty Castle having its own show, but that quickly changed. Guests were soon able to walk through it, where they encountered miniature dioramas telling the famed tale. Unfortunately for fans, they’d have to wait another two years for the animated film to hit theaters.

Tiki Tiki birds galore

While walking through exhibits, we don’t often imagine the amount of work that went into making them as magical as they are. As the following images show, one of the more extensive attractions at Disneyland is the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Women working on animatronic birds

Photo Credit: Tom Nebbia / Getty Images

The exhibit opened in 1963, and in the year or so before, employees prepared all the animatronics and decorations that would make it look as impressive as possible. Some worked on the electronic parts, while others combed the birds’ feathers to give them a more authentic appearance.

Lunchtime

Everyone needs to eat, especially those tasked with bringing Disney’s amazing characters to life. Behind the scenes lies a milieu of locations for employees to relax, including a cafeteria!

Disney characters in a cafeteria

Photo Credit: sidd-_007 / Reddit

More from us: 10 Disney Characters Inspired By Real People

Given that lunch breaks are rather short, the majority of those in costume ate while dressed as their character. This not only made it easy to get back to work, but allowed for a rather magical photo to be taken! It honestly looks like a scene from one of our dreams!