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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
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!

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

More from us: 10 Disney Characters Inspired By Real People

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.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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