Top 10 Craziest Disney Secrets

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Top 10 Craziest Disney Secrets

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Tal Fox
There are a lot of secrets and dancing skeletons in the Disney Vault. For this list, we'll be looking at the most outrageous skeletons and unknown alleged facts the House of Mouse reportedly keeps hidden in its deepest darkest vaults. Our countdown includes "Tangled," "Bambi," "The Rescuers," and more!
Transcript

Top 10 Craziest Disney Secrets


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Craziest Disney Secrets.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most outrageous skeletons and unknown alleged facts the House of Mouse reportedly keeps hidden in its deepest darkest vaults.

What’s the most unbelievable Disney secret you’ve ever heard? Let us know in the comments.

#10: The “Hot Man” Meeting
“Tangled” (2010)


It’s no secret that Disney employs focus groups and test audiences while creating their movies. However, one particularly intriguing meeting was set up to help inspire the ruggedly handsome Flynn Rider in “Tangled.” They gathered about 30 women from across the studio and asked them to bring photos of who they perceived as “the hottest hunks in Hollywood.” The group poured over the images, tearing them apart and sticking together the features they believed were most attractive. The film’s directors, Nathan Greno (GRIN-oh) and Byron Howard called the experience “humbling,” especially as they hilariously became “examples of what not to do.” Ultimately, it paid off as Flynn Ryder’s arguably more attractive than any animated character has the right to be.

#9: Recycled Material
Various


In the 2010s, many Disney fans were surprised to learn that many of their favorite classic flicks featured reused older material or had redrawn over animation previously seen in other films - the latter of which is known as rotoscoping. And that it happened more often than you’d think. Just compare these classic dance scenes from “Sleeping Beauty” and “Beauty and the Beast.” (xref). Many speculated that this technique was about saving time or money, but according to animator Jim MacQuarrie (macKWAIRee), this wasn’t the case - at least not at first. He spoke to Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman, one of Disney’s original “Nine Old Men,” who revealed that if they found “something that works,” they stuck with it. However, thanks to this technique, they were able to make “Robin Hood” for just $5 million.

#8: Major Bambi
“Bambi” (1942)


Donnie Dunagan spent 25 years in the Marines, earning a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his service. He became the youngest drill instructor ever, served in Vietnam, and retired with the rank of major. However, Dunagan kept his past as a child actor secret the entire time. He especially didn’t want his fellow Marines to know that he was the voice of Disney’s adorable fawn, Bambi. He feared that if they knew, he’d forever be known as “Major Bambi,” which, as you can imagine, doesn’t exactly scream authority. Eventually, his secret was uncovered about a month before he retired. Nowadays, Dunagan embraces his past and loves when people recognize him as the voice of Bambi.

#7: The Lost Cels


Although Disney was at the forefront of animation innovation, moving pictures were created by painting directly onto cels back in the day. This, of course, made them much harder to preserve. Conservators are now trying to save some of those originals, whereas others are already gone forever from distortion due to the passage of time. This wasn’t helped by how animators treated their artwork so frivolously back in the ‘30s and ‘40s. According to animation expert Keith Stephens, during the making of “Fantasia,” the animators tossed the cels they were done with on the floor and slid around on them. We’re all for a fun workplace environment, but this resulted in a loss of about 95% of vintage material. A part of animation history has been lost forever.

#6: Disney’s Gender Roles


It probably won’t surprise you that in its early days, Walt Disney’s studio was a boys’ club. However, what might shock you is this rejection letter reportedly sent to women who dared apply for animation roles at the company. Just imagine receiving a rejection letter citing your gender as the reason. Until the war, Disney did hire women, just not in any creative roles. However, in 1941 Walt delivered a speech to employees about why that was all about to change. One reason he gave was that he believed women deserved equal opportunities to progress in their careers, although his insistence on calling them “girls” is still pretty cringe-inducing. We wonder what he’d make of Disney’s powerhouse heroines today.

#5: A Near PG Disney Classic
“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” (1996)


Arguably one of Disney’s darkest flicks, it’s pretty impressive that “Hunchback” got away with a G-rating. The adult themes from the source material had to be heavily Disney-fied, but even so, concepts like “sin” and “hell,” not to mention the meaning behind the ominous “Hellfire” track, left many behind-the-scenes squirming. However, one scene, in particular, left the film’s rating board on a knife’s edge. Judge Frollo comes up behind Esmeralda and sniffs her hair. This was considered “too suggestive,” and filmmakers were asked to tone it down. They did, and it earned them the G-rating they needed to make “Hunchback” a box office success. Tab Murphy, a screenwriter for the film, did call it “The most R-rated G you will ever see,” though!

#4: A Scandalous VHS Recall
“The Rescuers” (1977)


Rumors of secret messages and/or images hidden in Disney flicks have always been rampant. However, on this occasion, it turned out to be true. In a supposed prank that controversially spiraled out of control, some viewers noticed two non-consecutive shots of a topless woman in the background of a scene from the 1977 animation. This practical joke evaded Disney’s attention until the film’s second VHS release on January 8, 1999 because the not-safe-for-children images had been apparently painted over in the first 1992 home video release. Three days after version 2 dropped, they announced a recall of approximately 3.4 million copies of the tapes. Although Disney insisted they’d received no complaints, it was still a massive embarrassment for the company. Still, we imagine that even in three short days, that scene had been rewound and paused a lot.

#3: The Lemming Myth
“White Wilderness” (1958)


You may be familiar with the misconception that lemmings tend to hurl themselves off cliffs en masse. But would you believe that it was actually Disney who orchestrated this misconstruction? The Academy-Award-winning documentary “White Wilderness” documents the migration habits of these mammals - as well as other animals in the North American Arctic. However, the lemmings segment was staged and manipulated (reportedly, so too was a polar bear cub scene). In addition to building a set in a film studio in Calgary, Canada, the production allegedly imported some lemmings specifically for the documentary. The hordes of lemmings you see in the footage are just the same few on repeat. The most shocking revelation from a 1983 Canadian investigation was that they were pushed or thrown into the water. We don’t know where Disney sourced their misinformation, but somehow, they created a well-established myth that many believe to be true.

#2: Snow White Gets Blacklisted
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937)


Playing the title character in the first full-length traditionally animated feature sounds like a pretty wild achievement. However, for Adriana Caselotti, it became almost more troublesome than dealing with a jealous, evil stepmom. For starters, the voice of Snow White was paid just $970 for her time, which is somewhere between $18 and 19 000 today. Supposedly, Disney was so infatuated with maintaining the illusion of her character that Caselotti wasn’t even credited, and she was forbidden from revealing herself as Snow White’s voice. Some even believed that Walt Disney or others had her blacklisted from Hollywood just to keep that magic alive. Indeed, she struggled to find work, and her career never took off. In 1994, she finally got recognition as a Disney Legend.

#1: Was Walt Disney an FBI Informant?


In 1993, the New York Times published an article claiming that Disney’s head honcho had been working with the FBI from 1940 until 1966, the year he died. According to the report, Disney served as an informant to identify suspected “Hollywood subversives,” in other words, communists. However, much of the documentation acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request was redacted, so full details are unknown. There’s seemingly proof that Disney had some form of friendship with the FBI’s director J. Edgar Hoover and the mid-1950s saw him made a “full Special Agent in Charge Contact.” However, whether or not Disney cooperated remains unknown. It’s unlikely we’ll ever learn the entire truth, and it will probably remain one of Disney’s best-kept secrets.
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