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    Apr 12, 2020

    40 Really Intriguing Disney Facts That Are So Obscure Even The Biggest Fan Might Not Know Them

    Yes, there is a Disney Vault!

    1. The term "Disney Vault" is actually a lot older than you might think. It was used to refer to movies that were taken out of "the vault" and re-released into theaters after their original run (this was way before home videos existed).

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    In the '80s and '90s the term became a marketing tool to help sell VHS releases.

    2. The first movie it re-released was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1944, during WWII. The studio was sort of forced to as they were cash-strapped at the time and were producing propaganda films for the government that weren't really made for profit.

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    The success of the Snow White re-release started the tradition of Disney re-releasing its films into theaters every 7–10 years.

    3. There is a real Disney Vault — it's in Glendale, California. It's a building that houses everything from the films themselves, to the sketches and models used to make them.

    Hart Preston / The LIFE Picture Collection via

    4. Pinocchio was incredibly expensive to make and bombed at the box office.

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    European markets were actually where Disney made a lot of its money for its films. But in 1940, when Pinocchio was released, Europe was already in the middle of WWII, so those markets were closed.

    5. Walt Disney holds the record for the most Academy Awards won by a single person. He won 26 Oscars and was nominated 59 times.

    Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

    He won his final one posthumously in 1969 for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.

    6. Walt was interested in making an animated movie based on The Little Mermaid as far back as the late 1930s. He even hired Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen to create concept art for it.

    Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty

    FTR, this is not the concept art for it, but a print of his that shows his style.

    7. Kay actually has a visual development credit in The Little Mermaid.

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    8. The Little Mermaid was actually the first Disney movie to be released on home video following its theatrical release. And it was considered a gamble for the company.

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    The movie was released onto home video six months after its release and, of course, went on to become a huge seller. Many at Disney did not want it to be released onto home video as it would cut into the established theatrical re-release model. The success of it lead Disney in the 1990s to shift to the home video model, not only releasing its new movies on home video, but also its "vault" movies.

    9. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the last of the classic Disney movies to be released onto home video.

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    The film was released on home video in 1994, and would go on to become the second biggest-selling VHS movie of all time (The Lion King is No. 1, FTR).

    10. The 1940s were actually an overall bad time for Disney Studios. Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi had all been box office bombs, and the studio's employees had gone on strike in order to form a union (which they eventually did).

    Earl Theisen Collection / Getty Images

    By the end of the 1940s the studio was over $4 million in debt.

    11. Cinderella actually financially rescued the studio after it became a huge hit in 1950.

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    But, even making the movie was a huge risk for the studio.

    12. By 1950, Walt cared very little about the studio's films and was more preoccupied with his model trains.

    Gene Lester / Getty Images

    Walt also felt he would never create anything as good as Snow White again.

    13. While Walt always talked about how the carousel at Griffith Park inspired him to build Disneyland, it was actually several things that inspired him. One of them was Beverly Park Kiddieland, which he often visited with his daughters.

    Archive Photos / Getty Images

    The park (which used to sit where LA's Beverly Center is now) was owned by David Bradley, who held his park to higher standards than other parks at the time.

    14. Walt actually told David about his plans to build Disneyland in 1950. He then hired David as a consultant.

    Earl Theisen Collection / Getty Images

    David was the one who told Walt to build Main Street, U.S.A. at 7/8th scale and to do themed-photo ops (among other things).

    15. In 1954, as a way to help pay for the construction of Disneyland, Walt developed a Disneyland TV show (that would end up airing on ABC).

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    The show also served as a way to promote the park, as Walt would update viewers on its construction and what was being built. The series would go on to become The Wonderful World of Disney.

    16. Also in 1954, Alice in Wonderland became the first animated Disney movie to air on TV.

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    The movie aired as part of the Disneyland TV show.

    17. Originally, Sleeping Beauty Castle was meant to be Snow White Castle. The name was changed to promote the upcoming movie (which was in production when the park opened).

    Allan Grant / The LIFE Picture Collection via

    In 1957 (two years before Sleeping Beauty premiered), the walk-through for it opened inside the castle, also to help promote the film.

    18. During it's original theatrical run, Sleeping Beauty opened with an almost 30-minute live-action short called Grand Canyon playing before it (which was a bit experimental as it had no dialogue or narration, and just had music playing over scenes of the Grand Canyon and its wildlife).

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    19. After Sleeping Beauty bombed at the box office, Disney decided not to make another fairy-tale princess movie for 30 years. Yup, there was a 30-year gap — 1989's The Little Mermaid would be the next fairy-tale movie.

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    Sleeping Beauty was able to actually recoup its cost and be a successful movie, but only after it was theatrically re-released four times.

    20. The huge success of 101 Dalmatians, which was released two years after Sleeping Beauty, saved Disney's animation department.

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    After the failure of Sleeping Beauty, the studio began to second-guess animated movies and seriously considered shutting down its animation department.

    21. Marc Davis, who did the key animation for Cruella de Vil, based the character partially on actress Tallulah Bankhead.

    Disney, Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

    And, Cruella sounding like Tallulah was actually unintentional. Betty Lou Gerson, who voiced the character, told the LA Times in 1991, "Well, I didn’t intentionally imitate her. I was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and Tallulah was from Jasper, Alabama. We both had phony English accents on top of our Southern accents and a great deal of flair. So our voices came out that way."

    22. Walt gave his longtime housekeeper and cook, Thelma Howard, so much Disney stock throughout the years (as birthday and Christmas gifts) that by the time she died in 1994 it was worth over $9 million.

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    According to Walt's daughter Diane Miller Disney, he would often say that she was the real-life Mary Poppins.

    Also, after her death, she left half the money to her son, and the rest to her own foundation that would distribute the money to other charities.

    23. The Aristocats was the last movie Walt approved to be made before his death.

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    Originally, the movie was supposed to be a two-part live-action TV movie to air on The Wonderful World of Disney. However, Walt thought it would make a better animated film.

    24. By the early '80s, Disney was doing so bad financially that its only real source of revenue came from its theme parks.

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    There were serious talks of splitting up the company and selling it off.

    25. Disney does not own Tokyo Disneyland; it's actually owned by the Oriental Land Company, Ltd.

    Sankei Archive / Getty Images

    The Oriental Land Company actually pays Disney to license out its characters, name, etc. They also must get approval and use Walt Disney Imagineering to create new attractions, lands, etc.

    26. In Nara, Japan, there was once a knockoff Disneyland park called Nara Dreamland.

    27. In 1984, Disney was almost taken over by corporate raider Saul Steinberg, who had a bought a large stake in the company.

    Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty

    Eventually, they were able to stop the takeover attempt by buying him out, but it cost the company $325.5 million in cash...which they had to borrow.

    28. In 1984 — after the attempted takeover — Walt's nephew, Roy Disney, returned to the company. Along with board members, he forced out the then-CEO Ron W. Miller (who also happened to be Walt's son-in-law).

    Jim Smeal / Ron Galella Collection via Getty

    In his place, Roy appointed Michael Eisner as CEO and Frank Wells as the company's president.

    Roy had originally been at his family's company from 1954–77 and left to form his own production company. He returned to save the company his uncle and father had built.

    29. Roy also made sure that Disney's animation department was saved. On top of serving as the company’s vice chair, he was also the head of the animation department.

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    30. Walt had always wanted to make a sequel to Fantasia, but died before he could do so. Roy then took it on as a personal passion project and spent nine years making Fantasia 2000.

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    Roy was so heavily involved with the film that it put him at times at odds with Michael Eisner.

    31. Although Ron W. Miller was only CEO of Disney for four years, he did leave a pretty big mark on the company. He created the Disney Channel and also Touchstone Pictures (in order to make more adult-targeted movies without having the Disney name on it).

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    Ironically, Ron had actually tried to recruit Michael Eisner (the man who would take over his job) to come work at Disney.

    32. The dragon underneath Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Paris is not Maleficent, but actually a dragon that is a friend of Merlin's.

    disneylandparis.com

    According to former Imagineer Terri Hardin Jackson, who designed the very popular walk-through attraction, it was originally meant to be just a stone dragon, but she fought to make it an animatronic. She also wanted to add a dragon skeleton with a sword through it's heart (that was meant to be Maleficent), but it was cut 'cause some of the other Imagineers thought guests wouldn't understand it.

    33. Originally, Beauty and the Beast was envisioned as a darker, more dramatic, nonmusical adaption; it also took place in 18th century France.

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    After watching a 20-minute reel of sketches set with temporary vocals that outlined the story, Jeffrey Katzenberg, the then-chairperson of Walt Disney Studios, decided to kill that version and start over.

    34. Robin Williams took a huge pay cut and agreed to voice the Genie in Aladdin because he wanted to do it for his kids. The one thing he asked for was that his voice not be used for merchandising products. Disney agreed, but then realized that the Genie was really the star of the movie and ended up using his voice for products — which caused a huge fight between Robin and Disney.

    Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty

    As a form of trying to thank Robin, Disney sent him a Picasso worth over $1 million as a gift. They would eventually make up!

    35. The Return of Jafar was Disney's first direct-to-video sequel.

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    It was also a huge success: It cost just $5 million to make and grossed $120 million in sales. The success would lead to Disney making lots of direct-to-video sequels throughout the '90s and '00s.

    Also, Dan Castellaneta, who is best-known as the voice of Homer Simpson, did the voice of the Genie, as Robin Williams was fighting with the studio at the time. But, Robin did return to voice the Genie in the third movie, Aladdin and the King of Thieves.

    36. Robin Williams improvised a lot of his lines as the Genie and gave Disney over 30 hours of voice recordings. While there are enough recordings to make a fourth Aladdin movie, they can't 'cause Robin has a clause in his will that forbids them from using it (and it has nothing to do with Disney, FTR).

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    The clause was put in to prevent his family from having to pay estate penalties from any posthumous earnings.

    37. Tim Rice, who wrote the lyrics for the Lion King songs, originally wanted ABBA to be on the soundtrack. After ABBA declined, Tim asked Elton John.

    Olle Lindeborg / Getty Images

    38. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" was almost cut from the movie because it did not fit the film's father-and-son theme.

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    The song was put back in the film after Elton saw an early cut of the film that didn't have it in it. He then made it clear that it NEEDED to be in. In fact, Elton said the reason he agreed to work on the film was to write a Disney love song.

    39. In 2006, Bambi II, which was a direct-to-video sequel*, was the last Disney movie to be released on VHS.

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    *It did have a theatrical release overseas.

    40. And finally, 2011's Winnie the Pooh (not The Princess and the Frog) was the last traditional 2D animated movie Disney released.

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