Two "Disney Dweebs" Spill Their Juiciest Secrets
Meet two guys who know way too much about The Happiest Place on Earth--and got in trouble because of it.
You'd be hard-pressed to find grown men who love Disney more than Jim Hill and David Koenig. The two "Disney Dweebs"--Hill said it, not us--have devoted much of their lives to chronicling the parks. They're the kind of obsessives who get excited when news breaks that another mechanical cobra has been added to the Jungle Cruise.
Disney, however, doesn't feel quite the same way about them. In March, Disneyland staffers stopped Hill from leading an unauthorized tour of the park--and worse, charging for it. Afterward Hill admitted he was flat-out wrong for making a buck on private property, noting that "security was unfailingly polite and professional."
A month later, Disneyland guest relations trailed Koenig down Main Street, U.S.A., as he led his own unofficial tour, gently interrogating him in front of the faux City Hall. Because security couldn't prove that any money had changed hands, Koenig was allowed to continue. (A park spokesperson clarified that Koenig should've been stopped because his "free" tour was only for people who had purchased his book: "Only qualified Disneyland Resort cast members are authorized to provide tours.")
Anyone hoping that Disney was trying to cover up tales of scandal and sleaze will be disappointed: The renegade guides' spiels are mostly G-rated fun. We found that the Dweebs' tours add one more interesting layer to the experience of visiting the parks--a totally unofficial, undeniably dorky glimpse behind the magic that is Disney. --The Editors
As is our policy, we tried to confirm every fact in this story. Disney doesn't comment on rumors and certain historic and financial details, so we verified info through third-party sources whenever possible.
David Koenig's tour of Disneyland
Start on Main Street, U.S.A., where the "eternal lamp" still burns in the window of Walt Disney's private apartment over the fire station. The entrance is via a back door at the top of a green wooden staircase, though as in Walt's day, the single-room sanctuary is off-limits to visitors. The brass fire pole in the station used to serve as a second exit to the apartment, but the hole was closed off years ago after a boy shimmied up and surprised Walt.
Anyone can get inside the more luxurious apartment Walt had built above the Pirates of the Caribbean. The Mousetro died before the apartment was completed, and it's now an art gallery--and a great place to escape the crowds. You'll find a shaded courtyard and a spacious balcony overlooking the Rivers of America.
Below the balcony, next to the Blue Bayou restaurant, there's an inconspicuous green door with a plaque reading "33." Inside, a select group of VIPs regularly wine and dine at the Club 33. In the 1960s the club replaced a private room at the rear of the Red Wagon Inn (since remodeled as the Plaza Inn) as the top-secret spot for Disney executives to entertain big shots. Known as the Hideout or the Hideaway, the room had a fully stocked bar, even though the park has always prohibited alcohol.
Toward the end of Main Street, on the right, look for a porch in front of a china shop. When Disneyland opened in 1955, this is where a cash-starved Walt allowed Hollywood-Maxwell to sell corsets and lingerie. Walt took the rent money, but didn't want impressionable young eyes staring at women's undies in the window, so he discouraged business by situating the shop back from the street and installing a giant porch out front. The ploy worked: The so-called "Wizard of Bras" packed its bags in 1956.
Likewise, most of the original Tomorrowland is gone; it was once filled with cheesy corporate exhibits--Monsanto's chemistry hall, Kaiser's aluminum museum, the Crane Bathroom of Tomorrow. The latter had a bidet display; to shield it from kids, Walt had the bottom part of the glass in front of it frosted.
Except for the Autopia car ride, everything in the original Tomorrowland has been gutted and replaced several times over. The new Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, restored Space Mountain, and Submarine Voyage (soon to return with a Finding Nemo twist) disguise the fact that a $100 million makeover of Tomorrowland, done just seven years ago, was a total bust.
Two telling relics remain: an abandoned overhead track and a giant marble ball on a blue mat. The track was built in the 1960s for the PeopleMover tramway. Once the PeopleMover felt more like Yesterdayland than Tomorrowland, Disney tried to save money by using the track for the high-speed Rocket Rods, introduced in 1998. The vehicles were ill-suited for the winding, unbanked rail, and after two years of breakdowns, the Rocket Rods vanished. The giant ball marked the center of a water fountain called Cosmic Waves. Designers figured guests would enjoy dodging the five-foot spurts of water. Wrong! Children preferred to get as wet as possible, splashing around in their underwear, or even naked. As the area devolved into a public bath, it began to smell like one, and Disney turned off the tap.