Disney is widely considered to be one of the most successful companies on the planet. Not only is it renowned for its creative efforts in multiple fields, but it is also well known for its business practices. Books have been written that detail how great Disney is at doing things, from its customer service practices to its long history of building its businesses.
All around, Disney is seen as a major success. As the company acquires more brands, such as ESPN, it will continue to grow its power and market stability. However, not every Disney endeavor has been a rousing success. Disney has had its share of notable, interesting, and tragic failures. Some of which have been heavily reported on, while others may have gone completely unnoticed on your radar. It has overcome these to become a respected and recognizable American brand.
Here are 15 Disney failures you didn’t expect.
15. Monorail Crash Killed Several People
If you have ever been to or seen pictures of Disney World, then you are probably familiar with Monorails. Monorails are single track train systems that exist around the word, but Disney uses them in a notable way to shuttle people between the parks. Each Monorail has a unique color stripe to make it easy to tell them apart. Little effort is needed to drive them as well since the tracks keep them under control and drivers only control the speed. Unfortunately, there have been serious accidents. The purple Monorail is no longer in service since it crashed into another Monorail and killed several people.
14. Purple Starbucks Cups Were Pulled Off The Shelves
Aside from removing the purple Monorail from service after the accident, much of the merchandise involving the monorails needed to be changed as well. The purple Monorail was the favorite at the time for its distinctive look. Along with the buses with purple seats and other transportation methods, the purple Monorail stood out from the rest. In 2015, the Starbucks locations throughout Disney park offered a new Disney-themed cup commemorating the park’s monorail system. Only the cups featured a purple monorail. The cups were immediately pulled from store shelves, though you can buy one online through auction sites like eBay.
13. The Haunted Mansion Almost Didn’t Exist
Disney has a long history of developing immersive rides. However, the development process doesn’t always go smoothly. The Haunted Mansion almost didn’t exist because of developmental disagreements. In fact, it took over 20 years for the Haunted Mansion to be finished. The leading developers could not agree on a serious scare house or a comically ghost theme. Both sides argued back and forth for years leading to major pauses in the project. The entire project was almost scrapped when Walt Disney passed away, but the team came together and went with a compromise. That’s why the Haunted Mansion starts off with a serious feel, then turns into a giant ghost party.
12. Disney’s America Was Totally Scrapped
Disney has been able to develop parks around the world, but not all of them were successful. Disney has several abandoned projects that are partially developed and can still be found where they were built. Disney’s America was supposed to be a Disney theme park in Virginia. In essence, it would be an expansion of the America section at Epcot and focus on American history. The project never got very far off of the ground. There was a hotel built for the property in Virginia, but the development of the park space stalled and was eventually scrapped when Disney went through a series of leadership changes.
11. Losing Rights to the Prototype of Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is the pinnacle character in the Disney universe. Many say it was one of Disney’s first successes. In many ways, he was a great success. However, it wasn’t Walt Disney’s first success as an animator. He created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit with a co-creator. When Walt Disney separated from the project, he didn’t have the rights to the character. It actually became the property of NBC Universal, the company that owns the Universal Studios theme park chains. In a business deal in 2006, the Disney company was able to reclaim the rights to Oswald by trading a sportscaster, among other assets.
10. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Fire
A few years ago, Disney developed the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride at the Magic Kingdom. It replaced the Snow White ride and filled the lagoon where the Journey Under the Sea ride once stood. Like many of its endeavors, Disney spared little expense in making the ride an immersive and enjoyable experience inside and outside. It is shaped like a mountain and is covered in foliage. The problem is that it sits in the park near the side where the fireworks are shot off. When a fire started on the side of the Mine Train mountain after a fireworks show, many speculated that it was caused by a rogue firework that landed on a tree. This made sense since the mountain did not have a sprinkler system on top of it. However, other reports showed that the ride experienced a series of mechanical and electrical failures that may have been the source of the fire.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean and Lost Fingers
Disney has had a series of incidents that can be attributed to a combination of dumb antics by riders and a failure to prepare for riders that don’t follow instructions. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is one of the earlier entries on that list. A rider ignored the instructions posted everywhere that said to keep your hands and arms inside the boat. Instead, he stuck his hand in the water not realizing that the dim lights and darkly tinted water cover the mechanical components of the ride. Since they are out of sight and mostly out of reach, there is little concern for rider safety in their design. This held true until a rider stuck his hand in the water and encountered a sharp piece of machinery that cut off part of his finger.
8. Space Mountain Decapitation
Space Mountain, one of the truest and best roller coasters in Disney World has had a long history of security problems involving riders that don’t listen. In this case, the blame is firmly on Disney as well for not designing better restraints. Space Mountain uses the lap bar system which can be effective on people of a certain size. In this case, a rider that was smaller than the restraints were built for squeezed out of the restraint while the car was moving. She stood up and was promptly decapitated when the car entered a tunnel. If Disney had used better restraints, this would have been avoided.
7. Disney’s National Elephant Center Lost All Their Elephants
Disney has maintained large animal collections for years. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they had two groups of elephants that they kept on display. When the elephant population grew and the elephant displays were downsized, one of the groups had to be moved out of the parks. Disney built a place for them to be kept like animals at a sanctuary, called the National Elephant Center. Unfortunately, the medical oversight of this group did not meet their needs. An illness took hold within the herd and led to the deaths of the entire group by the time it was diagnosed and could be treated. The center was later closed.
6. Death at the Race Track
If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom more than once over the past ten years, you’ll notice that the luxury racetrack, called the Walt Disney World Speedway, just outside of the front parking lot is gone. That’s because Disney had a major safety problem on the track. You used to be able to drive a range of race cars on that track. One of the driving instructors died when the driver he was teaching lost control of the car he was driving. Realizing that the racetrack was a major liability and security risk, it was immediately shut down. Several months later, it was demolished completely.
5. Frozen and the “Ghost of Maelstrom”
The new Frozen ride is a child favorite now, but it used to be an adult favorite when it was still Maelstrom. Maelstrom took you through a tour of Norway’s cultural heritage like many of the other country attractions do. Many, many people were upset to find out that it was being repurposed into a Frozen ride. Unfortunately (for Disney), Maelstrom may still be haunting its old house. Frozen experiences mechanical difficulties and shut downs at an alarmingly high rate. Many believe that reusing many of Maelstroms components was a mistake. Some say that it’s Maelstrom’s ghost getting even for its demise to the likes of Frozen.
4. Security Profiling
The last several years have been marked with events that made many places realize the need for tighter security. Before, it would have been unthinkable to have metal detectors at Disney World. Now, they are a permanent reality. The key to effective security is to apply the protocols to everyone equally. Disney missed the mark on security scanning with metal detectors. Instead of scanning everyone, the security guards profile people to send through the metal detectors. What’s worse is that they often profile the wrong group of people, a group that is one of the least likely to be involved in any form of violent and public acts of crime.
3. Transportation Shortages
Another major problem that Disney is working to change is its ability to handle its visitor traffic. There are times during the day where the amount of visitors can overwhelm the transportation systems. At the Magic Kingdom, this happens nearly every day at closing time. The lines for the ferry and the Monorails stretch almost back to the park entrance at times. Even though there are multiple modes of transportation out of the park, Disney cannot handle the number of people at one time. This creates a very dangerous situation where people are grouped together. There have been several events where people have gotten trampled under the crowds.
2. Bacteria in the Water
Bay Lake is the lake outside of the Magic Kingdom, in Disney’s Florida resort. When you ride the ferry from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Magic Kingdom, you’re sailing on Bay Lake. This is the same water that surrounds Disney’s abandoned animal-themed park called Discovery Island and that fed the abandoned water park called River Country. In the early 2000s, a naturally occurring bacteria found in Florida water caused illnesses and rumored deaths from those that swam in it. Now, Disney highly discourages anyone from spending time in the water, so make sure to heed the warning signs around the lake.
1. Not Enough Land in California
One of the first and most enduring mistakes that Walt Disney made is choosing the location of Disneyland. At the time, it seemed to be a perfect place for it given his resources and knowledge of theme parks. However, he chose a location that was bordered on all sides by other development projects. The parcel of land was too small for Disneyland’s continued development, but there is no more room for expansion. If Disney had picked a better location, Disneyland may have been significantly bigger than it is now. Fortunately for those living on the east coast, Disney looked for other plots of land for development when Disneyland hit capacity. Thanks to this mistake, Disney World was developed in Florida, where there is more than enough open space.
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