Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hidden Gems: Movie Props at Disneyland

Sometimes you'll be so immersed in a Disney ride, it can feel almost real -- like being inside a movie. A huge part of the experience is the intricate decorations by the Imagineers that make the setting feel as lifelike as possible, similar to how set designers and prop departments create visuals to help movies feel alive. Sometimes, the Imagineers take props from actual movies and use them in the rides; a tribute to classic films whose props couldn't find a home. Let's take a look at the movie props in Disneyland you've probably overlooked.

First off, is Pirates of the Caribbean. It figures that with such a successful movie franchise they'd be inclined to hide subtle homages to the beloved Disney ride. But no, instead they heavily altered the ride and made it center around the film's protagonist: Jack Sparrow. In the final scene of the ride, Jack Sparrow is rocking back and forth on an ornate chair, drunkenly singing the ride's theme song while celebrating his fortune. The chair was not actually used in any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, but rather the forgettable Haunted Mansion film adaptation with Eddie Murphy.

Earlier in the ride however, a prop from Pirates of the Caribbean actually does appear, in the famous treasure room. The Aztec treasure chest from PoTC: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

You can't ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad until much later this year, but this movie prop is still visible from outside the ride. Right around the corner from Fantasyland you can see an old steam engine on some spare track. As I've mentioned before, the tracks and tunnel are forgotten relics of the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland attraction that closed in 1977, but the train that currently occupies this area is a prop from the 1978 Disney film, Hot Lead and Cold Feet.

Seen on the left
This prop is from a timeless Disney classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That's right, it's the organ from The Haunted Mansion. Though the body of the instrument was screen-used, the pipes are original. Still, it's cool to see such an iconic movie prop being used before audiences once again.

Speaking of classic films, these last two are from the legendary Indiana Jones trilogy. The first is the Mercedes truck that sits outside the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. It's rumored to be the original used in filming, though I can't seem to find out if it's the real deal. If it is just a replica, then they did a great job making it look authentic-- the license plate number, the missing hood ornament, it all adds up.

*EDIT: Lucasfilm has officially confirmed that this truck is indeed the one used in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Some noteworthy details are the passenger side window that was smashed out by Indy, and the golf-ball topped antennae on the sides that were used as reference points for stuntmen.

And lastly, the mine cart outside the exit queue from Indiana Jones is from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It's not the one Indy rode in with Willie and Short Round in the famous scene, but it was supposedly used at some point during the underground scenes. Funny that Disney should acquire these Lucasfilm props before actually buying the studio many years later...


  1. Want to share a story with you...back in '83 I worked in the underground kitchen in New Orleans. I had to walk by all the entrances to certain parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Finally one day I was an "opener" and came very early one morning. I decided to go through one of the doors. The stairs took me down and I landed near the famous treasure room. The employee down there was so wonderful. He told me to climb around but not to touch anything. I went up the pirate on the treasure pile, the pirate on the bed and even looked through is magnify glass. All the boats were lined up so I had the chance to use them as I went through that part of the ride. It was an experience I'll always treasure!

    1. That's awesome. Very seldom do we get to see the rides up close and how much detail they put in.

    2. It was amazing. Once the elevator broke so we had to use the freight elevator to get the desserts to the Blue Bayou. As the boats go under the bridge just before the waterfall...the bridge is actually a walk way to the restaurant. I remember carrying trays of desserts over the bridge. We had to be careful that the people in the boats didn't see us. Of course they saw us as.

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