An all new episode of MisInfoNation! Passport pops on the mouse ears, grabs a camera, takes a deep breath and maybe a valium, and heads to that great, wondrous, awe-inspiring nation of Disney to find out what the appeal is for people of all ages.
The mission of MisInfoNation is to help us understand whether our ideas about a place are real or just Imagined. But what about a place that was built on imagination? A place that would be the most visited country on earth… if it was a country? This week, we’re finding out with a trip to Disney.
Disney’s films are burned into the memory of nearly every single person alive. It’s world is immense, unavoidable, unmatched and undeniable. But the parks… well the parks are the real country of Disney. Deep Disney. A place where you walk, ride, eat, and meet the locals.
This is no cartoon, this is a place where you will certainly need a map, a plan, a schedule and a guide. And this week, we’ve got a good one. A parks mega fan. A snappy dresser. A foodie and a theme park journalist and the host of her own Disney podcast, Very Amusing: the whip smart, bubbly fountain of Diz wisdom, Carlye Wisel.
On this episode of MisInfoNation, Carlye’s going to help us sort out what the world gets right about Walt Disney World (and Disneyland. And Epcot. And Tokyo Disney.) and what it gets wronger than Goofy leaning against a wall with his head off. What’s it like to live as a Citizen (AKA a cast member) of Disney? Is there such a thing as good food in a theme park? And does Disney really make its own… smells? And of course the most important question of all – we’re going to the happiest place on earth… to find out if it really is.
Plus, if you think food at a themeparks is all bland hotdogs and overpriced sodas, Caryle’s got some Saved Pins to prove you wrong.
MORE TO EXPLORE
- Listen to Carlye’s podcast, Very Amusing
- And find more of her insights and travel planning tips at her website, carlyewisel.com
5 Walt Disney World Restaurants that will change everything you think about theme park dining.
- WINE BAR GEORGE – Disney World
This is at Disney Springs, which is a free, no admission charge, outdoor mall dining district. Incredible food and wine. The food is fantastic, but they’re also known for very, very small pours of very, very high end wines. Carlye says: “So you can live like a fancy rich person. And even if you’re only drinking a little.”
- TAKUMI TEI – Epcot at Disney World
Carlye says “ As good, if not better than Japanese restaurants I’ve been to globally. It is incredible.” Tasting menus, high quality cuts, and a beautiful design. If sushi is your thing, head there on your next Disney World Trip!
- SKIPPER CANTEEN – Disney World
It is in the Magic Kingdom. This is where people are most likely to have their food goofs. This sit down restaurant has the best food options in the park. And she wasn’t kidding you can order a whole fried fish and it looks amazing.
- TIFFINS – Disney World
The fourth choice is at the animal kingdom. It’s the newest restaurant they have there and it comes with a sister bar next door called Nomad lounge with wonderful views. It’s very secluded and a really nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the park.
- KARAMELL-KUCHE – Epcot at Disney World
It’s in the Germany pavilion at Epcot and it is unbelievable caramel popcorn. Simple as that.
This episode of Passport was written, produced by Neill Innes and Andres Bartos.
Our theme music, as always, is by the cartoonish Nick Turner with additional music from Thirst Follow, Mega Chill, Alan Smithee, The Benign Ones, Vibrato Funny, and Ryan Vernon.
The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski.
Eliza Engel is our Production Assistant.
Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari and Avi Glijansky can ride roller coasters all day without a single protein spill… the also executive produce the show.
Which is hosted by Neil Innes and a man who makes any place he’s in the happiest place on earth, Andrés Bartos.
We’ll see you in the next place!
EPISODE 33 – TRANSCRIPT
CARLYE: Hi. It’s so nice to see a studio. It’s like, oh my gosh someone isn’t in their house. I’m so happy for you.
NEIL: We’re about 400 meters from home.
ANDRÉS: Yeah, it’s true.
CARLYE: But you’re in a different room, it counts
CARLYE: It counts.
NEIL: It’s starting to smell like our house though
[PASSPORT MAIN TITLE]
ANDRÉS: A destination isn’t always a place.
NEIL: Sometimes it’s a new way of seeing things.
I’m Neil Innes
ANDRÉS: And I’m Andrés Bartos.
NEIL: From Frequency Machine, this is Passport.
ANDRÉS: Your ticket to everywhere.
[END MAIN TITLE]
ANDRÉS: There are things we think we know about places. But history, prejudice, stereotypes, and the viral nature of 24 hour news and social media has made common knowledge about far away places even more twisted than ever.
NEIL: Today on Passport, we try and clear up some of the outright lies of an entire country by doing what we do best.
Having a chat with somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about.
ANDRÉS: So this week on MisInfoNation, we’re breaking the rules. We’re popping on the mouse ear, grabbing a camera, taking a deep breath and maybe a Valium, loading the kids into the car and heading to the most visited country on earth if it was a country.
NEIL: In 2019 156 million people visited Disney theme parks. To put that into perspective, France, an actual country, as the most visited had only 70 million tourists.
ANDRÉS: So today we’re going to that great, wondrous and inspiring nation of Walt to find out what the appeal is for people of all ages.
NEIL: Sure, it all started with a mouse, but it has grown into one of the biggest properties on the planet. It owns ESPN, ABC, lifetime, history, A & E, FX, Marvel, LucasFilm and Pixar to name but a few. In 2019 Disney recorded a record breaking yearly revenue of almost $69 billion.
ANDRÉS: It’s films are burned into the childhood memory of nearly every single person alive.
Disney’s immense, unavoidable, unmatched, and undeniable in its ability to fire up the imagination of anyone it touches.
NEIL: But the parks. Well, the parks are the real country of Disney, deep Disney, a place where you can walk, ride, eat, and meet the locals.
ANDRÉS: This is no cartoon. This is a place where you will certainly need a map, a plan, a schedule, and a guide.
And today we got a good one.
NEIL: A parks mega fan, a snappy dresser, a foodie, and a theme park journalist. Yep. It’s a thing. She’s even the host of her own podcast, Fairly Amusing. With us today is the whip smart, bubbly fountain of dis-wisdom, Carlye Wisel.
NEIL: We’ve had a crazy week.
CARLYE: What do you mean?
NEIL: We’ve been researching aboriginal astronomy, afrofuturism and science-fiction Trump, Trump Biden, Trump Biden, Trump Biden, Trump Biden, and then Disney.
CARLYE: Yeah, I hope this was at least like a bit of joy in all of the work.
ANDRÉS: Yeah. It was definitely a different world for us to go into.
CARLYE: Yeah, sounds like it.
NEIL: Today, we’re diving right into the happiest place on earth to find out if that’s what it really is. But first, like always, what does Carlye think we’re interested in? You live inside this world more so than most. What do you think we’re going to ask you about today?
CARLYE: Oh my gosh. Okay. The basic rundown is like, what’s the deal with adults who love Disney?
That’s like a big fascination for people.
CARLYE: People are always morbidly curious about people who die at the parks. Or like things that go wrong, like kind of like, like the bad stuff.
ANDRÉS: The darker side of Disney.
CARLYE: Oh, big time. They’re like, this is a wholesome family brand, tell me everything that pushes against that.
NEIL: I want to make it fun.
CARLYE: It will be. I mean, it, by default it will be,
ANDRÉS: Of course it’s going to be fun, but as we’re not theme park people, we were a little nervous about this one. I mean, excited nervous, because Disney, it’s not even a real place, is it?
CARLYE: Yeah, it’s not a real place, but it kind of is, like it’s so big that it becomes its own type of territory.
NEIL: I mean, we just found out today that Disney World is bigger than Barcelona.
ANDRÉS: Yeah, bigger than the city we’re in right now.
CARLYE: I believe it. It’s huge. It’s like 40 square miles, I believe. It’s gigantic.
NEIL: Carlye’s show, her writing, her Instagram and everything she seems to touch feels, reads and looks like a bedroom stuffed with Disney characters has always been her backdrop.
But as with most of our MisInfoNation guests, we got Carlye all wrong.
ANDRÉS: Did you go to like Disney when you were a kid?
CARLYE: I went a few times when I was younger, but for me, this whole bizarre, unexpected Disney journey began when I went for my bachelorette party, which you would probably ask, why is someone who isn’t a Disney fan going there for their pre-wedding celebration.
I don’t know. It’s just, it happened, it was very cold in the other cities I wanted to visit. So I wound up there with all of my best friends and I left being like, I need to know everything. I need to know every single thing about this bizarre place. Because I had never been as an adult and it’s such a different experience.
So after that I like just was fully all in.
NEIL: Was it a joke? Like, was it like a, I know it will be funny. Like, we’ll take Carlye to Orlando, just like drunk looking for strippers.
CARLYE: It like weirdly, it was so sincere and looking back on it, it’s like, how did… if I didn’t go on that, like what would my job be right now?
Literally, what would I be doing with my life?
NEIL: And you just never left.
ANDRÉS: Five minutes in and she had already charmed us. I mean, what can we say? The people of Disney are definitely charismatic characters. But still, there is something incredibly odd about adult Disney fans. I mean, what is it like living in Disney as a grownup?
CARLYE: There are a lot of adult Disney fans and they get a lot of crap about it, like the stigma of an adult who enjoys Disney for themselves and not for kids is very negative usually.
So I always like to say that I feel like adults who are into Disney have tapped into something about themselves that other adults haven’t, like a way to still have fun and be happy in that sort of carefree gleeful way, even though your life has kind of evolved past it.
Because adulthood is not very joyful most of the time, you’re just like, oh, bills. But it’s like, it’s like a fun way to kind of channel that childish energy you still have inside. But there is a whole group of reporters and like, like the Disney adult community, there’s all different types of people in it.
Some people are very serious about it. Some people like me are like more lighthearted. It’s just basically like a high school. You have, like, I mean, I guess we don’t have any jocks. But, but we have like a bunch of different types of people who appreciate it from different points of view.
ANDRÉS: I like this idea of like
NEIL: I love the idea of the Disney jock.
ANDRÉS: I was, I was liking the idea of the hard nose, jaded journalist that’s seen it all.
CARLYE: There are plenty because I’m new to it. I’ve only been reporting on this for about six years now, but there are people who’ve been doing it for 20 years. When you like track Disney, Walt Disney World through the internet as far back as you can go, they have blog posts and trip reports from like 20 years ago.
NEIL: Disney patriots, the Disney breakfast club without the jocks, of course, cliques and groups. Even for two of the uninitiated, like me and Dre, Disney weirdly started to feel like its own country with its own rules, traditions, and culture.
Case in point, the parks are discussed, reported on and scrutinized by fans and detractors almost as much as any country on the planet.
There are like hundreds of Disney podcasts.
CARLYE: Oh my God. It’s so funny because I had the same reaction when I first discovered that exact thing. I, it was when I was, I will never forget it.
We were in the car at that bachelorette party. And my friend was like, I downloaded a bunch of these podcasts. And I was like, what are you talking about? Like, there’s people that are just like gossiping about Mickey Mouse? This can’t be real. Cut to me having my own. But that’s a different story.
ANDRÉS: With Disney as a country in mind, by that rationale, arriving late in her life, does that make Carlye an immigrant?
CARLYE: Oh, yeah, I, it’s kind of like, it’s like, it’s like if an American moves to Paris and is like, this is fun. Like I’m going to lead food tours where you do a cheese tasting in the park. Like that’s kind of what I am, except that like, because it comes from a journalism background where, you know, you’re supposed to kind of dive into a story and learn everything you can, it, it has turned me into this weird sort of expert because I dove in for stories and never came up for air essentially.
NEIL: Here on MisInfoNation, we pride ourselves in asking the stupid questions. We want to tell the often told stories and get to the bottom of things so that nobody ever has to ask them again. So let’s get to a big one.
ANDRÉS: Walt Disney, the creator of all this happiness died on the 15th of December, 1966. And apparently according to legend myth, whatever, the last words he wrote on a piece of paper scribbled on a notepad on his desk were Kurt Russell.
CARLYE: Yes. Uh, as far as, as far as I, as far as I know. The thing is like, there’s a lot of things attributed to Walt Disney that all of us make fun of, like the fans laugh about the fact that a lot of those phrases, like, I don’t know, like it all started with a mouse or like live it, dream it, do it. Like those types of phrases are constantly attributed to Walt Disney, but all of them aren’t necessarily his. The Kurt Russell thing I believe is true.
NEIL: It is true. The great Kurt Russell at the time was a child star actor at Disney. Walt just liked him.
NEIL: There’s a myth here in Spain where we make the show that Walt Disney is Spanish. Yeah, I know. But there’s a small town in the south of the country, which mysteriously claims Walt Disney as a Spanish son. Maybe Carlye would know.
CARLYE: So this is real funny because I’m from Chicago and in Chicago, there is a place called the, I believe it’s the Walt Disney birthplace museum.
CARLYE: So this smells like a controversy to me, because I know there’s this place in Chicago. They’re like, we got it, he’s from here. And he has like very distinct Midwestern roots, but what’s the deal with him supposedly being Spanish?
ANDRÉS: Well Spain generally tries to take credit for stuff like discovering America, but I’ll just read you…
So this is an article from The Guardian. The subheading reads in 1940, two suspected FBI agents turned up at a seaside resort in Southern Spain looking for a birth certificate. Could this document have held a secret Walt Disney was desperate to hide? That he was the illegitimate son of a Spanish noble and a washer woman?
As Disney celebrates its founders’ centenary, Giles Tremlett visits Mojacar, the town that believes Uncle Walt really is one of the family. And if you go there, they will try to convince you.
NEIL: Posters, paintings, pictures, characters, like they’re really hanging on to it.
CARLYE: You can’t do that! He’s like the most American thing we have.
ANDRÉS: I know.
CARLYE: I’m looking up the birthplace museum to see if their bio says anything like, he was not born in Spain or anything specific. How dare they come for my hometown boy!
ANDRÉS: Now you know how South America feels.
ANDRÉS:Oh, Carlye, if you go to Mojacar please tell us, we want to be there.
NEIL: Just you and a map of Chicago.
ANDRÉS: All of you people, you’re wrong.
NEIL: This is fun.
ANDRÉS: So the mayor of Mojacar in the fifties used to spread this urban legend. I guess he wasn’t expecting the CIA to turn up. The story goes that Walt’s name was actually Jose Guirao, son of a man with the same name and a local beauty, one Isabelle Zamora Ascensio.
NEIL: So Jose senior died when Jose Jr or Walt was an infant. Isabelle fled with the baby to Kansas then Chicago. It seems ironically though, that this is all an elaborate fairytale.
ANDRÉS: Though the myths of Disney’s birth are little known, the myths of his death, or rather where he is being dead have dominated what you think of Uncle Walt.
To most people while Disney is not dead at all.
He’s merely frozen ahead in a jar, waiting for the technology to bring him back to life.
CARLYE: Okay. So my expertise in theme parks sadly does not reach to understanding cryogenic freezing. However, I would love to believe it.
CARLYE: I want this to be true so much that I believe it to be true.
ANDRÉS: You heard it hear first folks.
NEIL: You heard it here first. Expect Walt Disney, as soon as Elon Musk gets his shit together.
CARLYE: I think people are often not thinking this through because let’s say his head is in a jar somewhere very cold, and then they can bring him back to life on someone else’s body. Cause he had lung cancer. So his body is toast. So they put this Walt Disney head on another body.
He’s immediately going to start chain smoking because that’s how things work and he’s going to be like, get me my female secretaries and you’re gonna be like, oh wait, a lot has changed.
If they bring him back to Walt Disney Imagineering and they’re like, create a ride for us, Uncle Walk, and he would just make a bunch of stinker rides and they’d be like, why did we reanimate him anyway?
NEIL: I love the idea of him just like, just destroying everybody that they gave it.
ANDRÉS: And also just getting fired from the actual Disney company, being like these ideas that you’re bringing to us Walt,
NEIL: Slapping women on the bum, just like being horrendous.
So we riffed an unwoke woke Walt for quite a while, but we’ll spare you the discourse. Onwards, because Disney for most is movies. And we had a couple of things we wanted to get straight.
I’m just very curious, because both of these things make perfect sense. The face of Aladdin was modeled on Tom Cruise and his pants were modeled on MC Hammer.
CARLYE: I’ve never heard that, but I’m going to choose to believe it.
NEIL: Did we win?
ANDRÉS: I don’t know.
NEIL: It’s a very small victory.
ANDRÉS: It’s definitely more fun.
CARLYE: I mean, if I am allowed to phone a friend, I can text someone who will definitively know the answer.
ANDRÉS: Oh let’s do it.
NEIL: And we can come back to it.
CARLYE: Okay. I’m going to text, so this is my friend Drew, who ironically, he is my go-to Disney animation guy. He knows everything about animation, but he also hosts a mission impossible podcast.
So if anyone knows, Drew would know.
ANDRÉS: So while Carlye phoned a friend, we hit her with one more totally insane maybe fact.
Can I ask this one?
ANDRÉS: Disney, the company, was sued for the deformation of hyenas in The Lion King. A biologist was upset at how they depicted hyenas. Not only like physically, but also their character.
NEIL: Their personalities. .
NEIL: He’s like, they’re…
ANDRÉS: they’re not that bad.
NEIL: This is bad for hyenas and he tried to sue them.
NEIL: I think he was successful.
ANDRÉS: I’m going to call MisInfoNation on that.
NEIL: Let’s ask Drew.
ANDRÉS: Wait, wait, I know a hyena specialist.
NEIL: It’s true, apparently. Disney versus the society for the preservation of hyenas. I’m pretty sure how that would’ve gone in court. I love the hyenas in The Lion King, but that’s just me.
[Incoming text message alert]
NEIL: Hang on a second.
CARLYE: Oh, I have an answer for you.
NEIL & ANDRÉS: Tom Cruise.
CARLYE: So this is from Drew Taylor who knows everything about Disney animation.
He says, yes, it was based on Tom Cruise and also his hair.
NEIL & ANDRÉS: Ohhhh
ANDRÉS: Which Tom Cruise haircut?
NEIL: Tom Cruise Days of Thunder hair.
CARLYE: So did you know that they balanced his haircut for Mission Impossible based on what his physique has to be for the film?
ANDRÉS: How does it, what does that even mean?
CARLYE: It’s like, because sometimes he has to be like a little bulkier for certain stunts, I believe, things like that. And then they, once they know what his physique will be, they balance if he’s going to be a short haircut or a longer haircut.
ANDRÉS: Oh, wow.
NEIL: That’s and that’s just one team of people
ANDRÉS: We should do, uh, maybe we could get Drew on to do a MisInfoNation Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise as a country.
ANDRÉS: The network of friends that Carlye has in her country suddenly to us feels connected, strong, opinionated and friendly. There’s a camaraderie within the walls of this happiest place on earth.
NEIL: Within the parks, there are all kinds of clubs, special passes, wristbands. Plus the booking systems, the fast passes, the image of the sheer numbers of people waiting for a few minutes on a ride for hours and hours and hours.
Disney, like any actual country, seems intimidating. It’s mind-bending complicated and with a family, surely it’s a logistical nightmare.
CARLYE: Yes, I would liken it to, so when I visited China, it’s like a whole visa process and you have to like, figure it out. You have to go to a place, you have to get a thing, you have to have the right passport, you have to like have all these things… and Disney world is kind of the same way where you have to have all your ducks in a row. Otherwise, you’re going to get there and it’s not going to go well.
ANDRÉS: So going to the parks is daunting. You spend hours waiting for a photo op with Elsa, with your kid who knows every single word of Frozen, only to walk out of the park eight hours later as a shell of the parent you once were.
But what about the people who work there? What about the residents of Disney?
NEIL: If Disney was a country, would it beat out Finland as the happiest place on earth?
ANDRÉS: Ooh, nice question.
CARLYE: Okay, so…
NEIL: Your face is amazing right now.
CARLYE: Okay, so we’re gonna go with, no, it will not. If you are visiting, absolutely, like definitely the happiest, most magical place on earth. But the truth is a lot of people power Walt Disney World.
It’s tens of thousands of people and people who work there are, some of them are having a really hard time. You’re on, like you’re on stage, that’s what they call it. It’s that you are expected to kind of play a role, but at the end of the day, like if you compare happiness factors of Finland being like leisure time and anything in America, like we’re not going to win. You’re going to lose it.
It’s like any chance we had at beating Finland is gone.
NEIL: For me and Andrés, the most fascinating people in the land of Dis are the ones who go there day in and day out to work. We wanted to know about the people behind the curtain, the people on stage as they call it. There are a multitude of rules if you want to make it as a cast member.
ANDRÉS: Disney characters at the parks are fired if they remove their heads.
CARLYE: Uh, yeah, I mean, I don’t have like, I mean, I can’t like point to an employee company agreement that says that. But character integrity is very, very important to the Walt Disney company. That’s like a phrase that they use.
You’re not going to have Mickey Mouse knowing how to do a famous TikToK dance in the world of Mickey Mouse. So you just really don’t want that to happen.
ANDRÉS: Wearing a duck head and working is one thing. But what about the face characters? You know, the people that don’t wear masks, how does that work in the DisBiz?
CARLYE: They’re called face characters.
That’s like a Cinderella, a Mary Poppins, where you can see a human face and, uh, not like a head instead of their face. So I’ll go and they’ll have a whole conversation with you in canon of say, Frozen. And you’re like, yeah, like I love your powers. And then they just keep going. They just keep going and going and going.
And they, they can live within the world of their character and I’ve had improv training and I’m still like, I gotta get out of here.
NEIL: So Disney is frantic, pricey, mainstream, ubiquitous, but it’s also mysterious. We hit Carlye with some of the stranger parts of the park, including an elite members club, hidden, filled with booze, great food, a decadent oasis in the middle of a frenetic wonderland. It’s called Club 33. But what is it?
ANDRÉS: Club 33. What is it and have you been there?
CARLYE: I have. Club 33 originated at Disneyland park in California. It was essentially intended at first for companies, corporate sponsors, things like that because Walt really needed that money to make the park happen.
CARLYE: But having Club 33 was like a place for them to socialize and things because there wasn’t alcohol served in the park. Over time, it has evolved to this private member’s club that essentially serves as a sit down multi-course restaurant. And to have a reservation, you either need to be a member or you need to have had a member make a reservation for you.
And then attached to that is a bar that is members only. Great cocktails, it’s fantastic. They have like fancy like ice cube machines and they now have one in each of the four theme parks. It’s very, very hidden, but the Walt Disney World one, a lot of people still don’t even know it exists because they’re just kind of hidden.
NEIL: The original skeletons inside the Pirates of the Caribbean were real.
CARLYE: Okay. So, uh, this is like a much discussed thing to this day. I don’t know either way. I can phone a friend who is like Pirates of the Caribbean guy.
ANDRÉS: You have amazing connections.
ANDRÉS: Babies that are born at Disney are given a lifetime pass to the park.
CARLYE: Born at Disney? I don’t believe babies would be born at Disney.
NEIL: As far as we can find out. 1979, there was a baby born on a bench outside the entrance. They visited the baby, Goofy and Donald went to the hospital and they gave her a Walt Disney birth certificate.
CARLYE: The Disney PR approach has changed very much in the past 40 or so years. Um, because that, that would no…
NEIL: Well, they had to stop it real quick because people got word that if you were born there, you got a free pass. So there are stories, I’ve found a couple of women in labor in the car on the way…
CARLYE: I mean, doesn’t that, okay, to bring it full circle, doesn’t that kind of make it its own country because you’re like trying to give birth there to be like, they made it in, they’re a citizen.
ANDRÉS: That’s it. It’s Disney anchor babies basically.
NEIL: Disney anchor babies.
ANDRÉS: This is what we’re talking about.
ANDRÉS: As happy and magical as it seems, to the outside world Disney does have it’s secrets, it’s darkness, it’s horror. Oh, dammit.
[Incoming text message]
CARLYE: Oh, I have an answer about, about the skull.
ANDRÉS: Pirates of the Caribbean, right?
CARLYE: Yes. It’s back to Pirates of the Caribbean wondering if there is an actual skull on the ride. This is from my friend Todd Martins, who works at the Los Angeles Times.
He writes a lot about Disney, but is also the biggest Pirates of the Caribbean fan that I know.
CARLYE: And he said, he mentioned it was a longstanding myth and Disney doesn’t really comment about it because things in the sixties were much different than they are now. The chances of it being real are slim, but likely none.
And I guess he mentioned that people have, uh, called upon evidence that they worked with UCLA. And if they were real, it was probably, this is me talking now, Todd time, but if they were real it was probably originally and no longer.
NEIL: The more and more we talk about it, it does feel like a country
ANDRÉS: I’m having a weird MisInfoNation moment, which I didn’t think we were going to have, where I’m suddenly like seeing the complexity that I have never thought of.
CARLYE: Oh yeah. And you have to keep in mind, like my social circle when I’m talking about Disney Twitter, is people who write about Disney and people who are vaguely 20 to upper 30s, who are on Twitter all day.
So you have like this tiny hole and then there’s so many other groups, there’s people who, uh, there’s, like message boards is a huge part of it. There’s this thing called Disboards, which was started by the Dis, who were one of the few like original, main Disney websites. There are people who are messaging on those message boards all day and like it’s 2020, and they are in message boards all day. It’s, it’s a lot.
It’s a huge online community of, I guess expats in a way, because not all of us are Floridian, but we’re still like mentally, socially, electronically involved in the goings on of Walt Disney World every single day.
NEIL: The goings on at Disney every single day have been looked at and reported on for nearly 70 years.
Everything there in the parks is taken care of with an incredible attention to detail, and it has nurtured a fan base beyond the norm and a global one too.
ANDRÉS: Nostalgia and images which Disney has in spades is one thing. But what about smells? The most powerful memory sense. Turns out Disney has a handle on that too.
NEIL: Do you know what the Smellitizers are?
CARLYE: I assume those are the crystals that they use for scents in the ride. Is that the brand name?
ANDRÉS: Oh, wow.
ANDRÉS: Look at her.
NEIL: They’re real?
CARLYE: Oh they’re real. I’ve seen them.
NEIL: Wood and saltwater scent is pumped into the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. There are more too, many more. They’re funneled in all over the parks and they’re all named.
Polynesian paradise, haunted, roam burning, flying over orange groves, bakery, wilderness, campground, banshee flight, contemporary, popcorn stand and many, many more.
CARLYE: All of those are so popular that there are many, I’m not exaggerating, many candle companies that recreate those scents and sell them as like this scent or that scent.
CARLYE: I have… oh, it just moved it. I have, I had one of my desk that was like spaceship earth. And it’s a candle that smells like the interior of a ride. Oh, here it is, I want to show you.
ANDRÉS: Oh, she found it. There it is, spaceship earth.
CARLYE: And then this cool one has a little 3D print of the attraction.
ANDRÉS: It’s actually super cool. It looks spacey, the font has a kind of like spaceship vibe going and it looks like it has a little like spaceship inside.
CARLYE: Yup. So it smells like a scene, it smells like the scene of the ride that smells like fire.
NEIL: Imprinted on people’s brains, the images of Disney films imprinted on your brains from when you’re a kid. Now they’re doing it with smells.
ANDRÉS: Essence of flaming spaceship. I love that smell.
NEIL: After the break staff rules and Dis lingo. Disney’s army of cats and a few of Carlye’s visiting hacks. Stay happy, we’ll be right back.
ANDRÉS: Can you tell us something about Disneyland’s army of cats?
CARLYE: Yeah. Uh, it’s real.
CARLYE: Um, there are cats all over the place and I’ve really only seen them come out at night, but it’s very fun when you go to, there is a Tiki bar outside of the park. It’s called Trader Sam’s. It’s at the Disneyland hotel. And if you’re just like hanging out with friends, drinking a drink and you’re like, you know, you’re not all there. And like, you’ll just see something move and you’ll go, that can’t be real. And it’ll just be a cat.
ANDRÉS: Vaccinated, neutered…
NEIL: Well taken care of and then if there is like a stray litter, they get given first choice to Disney employees to take home, to take care of.
ANDRÉS: It’s true. There are more than 200 stray cats at Disneyland alone.
And if you work there and you want one, Uncle Walt has invited you to take one home.
NEIL: But if you do work there, the perk of having a ragged one eyed, bed peeing, mangy pussy cat at home might seem small compensation for what they really put the staff through.
ANDRÉS: Employees have secret codes. So, uh, slang or secret code that all cast members know?
CARLYE: I would probably confirm.
ANDRÉS: Let’s see if you’ve heard any of these
ANDRÉS: White powder alert.
CARLYE: Yeah. That’s for spreading ashes
ANDRÉS: Ding, ding, ding, ding. First guess. People bring like an urn.
ANDRÉS: With the remains of a loved one
NEIL: Aunt Sally who really dug Pirates of the Caribbean.
ANDRÉS: Yeah. And they want, they want to put them in Pirates of the Caribbean
CARLYE: Yeah, it happens.
NEIL: Code V or protein spill
ANDRÉS: Protein spill
CARLYE: Oh, protein spill is puking.
ANDRÉS: I’m friends with Mickey.
CARLYE: So when you’re friends with a character that is the best way to publicly discuss someone who portrays that character in the parks.
CARLYE: And it’s, I do it in my personal life, just because I’m often around other people’s kids at these parks. And I’m very cognizant, like I talk differently in the parks.
I usually in real life swear a lot. So I’m very careful when I’m in the parks and uh, cause you don’t wanna, you don’t want to spoil the magic for them. So it’ll be like, oh yeah, I’m a friend of Cinderella’s or I’m friends with goofy.
NEIL: Aw. Has anyone, the Disney parks, ever told you to have a Disney day?
CARLYE: I’ve never heard have a Disney day.
NEIL: Ah, that means you’re an incredibly lovely person, obviously, because it sometimes has been used, um, as kind of a jibe. You’re really annoying me right now, but I cannot tell you.
ANDRÉS: She’s naughty
CARLYE: That sounds, I can imagine someone just getting ripped into a guest services. Just being like, have a Disney day!
NEIL: The rules at Disney as a cast member specifically seem hard. So let’s get into what it’s like to pull on an oversized head and work there. The worker’s rule book is a minefield. So here we go.
NEIL: No tattoos.
CARLYE: I believe the actual rule is no visible tattoos. So sometimes if someone has like a sleeve or something like that, they’ll wear like a spandex, I guess is maybe the best material. They’ll wear like a covering.
ANDRÉS: You cannot see any characters eating, like you
CARLYE: Never, never, never, never.
CARLYE: Yeah, you won’t see like goofy leaning against the wall, eating spaghetti like that’s just
NEIL: Never allowed to say I don’t know. They have to know everything or know somebody who does.
CARLYE: Okay, yes. And imagine what it’s like when your whole profession is to ask questions. So you get answers where you’re like, that’s not, I didn’t… You can just tell me it’s okay if you don’t know, it’s fine. But yeah, to the point where like that is such a global rule that I went to the park in Tokyo, where a lot of the employees don’t speak English, and I had a question and they went from person to person, to person, to person to find someone who speaks English so that they can answer my question.
ANDRÉS: That’s amazing.
NEIL: Anything that exists outside of Disney to the character they are playing does not exist.
NEIL: Hey, goofy, did Biden take Pennsylvania? And he’s like, I’ll just find someone who does know.
ANDRÉS: That’s an amazing goofy.
ANDRÉS: Men and women have regulated hair cuts.
CARLYE: Yes. And the restrictions have changed a bit, but there, um, there are restrictions.
ANDRÉS: You have to point with two fingers.
CARLYE: There’s a bunch of different schools of thought about this. One of them is that it’s rude to point with one finger and it’s more like socially acceptable to point with two. The other funnier one, which I just choose to believe is true is that Walt, when he was at the park was always holding a cigarette.
So that’s why he points with two fingers
ANDRÉS: That makes so much sense.
ANDRÉS: Is it true that Disney employees have Disney issued underwear?
CARLYE: Oh, I don’t know.
ANDRÉS: For whatever, for hygiene reasons, you know,
NEIL: inside the suits
ANDRÉS: inside the suits, gets hot, I don’t know.
CARLYE: I’m gonna find out.
ANDRÉS: You have a go-to person. Amazing.
NEIL: This is going to be a great come back.
ANDRÉS: I can’t wait for this one.
So again, while we wait on Carlye’s friend, one of the biggest surprises from breezing through some of Carlye’s reporting on the parks is her photos of world-class food.
NEIL: The food at the parks is terrible
CARLYE: False. As false as it can be. Also, how dare you? Um, this, like, this is why I emphasize planning so much because that sentence would be absolutely true if you don’t know what you’re doing.
CARLYE: You can eat a bunch of very mediocre hotdogs and sad, tiny, personal pizzas. But If you plan ahead and you know what you’re doing, there are incredibly good restaurants there. The culinary scene, especially, I mean, at both of them, because Disneyland is smaller so they’re able to roll out more special dishes and things like that. But at Disney World, they take, they take food very, very, very, very, very seriously.
There are high-end restaurants. They have a huge sommelier program. They have like, there’s like a huge emphasis on sourcing wines and beers and like, there’s so much good food that people don’t really notice and I’ve covered the parks and the food angles so many times. And every time it’s like they’re sourcing their work, like the culinary education, the emphasis on wine, everything, if you know what you’re doing, is exceptional.
ANDRÉS: At Disneyland, sure, there’s corn dogs and popcorn, but there’s also amazing looking sourdough loaves, artisan breweries, lobster nachos, handmade ice cream, killer looking pizzas, beignets, fried chicken, and crazy, crazy fine dining.
NEIL: Disney world has a $180 nine coarse sushi menu at Takumi Tei. Or you could head to Victoria and Albert to wax a couple of benjamins on a pretty fancy dinner jacket only atmosphere, which does not allow children under 10.
But Disney’s diamond in the food crown is 21 Royal. 21 Royal at Disneyland commands a $15,000 price tag for a table. That’s $1,250 per person. There’s a gin fizz named for Walt’s wife, Lillian, $400 bottles of Vino from the Napa Valley, dishes like a cetera caviar, sea urchin soup and bison tenderloin.
ANDRÉS: So the food at Disney is certainly not lacking in quality.
Like in most countries, you have to know where to find it.
[Incoming text message]
CARLYE: Oh, I have an answer for you.
ANDRÉS: Oh, about the underwear?
CARLYE: I believe no. So I was going to say no. I asked someone who could answer me for costumed characters.
CARLYE: So for regular people, I generally just say no, but for costume characters, they will get, um, like a layer to where. So it’ll be like, uh, like, uh, like a t-shirt and shorts or like a top and leggings, things like that.
Like just a layer, but they’re not, they’re not out here being like, here are briefs.
ANDRÉS: Makes sense.
NEIL: No underwear sharing
ANDRÉS: While there was a part of both of us that felt like a week at Disney might have been akin to a psycho kaleidoscopic sing along merry go round, hell on earth, the food and the spirit of the place had us. The weirdness of it had us.
NEIL: So if we were going to go, a couple of Disney newbies, what should we do?
CARLYE: Okay. Plan everything in advance, very advanced. Um, until recently, until the pandemic, you had to book dining reservations 180 days in advance. So this isn’t like a check a few Instagram locations, bookmarks and cool stuff, see how it goes. Like you need to be planning this like you would plan for a child college tuition, essentially.
CARLYE: I would also recommend spreading your trip out over more days. It can be very, very stressful to try to see everything within, with one day per park. It can, it can add up to a lot. So if you can do a longer trip, six days, seven days, take a break in between, kind of be able to still schedule in time to relax, because if you don’t, you will just go, go, go until you fall over.
And I would also recommend, regardless of where you stay, to consider spending time and having a meal at one of the hotels, even if it’s not one you’re at, because it’s a theme park resort, the hotels are also themed. And so there’s a lot of really cool experiences at the different hotels that you wouldn’t see otherwise, if you never went.
ANDRÉS: What does it feel like hearing these kind of myths or legends or misconceptions? How do you feel about it? How do you deal with that?
CARLYE: It’s funny because this, this type of stuff and the reason why some of these answers I’ve just been bumbling about is because this is not part of the normal lexicon for someone who loves Disney.
These are the conversations that are really happening outside of the fandom. That’s the type of stuff that we’re like, oh, we don’t even mess with that. Like, there’s so much interesting stuff happening within our world that we’re not even, like the lore we just breeze on by. So it’s interesting to be like, oh people are still talking about these things that we thought were just on Buzzfeed six years ago and have kind of subsided. Like there’s still things that people are curious about.
NEIL: That’s really cool. Like, so like as a country, everyone’s still thinking the same thing about you, but you’re just, you’ve gone past it like a long time ago.
CARLYE: If there’s something that happened two weeks ago, it’s old news for us.
NEIL: It’s cause it’s exactly what we find on the show. Just the whole of MisInfoNation usually ends with us like going, oh, damn, okay.
ANDRÉS: So it’s true. As it is for most countries, the people who live there, they don’t see the lore, they don’t see the strangeness. They see it as their own culture, their own lifestyle. The team here counted that the googling people of the world sit right in the middle of fact and fabrication when it comes to Disney. Based on the questions we pitched at Carlye, we landed right on 50% correct.
NEIL: As is always the case in MisInfoNation, me and Andres realized that Disney is both exactly what we thought it would be, but also nothing like we had expected. It’s a yes and no, it’s 50 50. That’s a result that can only come from a basis of law and fantasy to begin with. This bonkers tight-knit community, who can still connect to being young in a way that most cynical adults can’t, felt giddy, fun and compelling.
And to be honest, in 2020, a necessary blast of joyous, fresh air that smelled a little bit like spaceship earth.
ANDRÉS: So what’s important to Disney people, Disney nationals, or as Carlye puts it ex-pats, well, it’s not exactly what we would assume it would be, but we got the feeling that Disney adults are as unashamed about their love for the happiest place on earth as any kid would be.
NEIL: Are you proud of being a Disneyite?
ANDRÉS: A Disneyite?
CARLYE: Big time. And especially because I have crossed over the threshold, I used to be on the outside and now I’m on the inside. And I have friends who are also obsessed with it and who work there and who know things and who report on it. And it’s, it’s great. I didn’t know what I was missing.
I have so much pride. I have a section of my closet that’s all my Disney clothes. Like it’s a lifestyle when you’re a fan of it. You really become a citizen, I guess. So, yeah, I’m very proud.
NEIL: Do you ever just, do you ever just say to your husband, like, hey, I’m, I’m going home for the weekend and then you just go to Disney.
CARLYE: It’s funny you say that because I don’t think I mentioned this. They say welcome home whenever you arrive. Like that, that’s the nomenclature. Like, that’s what they say. For a lot of people, even though they don’t live at Disney, it is their like emotional home.
NEIL: So as always, we asked our guest to give us her favorite Disney places and seeing as it’s kind of her speciality, we thought food in the parks might be a good starting point. But the pro that she is, Carlye just launched straight into them.
So here they are just for you, from her. The best places to eat at Disney.
CARLYE: Okay. Um, number one spot, which is actually not at the park. It’s at Disney Springs, which is their like free, no admission charge, outdoor mall, dining district. They have this restaurant called Wine Bar George and it’s run by this guy, George Miliotes, who used to be the, I believe the master sommelier at one of the restaurants.
And it is incredible. They, I don’t even like wine and it’s my favorite restaurant, but what they’re, the food is fantastic, but they’re also known for very, very small pours of very, very high-end wines. So you can live like a fancy rich person even if you’re only drinking a little.
So that’s my favorite.
My second favorite currently closed, but incredible, Takumi Tei. It’s that high end Japanese restaurant. It is as good, if not better than Japanese restaurants I’ve been to globally. It is incredible.
Three is Skipper Canteen. It is in the magic kingdom. It’s where they sell that fried fish I mentioned and, uh, magic kingdom, you know, like Cinderella castle, we’re talking like the nuts and bolts of a theme park. That’s where you’re going to have all your food goofs. Like you’re going to eat a bunch of stuff and be like, I had corn dog nuggets all day, like who says the food is good.
Um, that sit down restaurant has the best food options of that park. And you can, I wasn’t kidding get a whole fried fish, which is wild.
The only other place that they really do that is at Tiffins, which is the fourth choice at animal kingdom. And that’s the, it’s the newest restaurant they have there. And they have an adjoining bar called Nomad Lounge. And it is like, it has like a wonderful views. It’s very secluded and it’s a really nice place to get away from like the hustle and bustle.
And then the fifth place. Oh my God. I’m going to say a popcorn cart. I don’t care. I love the theme park popcorn. Oh, I guess there’s some really good caramel corn at this store called, uh, Karamell Kuche, I don’t know how to pronounce it. It’s in the Germany pavilion at Epcot and it is unbelievable caramel corn. So regular popcorn at a stand or caramel corn there. That park knows popcorn.
NEIL: So that’s it for this week, guys. We’ll see you next week here in Barcelona for a Catalan Christmas special, a look at our hometown, a town where Santa Claus doesn’t exist, but what does is much weirder.
ANDRÉS: In the meantime, as always, you can follow us on all social media at passportpod and at passportpodcast on Instagram.
Go to frequencymachine.com for more info on shows and on us. We’ll see you next week in the next place, which is our place, it’s our home, it’s here. So you’re coming home for Christmas.
NEIL: This episode of Passport was written and produced by myself and Andres Bartos.
Huge thanks to Carlye Wisel for talking with us. Check her out at Carlye Wisel and listen to her podcast, Fairly Amusing, anywhere you get your shows.
Our theme music as always is by the cartoonish Nick Turner, with additional music from thirst follow, mega chill, Alan Smithee, The Benign Ones, Vibrato Funny and Ryan Vernon.
The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasniewski. Eliza Engel is our production assistant.
Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari, and Avi Glijansky can ride roller coasters all day without a single protein spill… they also executive produce the show. Which is hosted by me and a man who makes any place he’s in the happiest place on earth, Andres Bartos. We’ll see you in the next place.
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