The Time Walt Disney Kidnapped Richard Nixon

Yes, Walt Disney kidnapped then-Vice President Richard Nixon and his family in 1959 – but it wasn’t exactly a sinister plot. The Nixons were on hand at Disneyland to help dedicate the brand-new, never-before-seen Monorail system.

It was a hot day, so Walt invited the Nixons into the Monorail’s air conditioned cab. It had to be on for the AC to work, of course, and since the state-of-the-art transportation was all geared up and ready to go, Walt thought it would be an opportune time to show the Vice President what it could do. So they took off. The problem? His entire Secret Service detail stood on the platform outside.

The Monorail successfully made one lap and was approaching the Secret Service agents at the platform. They were running alongside as it slowed, seemingly to stop... until Nixon’s daughters cheered, “Again!” and the Monorail resumed full speed, again abandoning the dismayed Secret Service who still lacked a Vice President to protect. Tricky Dick “roared with laughter,” according to Bob Gurr, the Imagineer in charge of the whole operation.

“You should have seen your expressions,” Nixon told the men when he finally exited the Monorail. It was later revealed that the Monorail had only made one lap on the track prior to that – it hadn’t been tested well and Gurr was a bit concerned that it would catch fire with the entire Second Family aboard.

Here’s a video of the Monorail dedication – the wooden scissors being used to cut the ribbon in the ceremony would famously not slice through, so Walt took matters into his own hands and just tore it:

This post originally appeared in 2010.

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August 18, 2013 - 10:36am
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