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14 Hidden Things to Look for at Disneyland

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Disneyland is one of the happiest places on Earth—and with some charm and a little know-how, you can get a lot more out of your visit.

1. Captain the 'Mark Twain' Riverboat

Before boarding the Mark Twain riverboat, find one of the Disney cast members and ask them if you can visit the wheelhouse. They’ll lead you to the second floor, where you’ll see a door marked “Private.” Knock on the door and the captain will lead you to a secret ladder to the wheelhouse, where you can steer and pilot the riverboat. You’ll also get a chance to ring the Mark Twain’s bell and sound its whistle like a real riverboat captain! Once you finish, just ask for a certificate and sign the guestbook, which features all the people who also steered the riverboat in the past.

2. Edible Plants

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All of the plants in Tomorrowland are edible! Walt Disney envisioned a future that was self-sustaining and efficient. He believed that landscapes in the future would double as urban farms, so fruits and vegetables were planted throughout Tomorrowland.

3. Morse Code

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At the Disneyland Railroad Station in New Orleans Square, you'll hear Morse Code from the station's telegraph. The series of dots and dashes make up the first few sentences of Walt Disney's opening-day dedication speech at Disneyland on July 17, 1955: "To all who come to Disneyland, welcome. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here, youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future."

4. Indiana Jones

Hidden Mickeys

While waiting in line for the Indiana Jones Adventure, you’ll see a well with a sign attached that reads, “Caution. Do Not Pull Rope! Handling Fragile Artifacts.” Do the opposite. You’ll hear an excavator tell you not to pull the rope. If you pull it a number of times, you’ll hear different responses and eventually a loud crash.

You’ll also see a bamboo pole with a similar sign that reads, “Danger! Do Not Touch Pole.” If you touch or pull the pole, you’ll hear a loud crash, as if the ceiling were caving in around you.

5. The Tea Cups

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The Mad Tea Party ride in Fantasyland includes about 18 teacups with varying speeds. The orange teacup with diamonds and the purple one are the fastest spinners. The two teacups with hearts are the slowest.

6. The Haunted Mansion's Death Certificates and Pet Cemetery

Once you enter the Haunted Mansion, ask one of the Disney Cast Members for a Death Certificate before you enter the Doom Buggie ride. After you’re finished, the Cast Member will have the Death Certificates waiting for you as a souvenir. However, they don’t give them out to everyone who asks. It’s up to the Cast Member’s discretion. If you ask a Cast Member about the Haunted Mansion's pet cemetery, they’ll give you a personal tour.

7. Free Maps at the Jungle Cruise

Growing up Goofy

Similar to the Haunted Mansion’s Death Certificates, you can ask one of the Jungle Cruise’s Cast Members for a free map as a special souvenir. The maps feature the Jungle Cruise’s entire route.

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See Also...

17 Horrifying Vintage Pictures of Disneyland Characters

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8. Manhole Covers

davef3138, Flickr

At the middle of Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland, there's a fountain with a number of musical instruments and Mickey Mouse in the center, holding an orchestra conductor’s baton. There are the same musical instruments imprinted on the manhole covers next to the fountain. If you jump on or touch the covers, you’ll hear the corresponding instrument play.

9. Hidden Mickeys

Finding Mickey

Throughout the entire park, Disney Imagineers have scattered thousands of “Hidden Mickeys” attached to numerous attractions, restaurants, and hotels. These Hidden Mickeys are the iconic mouse’s silhouette: One large circle for his head and two smaller circles to make up his ears.

10. Tender Seat

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Ask the conductor at Main Street Station if you could sit in the Disneyland Railroad's tender seat. If they agree, the next train that pulls into the station will have the seat ready for you. It's a small seat, but it's worth getting past security to the front of the line.

11. Disney Buttons

Not only do the Street Sweepers at Disneyland make sure the park is pristine and clean every day, they also spread joy to its guests. Some of the Street Sweepers carry around Disney buttons to give out to children and park guests. Street Sweepers can also be seen making Mickey and Minnie Mouse designs on the ground with their brooms.

Free Buttons for most occasions, including birthdays, family reunions, weddings, and anniversaries, are available at City Hall on Main Street.

12. Waking José

The show at the Enchanted Tiki Room starts with a Cast Member waking up José, the Audio-Animatronics talking Macaw parrot. If you ask the Cast Member nicely, they'll allow you to wake up José to start the show.

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See Also...

17 Disney Park Windows Worth a Closer Look

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13. Lilly Belle Train Car

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The Lilly Belle is the presidential car at the tail end of the Disneyland Train. It was named after Walt Disney's wife Lillian and is reserved for V.I.P.s and special guests. You can ride in the car too! If you arrive at the park before it opens, go to the Disneyland Railroad Station and wait for the official opening announcement. Ask one of the Cast Members about making a reservation for the Lilly Belle train car. With some luck, you'll get a chance to ride in style into the Main Street Station. Keep in mind that the Lilly Belle doesn't run all day and only makes a few trips.

14. Club 33

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Club 33 is a private club in New Orleans Square. It's a members-only club and is not open to the public. Members enjoy early access to the theme park, along with free valet parking at the Grand Californian Hotel and full access to the Lilly Belle car on the Disneyland Railroad. Club 33 is also the only place in Disneyland that sells alcohol. Club members pay $10,000 a year plus a $25,000 non-refundable initiation fee. There's also a 14-year waiting list to join.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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