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When Walt Disney Opened an Elementary School

Thanks to the itinerary, the kids knew exactly when he’d be arriving: 3:15 p.m. There were signs and banners and drawings of Mickey Mouse sticking up from the sea of diminutive bodies waiting by the train station. Seven thousand people in total huddled around the tracks.

When he arrived, he stuck his head out of the compartment to wave a conductor’s hat complementing a dark suit. As he stepped off, the children surged forward, nudging away the politicians who had come out to greet him.

It was a Saturday. The kids were headed for school. They didn’t care. Walt Disney was coming with them.

Already famous for having guided his studio into feature-length animation in the 1930s, Walt's notoriety grew exponentially when he began hosting ABC's Disneyland anthology show in 1954. That same year, when the children in the Tullytown, Penn. school district were asked who they’d like their new elementary building to be named after, officials heard a chorus: the only choice was Walt Disney.

Tullytown was part of land developer William Levitt’s burgeoning suburban stretches. (It would later be known as Levittown.) With immaculately-kept lawns, new housing, and layouts designed for families—no school was ever more than a mile’s walk, with no intersections to cross—it fit Disney’s infatuation with utopias. Coincidentally, he was mired in planning Disneyland when the school board contacted him with the proposal in the spring of 1954.

Flattered, Disney was happy to grant permission. His own school experiences had been slightly traumatic: As a youth, he was told he was the “second-dumbest” in class. Teachers discouraged his interests in drawing and storytelling. This was an opportunity to soften the educational experience and foster—not suffocate—creativity.

State Historical Society of Missouri

Disney assigned in-house artist Bob Moore to design a series of wooden character murals that could be mounted in hallways and the gymnasium; he also had Moore compile original art and animation cels to hang in the school. The children were invited to assign Disney-related names to rooms instead of numbers. The girls' bathroom was the “Mermaid Lagoon”; visitors to the nurse entered “Pegleg Point”; the name plate on the principal’s door read “Captain Hook.”

Though the school opened in April of 1955, Disney didn’t attend the dedication ceremony until September 24 of that year. Arriving from Penn Station, he was greeted by Tullytown’s kids and local and state public officials; a motorcade led him to the building bearing his name. He laid down a cornerstone on the grounds as the Walt Disney Elementary School Band played songs from his films.  

Inside, kids took turns holding his hand and guiding him door to door. (Disney was amused to see the boiler room labeled “Never-Never-Land.”) When Disney stopped inside a class labeled “Bambi” or “Donald Duck,” he’d tell stories about the making of the film or do a character voice. Toward the end of his visit, the students entertained him with a show in the auditorium.

The 318 kids attending kindergarten through fifth grade at Walt Disney Elementary were the envy of the community, which housed eight public schools in total. They were further spoiled when school board president Benjamin Kine convinced a Congressman to arrange the donation of the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket, a rocket and jet-powered aircraft. Recently put out of service after having broken the Mach 2 barrier, the $9.5 million plane took up residence in the front yard of the school. Kids could eat lunch in the cockpit. Utopia suited them just fine.

Disney would go on to have over 60 schools named after him, including one in his hometown of Marceline, Mo. When an Anaheim school invited him for a dedication ceremony in 1958, he declared classes “canceled” and piled the students into buses bound for Disneyland.

Walt Disney Elementary in Levittown is still in operation. In 2007, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places due in part to the original artwork that still hangs in the hallways. Disney, who died in 1966, has a portrait in the lobby. It’s said that he’s not often recognized, a fact that would be unthinkable to the children who climbed over themselves for his attention back in 1955.

As Disney was led by hand from room to room that day, kids hanging on his every word, he kept one anecdote to himself. Fed up with school, he had dropped out in the ninth grade.   

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Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland Resort via Getty Images
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Big Questions
How Did the Super Bowl's 'I'm Going to Disney World' Slogan Originate?
Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland Resort via Getty Images
Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

It’s a Super Bowl tradition as recognizable as catchy commercials, lengthy halftime shows, and mounds of leftover guacamole, but how did the famous "I'm going to Disney World" and "I'm going to Disneyland" slogans make their way to (almost) every big game since 1987?

The idea for the slogan itself can be credited to Jane Eisner, the wife of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. In 2015, he recounted the story behind the tagline to Sports Illustrated:

"In January 1987, we were launching Disneyland’s Star Tours, an attraction based on Star Wars. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, my wife, Jane, and I had dinner with George Lucas, as well as Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who had just become the first people to fly around the world without stopping. It was late and the conversation hit a lull as we waited for our food. So I asked Dick and Jeana, 'Well, now that you’ve accomplished the pinnacle of your aspirations, what could you possibly do next?' Rutan responded, without hesitation, 'I’m going to Disneyland.' And of course I go, 'Wow, that’s cool! You made the right choice.' But my wife interjects: 'You know, that’s a good slogan.'"

Around this time, the NFL playoffs were well underway, with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos set to face each other at Super Bowl XXI. What better time to unveil this new marketing slogan than at the biggest TV event of the year? Once Eisner decided on a time and place to debut the phrase, the teams’ two quarterbacks, Phil Simms and John Elway, both received identical offers: $75,000 for the winner to say "I’m going to Disney World" and "I’m going to Disneyland" to a Disney camera as they ran off the field after the game. This would then be used in a commercial with Disney World or Disneyland being shown depending on where it aired. (This is then oftentimes followed by an actual trip to a Disney park within the next few days, where the spokesperson takes part in a parade in his team's honor). 

Simms was hesitant at first, but once he heard Elway agreed to it, he was on board. The NFL also signed off on Disney’s plan, so now it was up to the company to find a way to get their cameras on the field before all-out madness could erupt. Tom Elrod, Disney’s president of marketing and entertainment in 1987, told Sports Illustrated:

"We wanted it to be authentic, but that meant being the first camera on the field, in the most frenetic environment you could possibly imagine. We’d be competing with broadcast crews and journalists and hangers-on and teammates, just to have some guy look into a camera and say, 'I’m going to Disney World.' It’s wild if you think about it. That first year, I don’t think anyone thought that was achievable."

It’s a good thing the reluctant Simms changed his tune about Disney’s offer, because his Giants beat Elway’s Broncos 39-20. Not only was Simms awarded his first Super Bowl win and the game’s MVP award, he also got a cool $75,000 for uttering two simple sentences (though he had to say both sentences three times each, just to be sure). 

The tradition has carried on ever since, except in 2005 for Super Bowl XXXIX and in 2016 for Super Bowl 50, when no commercials aired (though Super Bowl 50's winning quarterback, Peyton Manning, went to Disneyland anyway).

The slogan now extends beyond football, having been uttered by everyone from NBA players to Olympians and American Idol contestants. And even if they don't wind up in a commercial, chances are a championship team will still be greeted by a Disney park parade, like the one thrown for the Chicago Cubs in 2016. 

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Disney/Pixar
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entertainment
Watch a Screenplay Go from Script to Screen in This Clip From Inside Out
Disney/Pixar
Disney/Pixar

If a movie were a person, its script would be the skeleton. The essentials—narrative, protagonists, dialogue, etc.—are all there, but they need to be fleshed out to fully come to life. Enter characters (either played by actors or animated), music, and special effects, and suddenly simple words on a page have transformed into a motion picture.

In the new Pixar-produced video below, which was first spotted by Gizmodo, you can compare the screenplay of 2015's Inside Out with the theatrical version released in theaters. The text scrolls down the screen's bottom half as a corresponding scene from the film progresses, allowing viewers to juxtapose what they're watching with what they're reading. This way, aspiring screenwriters and Pixar fans alike can see firsthand how a movie moves from a bare-bones script to a fully realized film.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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