Disney Imagineers spill 7 secrets about the parks' most popular rides

From Space Mountain’s backwards architecture to Tinker Bell’s secrets of flying, there are plenty of insider-y tidbits to know about Disney's parks.

But these bits of insider info are different, because they come straight from members of Walt Disney Imagineering, the brilliant minds behind the rides, attractions, hotels, restaurants and entertainment at Disney Parks worldwide.

Take stock of these little-known stories direct from the Imagineers’ mouths — and prepare yourself for one long-held Disney truth to be debunked.

Disney can create audio-animatronics from a photograph.

disney hall of presidents Trump by Kent Phillips

Imagineers were able to replicate Donald Trump's likeness for the Hall of Presidents with nothing more than high-resolution digital photos.  (Kent Phillips)

Walt Disney Imagineering has been using advanced digital scanning technology since 2005 to make figures for its rides, including Johnny Depp’s likeness within Pirates of the Caribbean attractions around the world.

When working on an Audio-Animatronic of Barack Obama for The Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom, they weren’t allowed to use digital scanning for time and security purposes, but that proved to be a short-lived problem. Technology has advanced so quickly that for the Donald Trump figure used within the attraction, no scan was needed — they were able to replicate his likeness by rendering a 3D model using high-resolution digital photos.

Only downfall? The $250,000 machine they bought a decade ago is essentially obsolete.

California Screamin’ really lives up to its name.

Not there today....just wishin’. #californiaadventure #disneyland

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The decorative tunnels throughout the ride aren’t for aesthetic purposes — they’re actually scream shields, intended to block sound and keep the theme park noise away from surrounding residences and businesses.

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When the ride transforms into “The Incredicoaster” as part of Disney California Adventure’s forthcoming Pixar Pier, they will be extended and closed off, making for exciting ride-aiding show scenes.

There are more similarities between Disneyland rides than you might expect.

Some of the exact same characters can be spotted in multiple attractions. One example? The judge being dunked in the water in Pirates of the Caribbean also appears in the Haunted Mansion. When the latter opened a few years after Pirates, the full-cheeked gentleman’s likeness was repurposed to blow out the birthday cake candles in the ghost-filled ballroom scene.

You’ll never look at Snow White Grotto the same way again.

I'm wishing...for the one I love...to find me...today

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As the story goes, the Carrara marble figurines were a generous anonymous gift made to incorrect proportions, as Snow White was the same height as Sneezy and friends. Walt Disney Imagineer John Hench saved the day by brilliantly arranging them in a fountain setting to give the appearance of varied heights, only that’s not the whole truth. The figurines weren’t a gift; in fact, they were commissioned by Hench himself.

The designer misread Hench’s measurements and delivered an incorrect Snow White figurine, and would charge thousands if he had resculpt it. So, Hench got crafty, spent a little money and re-designed the grotto to covered his tracks so Walt wouldn’t be upset. The rest is (inaccurate) theme park history.

Want to know just how much Cars Land resembles the scenes of the film trilogy?

Has to be my fav 😍 #carsland

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The working relationship between Pixar and Disney is so close-knit that when developing new attractions based on Pixar films, the artists themselves will be pulled in to help.

Even though the theme park land at Disney California Adventure opened six years after the first film (and took five years to develop!) Pixar staffers, like the production designer of “Cars,” were there on-site to help paint the mountain region within Radiator Springs.

Disney attractions value themselves on story above all.

But sometimes the technology comes first, leaving Imagineers to pursue ideas without knowing what they might be applied to. That’s what happened in the case of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland, at least.

Walt Disney Imagineering’s Research and Development team was toying around with an aquarium and found a way to have Nemo magically appear to swim through it. Rich with inspiration, the staffers did what they could, and wound up using the great idea for the reimagined Submarine Voyage as well as The Seas with Nemo & Friends area of Epcot.

There will be a tasty new change to an old (and soon-to-be new) favorite ride.

There’s plenty to look forward to when The Incredicoaster debuts this June — they’ve replaced the ride launch and loop track systems, added a water effect to the launch, and will bring all the famed characters to the Pixar Pier attraction — but there’s one other thing that’ll convince even little ones to board an inverted roller coaster: cookies.

One portion of the ride will infuse the scent of cookies into the attraction, letting guests enjoy a delicious chocolate chip aroma before taking a breathless plunge.