Geography Trivia About Disneyland

Caitlin Dempsey

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A trip to Disneyland is a day of immersion in fantasy and thrill rides for many visitors to this amusement park. Disneyland in Anaheim, California is the second most visited park in the world. In 2019, over 18 million people visited Disneyland. (Disney World, in Orlando, Florida is the most visited park with over 20 million visitors in 2019).

Disneyland is also immersed with many geographical features, both real and imagined. Different geographies and eras have inspired various corners of the amusement park.

Imagineers, the designers and engineers at Disney who develop the attractions at the amusement park, derived their inspiration from landscapes found around the world.

For example, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, was inspired by a visit to Utah’s Bryce Canyon and the hoodoos that the park is famous for.


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Hoodoo, a type of rock formation at Disneyland.
Hoodoo inspired the landscape for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disneyland’s Frontierland. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

The Mark Twain Riverboat is a 19th-century replica of a paddleboat that takes visitor along a river is designed to evoke feelings of traveling through the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia Gorge.

A view of a "river" at Disneyland with green trees on either side of the water.
A view from the Mark Twain Riverboat ride in Disneyland. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Named after the Matterhorn, a mountain in the Alps that straddles the Italian and Swiss border, the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride can be seen rising above an alpine inspired village in the foreground.

A replica of the Matterhorn mountain behind an alpine inspired building in Disneyland.
Disney’s replica of the Matterhorn. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

You are never too far from a trash can at Disneyland

The placement of even something as mundane as the trash and recycling receptacles at Disneyland is purposeful. When Walt Disney was designing the original park, he wanted to ensure a clean and trash-free experience.

A brown trash can with Disney and a flower pattern.
A Disney trash can placed near the line for a ride in Fantasyland. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

The lore for Disney buffs is that Walt Disney did his own research in the mid 1950s by observing park goers. He determined that visitors were willing to carry their trash about 30 feet before tossing it on the ground. That 30 foot distance is still maintained today. Park goers will notice plenty of trash cans everywhere they go in the park.

While Walt Disney’s observations in the 1950s were informal, research since then has supported his argument that the prevalence of trash cans reduces littering.

Trash cans at Disneyland.  Two sets of trash cans can be seen near each other.
Visitors are never too far from a trash can at Disneyland. Phot: Caitlin Dempsey.

Some biogeography trivia about Disneyland

It’s not just the attractions that have an interest to geographers. There are some biogeography anomalies and setups that are fascinating to learn about both at Disneyland and Disney World.

There are no mosquitos at Disney

Disneyland is a well-landscaped amusement park. Every where you go, the vegetation has been curated to reflect the surroundings.

In Frontierland, the drought tolerant vegetation reflects the arid conditions of the American West.

Desert vegetation with a fake broken wagon in Disneyland.
Vegetation in Frontierland is selected to match the arid conditions of the American West. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

In other areas of the park ponds, rivers, and lakes are surrounded by lush vegetation. Despite all of the well-watered plants and standing water, insects such as mosquitos and flies won’t be bothering you.

In addition to fastidiously maintaining a clean park by quickly whisking trash away, Disney park officials use other strategies to keep their parks bug free.

A pond in Disneyland in Fantasyland.
A pond in Disneyland in Fantasyland. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Keeping Disney World mosquito free

Disney World is famous for its ability to maintain a mosquito free park, despite being near swamps in Florida. A dual system of prevention and monitoring helps the park management in their mosquito abatement program.

All water is kept circulating. This prevents mosquitos from successfully laying their larvae in standing water.

Disney also constructs buildings that wick water away. Disney avoids using plants like water lilies that provide refuge for larvae. Ponds and lakes are stocked with fish that eat mosquitos and their eggs.

A spray made with garlic, a scent that mosquitos avoid, instead of pesticides to further discourage the insects. The amount of garlic used is small enough that humans can’t smell it.

Lastly, Disney World using chickens, known as sentinel chickens, that help the park to monitor for any virus or disease-carrying mosquitos.

Feral cats at Disneyland

The presence of feral cats dates back to the early beginnings of the park when a colony of feral cats inhabited Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Rather than get rid of the cats, Walt Disney decided to make them “Castmembers” and integrate them into Disneyland’s rodent control program.

There is a population of about 200 feral cats at Disneyland. The human-shy cats remain mostly hidden during the day and come out at night to hunt for rodents. Occasionally, a feral cat cat be spotted out during the day and the cats even have their own unofficial instagram account that documents sightings. The cats receive regular feedings and medical care.

Ducks are a common sight at Disneyland

The most common bird species visitors will see a lot of at Disneyland is the mallard, also known as the wild duck. Females have a brown speckled plumage while the males are more brightly colored.

In the spring, ducklings are a common sight at the park especially near the park’s ponds and lakes.

A female duck with two duckings swimming in water near a stone wall.
Wild ducks at Disneyland. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Many of the ducks are habituated to receiving French fries, pretzels, and the junk food tossed their way by visitors.

A female wil duck looking at the camera from the water.  A concrete floor and metal railings are in the picture.
A female wild duck begging for food at Disneyland. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

References

Beaven, J. (2020, February 6). The art of Disney’s trash cans. WDWinfo.com. https://www.wdwinfo.com/disney-merchandise/the-art-of-disneys-trash-cans/

Brigagao, C. (2020, April 20). Disneyland cats: The feral cats who live in the Park. Inside the Magic. https://insidethemagic.net/2020/04/disneyland-cats-cb1mmb/

Francaviglia, R. (1999). Walt Disney’s Frontierland as an allegorical map of the American west. Western Historical Quarterly30(2), 155-182. https://doi.org/10.2307/970490

Schultz, P., & Bator, R. L. Brown large, C. Bruni, and J. Tabaconi. 2013. Littering in Context: Personal and Environmental Predictors of Littering Behavior. Environment and Behavior45(1), 35-59. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916511412179

Thornton, S. (2022, May 19). Disneyland’s virtual geography. National Geographic Society. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/disneylands-virtual-geography

Jones, M. (2021, September 20). This is why you never see mosquitoes at Disney world. Reader’s Digest. https://www.rd.com/article/no-mosquitoes-at-disney-world/

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.