ByAllanah Faherty, writer at
Senior staff writer | Twitter: @allanahfaherty | Email: [email protected]
Allanah Faherty

Ninety-one years after The Walt Disney Company was founded on October 16, 1923, there are probably very few people in the world who don't know a Disney character or movie.

Disney has infiltrated pop culture and society, and has influenced technology and music so successfully it's almost impossible to escape. However, for all its success the House of Mouse also a bit of a weird history.

Check out these five surprising facts you might not have known about Disney:

1. Employees had to wear communal underwear.... and it was filthy

It might be hard to believe, but for a long time any employee who dressed up as Goofy, Pluto, and Mickey Mouse had to wear company issue underwear. The reason? Said undergarments could get bunched up and be visible through the costume.

Beneath the magic... smelly underwear
Beneath the magic... smelly underwear

While wearing communal underwear is pretty weird at the best of times, the problem with Disney's batch of Y-fronts was that they were often dirty and smelly - in fact cases of unfortunate employees contracting pubic lice and scabies were not uncommon.

Luckily, the times were a changin' and the workers union reached an agreement with Disney in 2001, which stipulated that although they must continue wearing communal underwear, they were now allowed to take it home and wash it themselves.

2. Walt Disney ate really weird food because he was so poor

Walt Disney formed his first animation company, Newman Laugh-O-Gram, in Kansas City in 1921. He had a deal with the distribution company in New York where he would send them his cartoons but would not get paid until six months later. Eventually he was forced to dissolve the company, and at one point not only could he not pay his rent but was eating dog food to survive.

3. Mickey Mouse almost had a very different name

Mickey in his first movie: Steamboat Willie
Mickey in his first movie: Steamboat Willie

When Walt first designed Mickey Mouse, his original name was Mortimer Mouse. However, when he told his wife Lillian the name, she did not think the name Mortimer was very appealing and Walt changed the name to Mickey. He later reused the name Mortimer for Mickey's rival.

4. Disney instructional videos were seriously weird

Disney movies are some of the most well-known and beloved of all time, but there was a time when some of the videos produced by the House of Mouse were a little on the weird side.

Cleanliness is next to... weirdliness
Cleanliness is next to... weirdliness

Post WWII Disney began producing a series of instructional shorts with such captivating titles as Tuberculosis and Cleanliness Brings Health. The most outrageous was probably 1946's The Story of Menstruation, which was so overly-sanitized it showed menstrual fluid as white and was seen by tens of millions of school girls. This explains why it was funded by Kimberly Clark - a pharma company which used the short to promote its range of female hygiene products.

You can actually check out the short below:

5. The shambles that was the Pinocchio premiere

The premiere
The premiere

For the premiere of Pinocchio, Walt hired 11 little people, dressed them up like the puppet and put them on top of Radio City Music Hall in New York with a full day's supply of food and wine. The original idea was that they would wave hello to the little children entering into the theater. However, by the middle of the afternoon, all 11 little people were both drunk and naked running around on the roof and yelling obscenities at the crowds of people below. Eventually the police had to climb ladders and collect the 11 up in pillowcases. Yes, the police put the drunken little people in pillowcases.


Which is the most interesting Walt Disney story?

Source: Hollywood Stories

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