The Abandoned Island in Bay Lake

Discovery Island was once a wildlife sanctuary, but now it sits abandoned in Bay Lake, which is connected to the Seven Seas Lagoon, the same body of water where ferries transport guests to the Magic Kingdom every day. Boats still ride past Discovery Island all the time, on their way from the Contemporary Resort to the Fort Wilderness Campground and other places. I was recently on one of those boats, and someone pointed out to me the obscure Bay Lake Shoe Tree on the opposite shore, where Disney’s old River Country water park also sits abandoned. Since closing in 1999, no one in the general public has set foot on Discovery Island … except for one small expedition party led by a guy named Shane Perez.

As detailed in a post on his blog, Perez and his fellow trespassers loaded up some waterproof bags with equipment and snuck onto the island, ignorant of the fact that they were swimming through alligator-infested waters. This is no joke; it made serious headlines last year when a boy was snatched by an alligator down on the beach at the nearby Grand Floridian Resort. Perez and his party lucked out and managed not to get attacked by gators, or infected by some of the brain-eating amoebas that may have had a presence in the water, as well.

What they found on the island was a derelict site with noises in the trees, empty cages, haunting old Cast Member photos, snakes preserved in jars, and attacking baby vultures. Unless you are negligent of your own personal safety, like some of the guests who died in those mountain legends, you will probably want to refrain from repeating Perez’s quest.


Get Rich Quick with Disney’s “Black Diamond” VHS Tapes

Election-influencing in Anaheim. Raising up false corporate idols for our children, as parodied in the film Dogma by Mooby the Golden Calf. Inculcating consumerism in people with merchandise, even turning a blind eye while scores of sellers hawk fake merchandise at Shanghai Disneyland. If there is one thing any of these things teach us, it is that even in the wonderful world of Disney, human avarice — greed — is alive and well.

For years, the Home Entertainment division of the Walt Disney Company has engaged in the frustrating business practice of putting Disney animated features on moratorium, meaning they are available to own on home media for a short time only before going back into the dreaded Disney Vault. The point is, there already exists a well-known precedent for out-of-print Disney titles fetching higher prices than usual.

This may have laid the groundwork for what happened last year, as a sort of bubble market popped up around old Disney VHS tapes, with claims spreading online that the Walt Disney Classics series — known colloquially as the “Black Diamond” collection — could essentially fund people’s early retirement. Sites like Movie Pilot zeroed in on the fact that copies of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and other titles in white clamshell cases were being listed on eBay for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Having once made a good amount of money auctioning off all my old comic books and Star Wars toys on eBay, I have to admit that even I was duped. “You might be sitting on a goldmine,” I said as I started digging through what remained of my family’s old Disney VHS library. Little did I (or other gullible types) realize that it was fool’s gold we were sitting on.

Again, Snopes helps debunk this particular myth, simply by pointing out the huge disparity between what sellers were charging and what buyers were actually willing to pay for these supposedly “rare” Black Diamond tapes (which were, in fact, not at all rare, as the tapes were mass-produced from 1984 to 1994). Most of those thousand-dollar auctions ended without any bidders. It was only when you got down into the $25 range that any of them were receiving active bids. As is often the case with rumors, however, all those widespread reports had already helped the false claim achieve undying status.

Even today, sellers continue to list Beauty and the Beast tapes on eBay at astronomical prices. If you were planning on holding an online garage sale, banking on that “Black Diamond” collection of yours being worth a mint (not unlike Stinky Pete’s complete set of “Woody’s Roundup” dolls in Toy Story 2), you would probably be better served investing in gold bullion.


Inappropriate Easter Eggs in Disney Renaissance Films

Speaking of VHS tapes, if you ever tried to slow one of those down so you could catch one of Disney’s alleged subliminal messages in the 1990s (as kids in my high school Pre-Med class were wont to do), you may have come away convinced that the Mouse House was doing the Devil’s work. The subliminal messaging assertion has been repeated by way of so many infamous examples that we would just be trotting out the usual suspects here if we delved into it at length. For the benefit of the uninitiated, however, let’s give (dis)honorable mention to the films involved. Keep in mind, Disney has since re-edited most of these films to remove any of the offending material.

In the 1988 pre-Renaissance film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the sultry Jessica Rabbit is said to have appeared naked from the waist down for a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them frames of film. Controversy also surrounds the drooling Baby Herman and his penchant for walking under women’s skirts with his middle finger extended. Though he only makes a cameo in the film, Donald Duck’s buccal speech patterns, which sometimes render him wholly unintelligible, almost make it sound at one point like he is hurling racial epithets at Daffy Duck.

Phallic symbols in land architecture are nothing new, but underwater structures are a different story. VHS cover artwork for The Little Mermaid (1989) once contained a purported penis tower in the background. Likewise, the knobby knees of clergymen in flowing robes are easily mistaken for erections.

In Aladdin (1992), the titular street rat turned prince may have snuck in a whisper adjuring “good teenagers” to take off their clothes. In The Lion King (1994), Simba sends up a cloud of dust in which the word S-E-X is allegedly spelt out in airy letters. (Actually, despite Dan Brown repeating that one in The Da Vinci Code, it was meant to be S-F-X, a nod to the special effects department.)

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