42 Big Facts About Little House on the Prairie

Melissa Gilbert stars in Little House on the Prairie.
Melissa Gilbert stars in Little House on the Prairie.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

When the very popular TV series Bonanza left the airwaves after 14 years, Michael “Little Joe” Landon went looking for a new project. NBC executives approached him with the idea of producing a made-for-TV film based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular Little House on the Prairie series of books.

The movie was a huge ratings hit, and since it had a sort-of cliffhanger ending, the network was deluged with inquiries from viewers asking “What happened to the Ingalls family next?” Thus, a series was born. And while the show itself was very family-friendly and wholesome, the antics behind the scenes of the long-running series weren't always so PG-rated.

1. Pa Ingalls’ hair color came out of a bottle.

Michael Landon had gone prematurely grey during his Bonanza days, while he was still in his twenties, and used Clairol Medium Ash Brown to color his crowning glory. He continued using the same product once he started on Little House on the Prairie, dyeing his hair himself. But the scorching, unrelenting sun in Simi Valley, California (where the series shot) would turn his hair an odd shade of lavender after a few days, which caused production delays (lights would have to be adjusted so as to not reflect on his head). Eventually Landon gave in and allowed a professional on the set to color his hair.

2. Michael Landon asked Karen Grassle to change her name when she was cast as “Ma” Ingalls.

Karen Grassle and Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Actually Michael Landon asked her to change back to her real name, which is Karen Grassle (pronounced “Grass-lee”). When she auditioned for the role of Caroline Ingalls, she did so as Gabriel Tree, her stage name at the time.

3. The novelty of period clothing wore off quickly for the young girls in the cast.

All the exterior Little House on the Prairie scenes were filmed at the 10,000-acre Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, California, where a “cool” day meant temperatures in the low 90s. On most days, the mercury hit triple digits—and the young actresses were clad from head to toe in heavy cotton stockings, petticoats, pinafores, and bonnets. Both Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson, and an assistant director passed out from the heat on the very first day of filming.

4. Most of those dinners Ma served were really Dinty Moore beef stew.

A scene from 'Little House on the Prairie'
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Any dinner scene that showed some sort of generic meat and gravy on the family’s plates—regardless of whether Ma announced that it was rabbit, chicken, or squirrel—actually consisted of canned Dinty Moore brand beef stew. Those instances when Laura was seen pulling a drumstick out of her tin lunch pail at school? Well, those came not from the Ingalls’ chicken coop, but from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

5. Nellie Oleson’s perfect curls were actually a wig.

For the first few weeks of filming, Arngrim’s own hair was transformed into a series of sausage curls via a torturous old-fashioned curling iron that had to be heated in an oven. Finally it was decided that a custom-made wig would be more humane, not to mention both time- and cost-effective. The wig had to be held in place with an enormous metal comb plus dozens of long, straight, metal hairpins, all of which frequently dug into Arngrim’s scalp and caused it to bleed.

6. Sean Penn made his acting debut on Little House On The Prairie.

Sean Penn appears in 'Little House on the Prairie'
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

The season 1 episode “The Voice of Tinker Jones” was directed by Leo Penn, who cast his wife, Eileen Ryan, in the episode—and also brought in his 13-year-old son Sean to play an uncredited schoolboy.

7. Michael Landon kept the young actors entertained.

According to People, Michael Landon would pretend to pick lice out of Melissa Gilbert’s hair after an emotional scene. Frogs were also a big hit. “We used to go with Melissa [Gilbert] to catch frogs in the creek,” Rachel Greenbush, who played Carrie Ingalls, told Closer Weekly. “We would bring them back to Michael, and then he would put them in his mouth and walk up to people, open his mouth and the frog would jump out! People would freak out.”

8. Charles Ingalls’s manly swagger was the result of special boots.

Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Michael Landon was just 5-feet-9-inches tall and didn’t want any other actor to tower over him, so he wore four-inch lifts in his boots. If that boost wasn’t quite enough in a particular scene, he would make sure that Charles was positioned on a staircase, a ladder, or even a slight mound of dirt.

9. No one ever got very close to Mary Ingalls.

Both Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim reported in their autobiographies that Melissa Sue Anderson (known as “Missy” on the set), who played Mary Ingalls, remained somewhat cold and aloof during her time on Little House on the Prairie. There were rumors among the guardians on the set that Missy’s mother was overprotective and controlling and that was the reason the young actress tended to keep to herself.

10. Carrie Ingalls was played by a set of identical twins.

Rachel and Sidney Bush (credited onscreen as “Lindsay Sidney Greenbush” and known as “Sugar Lump” and “Foxy Robin” to everyone on the set) were just 3 years old when they were cast to play the youngest Ingalls daughter. That’s Sidney falling down while running during the opening credits; the director rotated the girls every few hours in accordance with California labor laws for such young children. In this case, just prior to filming the hillside running scene, he had called for a “Fresh twin, please!” and Mrs. Bush hastily awoke the napping Sidney and quickly put her little shoes back on … unfortunately, on the wrong feet. Michael Landon thought it was adorable when she tripped and hit the ground and left it in the sequence.

11. Michael Landon was very proud of his physique.

Landon never passed up an opportunity to appear shirtless on camera, which is why Pa never broke an arm or leg in any of his farming mishaps, only a rib or two. He also reportedly preferred to go au naturel underneath his tight-fitting prairie trousers.

12. Jason Bateman starred in 23 episodes.

Jason Bateman in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

In 1981, future Emmy-winner Jason Bateman landed the role of James Cooper Ingalls; it was his first TV role. Like Landon, Bateman became a TV director—in 2019, Bateman won an Emmy for directing himself in Ozark. "The only thing that I remember really soaking in was that first big job on Little House on the Prairie,” Bateman told Variety. “That group of actors had been together since Bonanza, and the way in which everybody functioned was very familial. It was a warm place.”

Bateman said that Landon influenced him both as a director and as a sort of father figure. “He was the George Clooney of that time. The crew loved him, the industry loved him, guys wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him,” Bateman said.

13. Nellie and Laura were actually best friends.

Mean ol’ Nellie Oleson got her lights punched out more than once by rival Laura Ingalls, but in real life Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert became the best of friends shortly after they first met in the makeup trailer. They had sleepovers at each other’s homes and became partners in crime when it came to playing pranks on their co-stars.

14. Michael Landon’s off-screen affair permanently damaged his relationship with Melissa Gilbert.

Melissa Gilbert became very close to Michael Landon’s family after she was hired for Little House on the Prairie—especially his son, Michael Jr., and daughter Leslie. Lynn Landon and Melissa’s mother, Barbara Crane, became best friends and the two families often vacationed together. One day Barbara broke the news to her daughter that, “Auntie Lynn and Mike are separating.” Gilbert had noticed that Landon had been extremely attentive to “that makeup girl” (as makeup artist Cindy Clerico, 20 years Landon’s junior, was referred to by some cast members) on the set, but she’d never dreamed that he’d leave his wife of 19 years for her.

Gilbert remained polite and professional while working with Landon on the set after he married Clerico, but she stopped socializing with him after hours. After Little House on the Prairie ended, she didn’t speak to Landon again until 1990, when she saw him at Leslie Landon’s wedding. Landon’s highly publicized breakup with Lynn also cost him some lucrative endorsement deals, including his longtime contract with Kodak.

15. Adult beverages were regularly imbibed during the workday.

Alison Arngrim often caught a nap in the prop truck during her breaks, and it was there—while she was hunkered down on the front seat—that she overheard Michael Landon say “Hit me” to propman Ron Chiniquy at the rear of the truck. She lifted her head to peek and saw Chiniquy pour the requested four fingers of Wild Turkey into Landon’s coffee cup, even though it was only 10 a.m. She later found out from Ron that the crew usually went through two cases of Coors beer per day while working. Particularly stressful days, when rewrites and retakes were necessary, were referred to as “three-case days.” After filming was wrapped for the day, a makeshift bar with hard liquor was set up on a sawhorse for the “real” unwinding to begin. Yet both Arngrim and Gilbert said that despite all the alcohol consumption going on, no one (neither cast nor crew) ever appeared to be the least bit tipsy, nor did their work suffer.

16. Victor French briefly left the to show to star in a short-lived sitcom.

Victor French in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Victor French, who had starred in Gunsmoke and Bonanza, played Isaiah Edwards on Little House and directed a few episodes. He left the show in 1977 to star as a small-town Georgia police chief in sitcom Carter Country, which was sort of a comedic version of In the Heat of the Night. In 1979, when ABC canceled Carter County after two seasons, Landon welcomed French back. And in 1984, French joined Landon in Highway to Heaven. In 1989, French died of cancer, two years before Landon’s own death from cancer.

17. Mary INgalls's blindness was challenging for Melissa Sue Anderson.

During the fourth season, Mary Ingalls went blind. “It was the only time in the history of television that a series regular had lost their sight and not gotten it back … ever,” Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary, told Albany Daily News. “Therefore, it was exciting and challenging at the beginning … but a very difficult thing to sustain over a period of years.” At first, Anderson thought the plotline was used as a way to write her out of the script. But Landon assured her “to trust me,” he told People.

In 1978, Anderson’s performance garnered her an Emmy nomination, but a few years later she left the show. “As far as what Mary could do, my character became limited because she couldn’t see … This, ultimately, is the reason why I decided not to stay with the show and only do three episodes in the eighth season,” she said.

18. Michael Landon didn’t want to pay Karen Grassle more money.

Karen Grassle in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Despite the set being mostly drama-free, Grassle did have one issue with Landon. “When we were in the top 10 [TV shows] and I said, ‘Gee, it is time to renegotiate my contract,’ Michael did not want to pay me,” Grassle told Closer Weekly. “It was very difficult.”

19. They filmed on the same set as The Wizard Of Oz .

In the late 1970s, the production moved from a Paramount soundstage to MGM. “They were ripping up the floor of the set, and what Melissa [Gilbert] and I see, lying beneath, was the Yellow Brick Road!” Arngrim told Closer Weekly. “Melissa and I went nuts. We were dancing around, singing the song, pretending to be Dorothy!”

20. Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks played a criminal.

Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul
Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul.
NICOLE WILDER, AMC/SONY PICTURES TELEVISION

Nearly 30 years before he played Mike Ehrmantrautin Breaking Bad (and then on Better Call Saul), Jonathan Banks played a frontier criminal in the 1980 Little House episode “Darkness Is My Friend.” Banks’s Jed and two other guys take Laura and Mary hostage at Mary’s school for the blind. Thankfully, Pa Ingalls saves the day.

21. Wildfires have destroyed the Little House on the Prairie sets—more than once.

In 2003, a fire swept through the Simi Valley, California set, known as Big Sky Movie Ranch. The fires destroyed a replica of the Ingalls' homestead, which had long been a tourist attraction. It also wiped out a lot of cattle. In May 2019, lightning propelled another destructive fire on the ranch.

22. The Simi Valley ranch may have been a “sick” set.

Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory was the site of one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in U.S. history back in 1959, and illegal disposal of nuclear waste continued in the area until the 1980s. No actual link has ever been admitted or proven publicly, but there have been murmurings for years that the number of cancer cases among Little House actors and crew members may have some connection to the chemical and radioactive contamination in that area. Michael Landon died of pancreatic cancer; Victor French (Isaiah Edwards) died of lung cancer (he and Landon were heavy smokers, though); Merlin Olsen (Jonathan Garvey) died of mesothelioma; Kevin Hagen (Doc Baker) succumbed to esophageal cancer; and Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle) is a breast cancer survivor.'

23. Nellie’s broken arm and screams were both real in that famous runaway wheelchair scene.

“Bunny,” the episode where Nellie gets thrown from the horse she’d won from Laura in a previous episode and ends up paralyzed, is a fan favorite. The climactic scene occurs shortly after Laura discovers that Nellie can, in fact, walk and has been faking her paralysis just to get attention. She gets her revenge by taking Nellie to the top of a hill in her wheelchair and giving her an almighty shove. In reality, Arngrim had recently broken her wrist in a skateboarding accident, so the plaster cast on her arm was real. And while a stunt double was used for the shot where Nellie flew out of the chair and into the pond, Arngrim was required to ride the rickety, 1870s-era wooden wheelchair down a rocky slope so she could be filmed screaming for the close-ups. The chair was attached to safety ropes, but just prior to the second take, as the director yelled “Action!” one of the crew members cried out “Oh no, the rope broke!” It hadn’t, but Arngrim didn’t know that and her terrified screams as she bounced and rolled down the hill, struggling with one hand to stay in the chair, were authentic.

24. Laura and Manly’s wedding night was not as romantic as it seemed.

Although on the show Laura was 17 when she married Almanzo Wilder, in real life Melissa Gilbert was a very innocent, romantically inexperienced 15-year-old whose first kiss was on a sound stage. Her initial kiss with 23-year-old Dean Butler (the actor who played Wilder) was only the third time she’d kissed a “boy” and it squicked her out because he had the tiniest bit of beard stubble. The thought of having to cuddle in bed with him (after the pair had wed on the series) was even more frightening to the teenager.

In an attempt to try to joke Gilbert out of her nervousness, Butler quietly crooned some lyrics from “Strangers in the Night” into her ear before the cameras rolled. Unfortunately his effort had a cringe-worthy opposite effect on Gilbert, and she pleaded with Michael Landon afterward for any romantic scenes between Laura and Almanzo to be limited to hugs or a peck on the cheek.

25. Laura and Manly’s lack of chemistry was a cause for concern among the producers.

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

A “secret” memo was circulated at one point discussing the romantic pairings on the show; Laura and Almanzo just didn’t look like they were in love, and couldn’t the actors do something to generate some “sparks” between the two of them? The same memo pointed out that when Nellie and Percival were together they “looked like they f*** like crazed weasels.” Unbeknownst to the production staff, Steve Tracy, who played Nellie’s husband Percival, was gay. But he and Alison Arngrim were great friends and used to swap passionate, open-mouth kisses during their love scenes just because they knew it grossed Melissa Gilbert out.

26. Michael Landon directed almost half of the series’ episodes.

Not only did Landon play a lead role, but he also wrote, directed, and produced many of the episodes. Out of 205 episodes, he directed 90 of them, including the two-hour pilot, the final episode, and additionally TV movies Little House Years and Little House: The Last Farewell . He continued his directing and producing career in Highway to Heaven , which debuted in 1984.

27. Michael Landon didn’t "tinker" with perfection.

A scene from Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

In her book Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, Arngrim wrote about what kind of director Landon was. “Michael was very much a fan of the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy, and if something worked well enough in the first take, don’t bothering tinkering with perfection—just say ‘print’ and move on.”

28. NBC and Michael Landon canceled the show because Melissa Gilbert was all grown up.

In 1984, Landon told The New York Times why he and the network decided to end the show. One reason was partly because of declining ratings, and the other had to do with Melissa Gilbert’s Laura. “I didn't think a married woman should still be coming to her father for advice,” he said. “But when we started this show, we never imagined it would last this long.”

29. When filming on Little House On The Prairie finished, they blew up the sets.

In 1984, Landon directed the last TV Prairie movie, The Last Farewell, which involved the townspeople blowing up Walnut Grove so a land baron couldn’t have it. In real life, Landon ordered the sets to be blown to bits. Producer Kent McCrary explained that NBC leased the land from Getty Oil Company and the Newhall Land and Development Corporation and had to return the land back to its “original state,” meaning it had to look like it did before production moved in. McCrary suggested demolition, however, Landon said: “What if we blow up the town? That would get the buildings all in pieces and you still can bring in your equipment to pick up the debris and cart it away.” So he wrote the explosions into the script but made sure to leave the homestead and church untouched.

“I think it makes for a good strong pioneer ending,” Landon said. “It was also a nice catharsis for the cast and crew. There were lots of tears when we finally blew up the town. The actors had all become very attached to their own buildings, so it was very emotional.”

30. they did test runs before they blew everything up.

Karen Grassle in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

“We did quite a few tests first to make sure nobody would get hurt,” Landon told The New York Times . “So when we finally blew everything up, it went off like clockwork. We did it all in one day.”

31. Actor Stan Ivar kept his homestead.

During the final season, a new family, the Carters, move into the homestead. Ivar played head-of-the-family John Carter. Landon didn’t want the homestead destroyed, so according to Laura’s Prairie, Ivar disassembled the set and took it home with him. He supposedly has the set in storage or in his barn. At one point he tried to donate the set to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, but Ed Friendly, the owner of the Prairie brand, blocked it. The replica home might be gone, but at least the original still exists.

32. Little House on the Prairie gained a cult following in France.

Today, Little House on the Prairie can be seen in 140 countries, including France. Arngrim spends a few months a year touring the country. “It’s similar to David Hasselhoff and Germany,” she told The New York Times. “They don’t think Nellie is mean. They just think she’s French.”

33. Alison Arngrim learned to embrace "Nasty Nellie."

Alison Arngrim in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

In 2017, Arngrim said that she gets “recognized more now than I did when the show was running.” And somehow she has not tired of her most famous role. "I thought I’d be sick of it, but now, it just makes me smile."

34. Baby Grace published a book called Prairie Devotional.

Wendi Turnbaugh (a.k.a. Wendi Lou Lee) was literally a baby when she was cast to play Grace Ingalls, the youngest Ingalls child. In August 2019, she published a faith-based book about the show. “My husband actually gave me the idea, probably about 10 years ago,” Turnbaugh said. "I thought it was a really good idea. But I didn't have the confidence.” But when she was recovering from a brain tumor, she started writing the book. “It started out as a blog just to inform people of my health and what was happening, and it became this,” she said.

35. Wendi Turnbaugh was also a twin.

A still of the cast of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Identical twins Rachel and Sidney Greenbush played Carrie Ingalls, and Turnbaugh also had a real-life twin (named Brenda).

36. One viewer really hated Nellie.

Nellie made quite the villain, and one person in particular took their hate too far. Arngrim explained that when she was 16, a person threw a half-filled cup of orange soda at her head while she was participating in the Hollywood Christmas parade. “I was actually impressed,” Arngrim said. “I mean, how good did you have to be to make someone so angry? I won’t ever forget it. Maybe that person will finally come forward and confess.”

37. Wendi Turnbaugh thinks people are drawn to the show’s faith.

Little House  debuted 45 years ago, yet it still resonates with fans. In an interview with The Christian Perspective, Turnbaugh explained why she thought people still gravitate toward the series. “People are starving for family values and faith-filled content,” she said. “I think people might say that they don’t want that or need that. But that is what draws people in.”

38. Nellie became a gay icon.

For decades, Arngrim has immersed herself in the gay community. Her father was gay, and she worked for an AIDS charity. She told The New York Times how gay men adopted Nellie as one of their own. “I turned toward the people who were still clapping the loudest for her,” she said. She performed a one-woman show “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch” at a gay resort in Orlando and sold copies of her book at Nellie’s Sports Bar. “Little Nellie was hilarious with that hair and those petticoats, kind of like a drag queen in training,” Lady Bunny, a DJ, told The New York Times. Most recently, Arngrim was a part of Los Angeles DragCon.

39. The show may have led to more people reading books.

Little House on the Prairie Book at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, Wisconsin
Lorie Shaull, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In a 1974 interview with People, Landon mentioned that book stores and libraries kept calling him and praising him. “Because of the show,” he said, “there are going to be an awful lot of kids reading.”

40. Alison Arngrim wants to play Mrs. Oleson if the show is ever rebooted.

Arngrim said that fans constantly request for the cast to reunite. “There’s only so much of us left, but we’d definitely all do it,” she said. She suggested casting Stranger Things’s Millie Bobby Brown to play Nellie, and the old cast could make cameos. “Also, I am the correct age now to play Mrs. Oleson and I’m available, so I have no shame,” she said. “I would play her in a second. I would totally do that,”

41. A Little House on the Prairie feature film was announced.

Melissa Sue Anderson, Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, and Matthew Labyorteaux in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

In 2016, Paramount was working on a Little House movie, but no word if that project is still happening.

42. And, just because: here’s disco Half-Pint as we never saw her in Walnut Grove.

We hope you enjoy the singing and dancing talents of Melissa Gilbert on this 1978 installment of the short-lived variety series Dick Clark’s Live Wednesday.

Additional sources:
Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, by Alison Arngrim
Prairie Tale, by Melissa Gilbert
The Way I See It: A Look Back on My Life on Little House, by Melissa Sue Anderson
Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter, by Melissa Francis

57 Facts Every Disney Fan Should Know

Mark Ashman/Disney via Getty Image
Mark Ashman/Disney via Getty Image

For nearly a century, Walt Disney's name has been synonymous with fun. From the creation of Mickey Mouse and his legendary slate of animated classic films to his titular amusement parks around the world and Disney+ emerging as one of the premier streaming services on the market, there's never been a better time to be a Disneyphile. Here are 57 things any hardcore Disney fan should know.

(Note: For clarity’s sake, this list uses Walt to refer to the man and Disney to refer to the company.)

1. Walt Disney got paid in haircuts when he was starting out.

A vintage photo of Walt Disney.
R. Mitchell/Express/Getty Images

One of Walt’s first art jobs was drawing cartoons for a local barber in exchange for haircuts.

2. He also photographed babies.

Walt Disney trying to coax a penguin into performing for the camera, for a 'Silly Symphony' entitled 'Peculiar Penguins'.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before shooting footage of penguins, Walt took pictures of babies in Kansas City, Missouri, in order to scrape together the money for a train ticket to Hollywood.

3. Walt's last words were not "Kurt Russell."

Kurt Russell at a press event.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM

Nope. The actor's name was one of the last things he wrote in his office, but the note is undated—it could have been up to a month old at the time Walt died in a hospital. Russell has a connection with Disney, though: He has appeared in a Disney-produced or -distributed film every decade since the 1960s, including 1969’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, 1971’s The Barefoot Executive, 1981’s The Fox and the Hound, 1993’s Tombstone (which was distributed by Disney), and 2005’s Sky High. Disney also owns Marvel, so 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 should count, right?

4. Walt signed a legal right-of-way agreement for a toy train.

A photo of a young Walt Disney.
Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images

When Walt built the 1/8th scale Carolwood Pacific Railway in his backyard, he made his wife, Lillian, sign over the right of way through her flower garden. Their two daughters served as witnesses.

5. Mickey wasn't his only famous voice appearance.

The gates at a Disney studio.
Razvan/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus

Walt’s most famous voice-acting role was Mickey Mouse early on, but according to official Disney Archivist Dave Smith, Walt was also the voice of Ferdinand in the Academy Award-winning short Ferdinand the Bull.

6. Walt's first educational film was for a dentist.

A tooth next to dental instruments.
AndreyPopov/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It debuted in 1922 and was called Tommy Tucker’s Tooth. Walt made it for a local dentist in Kansas City. (Other educational films include Four Methods of Flush Riveting for Lockheed, Advice on Lice, and the slightly better known The Story of Menstruation.)

7. Steamboat Willie wasn't the first cartoon with synchronized sound.

Walt Disney and his wife.
Imagno/Getty Images

Despite popular belief, animators had been experimenting with the combination for years. In fact, Max Fleischer had produced a couple of experimental sound cartoons four years before Steamboat. Walt himself saw a sound cartoon before Steamboat Willie’s audio was even recorded; he dismissed it as “a lot of racket and nothing else.”

8. The first feature-length animated film wasn’t actually Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

People dressed as the Seven Dwarfs.
Noam Galai/Getty Images for Disney

Again, this bucks against popular belief. Walt himself admitted that it “was not the first feature-length cartoon by 20 years.” Snow White wasn’t even Disney’s first. The first Disney animated “movie” was The Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons, a collection of several previously released shorts with new bridging narration that was released to build excitement for Snow White. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines an animated feature film as having a running time of “more than 40 minutes" [PDF]. The Academy Award Review clocks in at 41.

9. Toy Story's status as the first 100 percent computer-animated movie is in question.

A lineup of Toy Story action figures.
Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images

While 1995's Toy Story is often credited as the first 100 percent computer-animated movie, some film buffs disagree; they claim the 1996 Brazilian movie Cassiopeia was first. Cassiopeia was released after Toy Story, but because Pixar had used clay models and scanned them in with lasers, not everything in Toy Story was 100 percent computer generated. Some consider this cheating.

10. Disney didn't invent the word Imagineer.

A sign at the Disneyland Resort.
Rich Fury/Getty Images

While today, the word Imagineer is associated with Disney, it was actually coined by aluminum manufacturer Alcoa in the 1940s.

11. The myth about lemmings is older than Disney.

An absolutely adorable lemming.
Tinieder/iStock via Getty Images

Disney widely gets the blame for starting the myth that lemmings commit mass suicide by running off of cliffs in the 1958 documentary White Wilderness. But the myth is actually much older; for instance, a 1908 issue of Century Path magazine claimed that “the most extraordinary thing is what takes place when [lemmings] reach the sea; for here, descending the cliffs, they plunge headlong into the water and swim as if for some promised Eldorado, with the result that all perish.”

Disney’s not completely off the hook, though. The filmmakers did cart lemmings into Alberta, Canada, and threw them off a cliff to dramatize this event. (This isn't as odd as it sounds; even today, nature documentary-makers are known to cheat in order to get their ideas across.)

12. Scrooge McDuck has conflicting net worths.

A painting of Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck.
Sarah Fabian-Baddiel/Heritage Images/Getty Images

How rich is Scrooge McDuck? The comics claimed “skyrillions” and “fantasticatillions” until an actual number was revealed in "The Menehune Mystery" story from Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge #4: $500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.16.

For what it’s worth, Forbes estimates Scrooge’s wealth at only $65.4 billion.

13. Scrooge McDuck inspired a rock concept album.

Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish.
Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

In 2014, the songwriter/keyboardist behind the band Nightwish, Tuomas Holopainen, released Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge, a concept album based on Don Rosa’s Eisner Award-winning comic book story detailing how Scrooge made his money. It reached the top of the charts in Finland. And it's really good!

14. Flintheart got a nationality change for Ducktales.

Scrooge McDuck and David Tennant.
Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

In the original Disney comics, Scrooge’s nemesis, Flintheart Glomgold, was South African. DuckTales decided to make him much more Scottish, presumably because at the time apartheid was still law in South Africa.

15. A "Donald Duck" showed up in the first issue of The Adventures of Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney holding an early Donald Duck collectible.
Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images

One of the animals in the first hardback Disney book, The Adventures of Mickey Mouse (1931), was named Donald Duck. He's sporting green pants and looks exactly nothing like the Donald we know.

16. Donald Was the first core Disney character to appear in color.

Singer Gwen Stefani poses with Donald Duck
Richard Harbaugh/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

Donald wouldn’t officially debut until three years later in the short The Wise Little Hen. Because this was a Silly Symphony—the first color cartoons Disney produced—Donald was the first of the “Fab 5” (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) to appear in color in a theatrically released short.

17. Donald's nephews got their start in print.

Steve Carrell and Donald Duck.
Larry Hack/Disney Parks via Getty Images

Donald’s nephews (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) first appeared in the comics, and then a few months later made their big screen debut. While the background of how they got to Donald are broadly similar, there are a couple big differences between the comic and the cartoon. In the comic, the boys' mother is named Della, which turned into Dumbella for the cartoon. The bigger change is that Della was Donald’s cousin while Dumbella was his sister.

18. Huey, Dewey, and Louie have another brother.

Jon Stewart posing with Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse.
Todd Anderson/Disney via Getty Images

Hold onto your sailor hats. Huey, Dewey, and Louie actually have a fourth brother, Phooey. Basically, in the comics sometimes the artists accidentally drew one too many nephews in a panel, so this unofficial fourth "brother" was born.

19. Disneyland is responsible for Doritos.

An early look at Disney World.
Keystone/Getty Images

One of the most successful things to come out of Disneyland has to be Doritos. In the early days of Disneyland, Casa de Fritos was a restaurant that served Tex-Mex and was associated with Fritos (and later Frito-Lay). The story is that the restaurant was getting in a shipment of tortillas when the salesman advised that instead of tossing unused tortillas away, they should cut them up and fry them. This new dish became an instant hit. Later, when a marketing executive of the newly formed Frito-Lay company was looking around, he noticed how popular these fried tortilla chips were and decided to put them into production as a new snack. Soon, Doritos were conquering supermarket shelves.

20. The Drawbridge at fantasyland can open.

An image of the opening of Fantasyland.
Kent Phillips/Disney Parks via Getty Images

And has done so on two occasions: Once on opening day and again after a major park redesign in 1983.

21. The voice of Alice came back for the new Fantasyland.

Kathryn Beaumont, the original voice of Alice from 'Alice in Wonderland.'
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

During the 1983 renovation of Fantasyland, Disney brought back the original voice of Alice, Kathryn Beaumont, to do the updated voiceover work for the attraction—more than 30 years after the movie came out.

22. Adding characters to the rides cleared up some confusion.

An actor playing Peter Pan at a Disney theme park.
Chloe Rice/Disney Parks via Getty Images

Another major change was the addition of characters to Fantasyland rides. In the original Peter Pan’s Flight, there was no Peter Pan because guests were supposed to be Peter. But this was so confusing for guests who wanted to see the titular hero that a figure was added in the renovation.

23. Walt broke some horses to make the King Arthur Carrousel the way he wanted.

A photo of Walt Disney.
Harry Shepherd/Fox Photos/Getty Images

The King Arthur Carrousel, which dates back to 1922 and was purchased from a Toronto amusement park, is one of the oldest attractions in Disneyland. But Walt wasn’t entirely pleased with what he bought—he wanted all the horses to be jumping. Any standing horse had its legs broken and reset. Hopefully not in front of the kids.

24. One Disneyland attraction is millions of years old.

A photo of Frontierland, a part of the Disney theme parks.
Keystone/Getty Images

The oldest attraction in Disneyland is the Petrified Tree in Frontierland, which is believed to be about 55 to 70 million years old. Walt procured the relic from a privately owned petrified forest in Colorado. Sadly, the story of it being a present to his wife, Lillian, is likely just that—a story. Walt probably intended it for a natural history exhibit, where he was planning to display rocks and minerals as well as sell Disney-branded minerals.

25. The Ice Capades rescued Disneyland's opening day parade.

The Disney Fab 5: Goofy, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Pluto.

Joel, via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

On opening day, Disney didn’t yet have character costumes for the parade, so the company borrowed some from the Ice Capades, which did Disney-related shows.

26. A movie about a casino manager was the first non-Disney movie made at Disneyland.

A photo from 'That Thing You Do!'
Getty Images / Handout

Tony Curtis’s 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962) was the first non-Disney movie filmed at Disneyland. That Thing You Do! (1996) also features a short section there, and the very-not-Disney horror film Escape From Tomorrow secretly filmed at Disney World (but Disney declined to take legal action).

27. The "STR" initials on Walt's tie stand for the Smoke Tree Ranch.

A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

On Partners, the famous statue of Walt and Mickey in several parks, Walt has "STR" on his tie. This stands for Smoke Tree Ranch, where Walt used to have a vacation home.

28. Walt didn't open a park in New Jersey because he couldn't control the weather.

A woman dressed as Mary Poppins holds a young girl's hand on a sunny day at Disneyland
smckenzie/iStock via Getty Images

In the late 1950s, Disney’s relationship with ABC (which had financed a large part of the original Disneyland) was falling apart, ultimately resulting in Disney’s Wonderful World of Color airing on NBC. As this was happening, the president of NBC decided that they wanted to get involved in a park and proposed a location in the New Jersey Meadows. According to Roy Disney, the proposal never went very far: “Walt gave the Meadows proposal a careful look, but he finally decided that there would have to be some method of controlling the weather—a vast dome or some such thing. When the financial backers looked into the cost of such an undertaking they lost their courage pretty fast.”

29. It's not clear why a park didn't get built in St. Louis.

A look at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Alex Menendez/Getty Images

After the New Jersey failure, Disney decided to look into St. Louis for the “Riverfront Square” park (which was actually going to be entirely indoors). The company created blueprints and was ready to go until something happened and Disney canceled it in 1965. It’s unclear why the project didn’t go forward, but the most common explanation is that the Busch family insisted it sell beer, and Disney refused. Still, many Disney historians think that the beer issue had been worked out fairly quickly, and that the real cause was St. Louis’s refusal to help pay for construction.

30. Disney had to negotiate mineral rights to build in Orlando.

Photos of the original Epcot plans.
Central Press/Getty Images

The canceled St. Louis project might also have something to do with the fact that on November 15, 1965, Walt announced that he had purchased a huge area of land near Orlando, Florida. There were a couple of issues with buying the land in Florida, chief among them the mineral rights. Under American law, a land owner is allowed to separate out the surface rights from the mineral rights for the same plot of land and sell them separately. Tufts University used to own large areas of Central Florida, but retained the mineral rights when they sold the surface rights. This meant, in theory, they could come in and dig up any building in the area to get at underlying resources. Thankfully, Disney found this out and was able to negotiate a sale for $15,000.

31. Walt also abandoned a large Frontierland in Virginia.

The entrance to a Disney park featuring giant letters that spell California.
travelview/iStock via Getty Images

In 1993, Disney announced Disney’s America, a new park in Virginia. The idea was basically a giant Frontierland that tracked American history from the Colonial Era through the Civil War and into World War II. Less than a year after the announcement, protests and concern about the proximity to the Manassas Battlefield  (at only 3.5 miles away, the National Park Service was worried the site would be threatened by the development around the battlefield) forced the abandonment of the idea. Several of the proposed ideas moved to California Adventure when it opened in 2001, such as the whitewater raft ride (Grizzly River Run), Paradise Pier, and the original Condor Flats.

32. Environmentalism and the Supreme Court quashed a Disney ski resort.

People skiing down a mountain.
Gordy Colonna/iStock via Getty Images

In the 1960s, the Mineral King area of the Sequoia National Forest was opened to private recreational development for a new ski resort. Walt Disney Enterprises decided to put in a bid and won. They were going to build a destination that could be used for skiing in the winter and other outdoor pursuits in the summer. But soon after the announcement, environmentalists turned on the idea and lawsuits relating to the project went all the way to the Supreme Court. Eventually, the area was added to Sequoia National Park, ending all plans of development. Probably the most famous thing to come out of this was a show Disney had planned for the development called Country Bear Jamboree.

33. New Mexico Almost Got a Disney Park, Too.

A sign depicting a UFO grabbing a cow in New Mexico.
StellaMc/iStock via Getty Images Plus

While Mineral King was being held up in courts, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce offered Sandia Peak to Disney, who seriously considered it. Ultimately, the company concluded that the weather wasn't right. 

34. Europe and the United States have different ideas about what makes a Disney Classic.

Photos from the premiere of the Disney movie 'Dinosaur.'
Chris Weeks/Liaison/Getty Images

Any Disney fan can name the Disney Animated Classics (the canon distinction for the company's feature-length animated movies), but a European and American would have different lists. In the UKThe Wild is included as a Classic but not 2000's Dinosaur. In the States, that's flip-flopped. 

35. Disney dominates the list of highest-grossing G-rated movies.

Tim Allen and Tom Hanks at the Toy Story 3 premiere.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

All 10 of the highest grossing G movies are either Disney or Pixar (which is owned by Disney), and of the top 15, only Gone With the Wind interrupts Disney’s streak. But not everyone appreciates the family friendliness of these movies; English children were required to bring a parent along to see Snow White because it was deemed too scary.

36. Walt knew Snow White's initial budget was far too low.

People dressed as Snow White's dwarfs.
Ryan Wendler/Disney Parks via Getty Images

It’s actually kind of amazing that Snow White was created at all. Walt originally budgeted $250,000 for the movie (around $4 million today), but he knew that this was a wild understatement, later saying, “we were spending about that much on every three Symphonies. Walt estimated that it ultimately cost around $2 million.

37. Roy Disney Hated Debt.

A photo of Space Mountain in Disney World.
Central Press/Getty Images

One person who didn’t take this budget increase well was Walt’s brother, Roy. According to Walt, “Roy was very brave and manly until the costs passed $1 million. He wasn’t used to figures of over $100,000 at that time. The extra cipher threw him. When costs passed the one and one-half million mark, Roy didn’t even bat an eye. He couldn’t; he was paralyzed.” (Roy hated debt. After Walt’s death, Roy took it upon himself to go through with the Disney World project by building an East Coast Disneyland. Through creative financing methods, he was able to build Magic Kingdom virtually debt-free.)

38. The price tag for Snow White and the seven Dwarfs wouldn't matter if it wasn't good.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

During the filming of Snow White, Walt was very clear that no matter how much was spent on the movie, if the final product wasn’t up to his standards, it would be destroyed.

39. Fortunately, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a massive success.

Snow White and Dopey.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

It was a good gamble though, because Snow White became the then-highest grossing film of all time. Sadly, Disney’s next movie, Pinocchio, failed to do as well. Walt commented that it was actually the second highest grossing film of the year (after Gone With the Wind, which had been released in December of the previous year). But due to soaring costs ($3 million) and World War II removing most of their markets, Disney failed to recoup their investment in the original release.

40. some of your favorite disney movies were initially failures.

Walt Disney Reading Alice in Wonderland.
Edward G. Malindine/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Other Disney films from this time that failed to turn a profit on their initial releases included Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Bambi, and Fantasia.

41. Dumbo was supposed to be on the cover of Time in December 1941.

Minnie Mouse on a Dumbo ride.
Gene Duncan/Disney via Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, it was kicked off the cover following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

42. Audiences love non-disney movies when they think Disney made them.

The Disney logo.
John Keeble/Getty Images

In 1994, Warner Bros. did test screenings of their new animated movie, Thumbelina. The audience reaction was so-so—but when they replaced the WB logo with Disney’s in test screenings, audience scores skyrocketed.

43. Animators Made Captain Hook a Righty.

Captain Hook in the Magic Kingdom.
Todd Anderson/Disney Parks via Getty Images

In the original Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie wrote that “[Captain Hook] has an iron hook instead of a right hand,” but in the cartoon, Captain Hook has the hook on his left hand. This was because the animators wanted him to be able to write and do other activities with his right hand since it was simpler to draw.

44. Pluto was briefly "Rover."

Paul McCartney hanging out with Pluto.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Pluto was introduced in 1930 in The Chain Gang as a bloodhound. In The Picnic, he was introduced as Minnie's dog Rover, and then became Mickey's in 1931’s The Moose Hunt.

45. Disney's first named animated character was a cat.

Disney's Oswald.
Victor Chavez/Getty Images

Julius the Cat appeared in 1924. The next year, Pete was introduced. Originally a bear in the Alice Comedies (a collection of cartoons that featured animated characters interacting with a live-action girl), Pegleg Pete would go on to fight Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and then, after a species change, became a cat who first appeared as Mickey’s antagonist in Steamboat Willie. Ninety years after debuting, Pete is still one of Disney’s main villains.

46. Steamboat Willie premiered before a violent mob movie.

Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie.
Victor Chavez/Getty Images

In 1928, Steamboat Willie opened at New York's Colony Theater before the movie Gang War, a completely forgotten (and violent) mob movie. But that's not Gang War's only Disney connection: Some of the music for the movie was written by Al Sherman, father of the Sherman Brothers, who did the music for Mary Poppins and many other Disney projects.

47. Walt considered Mickey an actor playing the role of "Willie."

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Why was Mickey called Willie? The short version is that it’s a reference to Steamboat Bill, Jr., which was both a popular song and a recently released Buster Keaton movie (but Willie was not, as many people claim, a parody; there’s almost no connection between the two).

Walt didn't call the film Steamboat Mickey because he felt that Mickey Mouse was an actor, not a character. In the same way that Bogart played the role of Rick in Casablanca, Mickey Mouse is playing the character of Steamboat Willie for the short.

48. Mickey Has two different birthdays.

Mickey Mouse surveying the crowd while inside a protective bubble.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For the first several decades of Mickey’s existence, his birthday was celebrated September 30, the date the soundtrack for Steamboat Willie was recorded. It wasn’t until later that Steamboat Willie’s release date of November 18 was chosen as the character's birthday.

49. One audience got to see Mickey six months before Steamboat Willie.

A very old piece of Mickey Mouse merchandise.
Imagno/Getty Images

There’s a debate about when Mickey debuted. On May 15, 1928—six months before Steamboat Willie—Walt showed a then-silent Plane Crazy, which stars Mickey as a wannabe Charles Lindbergh, to a test audience in an attempt to get a distributor. He didn’t get one, so most Disney fans agree the real birthday is the wide release debut.

50. Plane Crazy was made in secret in two weeks.

A vintage Mickey Mouse movie poster.
Online USA/Getty Images

The animation of Plane Crazy was a remarkable feat in and of itself. Walt had just been robbed of his Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons by his distributor, and many of his animators were about to leave with Oswald. But there were still three Oswald cartoons left on the Disney contract before most of the animators left. So while the soon-to-leave animators were finishing those up, Disney legend Ub Iwerks worked in secret (supposedly with Oswald drawings on hand if an unexpected visitor arrived) and single-handedly animated all of Plane Crazy in two weeks, producing 700 drawings a day.

51. Cartoons weren't the moneymaker early on.

The sign at Disneyland.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Despite Mickey’s great success, Disney never made much money off of the cartoons. According to a 1934 article in The New York Times, one of the original Mickey Mouse cartoons only just came out of the red, about six years later. Even Three Little Pigs, which the same article says was “the most successful short subject produced by any studio,” grossed $64,000 (it cost $60,000 to make). From day one, Disney made most of its money from merchandising.

52. Mickey and Minnie also have nephews.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Donald may get all the nephew credit, but Mickey and Minnie each have nephews and nieces, respectively. Mickey’s nephews are Morty and Ferdie, and Minnie’s nieces are Millie and Melody. Daisy Duck has nieces as well: April, May, and June.

53. The WWII-era Food Will Win the War is a masterclass in mixed measures.

Milk.
Alter_photo/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The 1942 short Food Will Win the War (about American food production) is a masterclass in mixed units (using as many units as possible). For instance, “Milk! 125 billion pounds of it. If all this flowed over Niagara Falls in a steady stream, it would generate enough electricity to light every factory in New York for one month.” In case you ever needed to know how to measure electricity in milk.

54. Phil Simms was the first Super Bowl MVP to say, "I'm going to Disney World.”

Phil Simms playing quarterback for the New York Giants.
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

He was actually instructed to say Disney World and Disneyland three times each; he got $50,000 (and a free vacation) for his troubles.

55. "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" was a huge hit.

A Davy Crockett button.
Blank Archives/Getty Images

The theme song to the miniseries Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier was a big winner in its own right, spending several weeks at number one on the Hit Parade and selling 7 million copies in six months. But its origins are a bit more practical: It was written because the show was running short.

56. The nation's Davy Crockett obsession made one store give away thousands of tents.

Young boys dressed as Davy Crockett.
Harry Kerr/BIPs/Getty Images)

Davy Crockett mania reached such a fever pitch that one department store advertised that with every major appliance sold, they’d give away a free Davy Crockett play tent. They were inundated with orders and estimated they’d give away 35,000 tents during the promotion.

57. WALL-E isn't a reference to Walt.

A photo of Disney's Wall-E.
John M. Heller/Getty Images

It’s a myth (albeit a pervasive one) that the name WALL-E is an homage to Walter Elias Disney. According to Pixar, “Nope. Sorr-e.” WALL-E just means Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class.

Watch John Krasinski Interview Steve Carell About The Office's 15th Anniversary

John Krasinski and Steve Carell in The Office.
John Krasinski and Steve Carell in The Office.
NBC Universal, Inc.

The Office just passed a major milestone: It has been 15 years since the American adaptation of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's hit British sitcom made its way to NBC, where it ran for nine seasons. To celebrate the show's big anniversary, former co-stars John Krasinski and Steve Carell reunited in the best way possible: Carell appeared as a guest on Krasinski's new YouTube show, where the two decided to spread some positivity.

Krasinski just launched his very own news show titled Some Good News, and it's exactly what we've all been needing. During this segment, he interviewed Carell via video call, and the two shared their favorite memories of working on the beloved workplace comedy.

"It's such a happy surprise," Carell said of The Office's continued success. "After all these years people are still tuning in and finding it." The two also addressed the question that's been on every fan's mind: is there a chance that we'll see the Dunder Mifflin crew reunite in some way?

"Listen, I know everyone's talking about a reunion," Krasinski said. "Hopefully one day we'll just all get to reunite as people."

You can watch the full episode below. (Carell joins the video around the 5:50 minute mark.)

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