Germans Capture Fort Vaux

Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 239th installment in the series.  

June 8, 1916: Germans Capture Fort Vaux 

The French failure to recapture Fort Douaumont in May 1916 was accompanied by more devastating losses, as the Germans finally wrested control of Cote 304 and Mort Homme, two key hills on the west bank of the Meuse, amid indescribable bloodshed. Possession of these two hills gave German artillery the drop on French forts around the citadel of Verdun, clearing the way for a new offensive on the eastern bank. 

On June 1 the Germans unleashed “Operation May Cup,” an all-out offensive along a relatively narrow three-mile-long front, targeting the final French defenses standing between the Germans and the côtes de Meuse, or “hills above the Meuse” – their original objective in attacking Verdun. From this strategic position overlooking the town their heavy artillery would threaten the bridges over the Meuse and the citadel of Verdun itself, which in turn would either force the French to throw away their remaining reserves in futile counterattacks or abandon the symbolic fortress. Either way, if the German Fifth Army succeeded in capturing the line running approximately from Fort Tavannes to the small “ouvrage” or defensive works at Froideterre, directly north of Verdun, victory would be theirs (see map below). 


The first main obstacle was Fort Vaux, a small but formidable French redoubt which had managed to hold off repeated attacks over the first three months of the battle (below, an aerial view). Shaped like a trapezoid and just a quarter the size of its counterpart Fort Douaumont, Fort Vaux had been stripped of most of its artillery before the battle began, leaving the sole 75-millimeter turret to be destroyed by an enormous 420-millimeter German shell which set off demolition charges (foolishly left in place after a plan to abandon the fort was canceled). As a result Vaux was protected only by machine guns and it garrison of infantry, swollen to 650 men including wounded being treated in the infirmary. Although still basically intact, the structure had also suffered heavily from German shelling over the course of the battle, including seven breaches in various places, all plugged with sandbags. 


Operation May Cup met with surprising success from the beginning, as the Germans blasted away two out of three entrenched positions protecting the approaches to the fort and arrived beneath its walls on the evening of June 1, fully three days ahead of schedule (top and below, German soldiers outside Fort Vaux). An anonymous French officer manning one of the entrenched positions recalled the initial bombardment: 

We had scarcely arrived at the right of Fort de Vaux, on the slope of the ravine, when there came an unprecedented bombardment of twelve hours. Alone, in a sort of dugout without walls, I pass twelve hours of agony, believing that it is the end.  The soil is torn up, covered with fresh earth by enormous explosions. In front of us are not less than 1,200 guns of 240, 305, 380, and 420 calibre, which spit ceaselessly and all together, in these days of preparation for attack.  These explosions stupefy the brain; you feel as if your entrails were being torn out, your heart twisted and wrenched; the shock seems to dismember your whole body. And then the wounded, the corpses! Never had I seen such horror, such hell.  I felt that I would give everything if only this would stop long enough to clear my brain.  Twelve hours alone, motionless, exposed, and no chance to risk a leap to another place, so closely did the fragments of shell and rock fall in hail all day long. 

As the Germans swiftly overwhelmed the first two entrenched positions, Captain Delvert, commander of the beleaguered force holding the third and last entrenched position, recalled conditions there as the isolated defenders fought on in desperation: 

Everywhere the stones have been splashed with red drops. In places, great pools of violet-coloured, viscous blood have been formed, and cease to spread. Half-way along the communication trench, in the bright sunshine, corpses are lying, stiff and stark under their blood-stained canvas. Everywhere there are piles of debris of all kinds: empty tins of canned food, disemboweled knapsacks, helmets riddled with holes, rifles shattered and splashed with blood… An intolerable stench poisons the air… And the heavy hammer-blows of the shells never cease from echoing all around us. 

Delvert’s troops hung on heroically throughout the battle, but were unable to stop the German onslaught following the loss of the other two entrenched positions. Over the seven following days, from June 2-8, French and German troops fought for control of Fort Vaux in even more nightmarish conditions, as combat eventually extended into the narrow, claustrophobic subterranean passageways of the fort itself.


The attack on the fort itself began with a thundering bombardment in the early morning of June 2, with German guns dropping around 2,000 shells an hour on the fort’s thick soil superstructure, dry moat, and protective external galleries, whose inward-facing gun slits allowed defenders to mow down any attackers who tried to cross the moat. Just before dawn, battalions from the German 50th Division staged their first attacks on the galleries, scaling the tops of these structures and improvising various methods to expel the hard-to-reach defenders, including lowering clusters of hand grenades in front of the gun slits and fitting flamethrowers with long, curved tubes to direct the flames inward.

The Germans suffered enormous casualties during these audacious attacks, with one French officer describing the scene:

… the German chiefs must be hangmen to hurl their troops to death that way in masses and in broad daylight. All afternoon, a maximum bombardment; a wood is razed, a hill ravaged with shell-holes. It is maddening; continuous salvos of “big chariots”; one sees the 380’s and 420’s falling; a continuous cloud of smoke everywhere.  Trees leap into air like wisps of straw; it is an unheard-of spectacle. 

After finally clearing the galleries of their defenders, the Germans occupied the roof of the fort (once covered in grass, now a mass of soil churned up by thousands of shells) and looked for ways into the main structure. Knowing the Germans would find their way in eventually the French commander, Major Sylvain-Eugene Raynal, began preparing the fort’s last-ditch defenses, ordering his troops to construct a series of sandbag barriers along the fort’s main underground corridors, behind which French machine gun crews could shelter (below, one of the interior passages of Fort Vaux). 


On June 3, as the German attackers fought their way in to the fort’s central structure, both sides descended into hell, or something like it, with the ferocious combat inside the fort’s reinforced concrete passageways. The conditions were beyond imagination, even by the horrifying standards of the First World War: in addition to machine guns and rifles, both sides made liberal use of grenades in the narrow corridors, blowing out men’s eardrums and often killing them through shockwaves alone, and the Germans employed flamethrowers to send fire down vents and through doorways, burning French (and occasionally by accident German soldiers) alive and filling enclosed spaces with toxic smoke. The fort was filled with dead bodies that quickly began to decompose in the summer heat, and the French were now shelling the Germans occupying the roof relentlessly. Capping it all off, Raynal discovered that the French garrison, now trapped in the fort, was running out of water: it turned out the gauge on the fort’s cistern, showing a full water supply, was broken.

Still the Germans pressed on, accepting massive casualties in return for advances measured in single-digit meters, as the French machine gunners fought tooth and nail for every sandbag emplacement in the corridors. Aware that Raynal’s troops were in desperate straits, French commander Robert Nivelle ordered a relief effort to lift the siege, but the 124th Division failed to break through the German units protecting the besieging forces. On June 4, Raynal dispatched his last carrier pigeon to French headquarters, calling for another immediate relief effort; the pigeon flew home, despite being gassed in a German attack, and died after delivering its message (it later became the only bird decorated with the Legion of Honor).

Now the water situation was becoming critical. By June 5, there was approximately a half-pint of dirty water left per man, which Raynal duly dispensed to his troops, followed by a message sent by heliograph (a mirror used to reflect the sun) to neighboring Fort Souville that their fight was reaching an end. On June 6, another French relief effort failed miserably, throwing the defenders of Fort Vaux into despondency. Finally, on June 7 Raynal decided the jig was up and sent two officers under a white flag to negotiate the fort’s surrender; Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, commander of the German Fifth Army, was so impressed with the French resistance at Fort Vaux that he presented Raynal (who’d lost his sword during the battle) with another officer’s sword, in a great show of respect. On June 8, the last French attempt to retake Fort Vaux ended in complete, ignominious failure, as colonial troops from Morocco were wiped out by German artillery before they even go to their starting positions in the French trenches. 


The fall of Fort Vaux brought the Germans one big step closer to the citadel of Verdun, and the following days would be some of the most dangerous for the French since the battle began. The Germans would make their final push to victory in late June, with the fate of France hanging in the balance. 

Meanwhile ordinary soldiers on both sides at Verdun continued to endure conditions which defy easy description. By now literally tens of thousands of dead bodies carpeted the ground across the battlefield, and continual shelling made it almost impossible to bury many of them; others were hastily interred in shell holes or the sides of the trenches, where they decayed in full view of their surviving compatriots.

In June 1916 one French soldier near the village of Thiaumont wrote in a letter home: “...I stayed ten days next to a man who was chopped in two; there was no way to move him; he had one leg on the parapet and the rest of this body in the trench. It stank and I had to chew tobacco the whole time in order to endure this torment...” And on June 19 the French officer Henri Desagneaux wrote in his diary:

We try to make ourselves as comfortable as possible but the more we dig, the more bodies we find. We give up and go elsewhere, but we just give up one graveyard for another. At dawn we have to stop as the German planes are up above spying on us. They signal and the guns start up again, more furiously than before. No sleep, no water, impossible to move out of one’s hole, to even show your head above one’s trench. 

Enemy shelling meant that supply disruptions were now the rule, rather than the exception, leaving soldiers without food or water for days at a time. According to one German soldier, desperately thirsty men drank rainwater from shell holes tainted by rotting corpses, with predictable results – most notably dysentery, which could be fatal: 

Nearly all suffer from dysentery. Because of the failing provisioning the men are forced to use up their emergency rations of salty meats. They quenched their thirst with water from the shellholes. They are stationed in the village of Ville where every form of care seems to be missing. They have to build their own accommodation and are given a little cacao to stop the diarrhoea. The latrines, wooden beams hanging over open holes, are occupied day and night – the holes are filled with slime and blood...

As always, some of the worst effects were inward, as men subjected to nonstop shelling began to lose their nerves, if not their minds. A French officer tried to sum up the experience of enduring shell after shell for weeks, even months at a time, until the victim lapses into numb indifference: 

When you hear the whistling in the distance your entire body preventively crunches together to prepare for the enormous explosions. Every new explosion is a new attack, a new fatigue, a new affliction. Even nerves of the hardest of steel, are not capable of dealing with this kind of pressure. The moment comes when the blood rushes to your head, the fever burns inside your body and the nerves, numbed with tiredness, are not capable of reacting to anything anymore. It is as if you are tied to a pole and threatened by a man with a hammer. First the hammer is swung backwards in order to hit hard, then it is swung forwards, only missing your skull by an inch, into the splintering pole. In the end you just surrender. Even the strength to guard yourself from splinters now fails you. There is even hardly enough strength left to pray to God...

See the previous installment or all entries.

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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