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Two Disney Fans Found Living at Disney Park For More Than 16 Years

balloons mickey mouse
Credit: Flickr, JoePenniston

Disney fans are often unfairly lumped into one category–and even seen as being all the same–but the truth is that among those who consider themselves fans of Disney’s parks, films, characters, and other offerings, there can be a variety of differences in how those fans go about celebrating that fandom.

mickey-ears

Credit: Flickr/Brian McGowan

Disney Fans Have Different Ideas of “Dreams Come True”

Some fans love Disney’s films but don’t relish the thought of a Disney World vacation. Others love visiting the parks, but once they’ve seen one Disney film, they rarely watch it again. Still others can’t get enough of the parks or the films, or anything else offered by the entertainment giant, and they’re only too happy to indulge at every opportunity.

But among Disney fans, there are definitely many who love Disney World and Disneyland so much that they wish they could live in the parks and never go home. After all, leaving is the most heartbreaking part of any Disney Parks vacation.

walt disney and magic kingdom

Credit: Disney/Becky Burkett/Canva

So what if you never had to leave? What would it be like to live in the parks all the time? And how much better would it be if no one ever knew you lived there?

It Has Happened Only Twice

Such a “dream come true” hasn’t happened often. In fact, as of the time of this publication, we know of only two documented incidents of Disney fans actually living at a Disney Parks resort for any length of time.

cinderella castle disney world

Credit: Disney Parks

At the Walt Disney World Resort, one guest continued to “extend” her Disney vacation until she had managed to stay on Disney’s property for 20 years, despite the resort’s 30-day limit on continuous books at a Disney World Resort hotel or other accommodation. In that situation, a female guest reportedly continued to lengthen her stay beyond the 30-day limit at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.

Since we first reported the story, the guest is said to have been finally made to move on from her spot at Disney World.

Fort Wilderness

Credit: Disney

But in 1951, things began to fall into place so that one couple would not only eventually take up residence at the Disneyland Resort and never be noticed by a single guest, but they’d be asked to do so by none other than Walt Disney himself.

Long-Term Tenants at Disneyland

Just four years before Walt Disney would open his first theme park in Southern California, he met Owen and Dolly Pope through one of his Imagineers, Harper Goff. Walt quickly hired the couple in November 1951, as he wanted to have livestock at his California theme park.

As Walt made preparations to open Disneyland, he asked the Popes to move into a trailer at Walt Disney Studios. There, they raised and trained the very first horses that would be part of Disneyland. Owen Pope and Dolly Pope further helped to build wagons and coaches that would be used in attractions at the new park.

As construction began on Disneyland, Walt then asked the couple to move to a location on the Disney property in an effort to have them closer to the ponies for which they were caring.

the pope house at disneyland

The Pope House at Disneyland Resort/Credit: Disney Parks

Walt allowed the Popes to choose a prefabricated Disney house and ultimately decided on a house called the Witherill Bungalow. It would be set on a ten-acre plot of land that would become the Disneyland Pony Farm.

Then, three days before Disneyland opened in July 1955, the couple moved to Disneyland, though they had to live in their trailer until their house was ready for them to move in.

disney world's tr-circle d ranch then and now

Tri-Circle D Ranch signage then and now/Credit: Disney Parks

The Popes lived in their home at Disneyland from 1955 to 1971 before moving to Florida to help with the Tri-Circle D Ranch at Disney World–something they worked on until they retired in 1975. They were Disneyland’s only residents and became among the first retirees from Disneyland.

Today, Mr. Owen Pope is still honored with an honorary window on Main Street, U.S.A., in the Car Barn at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

owen pope window on main street

Credit: “People Behind the Disney Parks”/Disney Editions/2023

Disneyland’s Pony Farm no longer exists at Disneyland, and the Popes’ home can no longer be seen at Walt’s very first park. Instead, it sits in a backstage area out of the view of visitors and cast members and is only used for special events from time to time.

But isn’t it interesting to know that even when the Popes’ home was located near the guest areas of the park, no one ever knew the structure was home to tenants for 16 years?

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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