Keys to the Kingdom Lesson: Chess Anyone?

Today, I am sharing another tidbit of information I discovered while on my recent Keys to the Kingdom Tour at the Magic Kingdom. After our morning stroll down Main Street, we headed over to Adventureland and Liberty Square to learn a little about a man named Marc Davis.

If you have ever looked around while in the queue at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, you have probably noticed the scene of two skeletons sitting at a chess game. If you have looked even closer, you have probably noticed that the game is in stalemate so the storyline is that these swashbucklers died trying to figure out their next move. If you have ever wondered where the idea came from, you are lucky to be reading this blog today.

The chess game was the idea of Disney Imagineer Marc Davis. Marc Davis wasn’t just any old imagineer but was, in fact, one of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” a group of famed core animators for Disney animated films. Mr. Davis started in 1935 on Snow White and he later went on to help develop and animate the characters of Bambi and Thumper in Bambi, Cinderella, Alice of Alice in Wonderland, Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, Maleficent and the raven in Sleeping Beauty, and Cruella De Vil in One Hundred and One Dalmatians. He was also the design creator of many of the characters in some of Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s most famous rides, such as the Carousel of Progress, the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion. In 1989, Mr. Davis was named a Disney Legend.

Marc Davis was an avid chess player and, although Imagineers are not allowed to autograph their work, some do manage to leave little clues. He found a way to do just that. On Pirates it is in the queue with the skeletons playing chess, but do you know where it is in the Haunted Mansion? If you guessed that it is not “in” the Haunted Mansion but “on” it, you are right! Chess pieces adorn the tops of the mansion. Look closely at my pictures and you will see some of them.


If I had a better photograph that encompassed the entire mansion, you would notice there are a couple of pawns, rooks, kings, queens, etc. on the roof. Rae told us there are no knights, though, because it is always night in the Haunted Mansion – tee hee.

Many people, like me, never even take the time to look at the top of the mansion. We are usually hurried to get to this ride or that. I am so thankful that I took the time to go on the Keys to the Kingdom tour. There is so much hidden magic we miss when we are in a hurry. It is a lot of fun to take the time to look and learn.

There is just one more signature piece I must mention. While you are on POTC, look closely at the coat of arms hanging over the entrance of the final scene. On the crest, Mr. Davis managed to sneak in the name “Marco Daviso,” and adorn the crest with rooks. Next time you are at the Magic Kingdom, look for all of these signature pieces. It really makes it all more personal to think of the genius behind the magic.

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Chip and Co Past Writers and Friends