Here’s How One Of America’s Most-Loved Snacks Was First Created In A Disneyland Dumpster

Disneyland’s famous for evoking wonder, and the food it serves is no exception. Have you ever tried its dole whip donuts or Mickey Mouse waffles? And a very popular snack was created on Disneyland grounds – in a dumpster, no less. You might even have the result in your kitchen cupboard right now.

Disneyland isn’t called the magical kingdom for nothing – it prides itself on sparking the imagination. The process behind the parks’ construction is even called “Imagineering” and the creative minds who steer it are referred to as “Imagineers.” New attractions are often experimental in design in order to inspire that sense of wonder.

It’s not just the rides that display this fantastical approach to design, either. The food is also a part of the same process. As you’re probably aware if you’ve visited a Disney park, they offer some unusual (and often themed) snacks. For proof of this, you need look no further than the Mickey Ear Ice Cream Sandwich or Mickey Pretzels.

Not all Disneyland’s snacks are wacky though, and a commonplace one also originated in the Disney parks. But whereas its nature is fairly ordinary, the manner of its discovery was anything but. That’s because this snack actually originates from a park dumpster. And the food is so popular that you might have even tasted it sometime today.

You’re probably wondering about some of the unusual Disney treats on offer. Who wouldn’t be curious – if a little troubled – about something called Poop Candy? Don’t worry, it’s not made from real poop. It’s created from edible ingredients, as the Disney Food Blog revealed in May 2020.

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Apparently, Disney Animal Kingdom’s Zuri’s Sweets Shop had “poop candy” on sale for a limited time in 2015. “This might be the funniest thing we’ve ever seen in a Disney Park,” the blog stated. “And [to be honest] we kinda still want it to come back.” The snack’s appearance wasn’t the only novel thing about it, either.

Each animal had its own dedicated flavor of poop candy as well. “The cotton top tamarin poop was made with peanut butter fudge, sweet rolled oat flakes, and chocolate pretzel pearls,” the blog elaborated. “The giraffe poop was chocolate fudge brownie and caramel.” You have to admit, it’s certainly original.

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You might also be curious about a Halloween dish served up in the form of mac and cheese with a twist. The main ingredient is obvious, of course, and the vendors have regular flavors available. But Disney did something special for Halloween and served up pasta with pumpkin seeds and cranberries. And it topped the snack with gummy worms.

You’ve probably noticed that although these snacks are unusual, they’re all twists on existing food lines. Disney parks have a tendency to flip ideas on their head and present something new and fresh. Concept-wise, at least, because few people would describe the Space Sandwich as looking all that fresh.

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Because Disney owns Marvel, it has the rights to the space action movie Guardians of the Galaxy. It created a live band called Awesome Mix Live to promote the movie’s soundtrack, who performed while dressed as the titular Guardians. And Disney also brought out a selection of space-themed foods in its parks. But one wasn’t such a big hit with the Disney Food Blog.

“Although we’re big Marvel fans,” the blog stated, “we’re not too sure that the Space Sandwich was as epic as the Guardians would have liked.” That’s because Disney dyed the burger bun a questionable blue color that “really just made the sandwich look kind of… gross and moldy.” You can’t win them all.

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Other flavor experiments are so popular that they make a comeback, such as the dole whip donut. If some fans have their way, though, its rightful name should be the “pineapple donut with meringue.” These treats pop up from time to time and won hearts at the Disney Food Blog for two reasons.

The first one is the donut’s taste, which lives up to its informal name. The bread is covered with a toasted meringue and filled with pineapple flavor. The second reason for the donut’s popularity is its cocktail-umbrella-topped appearance. “This donut is totally Instagram-able,” the blog added. “Just find yourself a castle, and click away.”

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Dubious blue sandwiches aside, theme parks weren’t always associated with alluring treats. Back in the 1950s they went by a different name: amusement parks. And they were far removed from the wholesome, child-friendly image we have of places such as Disneyland today. They weren’t as clean and their safety standards left much to be desired.

This contrast stretches to amusement park food, too, which didn’t exactly wow visitors. They provided patrons with nibbles, but there wasn’t much besides the obligatory hot dogs, cotton candy and peanuts. Food just wasn’t considered an essential part of the experience until Walt Disney set his sights on revolutionizing it.

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So when Disney created his upgraded version of an amusement park – the theme park – he reimagined the food selection. From the very beginning, snacks were an intrinsic part of the parks. The woman who penned Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food, Marcy Smothers, told LAist as much in 2018.

“The theme park really was Walt’s concept,” Smothers explained. “Every land has a specific era, a specific time era and the details and the story reflect the time era.” Even the park’s food adhered to this theme, which was – and still is – very much a part of the magical experience Disney envisioned.

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So Disney made deals with close to 50 firms to provide refreshments ahead of Disneyland’s grand opening in 1955. And he insisted that their eateries be appropriately themed for their locations. This meant that the park wowed visitors with pirate-themed restaurants and ice cream parlors that were just as intriguing as some of the rides.

Today, the menus are vital to the theme park experience, as Insider.com detailed during an interview with Disneyland staff. In February 2020 it spoke to the park’s Flavor Lab beverage sales and standards manager, Janice Kleyla. She discussed how they work alongside the previously mentioned Imagineers – who are renowned for their ride designs – to keep themes cohesive.

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“Our Walt Disney Imagineering partners come over frequently,” Kleyla explained. “They partner with us and give us the storyline or inspiration or their ideas of where they see a concept going.” The chefs show a similar dedication to Disney’s vision as the Flavor Lab’s culinary director, chef Brian Piasecki, revealed.

“Sometimes we often will cook the menu items 25 times just to ensure we get it right,” Piasecki said. “And all of this is combined with working on the actual design, layout, equipment placement and flow of the kitchen operation.” He also elaborated on the role social media plays in Disney’s world of food.

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Since social media is such a big part of advertising, Piasecki and his team intentionally create photogenic food. “We know that guests love our food and they love being in our parks and resorts,” he stated. “So if they have the opportunity to showcase our product on social media, they take full advantage of it.”

With this in mind, the chefs always consider if their snack is “something that [guests] want to share on their social media.” Yet despite the ingenious food Disneyland offers, arguably the most popular snack created there is quite ordinary. And it’s so commonplace you might even be nibbling on them now.

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The snack in question is none other than the famous triangular treat, Doritos. And while they’re considered ordinary – at least by the standards of most Disney foods – Doritos’ conception was anything but. Bizarrely, they originated from a dumpster in one of the theme parks.

The real story of Doritos begins with a businessman called Charles Elmer Doolin. He created a company called Fritos – which roughly translates from Spanish to “little fried things” – back in 1932. No doubt the popularity of the Fritos brand (later called Frito-Lay) skyrocketed following the opening of Disneyland two decades later.

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When Disney gathered clients to realize his theme park dream, Doolin and his Fritos company were among the founders. Doolin’s Mexican-style snacks seemed a good fit for one of Disney’s themed areas: Frontierland.

A few weeks after opening, Disneyland welcomed the Casa de Fritos restaurant to its grounds. The eatery revolved around Fritos, using them as ingredients and giving them out free with meals. You could even order more from a vending machine depicting the company’s then-mascot, the big-eyed and over-muscled Frito Kid.

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The Frito-based food on the original menu included a Frito Tamale Special and Frito Chili Pie. But Casa de Fritos did offer some variety. It also provided Mexican-style food such as enchiladas, chili and beans and taco in a “tacup.” Doolin devised a special tong-like contraption to create the latter’s titular cup.

The Frito-Lay company didn’t produce all the tortillas themselves, though. The main responsibility for that lay with a contracted organization named Alex Foods. The creation of Doritos occurred in the 1960s when an Alex Foods representative took a delivery to Casa de Fritos. They regularly spotted discarded Fritos in the trash and brought the subject up with a Frito-Lay employee.

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The representative had an idea that would reduce the amount of food that was wasted. Instead of throwing away excess Fritos, the cook could fry the Fritos up and add some flavorings. The idea was based on totopos, which are a type of Mexican tortilla chip. So the cook did just that.

The representative’s cooking tip turned what would have been discarded Fritos into a future snack sensation. Instead of lining Disneyland’s dumpsters, the chef provided the refashioned Fritos as freebies for dining customers. And visitors loved the snacks so much that Casa de Fritos soon put them on the menu. But Frito-Lay didn’t know about this initially.

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Archibald Clark West – the company’s vice president – only found out about the new snacks the following year. West paid Casa de Fritos a visit and it surprised him to find them flying off the menu. And after enquiring about their origin, he came up with an idea that would have huge consequences.

West wanted to make the surprise product a permanent part of Fritos-Lay, and so he approached Alex Foods about production. The firm agreed to make more of the newly christened Doritos, which translates from Spanish as “little pieces of gold.” When they quickly became a runaway success during their trial run, West must have known he was onto a winner.

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Doritos’ popularity proved so immense that West decided he needed to step up production. So he took manufacturing responsibilities off Alex Foods’ hands and Fritos-Lay began making them instead. It used a factory in Tulsa specifically for this purpose before shipping Doritos to hungry customers across the nation.

But despite the snack’s popularity consumers still considered Doritos without the sauce to be a little dull. Fritos-Lay then began experimenting with ways to spice things up. In 1968 the company added the Mexican-inspired taco flavor, which proved to be just the beginning of the new range.

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Most of us now view the nacho cheese Doritos as the baseline version. But they were actually introduced in 1974, more than a decade after the snacks first appeared on Casa de Fritos’ menu. Since then the number of Doritos flavors has surpassed 100, which leaves plenty of room for some wacky taste combinations.

Since Doritos are popular across the globe, some tastes are a result of local cultures. It’s certainly led to some interesting flavors, such as Japan’s coconut curry or tuna mayo selection. Turkey’s choices include tomato and onion salad Doritos alongside bags of yoghurt and mint nibbles.

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West’s personal choice was corn, and he was also partial to the odd bag of cool ranch. He showed a long-term dedication to Doritos and even continued working for the company as a taste tester following his retirement. West sadly passed away in 2011 and, as he’d requested, was laid to rest with a sprinkling of Doritos.

There you have it. If it wasn’t for the discovery of stale Fritos in the dumpsters of Disneyland, there’d probably be no Doritos. So the next time you’re snacking on those triangular treats, consider all the pieces that fit together to get them where they are today. It’s a small world, after all.

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