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Disneyland Article
Disneyland Has Its Own Leprechaun And He Lives In Adventureland

Jungle Cruise
ID:
TMS-5241
Source:
SFGate
Author:
Carly Caramanna
Dateline:
March 17, 2023
Posted:
March 28, 2023
Status:
Current
The near-insurmountable work that went into the creation of Disneyland is largely documented — but what isn’t is the little bit of unexpected Irish luck that was also involved. That luck came in the form of Patrick the leprechaun, the fabled Little Man of Disneyland.

Patrick’s story blends fantasy with reality, much like the other great works associated with Walt Disney. And while Disneyland is riddled with Easter eggs, from its secret society, S.E.A., to a hidden test brick wall, the story of the park’s only "resident" is one of the most fascinating and charming of all. But unless you’re a serious park history buff, you probably walk by his house and don’t even notice.

The leprechaun’s full name is Patrick Begorra, and he was one of the original features of Disneyland’s opening year, 1955. According to legend, he helped the company build the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

Disneyland’s best-kept secret traces back even earlier, to the wildly popular Disney Little Golden Books, according to D23. These vividly colored children's books, intended for kids ages 2 to 5, were first printed during World War II and were a vehicle of income for Walt Disney Studio. Early favorites, like “The Poky Little Puppy,” featured artwork from “Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” artist Gustaf Tenggren.

The Little Golden Books series featured adaptations of stories and eye-catching illustrations inspired by both classic films and newly imagined ideas. At the time, the book series tapped iconic figures of Walt Disney Studios for its accompanying illustrations, including Disney Legends John Hench and Mary Blair, known for her distinctly whimsical color styling. Book releases coincided with film openings and, eventually, the opening of what is largely regarded as Walt Disney’s greatest work: Disneyland.

Little Golden Books capitalized on the opening of Disneyland by publishing several stories inspired by the new "Magic Kingdom," including “Walt Disney’s Disneyland on the Air” and “Walt Disney’s Little Man of Disneyland.” Written by Golden editor Jane Werner under her pen name Annie North Bedford, the book captivated the imaginations of Disney fans and was, for some generations, their first introduction to Disneyland. With illustrations by Disney animated film veteran Dick Kelsey, known for his work on “Pinocchio” and “Alice in Wonderland,” the “Little Man of Disneyland” introduced readers to an entirely new character: the loveable Patrick Begorra, a leprechaun who lived inside an orange tree in Anaheim.

The imaginative, glossy telling of the story of Disneyland’s creation is loosely based on real events with a heavy dose of Disney magic. A construction crew — composed of Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck — is clearing the grounds of the Anaheim grove, which Patrick calls home, for the forthcoming construction of Disneyland. The small leprechaun then expresses horror to Mickey and pals at the thought of his home and the beautiful groves being destroyed. The motley crew of workers consoles Patrick by sweeping him up on a tour of Disney Studios in Burbank — via helicopter just like Walt did — and sharing with him the upcoming plans for the theme park. Patrick is amazed by the colorful concept drawings and detailed blueprints. After Patrick realizes his home will be transformed into a place with “so many wonderful things,” he gives the crew his well wishes on one condition: they build him a “wee snug little house” in Disneyland.

Disneyland would make good on that fictional promise. In the rise of the book’s popularity, a small home for Patrick was first constructed in Disneyland, tucked away beneath a tree near Jungle Cruise. Although that would be removed decades later, his current home was constructed 60 years after the book’s first release, in 2015. While the book suggests it’s found in a secret location known only to him, any guest visiting Disneyland’s Adventureland can have a peek — if they know where to look.

You’ll find Patrick’s home in the trunk of a tree outside the entrance of Indiana Jones Adventure. Hidden among the lush landscaping and modeled after the artwork done by Kelsey, the home features a thatch-covered window, chimney and wooden door, as well as a lantern that’s built directly into the trunk. It may take a wee bit of luck to find him, but once you do, you’ll experience a part of Disney history that most guests pass right on by.

Fans and cast members are known to have a little fun with the story: People often leave treats outside Patrick’s door, such as a tiny trail of Goldfish. During the holidays, it's often adorned with miniature Christmas décor.

“The Little Man of Adventureland is one of those little details, honoring not only the origins of Disneyland but the legends of Ireland and the traditions of St. Patrick’s Day,” said Disneyland historian Jim Denney, the author of “Walt’s Disneyland.” Denney has enjoyed reading the fabled story of the Little Man countless times to his own grandchildren and seeing their eyes light up upon finding the tiny house in Adventureland for themselves.

“The Little Man is a fun slice of Disneyland lore for kids, parents, and grandparents to uncover and enjoy,” he added.

We don't know exactly why Disney dreamed up an imaginary leprechaun, but we can make an educated guess that this lucky character was created as a public relations move, as a positive explanation for any anticipated criticism from locals who might object to cutting down the decades-old orange groves that used to occupy the land where the park currently sits. By the time Disneyland opened in 1955, the project had encountered numerous setbacks — including the city of Burbank's blocking its construction.

“By 1952 the idea had expanded into a $1.5-million amusement park proposal that [Disney] presented to Burbank officials,” Brady MacDonald wrote for the Los Angeles Times. “The 16-acre park would feature rides on a spaceship, a submarine and even a paddle-wheeler. The City Council, which feared such a project would create a carny atmosphere, rejected the proposal.”

When the company finally secured its current Anaheim location, an orange grove with 12,000 trees, the setbacks became even more significant. Money was scarce, the project was over budget, and construction was so delayed that workers were scrambling to finish things minutes before they were to be featured on the park’s opening day live broadcast.

“Hollywood dubbed Disneyland ‘Walt’s Folly,’” MacDonald wrote, “and amusement park operators predicted a spectacular failure.”

It only stands to reason that the company might want to give itself a boost of positivity surrounding the park’s opening.

Disney preserved some of the location’s history with what is known as the Dominguez Tree. Towering over Adventureland, the 19th-century Canary Island palm tree is the only living tree that was on the site of Disneyland before the theme park came to town that's still standing. The tree marks when the Dominguez family sold the land beneath it to Walt Disney under the condition that it would be preserved — and it remains to this day.

The “Little Man of Disneyland” also lives on and is still in print. A recent resurgence in interest in the story of Patrick inspired the January 2023 release of its sequel, the “Little Man of Disneyland: A Change of Luck,” introducing the beloved character to an entirely new generation. In the story, set in the Magic Kingdom, the fan-favorite leprechaun teams up with Mickey Mouse on a mission to restore his luck and retrieve his lucky clover hat.

A nod to Patrick can also be spotted in the queue of the recently opened attraction Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The concession stand is a treasure trove of Disney Easter eggs and features imagined condiments from Begorra Orchards.

“People keep coming back to Disneyland to discover all the little out-of-the-way details that are hidden around the Park,” said Denney.

Next time you visit the park, you might spot the mysterious leprechaun who will forever have a place in Disneyland’s colorful history. As the book says: “So, when you visit Disneyland, you keep your eyes open wide. Maybe you’ll see a wee man in green, smoking a small clay pipe.”
 
Attractions Referenced

Indiana Jones Adventure Temple Of The Forbidden Eye

Jungle Cruise

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway

 
Lands Referenced

Adventureland

 
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