Go to Walt Disney World enough times and you’re bound to be accosted at some point by Disney survey takers, usually right when you’re leaving the park. The questions they ask are usually pretty innocuous for most guests (“Did you visit American Idol Experience?” “Did you take advantage of our picnic lunch program?” “If Ariel was an Aristocat, how many Dwarfs were going to St. Ives?”). They don’t really want to hear about anything bad, unless it specifically relates to the target of their question. No, for some real complaining, you have to go to City Hall. That’s where the famed Guests Relations folks beat you over the head with their riding crop until you admit that Disney is perfect.
Guest Relations are the people that are responsible for turning that frown upside down. True story: Several years ago, I went to Disneyland. One day, as I walked from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland, this is what I passed:
- Space Mountain – Up and running, but no onboard audio (it was a new feature at the time)
- Rocket Rods – Broken Down (perpetually)
- Submarine Voyage – Closed Forever (unless some fish movie does well at the box office)
- Matterhorn – Down for Seasonal Rehab
- it’s a small world – Down for Seasonal Rehab
- Storybookland – Broken Down (How the heck does Storybookland break down??)
In self-righteous indignation, I complained at City Hall that I had worked 12 long years in a salt mine to pay for this trip, driven across the country twice because I got lost in Denver, and this was my last chance to see Disneyland before I died of some horrible disease that I would probably contract within the next several decades.
They gave me four “Express Passes” (basically baby-swap passes, since this was before FastPass). My wife and I rode Indy and Rocket Rods (miraculously back up) with no wait. Best day ever.
So what’s my point? Nothing, I guess, except to show how easily I can be bought. But I also wanted to tell you about a secret complaint box that most people never see. Even if they did, they probably don’t know what it is, unless they’ve been to Europe or can read ancient languages.
First you need to find Italy’s secret alleyway. It’s not really hard to find. It’s off to the left, between the replica of the Doges’ Palace and the restaurant. The alley has a set of open stairs on the right (not accessible to guests), and a door on the left leading into the Il Bel Cristallo shop. On the outer wall near the shop door is a strange leering gargoyle face.
What is this thing, and why does it look like it wants my ice cream? The technical term for it is bocca di leone (“Lion’s Mouth). This thing doesn’t look at all like Simba, but apparently there are real Lion’s Mouths scattered throughout the actual city of Venice. Basically they are government complaint boxes called denontie secrete (“secret denunciations”). Each box had specific denunciations, much like those Disney survey takers. Basically, you ratted out your neighbors to Big Brother by dropping a note in the mouth, and a council would later investigate your denunciation. There was a Mouth for complaining about people who were fouling up the water, one for neighbors who weren’t paying their taxes, and several devoted to Brazilian tour groups.
The particular Lion’s Mouth in Epcot isn’t actually a mail slot. I suspect anything you leave there will be cleaned out overnight by an uninterested janitor. What I find most interesting about it is that there is almost no information on this thing. Google seems completely devoid of any info about the Epcot Mouth, aside from a couple random pictures. The best I could find was some thread mistaking this for the Mouth of Truth, which is a similar type of Gargoyle Mouth in Rome (featured in the the movie Roman Holiday), in which if a liar sticks their hand in, the gargoyle will bite it off.
I have tried several translators online to decipher the message, which is apparently in an ancient Venetian dialect, a precursor to modern Italian. The inscription reads:
DENONTIE SECRETE CONTRO CONTRABANDIERI ET TRASGRESSORIO IN OGNI SORTE DI OGLI
The best translation I can come up with (I dropped out of Ancient Venetian Dialects 101 in college) is:
Secret denunciations against smuggling offenders in all parts of the eyes.
Which of course makes no sense at all.
It’s possible that this is an exact copy of a real Lion’s Mouth in Venice, and I just couldn’t find the necessary info about the real thing. Or maybe it’s a denunciation against shoplifters of some kind, since it’s right next to a shop. I kind of hope that it’s an inside joke, maybe something to do with how offensive all these tourists are to the naked eye. But unless someone steps forward and translates, I’m afraid this is just another unsolved Walt Disney World mystery, along the lines of why you can’t walk from the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom.
I was at Epcot a few days ago and took a picture of the inscription to google translate it when I got home… and when I did, I was super confused. Thanks for clearing that up, haha!
I hope you left a complaint in it about how hard it was to translate!
Thanks for the correct translation, J. Viera! It’s great to find people out there that can help me with this stuff (besides Google translate)
“Secret accusations against smugglers and transgressor of any event” would be the translation, also let me add, that Veneto isnt a dialect but an official language, isnt the base of the actual Italian but is very own language of the Northern Italy (was my grand Dad home)they still talk in Veneto among the usual Italian words, thats very common in that part of Italy,
Very nice blog i really have fun with the smart point of view,
“Et” is Latin for “And”, so I think the translation might be “Secret denunciations against smugglers and those who offend all parts of the eye”,
or less literally, “Secret denunciations against smugglers and butterfaces”
That Grand Floridian walkway thing always irritates me. The “Walkway Around the World” (quite a misnomer, since it doesn’t go “around” anything) takes you most of the way there, then runs smack into the canal where they store the Electrical Water Pageant. It’s not like Disney doesn’t know how to build drawbridges (as you know if you have ever been stuck in China when the Illuminations barge comes out). My guess is, they didn’t think it was worth the money.
Funniest Disney blog post ever.
And yes, why CAN’T you walf from the GF to the MK?
Fascinating! I’ve never noticed that in Italy OR in WDW for that matter! Will go check it out soon… Thanks for the post, and thanks for putting it on DisMarks so I could find it!
I was a bit confused at first, because this was all Disneyland complaints yea! And then was talking about Italy…but I caught on soon enough haha.
Really great blog, with interesting things that even working there as a CP and being invested in all-things-Disney I didn’t notice or even think about!
Seriously, why CAN’T you walk from the Grand Floridian to MK? Makes no sense.
It is somewhere betweeen Latin and modern Italian. I did try some Latin translators and got nowhere. None of the online translators seem to recognize the word “ogli.” I think it has something to do with eyes, since I found an old reference to spectacles being di ogli (“for the eyes”)
Very interesting. I have never really explored the Italy Pavilion. I will have to go looking when I next visit.
Have you looked to see if the language in question is Latin?