At the back of the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor is a five-foot by four-foot green, glass elephant. The elephant — named Penny because it was originally filled with hundreds of dollars worth of 1943 copper pennies — was originally the property of Disneyland Paris but was sold to Disneyland as part of a huge “garage sale” intended to help the European park excise some of its mounting debt.
When Tarzan’s Tree House was being constructed, a cast of Penny was taken and used to create an animatronic baby elephant that was placed beneath Tarzan’s tree. It was subsequently moved to the Jungle Cruise after several incidents in which guests mistook the animatronic baby for Penny and attempted to insert coins into it.
Guests often ask what a green glass elephant has to do with ice cream, but are often too afraid of looking stupid to ask cast members about it. This is how something that stands out but nobody wants to talk about came to be known as “the elephant in the room.”
Update: We have been informed that the elephant is not actually named Penny. Apparently, it is named “Lucy” because it is not made of glass but of lucite. Also, it wasn’t purchased from Disneyland Paris, but was a green “white elephant” gift to Disney from an Arab sheik.
Update: A further correction has been received, letting us know that the elephant is named neither Penny nor Lucy, but “Holly” because it’s hollow, and it wasn’t a gift to Disney, it was a gift from Disney — namely an anniversary gift from Walt to his wife Lillian, which she couldn’t find room for around the house and subsequently donated to Disneyland.
Update: It turns out that it wasn’t the elephant that was an anniversary gift, but rather a petrified tree (which we’ll talk about in a future entry). Also, it was indeed filled with pennies, and its name was “Abe” because of them, implying that it’s also a boy. And it’s a plastic replica of the original, not lucite.
Update: Sorry — it’s the Indian on Main Street that’s a duplicate, not the elephant. The elephant in the Gibson Girl is indeed the original, and according to an expert who contacted us, it’s glass, was filled with pennies, is a girl, was transferred (not purchased) from Disneyland Paris, and is named Penny (not because it was filled with pennies but because it used to be in the Penny Arcade), but it’s technically not green — it’s opalescent blue-green.
Update: Our elephant-related mail box is full. You’re officially welcome to stop writing to us about this page now.
Coming up next: Penny Arcade