OK, OK, so you’ve been to Disney World about 87 times.
But how would you like an exclusive, private tour to see Walt Disney World as few ever will? As a former Disney World Cast Member I have volunteered to be your tour guide through the behind-the-scenes world of what makes Disney World so magical.
You’ll have fun learning about a variety of backstage locations. We’ll also take a peek under the Magic Kingdom Park and see Cast Member costuming, wardrobe, the so-called tunnel system, Disney’s nursery and tree farm, waste treatment facilities and other service areas.
Let’s start at the end, with sludge. Sludge from the water treatment facility is everybody’s business dried out and then used on the grounds for fertilizer. Reclaimed tinkle water is used for watering grass and plants. The water valves are labeled “Reclaimed Water – Do No Drink” Thanks for the heads up, Mickey!
Now we’ll visit the plant nursery. Remember all those cool and cute topiary designs around the park? Well, this is where Disney Cast Members grow and shape the topiary critters. All this coolness takes time; about seven to eight years to grow a single topiary character. One of my personal favorites is a smiling Mickey Mouse holding a Disney Vacation Club [http://www.edisneytimeshare.com] sign near the entrance to the Wilderness Lodge Hotel.
Then there is the parade storage area behind Splash Mountain. The back of Splash Mountain has many doors labeled, for example, “Access to Scene 31”. Here you’ll see Mickey Mania, Spectromagic, and the Electric Water Parade paraphernalia. You can walk around and look at the parade pieces all you want. But no photos please. The Spectromagic floats are made of mesh, so the driver can see out, and are covered with small Christmas-type lights controlled by computers. There is also a small fan to cool down the driver. If you or the kids have always wanted to look inside the Sea Witch float from The Little Mermaid, this is your big chance.
When I was a Disney cast member I strolled the tunnels on my breaks and dined in the underground cafeterias. Very romantic. Actually, the tunnels are fake. Since the water table is very high in Florida it would be costly to keep real tunnels dry. Disney thus built a neat system of utility corridors at ground level and then covered them with dirt. This made a new ground level one floor higher. The Magic Kingdom was built on top of this. Therefore, Main Street USA is actually on the second floor.
The “Utilidors” make a circle around the park connecting all of the Lands and rides. There is also a utility corridor under Main Street USA connecting the entrance to Cinderella’s Castle. All of the Magic Kingdom utilities are nestled within the Utilidors. There is water, electricity, fiber optic cable, and the ultra-cool Vacuum Trash System.
The Disney World Vacuum Trash System has become a model for several other very large buildings, and even parts of cities and municipalities. The system uses pipes about two feet in diameter to suck all the trash to a central collection point.
Another unusual device in the Utilidors supplies the various odors to different parts of the park. There is one under the bakery that releases chocolate cookie smell into Main Street. Mickey wanted to use real cookie smell, as I recall. But, alas, there was no way to produce non-stop chocolate chip morsels. So, these odor producer machines are used for cookies and that just-right smell in many other places; smoke, orange groves, and so forth
The Utilidor also has various Cast Member services like a Credit Union, a 2-Hour Film Developer, cafeterias, and lockers. Costuming and wardrobe is also located down here. When I worked there I was always amused to see my favorite characters wandering around half dressed or carrying their heads. The walls of the Utilidors are color coded. There are also many maps and directional signs to help lost Cast Members (like me).
So when you visit Disney World for your 88th trip, keep an eye peeled for a sudden and magical character appearance. Mickey or Minnie may just pop out of a hidden door leading from the Utilidor below. And you’ll know their secret!