On The Road To (some of) Disney's Hidden Magic

Spoiler Alert - if you don't want to know some of the hidden ways Disney’s Magic Kingdom works, stop now! If you love behind the scenes stories, read on my friend!

With the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival kicking off the holiday season - Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse at the helm -  I was inspired to share some parts of my “Keys to the Kingdom” tour from my recentWalt Disney World trip. Mind you, any time we went behind the scenes, or into the famed “Utilidors,” no picture taking was allowed. Being a “Cast Member” myself (ABC is owned by Disney) I was respectful of that rule. The rest - fair game! So here goes!

Let’s start with the park entrance - Disney designed it like a theatre! The ticket area is the “lobby,” the tunnels under the train station are lined with “coming attraction” posters - the train station itself is the curtain, and once you go through it and enter the Magic Kingdom, the walkway is red, as you walk the “red carpet!”

The buildings on Main Street are built with “forced perspective” to make the street look longer than it is!  The first floor in most multi-story buildings is regular size, but the second and third floors are built at a smaller scale giving the illusion that the buildings are taller than they actually are. Same concept with Cinderella’s Castle - the bricks get smaller the higher up the castle goes!  Main Street slopes upward, approaching the castle, making it easier for tired visitors to walk down hill at the end of their day!  

Fun Fact - Look at all the American flags flying high above Main Street - none of them have 50 stars!

The reason, flags with less than 50 stars don’t count as real flags, and therefore don’t have to be taken down in bad weather or lit at night!  The only true flag, full of 50 stars, waves over Town Square, in the front of the park.

Moving on to Liberty Square. The Liberty Bell replica was cast from the mold of the actual Liberty Bell!  The crack in the bell, however, had to be recreated!

Fun facts at the Haunted Mansion! It’s the only attraction that is included in every Magic Kingdom Theme Park, but located within a different land in each park!   

Up or down?  The famous stretching room, where you first enter the attraction, descends at Disneyland, but at Walt Disney World the ceiling rises while guests stay on the same level!

The Narrator in the Haunted Mansion is the late voice actor Paul Frees. His voice is used in many other WDW attractions, including the Hall of Presidents and Pirates of the Caribbean. Frees was also the voice of Boris Badenov (from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show) and The Pillsbury Doughboy!  Check out these out-takes and unused narration from the original Haunted Mansion, courtesy of Marco Granillo

What about the famed “Utilidors?!” Short for Utility Corridors,  this ‘backstage area’ is used for park operations, out of guests’ sight, to keep the “magic” intact!

Fact - the utilidor tunnels were built before  the theme park, at ground leveldue to the high water table! The Magic Kingdom was built above it on the second, and in some cases, third story! The incline is so gradual, you don’t even notice it walking through the park!

You’ll never see a garbage truck the parks!  That’s because Disney uses an AVAC (Automated Vacuum-Assisted Collection) system instead!  Giant air pressurized  tubes jet trash to a processing area behind Splash Mountain - at over 60 MPH! It’s all concealed within the utilidors.

How many “Hidden Mickeys” have you found?! Disney animators and theme park imagineers have been incorporating the 3 circles that form the iconic Mickey silhouette for decades - first in animated films, then carried over into the theme parks!  It started as an inside joke that is now a popular pastime for park guests - in fact, one “cast member” told me in the early days, animators were not allowed to take credit for their drawings, so incorporating a “hidden Mickey” in a spot only they knew, was their way of putting a signature on their work!

For those of you wondering about those odd "mouse ears" that Sara wore throughout the trip, they are actually "rabbit ears!" Oswald The Lucky Rabbit was Walt Disney's first cartoon creation, in 1927!  Walt lost the character to his distributors in 1928, as unbeknown to Disney, the distributors contractually owned the rights to Oswald!  Of course, that's when Mickey Mouse was born, and the rest, as they say, is history!

**Side note - The Disney Company was able to regain the rights to Oswald in 2006 in a unique trade deal.  With all the media mergers over the years, Disney/ABC/ESPN traded sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC/Universal for the rights to Oswald along with 26 vintage Oswald cartoons!

There’s a lot more to see and learn during the 5 hour “Keys To The Kingdom” tour; it’s open to the public, there is a charge and guests must be 16 or older. Enjoy - and don’t forget to look for the “Hidden Mickeys!”