Building the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom Tunnels

The Cinderella Castle under construction, 1970

The Magic Kingdom opened 47 years ago on Oct. 1, 1971.

Big things are being planned for the Golden 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2021!

We’ll be there and hope you will too!

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The Magic Kingdom – the part the guests see – is actually the 2nd story of the Park. They couldn’t build the MK park with a basement because of the high groundwater table.

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Utilidors under construction, on the actual ground level of Magic Kingdom, 1970.

The 1st floor is where the tunnels, called Utilidors –  are located. The tunnels allow Cast Members to move between the different areas and help costumed Cast Members avoid incongruities.

That’s why you never see Tomorrowland Cast Members in Frontierland, and vice versa.

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Map of the Utilidors under the Magic Kingdom.

I’ve worked in Adventureland and Fantasyland, and had to take the tunnels all the way from cast parking to my work locations.

Let me tell you, the doors leading upstairs are NOT well marked at all.  No one strolls through the tunnels like they do topside. Personally, when I’m in the tunnels, I’m usually power walking at a very brisk pace!

The tunnels are color coded showing you what Land you are in.

The tunnels are color coded showing you what Land you are in. (Not my photo! You can get termed for having your phone/camera out while walking around here!)

There are signs everywhere banning the use of cell phones and photography of any kind.

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Mickey walking to work in the Utilidors. (Purple stripe = Fantasyland.)

Here’s a Disney video of what they’re like:  Walking in the Utilidors.

Ever wonder where the parade performers and characters go after the Festival of Fantasy parade ends???

Into the tunnels, of course!!

Into the tunnels with you all!

Into the tunnels with all you performers and characters!

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If you’re interested in seeing the Utilidors for yourself, take the Keys To The Kingdom Tour.  You’ll get to see the Utilitors first hand during the tour.

We took it and thought it was really interesting! Keys to the Kingdom Tour Review

Experience an Urban Legend during the Keys to the Kingdom Tour!

Enter the underground service tunnels to uncover a mystery that’s absolutely, almost unbelievably, true!

The Guest-accessible areas of Magic Kingdom park are actually on the second floor of a massive structure. The tunnels below, known as “Utilidors,” allow Cast Members, deliveries and even rubbish to be unknowingly transported below Guests’ feet as they wait in line for their favorite attractions. You’ve got to see the Utilidors for yourself!

Here’s our tour review:

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Seeing Main Street USA in a new light.

We always try and do something new and different on every trip to WDW.  (Realizing that this isn’t easy now that we’ve both worked as cast members at Disney World for a year!)

We booked a Keys to the Kingdom tour this summer while Caroline was working as a cast member at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The tour fills up fast and we were lucky to get three slots for our trip planned for November.

Our friend Ricky, a current CP, was able to join us at the last minute.  The tour is limited to 20 people and, fortunately, there had been a cancellation that morning.  The tour lasts five hours and is normally $79, but CPs get a ½ price discount.

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Arriving with our friend, Ricky, almost early enough to see the Park’s opening show!

We planned on getting to the Magic Kingdom in time to see the Park Opening Welcome Show with all the Disney characters arriving at the train station waving and singing.  But, the traffic from our hotel didn’t cooperate and we had to stop and pick up Ricky at his apartment.  We got there five minutes after the show ended!

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Our Keys to the Kingdom golden pins!

Our tour time was 9:30am, with a check-in time of 9am.  We went over to the Chamber of Commerce next to City Hall, near Mickey’s Theater where you can meet Mickey, and checked in.  Our name tags were all ready for us.  The tour guide handed us a menu from the Columbia House to select our lunch entrée and beverage, and also offered us a bottle of chilled water while we were waiting.

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A bottle of free chilled water?  Yes, please!!

At 9:30 sharp, everyone was checked in and we got our ‘WhisperEars’, the ear pieces to hear what our guide was saying as she talked into a microphone during the tour.  (Just like after Traditions during our first DCP program when we did our group’s walking tour of MK!)

The headset is very necessary. Our tour guide talked constantly throughout the 5 hour tour even on attractions (Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion), while on the busy sidewalks of the Magic Kingdom, during the morning parade, and on the behind the scenes (backstage) areas where there is a lot of activity going on. Without the headsets, there would be no way of hearing much of what she said.

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Walt has 2 windows on Main Street.  The first is over the train station:  “Keeping Dreams on Track”.

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The second one is over the Plaza Restaurant:  “Graduate School of Design & Master Planning”.

We started off by walking down Main Street USA while our tour guide noted the names on the 2nd floor windows and who the people were, with many of them being Disney Legends.  Then, a street parade came by at 9:45am that was very loud and made it very hard to hear what she was saying.

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Roy O. Disney, Chairman

Interestingly, she pointed out all the lightning rods on every building (Orlando is the lightning capital of the US), and how the US flags flying on top of the buildings aren’t actually the US flag, but ‘pennants’ or ‘banners’.

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Those are not US flags on top of the buildings….

By making them with one less star or one less stripe, the pennants don’t have to be taken down at sunset or illuminated at night.

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Guess what this roof material is….

From Main Street USA, we went over to Adventureland.  A lot of good behind the scenes info was pointed out, like what the Tiki House roof “grass” is made out of (aluminum strips).

We went on the Jungle Cruise, cutting the line and getting an “insider” tour, led by our guide talking the whole time and not the boat captain telling the usual jokes. That was OK because she gave a lot of info on the ride and we were able to go back later on in the day and ride it with the normal captain’s chatter.

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We got a behind-the-scenes look at several hippos out of the water…they only have 1/2 bodies!!

Next up was the Tiki Room.  She didn’t talk at all during the performance, which was nice.

From there, we walked over to Pirates of the Caribbean and joined the Fast Pass line.  That attraction was closed for six months this year to replace all the boats and refurbish the attraction.  All the characters got new costumes and wigs.

Side comment:  There are obviously still problems with the ride’s boats!  You never used to get wet on POC.  Never.  Maybe a tiny splash or two.  But, no longer!  Sit in the first two rows or anywhere along the sides and you will get unpleasantly wet!  Stepping into our boat, I noticed that the water was 2” deep in my row, row 5.  And, me wearing mesh sneakers!  And the seat was wet too.  Ugh.

Our tour guide talked the whole ride pointing out new things, Hidden Mickeys, and telling backstory tales.

(Note, you could remove your WhisperEars at any time if you wanted to focus on the attractions.)

Afterwards, we walked over to Liberty Square and she had a lot of tidbits to share about that part of the park.

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Lunchtime with my friend, Ricky.

By then, we had been on the walking tour almost 3 hours and it was finally time for lunch. We were escorted up to a private area on the second floor of the Columbia Harbour House restaurant where the tables were set with our lunch.

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FINALLY LUNCHTIME!!!  So hungry!

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Tuna fish sandwich with house chips.

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My Keys to the Kingdom golden pin.

There was a place card at each dish to let everyone know where to sit for the lunch they had ordered earlier. Inside the place card was our Keys to the Kingdom golden pin!

After lunch, we went on the Haunted Mansion ride, sneaking in the cast member’s side door to avoid the line out front.  She talked on this ride too with more backstage info.

The tunnels are color coded showing you what Land you are in.

The tunnels are color coded showing you what Land you are in. (Not my photo, no photos allowed on the walking tour!)

From there, we walked back towards Main Street and entered the Utilidors, the under-the-park utility corridors.

Most people know that the Magic Kingdom park – the part you see and walk on – is actually the second story of the park.  They put in the utility corridors during the first phase of construction, then covered it with dirt and built the Magic Kingdom on top of that.  So all the trees, etc. had to be brought in and put in huge planters of soil.

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Walt visiting the Florida Project, 1966.  This is the last photo of him taken at what would become the Magic Kingdom.  He passed away 5 months later.

There are some great pictures on the wall which she talked about, but by then we had been on tour 4.5 hours and we thought she was getting a little snotty with the guests. She talked some more about the construction and opening of the park, and noted some photos of the castle with different paint jobs.

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The Pink Castle, 1996 (Yes, this is my photo!)

Nobody seemed to like the look of the Cinderella Castle in 1996/1997 when it was very pink!  (We saw it in November 1996!)

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1970:  Roy Disney on Main Street, under construction

What interested us the most – and that we hadn’t noticed before while we were working – were the large Disney pin display boards by year starting in 2002.  OMG, we own so many of these great pins!!

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WDW Opening Day;  October 1, 1971

It was a little emotional hearing about Roy making the 1971 opening day speech with Mickey at his side instead of Walt, who had died of lung cancer in 1966 and never lived to see his enormous dream be built.

Back outside, we walked down Main Street, but from the backstage side.  Guests who walk down Main Street USA with the Cinderella Castle in view think that it must be several city blocks long.  Untrue!  It’s the forced perspective at work again!  From the backside, Main Street USA is very short, only about 300 feet long!

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“Three” story buildings on Main Street USA…or are they???!!!

And, from the front, the buildings look like they are three stories tall, but in reality because of forced perspective, they are really only two stories.  From the backstage area, Main Street looked so small and short!

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Adventure Book Cover

Adventures in the Animal Kingdom

Lions and Tigers and Strollers, Oh My!

This is not Caroline’s first time in the Disney College Program. Along with her sister, she was previously accepted into the program a few years earlier.  Back in Colorado, Caroline was wishing for a little more pixie dust to brighten up her life.  On a whim, she decides to apply to the exclusive Disney Alumni Summer Program.

Now that she’s back, things get wild.

Wild, as in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where Caroline is assigned to work in Stroller Rental.  While not the most glamorous position in the park, it’s often ground zero for humanity at its best and at its worst.

While Caroline makes many “Magical Moments” for deserving guests whose pixie dust has gone temporarily sideways, she also receives magical moments of her own through the friendships she makes, going to Disney cast member exclusive events, and all the spectacular dining opportunities at Disney World.

Caroline tells all – from the ins and outs of Disney’s secret training class called Traditions; to learning how to be a happy cast member during on-the-job training; to what it’s like to interact with fellow cast members and the guests who are ready to explore the most magical place on earth.

Join Caroline as she takes you on a wild ride through her adventures in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But be careful, it’s a jungle out there!

Available now at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats. Published by Theme Park Press.

Book link on Amazon.com:  Adventures in the Animal Kingdom

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DAK costume

Caroline working at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

About the Author:

Caroline’s love for all things Disney, and desire to grow up to be a Disney princess, is the reason she always wanted to work for Disney.  Her dream came true working as a cast member at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Caroline is the co-author of the book, Two Girls and a Mouse Tale, about her adventures working at Disney World with her sister.

She is currently a 7th grade middle school Social Studies teacher in Colorado.

Daily blog link:  https://collinsrace1.wordpress.com/

DAK-Entrance

Welcome to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

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One thought on “Building the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

  1. The best vacation destination, our family goes more than anyone else I know, we love it

    Like

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