Category Archives: Magic Behind the Scenes
The Keys to the Kingdom Tour is a fabulous “extra-curricular” for any Magic Kingdom fan that wants to add even more knowledge and fun facts to their repertoire. Even the most knowledgable Disney trivia buff will learn something new on this tour. While I won’t give away the secrets about this tour, I will give you some helpful information and insight about it.
Just like ADRs, you may schedule the Keys to the Kingdom tour 180 days out. All tour participants MUST be at least 16 years old. There are 3 tours given per day. Each tour lasts about 5 hours. Lunch is included at the Columbia Harbor House.
Chip’s Tips: Choose the first tour of the day, as it begins before park opening, allowing you the opportunity to get some great pictures of an “empty” Main Street USA and Cinderella’s Castle.
When arriving for your KTTK tour, check-in at Guest Relations. If your tour begins before park opening, your name will be on a Tour List at the turnstiles – they will allow you early entrance. At Guest Relations, you will be given a name tag as well as an ear piece (a clip-on ear phone) in order to hear your tour guide. You will also pre-order your lunch from the Columbia Harbor House menu.
All of the KTTK tour guides have an incredible knowledge of Walt Disney, his ideas, and the details that went into planning the Magic Kingdom park. The tour begins on Main Street USA, where you’ll learn about forced perspective, and the stories behind a few of the names you see written on the 2nd story building windows. You’ll stand in the hub in front of Cinderella’s castle and learn why the entrance to Tomorrowland is nearly twice as wide as the entrance to Adventureland. Your tour guide will even point out certain trees and tell you why they’re important – one reason being, some are strategically placed to hide certain park icons from being seen while in another land. Your tour guide will show you how the details in the park transition as you walk from one land into the next. From the music changing, to the detailing in the walls, even to the changes in the pavement that you’re walking on!
Shhhh don’t tell anyone. It’s just between you and me. I have been a passholder for a few years and a Cast Member a few years ago. So in that time I have learned a few insider secrets that I thought you would appreciate.
- The buildings on Main Street are designed in a very special way that is not visible just by looking at them. When you enter the Magic Kingdom as you approach Main Street the building on Main street are designed to make the Castle appear huge and far away. The opposite is true when you are leaving and walking down Main Street the design of the buildings makes the exit seem closer than it really is because Walt knew you would be tired by then end of the day and thought it would make you feel a little better if you thought the exit was closer. It is called “Forced Perspective”. Some people have said this not true but I was told this on my first day of training as a Cast Member.
- The Magic Kingdom is actually not on ground level. They had to build it higher than ground level because the utilidors are underneath. In Florida they can only dig so far before they hit water, so the utilidors are actually on ground level and The Magic Kingdom is higher.
- If you look at the second story windows of the shops on Main Street you will see some names. These are the names of the designers.
- When you see an American Flag down Main Street they are also lightning rods. Since Florida is the lightning capital of the world this is a very comforting feature.
- The Emporium is the best place to shop in the Magic Kingdom because they have the widest selection of merchandise.
Did you know there are actually stages of Disney Addiction we progress through? We decided to (virtually) sit down and define these stages so that you could test yourself and see what level of Disney Addiction you, or your family members, are in.
Stage 1: Newbie (majority of park attendees)
# of Disney trips: 0 as adult, may have visited as children but don’t remember much about their trip(s)
Symptoms: Don’t know how much planning Disney vacations require. Are likely to only eat Quick Service the entire time and don’t know to take mid-day breaks. Choose parks based on interest on that day and don’t know about crowd flux. Relatively clueless about fast-passes and aren’t sure if they are free or not. May return to Disney, but no immediate plans to do so.
Identifying them in the park: Have a slightly glazed look as Disney is still overwhelming to them. Have a map they stop and check often and can be found looking exhausted while waiting in long stand-by lines. Will have bought at least one silly looking Disney theme hat (“Sorcerer Mickey” or Goofy buck-teeth”). Wears their Mickey Ears around the park. Will buy an autograph book for their kids, but have no idea what they’re going to do with the autographs when they get home. Alternates between huge smiles and grumpiness throughout the day.
From its early roots, the Walt Disney Company has had a compassionate heart. Take a few moments to watch the 1932 short, Mickey’s Good Deed, and you’ll understand Walt’s selfless generosity. In this wonderful tale, Mickey Mouse portrays a fellow down on his luck, playing Christmas carols on the street corner for change. To his and Pluto’s dismay, passersby do not give money at all, but nuts and bolts and useless junk. Soon Mickey’s instrument—his source of income—gets destroyed by a passing sleigh. When he sees a poverty-stricken house full of children with no presents, instead of pitying his own misfortune, Mickey sells his beloved pal Pluto to a wealthy man and uses all the money to purchase gifts for the kids. He delivers them incognito while they sleep, thus giving the children the gift of dreams come true.
Today the Walt Disney Company continues to devote both funding and services to various organizations and people in need. Magical Mouse Schoolhouse has discussed Walt Disney World Resort’s food donations to the Disney Harvest Food Program, as well as their VoluntEAR partnership with Toys for Tots, and soap recycling through Clean the World. The Resort also assists a very special organization that helps ill children and their families receive their wish to visit the Parks.
Walt Disney World is one of those vacation spots we feel like we can visit again and again. Not everyone understands that, of course, and we Disney addicts get questions along the lines of “But weren’t you just there?” all the time. What those people fail to understand, and what we Disney addicts love so much, is how different the Disney parks are from other theme parks. Sure Disney has great rides and shows, there is something for everyone, from Expedition Everest to It’s A Small World, but the parks offer a lot beyond the attractions. This fall our family is headed to Walt Disney World for an 8-day trip, our longest in quite a while. Our son will be almost 13 and a Disney veteran. We are of course looking forward to all our favorite attractions, but this year and on future trips we will take the time to explore the parks a little deeper. Here are our Top 5 Ideas For Going Beyond the Attractions.
Imagineering –There are tons of books about Disney Imagineering. I’m working my way through the four Imagineering Field Guides, one for each park, and can’t wait to try to spot all the little details these books point out. The Disney parks were built to be immersive experiences and to tell stories. The imagineering team takes a lot of tricks from cinema to pull this off, such as using forced perspective (building the top of a structure smaller in scale than the bottom) to make structures seem taller than they actually are. They designed the transition areas between the “lands” of the Magic Kingdom to be smooth and not jarring to visitors. They use landscaping and architecture and art and technology in subtle ways to make the guests at Disney parks feel like they are inside another world. These things are meant to be unobtrusive, but we are planning to seek them out and learn a little about what makes the magic work
Hidden Mickeys — These are perhaps the worst kept “secret” in Disney world. There are books and web sites devoted to the search for these sets of three circles resembling in various degrees the familiar head and ears of Mickey Mouse. They can be found all over the place, from the attractions to the restaurants to the resorts. Most are intentional and some are coincidence, but the search is fun either way.
Disney Benchmarks — Surveyors and architects use certain fixed points of reference to help in their design and construction work. Many times, these are brass disks a few inches in diameter set in sidewalks and walls. Disney’s designers use these benchmarks as well, but in true Disney style, theirs are just a bit cooler. There are benchmark disks all throughout the Disney property featuring a stylized globe with Mickey ears and the words “Walt Disney World Survey Marker.” Finding these little disks is tricky as they tend to be in seemingly random places and crowds are usually walking right over them, but there are a few websites that can help. Patty Winter’s Disney Benchmark Pages offers either a latitude and longitude for the benchmarks she and her readers have discovered, or sometimes just a general description of the location. We plan to bring our handheld GPS unit loaded with the coordinates, but most smart phones have a working GPS feature which will make hunting these benchmarks much easier. And we hope to find some not on the page so we can add to the list.
Funky Photography — Everyone gets the obligatory shot of the family at the end of Main Street in front of the Cinderella Castle, right? But the Disney parks offer so much more to even the most amateur photographer if you look hard. Disney is all about detail, the names of imagineers and others on the windows of shops on Main Street and the funny tombstones in the Haunted Mansion queue are just a couple ideas. There’s a lot to see and to photograph in about all the queues for Disney attractions, actually. How about the topiary, or the flowers or the fountains? Looking around you with a careful eye instead of rushing from one ride to the next can be a lot of fun, and who knows, you could end up with some new artwork for the living room to remind you of your trip.
Behind The Scenes Tours — Sure it’s fun to research the hidden side of Disney and then go look for it yourself, but for a true look at what goes on “behind the curtain” you’ll want to try one of Disney’s behind the scenes tours. Disney offers a wide range of tour experiences, allowing you to do everything from get a glimpse into the utilidors under the Magic Kingdom to swim in the dolphin tank at Living Seas. There’s a tour that explores the steam trains, one that focuses on the gardens, one that takes you across a rope bridge over crocodiles and one that takes you behind the scenes at all four theme parks in one day. Some of these tours require park admission and some don’t. Some have age requirements as well. We are looking forward to the big behind the scenes tour ourselves, but need to wait a few years as guests must be at least 16 to participate and our son is only 12.
- Runners to Race Around the “High Banks” and “Bases” As Part of 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon Course (chipandco.com)
- City Elite Double rental stroller vs Walt Disney World stroller review (tipsfromthedisneydiva.com)