by Kevin Klose
DIS Content Editor
Backstage Magic Tour Part 3
Ok….let me re-cap. I didn’t really want to take this tour because I thought they were going to tell me things I had already heard and show me sights I had already seen. In other words…..I was jaded. The morning had proven that this wasn’t the case. I had already been surprised by the things I had seen and “secrets” I had been told.. But nothing prepared me for the rest of the day.
After leaving MGM, our bus took us behind the Magic Kingdom. As we approached the back entrance, our guide was asked about the security measures we had experienced. We had to have our bags checked upon entering Epcot, when the bus took us to MGM, a security guard boarded the bus and did another bag check and third was done upon entering the Magic Kingdom area. She explained that this was standard procedure. As a park veteran, I am aware of this being done in front of the parks, but I guess it never crossed my mind that it was being done behind the scenes as well. It made us feel good to know that Disney is that diligent.
Ok….now….as self proclaimed Disney fanatic….there are certain places that I never thought I’d get to go. Places that I have only seen in my imagination. Places that were just….untouchable. Well guess what…..not on this tour.
I was stunned when I was told that we would be visiting the Christmas warehouse and after she said it….I figured we’d be allowed to peek inside. Nope…..you get a full scale tour. It was amazing. As you walk through the floor to ceiling aisles, you can see the decorations for the different resorts. After Christmas, all of the decorations are brough back to the warehouse and stored. Once everything is back, the Christmas staff begins the process of refurbishing everything for the next year. Each tree is taken apart and redecorated. Ornaments, lights and the tree itself are check for wear or damage. Once redone, the tree is wrapped in plastic wrap and stored. This process is done methodically throughout the entire Disney property We got to watch a team of workers making new wreaths for Port Orleans Riverside. As a bow was attached, the folds were stuffed with tissue and each ornament individually wrapped. They too are wrapped in plastic wrap and stored for the next holiday season.
As we continued our tour, we came upon the Disney florist. We watched as the room, divided in two swarmed with Cast members. One side of the room does resort flowers. The huge centerpieces in hotel lobbies are an example. The other side of the room does the retail orders. One of the secrets I learned was that the gorgeous floral displays in the lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort are changed on Wednesday morning between 8am and 12pm. As the fresh flowers are put in place, the older flowers are given to whoever would like them. These are some amazing displays. You might want to stop by and get a bouquet.
After the florist came the Gift Basket room. We watched with desire as beautiful gift baskets were created.
As we left this area, I kept thinking that it was AMAZING that I had been able to see all that. It was then that our guide dropped the biggest bombshell. We were on our way to the Central Shoppes warehouse. This might not seem like a big deal…….but wait.
The Central Shops warehouse is the place that ride vehicles are built and the carousel horses are refurbished and the large fiberglass icons at the All Star resorts and Pop Century are made. The Sign department and the paint department and the department that makes the molds of all of the Small World kids are in this building and you get to walk by all of it. You are allowed to look, ask questions and in some circumstances actually touch this stuff.
***ok…I have to catch my breath****
You get a tour of the Audioanimatronic workshop. The guide explains that when Walt Disney World opened in 1971, Disney was using the A One animatronic model. Think of the Tiki Birds. They are now using the A 100 model. Abraham Lincoln in the Hall of Presidents, Ben Franklin in the American Adventure and Stitch in Stitch’s Great Escape are all A !00 audioanimatronic models.
I don’t; know how many of you go back as far as the 1982 opening of Epcot Center, but in the Land Pavilion in Future World, there was one of my favorite attractions. I adored the Kitchen Kabaret. It used to be in the place now occupied by Soarin..As the pavilion was sponsored by Kraft, the attraction was based on the old “4 food groups” philosophy.
At this point, you are probably wondering why I am telling you this. The reason is…..in the animatronic workshop, there is the original hostess of the Kitchen Kabaret. Her name is Bonnie Appetite. She is used to show the advances in audioanimatronic figures. While that is totally amazing…..it was also very nostalgic. It makes you realize that what once astounded you has been surpassed over and over. The differences in what was…and what is….are hard to describe.
It was at this point that I realized that anyone who is a Disney fanatic needs to take this tour. Yes…it’s expensive…..but the experience is beyond your imagination, and it’s not over yet.
After you leave this area behind the Magic Kingdom, you are taken to the backstage area inside the Magic Kingdom and allowed to enter the famed Utilidors. These are the tunnels beneath the Magic Kingdom. While everyone refers to them as tunnels, they actually are not. They are the first floor of the Magic Kingdom. They were built to allow Cast movement to go unseen by guests. After they were built, they were covered with the dirt that was removed to make the man made Seven Seas Lagoon. That’s the body of water between the Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation Center. When you walk down Main Street, you are actually on the 2nd floor. Hard to believe huh?
After your tour of the Utilidors……you re-enter the onstage area. We found ourselves in the middle of Main Street as the crowd was gathering. for the 3:o’clock parade. Our guide explained the names on the windows over the shops and then led us to a special place to watch the parade.
This was the end of the tour. We boarded our bus, were taken back to Epcot. Each tour participant was given a wonderful pin showing Mickey going through the Looking Glass. It’s not a pin that can be purchased, but only given to folks taking this Magical Tour.
As I started this whole tale……I didn’t want to take this tour.
I cant explain how happy I am that I did.
Where I thought this might ruin some of the magic, instead, it gives you a deeper appreciation for it and the sense of how many people and how much time shape every little detail.
I started out jaded and came out awestruck.
Go and see for yourself.
End of part three.