Disney Secrets Uncovered

Most of the time, you can’t ride. You will have to walk. That is a deterrent for many people.

But if you don’t mind doing a little walking, think of what you can find out…

…Why a purple colored cat is part of a Disney Christmas display.

…And find out why the characters of Tinkerbell might be addressed as Mr. or Mrs. because they can be played by either a man or a woman (as long as they are short and have a slim build.


All about those lucky gourmet-fed fish that have their own food kitchen at the Living Seas….

And how red-colored dye (not green) is actually mixed into the water at the Jungle Cruise to give it that murky green swamp color…

Tiki Room also draws lightning

And the Tiki Room is in a building that has little chance of being hit by lighting. Why? Because its thatch roof made of individual strips of aluminum is actually the largest lightning rod in the Magic Kingdom…

And why you have never seen a delivery truck at Disney (how those amazing Utilidors came about).

But wait a minute. There is a disclaimer.

Not all Disney private tours require only walking.

For some, you need scuba gear (underwater tours).

For some, other special equipment is needed.

And for many, you must be at least 16 years old.

Why is the age limit often involved?

The magic might disturb younger visitors.

It would bother children, seeing two Goofy’s passing each other, Mickey without a head, or seeing Minnie eating with Snow White.

That would ruin the Magic. And it’s why the tour that shows off the Utilidors does not allow even teenagers.

Some tours actually take you on rides

While others offer hints of new rides and adventures hinted or rumored or in the works or even absolutely already on the schedule.

Here, we’re going to tell you a little about Disney’s behind the scenes tours. We’ll also give you a few tips on how to best enjoy them.

But you will have to further investigate them on your own.

One major reason is that they often change.

Here today, perhaps gone tomorrow.

Not all are just for walkers

Some involve more than walking.

And yes, they are also expensive. And we can’t help you on that because there are no discounts.

Some tours such as as “Keys to the Kingdom” can be yours for only $79.

Other tours are less. But most tours also require park admission as well. And some can cost upwards of $300.

So we can’t help you on the money end.

And while many do just require walking, you will have to check each individual one because of the various requirements (but more on that later).

For more information, visit Disney or call 407-939-5277 or 407-939-8687

But many tours simply ask that you walk. A lot of steps, in many cases.

But other than that, the behind the scenes tours at the Walt Disney World Resort offer you a chance to peek beneath the Disney mystique.

Lifting up the iron curtain

“The Keys to the Kingdom” Tour (probably the most popular and the one that bans the little ones) takes you backstage at favorite attractions like Splash Mountain.

And the Utilidors.

This tour is perhaps typical in some in its eye-opening moments.

Keys to the Kingdom” also includes lunch, which is usually pre-ordered from Columbia Harbour House, and a special commemorative pin.

You will get to experience three or four rides.

It lasts four to five hours.

There is a lot of walking.

The price is $79.

Bloggers generally say it’s worth it.

About some of those other stories…

About the Jungle Cruise…Much like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the waterfall (Schweitzer Falls/The Backside of Water) churns and mixes the water soluble dye that gives the Jungle Cruise its murky greenish brown water color. The dye is actually red in color.

And to explain another colored feature, the purple cat, tour guests find:

It began when the Osborne lights were shipped to Disney. The cat that was used for Halloween accidentally got mixed up with everything else. Including purple spots.

Why purple cats and no delivery trucks

And how the underground tunnels came about…

You have probably read or heard some of this already (we have reported some of it here on this site) but the Disney tour can give a lot more details.

These things often aren’t simple or straightforward in how they came about, but in this case, it seems, Walt himself came up with the idea for the subterranean world of Walt Disney World Resort.


The best story is that after Disneyland in California was completed, Walt was upset to see a cowboy crossing the sci-fi themed Tomorrowland to reach his place at Frontierland.

There was little he could do about this in the California park with its limited space (and it was already built).

But he looked to the new park in Orlando. And ordered some changes.

The underground includes anine-acre network of tunnels. Swampy Central Florida conditions made it impossible to really have a basement.

So they built upwards instead – and so the ‘tunnels’ were created at ground level (using eight million cubic yards of earth excavated from the man-made lake Seven Seas Lagoon).

The park itself was built on the second and third floors – with a barely noticeable incline.

They contain service rooms, wardrobe and costuming, male and female locker rooms, offices, storage, kitchens, break rooms, and two employee cafeterias.

Even deliveries made ‘Underground’

They also include the Fantasyland Dining Room, Kingdom Kutters, a Fire Prevention Center, Studio “D” and many other rooms.

The Utilidors go into Frontierland as far as Peco Bill’s Cafe.

There is a stairwell behind Peco Bill’s Cafe, and there is one at Diamond Horseshoe which also lets Cast Members out in Adventureland. Stairwells are also in Liberty Square, Small World, Snow White and other areas.

The walls themselves are color coded for the land in which they are under to allow easy navigation.

Since some people are color blind, the names of the different lands and pictures relating to each land also appear on the walls.

This is to allow Cast Members to quickly know where they are and to avoid the mixing of lands.

(Walt would be proud of how careful everyone has been in following his guidelines).

Christmas related tours this time of year also have a lot of insider information.

Christmas made merrier

There are 5 million lights used and it takes 10 weeks to get it set up

One of the highlights at the Grand Floridian is the life-size, 12-foot-tall Gingerbread House in the lobby. Each year a new design is used and it takes 840 hours to complete it.

The two chimneys send out puffs of gingerbread scented smoke.

There are Hidden Mickeys here. One visitor counted 19. See if you can top that.
One tour stop is the Holiday services area (not seen by the general public). This is a huge building in the backstage area behind the Magic Kingdom where it’s all about the holidays 365 days of the year.

Some interesting facts

25 cast members work full-time year-round getting ready for the Holidays.

To set up all of the decorations, they bring on an additional 45 cast members during the height of the season to help.

Since 1996, all of the trees have been artificial (maybe you guessed that by looking at them, but they do seem real).

Christmas lights here do burn out and Disney has no magic pixie dust to make them last forever. But Disney also has what they term a magic box that can hunt out any bulbs that are burnt out in a string of lights.

The Magic Kingdom decorations have a fruit theme. This is a tradition rooted in Walt’s childhood.

The Christmas tree is 70 feet tall with 500 ornaments and 5000 lights.

The new castle holiday lighting was installed over 5 weeks by six cast member “elves.” They used 5 miles of cable, 200,000 LED lights and 32,000 square feet of fish netting.

Disney has Christmas wreaths in sizes from 12 inches to 25 feet.

The biggest of them all at 25 feet is at the Cirque du Soleil building.

Main Street Secrets

An interesting aspect of the Main Street window display is that it involves a competition. Cast Members are given a window to decorate and judges choose the winner.

Main Main Street U.S.A. has its own share of secrets. Those names on the windows of fake corporations? Imagineers.

Another window for fake corporations are the names Walt Disney used to obtain the 27 square miles of land Disney sits on.

The last window on Main Street, above the Ice Cream Parlor and facing Cinderella’s Castle is for Walt Disney himself, the “director” of the picture. It is interesting to note that the window mentions “Graduate School of Design and Master Planning.”

But Walt Disney did not attend college. His degrees were all honorary.

More secrets along Main Street

On top of many of the buildings on Main Street U.S.A. are what appear to be American flags. But they are actually classified as “pennants” because each flag is missing a stripe or a star. Technically, they are not real American flags.

What they are: lightning rods.

Jungle Cruise facts include: Hidden Mickey followers find there is a hidden Mickey on the Spider’s back inside the temple, as well as a hidden Minnie in the rock formations.

Also, Trader Sam wears a red and white striped tunic in a nod to the original Jungle Cruise boat canopies.

And what about the Tiki Room?

Tour participants also can hear many stories, including ones about the Tiki Room.

One of these is that Walt’s wife, Lillian, gave the first look at the attraction a thumbs down. The singing birds were rigid without breathing.

So a Cashmere material was added to give the birds the impression of expanding their chests as they sang. A small touch, but it added to the overall positive visitor impression.

And more about another popular attraction: The Haunted Mansion. Famed Disney Imagineer Marc Davis left his signature on the facade of the Haunted Mansion by placing chess pieces in the spires of the building. The only piece missing is the Knight. There is a knight inside the mansion, however.

Davis was known as the “Master of Whimsy.” He worked on the ride with fellow Imagineer Claude Coats.

Coats wanted the ride to be dark and scary, and Davis wanted it to be lighthearted. As a result, the ride was divided into two halves, with Coats designing the first half, and Davis designing the second half.

Some quick tour tips

—Drink something before the tour. Don’t always count on bottled water or anything to drink. Eat something, too. Same reason (though meals are sometimes provided).

—Go to the bathroom. Breaks are provided, but just to make sure.

—Check the photo policy. Some tours do not allow pictures. Or not backstage, at least.

—Travel light for a tour. You will be able to leave a bag on the bus when you get out, but as you go through each park, security will be checking your bags on the bus.

—Make a list of questions before you go. Guides usually go out of their way to help answer any questions. It’s disheartening to find out later you forgot to find out why Cinderella has to be at least five feet, three inches tall.

Remember what we said about some tours having special requirements? Here’s one example:

Some tours more strenuous than others

The EPCOT Dive Quest requires that participants be certified divers.

Be reassured that while the sharks can’t read your card, they are well-fed, shy, and generally user-friendly.

Another above the ground tour, the Wild Africa Trek, requires such feats as crossing a rope bridge over the Safi River and cliff-hanging at the edge of gullies that are home for hippos and crocodiles.

Restrictions include that participants there weigh at least 45 pounds and not more more than 300 pounds, and be at least eight years old.

They also must be in general good health and ambulatory, among other requirements.

Disney does tell you about this, however.

And for this tour, you don’t always have to walk.

You can also spend some time riding in customized open-air vehicles. ###