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Six Hidden secrets of Walt Disney World

Disney secrets

 Six Hidden secrets of Walt Disney World, by Kris Makuch, August 2015

We’ve heard the urban legends associated with Disney World. We know about the secret suite in Cinderella’s castle (true), we’re aware of the thousands of hidden Mickeys throughout the park (true) and we’ve heard that Toy Story characters drop to the floor when you yell “Andy’s coming” (sadly, no longer true).

But what about the real secrets? The things that Walt himself conjured up to give the park its magical illusions and extraordinary spectacles? This is what I went to find out on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour

After scaling the heights of Splash Mountain and tasting all of the Dole whips and burgers my joyful stomach could handle, I was taken on an enchanting behind-the-scenes tour of Magic Kingdom to learn just what makes Walt Disney World so spellbinding.

1. The park is built to replicate an old theatre

It makes sense that cinema would influence Walt Disney’s ideas for the park. But his plans were created from far more than just references to his films. Walt wanted the whole park to mimic the notion of visiting a theatre. How so? Well, before you even enter the park the concrete leading up to the entrance is coloured red so that you ‘walk the red carpet’ ahead of the premier. The main attractions of the park are also hidden from view in order to avoid spoiling the story.

As you continue through the turnstiles you walk through a short, dimly lit shelter, built to replicate a foyer. Here you can see posters of the rides where you would expect to see posters of films, and you can pick up your show program (park info and map). As you exit the foyer you are even greeted with popcorn stands and with it the aroma of visiting the cinema.

At this point you don’t directly enter the park from a central focal point. You can only enter via a left or right entrance before you head into the central plaza. Even at this point you can’t completely see the main attraction and have to walk down Main Street, where each of the windows are cleverly marked with the names of everyone who built the park (mirroring the credits that used to appear at the beginning of films).

Finally, only when the credits have finished, are you actually greeted with the famous lead-in shot of Cinderella’s Castle, before you start your own story in Walt Disney World.

2. Walt Disney’s Credit is in the back

In-line with cinematic tradition, the Producer’s name is the first you see in the credits when walking down Main Street. If you look closely at the first level of the confectionary store (*sweet shop) on your right, you will see the name ‘Roy Disney’ written upon the window. Unfortunately, Walt died before the park could be built, so it was his brother who made sure his plans came to fruition, and therefore his name is the one that appears at the beginning.

Walt’s name is placed at the back Main Street, overlooking the Castle. Despite never seeing the park being built, he now oversees everything that happens at the main attraction.

3. It’s not Walt Disney, it’s Roy Disney

As you enter the park, you are greeted with a statue of what looks like Walt Disney sitting on a park bench with Minnie Mouse in the town square. However, what most people don’t realise is that this is actually Walt’s brother, Roy. Roy was Walt’s accountant, and the one who raised capital to fund Walt’s imaginative ideas and support him through every adventure.

This relationship seemed to echo the the dynamic between Minnie and Mickey as she is always there to help him through every imaginative caper. That’s why Roy appears with Minnie and further into the park Walt appears with Mickey.

4. Cinderella’s Castle isn’t as big as it looks

The castle was originally supposed to be a staggering 300 feet tall. However, flight regulations state that buildings over 190 feet must have a warning light attached. This simply wouldn’t do. Instead, the castle was built at 189 feet and uses a visual technique called forced perspective in order to make the castle seem larger than it is.

The illusion is created by making each level smaller than the one below, thus forcing the appearance of height and depth. The same technique is also used on Main Street to make three story shops out of two story buildings.

 5. You can’t see other worlds inside the park

As you walk around the different worlds within Magic Kingdom, each one is hidden from the last. The park is cleverly designed to hide the main attractions of other parts, to make you feel completely immersed in a new world.

6. The whole park is built on the first floor

Among the other incredible things that I learned whilst on the tour (and legally I’m not allowed to talk about), one of the most unbelievable facts is that the whole park is built on the first floor. There is a complete maze of ‘utilidors’ (tunnels), on the ground floor, underneath the park, that staff use to quickly move from world-to-world.

Now just think about that for a second.

All of Walt Disney World is effectively upstairs.

Now. Those six secrets are only the beginning! There are a huge bunch of secrets that have to be left at Disney and cameras aren’t allowed to capture. So if you’re off to Walt Disney World anytime soon. Make sure the keys to the kingdom tour is on your list!

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