Disney Secrets: Behind Park Walls

by Kathryn Blanco / Jul 08, 2012 / 0 comments

A trip to Disney World is a magical experience, but what behind the scenes secrets go into making guests' dreams a reality?

Disney Secrets: Behind Park Walls


Walking in

When you walk into a Disney park, there’s something for every one of the five senses to enjoy. The park spreads before you, huge, colorful and bursting with blooming plants. Music serenades your ears and scents drift in from all sides. In different places it’s almost as if the temperature fits the setting. All these combine to make you truly feel as if you’ve been transported to another world. But what are the secrets behind all these details? How does what goes on behind park walls become the magic that guests experience in Disney World? Here are just a few of the designs and systems that go into creating that amazing Disney atmosphere.

Magic Kingdom entrance. Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/88979981@N00

The Village of Herambe, Disney’s Literal Hotspot

Let’s start with a simple one. In Animal Kingdom, the open area in Herambe Village in “Africa” is said to be the hottest spot in the park-sometimes in all of Disney World. How do they do it? Simple – no shade. Buildings sit back from the main area and no trees spread wide, leafy branches. Between that and the crush of tired, sweaty people moving through this main area, it’s certainly a very hot spot. Of course, the warm colors, impression that you’re in Africa, and expectation of heat certainly don’t help to make it feel any cooler.

Africa at Animal Kingdom - African architecture at Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Florida. Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/richo-fan/

Africa at Animal Kingdom - African architecture at Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Florida. 

How Does it all Happen?

Now onto some more complicated effects. How do the cast members work all of the effects, walk the characters, and transport basic necessities – cleaning supplies, garbage cans, napkin and utensil refills, etc.? If you think about it, have you ever seen a cast member wheeling a cart of supplies around or, God forbid, goofy walking around Fantasyland in a cowboy hat? No? Well, they certainly don’t disappear into thin air, even in Disney World. So what exactly happens?

The Underworld of the Magic Kingdom

You may be surprised to learn that when you walk through the Magic Kingdom park, you’re not actually at ground level at all. In fact, you’re on the second level of a huge complex, the lower half of which is built closed in underneath the park ground. In this secret maze of halls known as the “Utilidoors,” cast members rush around all day to get and keep the park in order. When they are in need of quick transportation from one end to the other, employees can simply hop on one of the bikes provided, pedal it to where they need to go, and drop it off at the bike station nearest their destination.

Main Street, USA - Disney

Main Street, USA.

The Scent of Main Street, U.S.A

As you step out onto Main Street, the aroma of a delicious-something pervades the air. Depending on the season, the scent seems to change to match the mood. What wonderful concoction is being prepared in the kitchens that lets off this heavenly scent?  It seems to be coming from all over. Actually, it is. Although there are many delicious treats including popcorn, cotton candy, marshmallow rice treats, and, my personal favorite, fresh waffle cones, most of this smell isn’t coming from any of these delectable snacks directly. Scent is pumped out from special vents around Main Street.

Why it all Happens

Combined, these effects seem to be able to transport you to different times, places, and worlds within just a few minutes. These are just a few parts of the design, planning, and daily activity that go on behind the scenes (and beneath the floor!) in Disney World every day to totally immerse visitors in the magical, wonderful, world of Disney.

Disney and Mickey - near Main Street USA

Main Street USA
A bronze statue of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney stands proudly near Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This tribute to the duo reminds guests "it was all started by a mouse." 

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Kathryn Blanco is the Disney Editor for Wandering Educators. 


Photos: Magic Kingdom entrance. Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/88979981@N00

Africa at Animal Kingdom photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/richo-fan/

Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: Jeffrey Zeldman

Main Street USA: Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: Jay Malone