Backstage Magic Tour Review
by Kevin Klose
I consider myself a Disney veteran.
My first trip to Walt Disney World was in 1971. I have made countless other trips after that and finally moved to central Florida in 1994. I’ve had my annual pass every year since then. I have been to Disneyland numerous times. I have read extensively about Walt Disney and the creation of Disneyland and Disney World. I even find myself with a job that while not working for Disney, involves all aspect of Disney vacation planning. I have taken the Keys to the Kingdom Tour.
Ok…I admit it….I’m a Disney addict and a bit of a Disney snob.
It’s with this attitude that I approached the Backstage Magic Tour offered by Walt Disney World.
I had trepidations about signing up for a 7 hour tour of an area that I thought I knew pretty well. It was going to be one of those REALLY hot Orlando days. I had to be there at 8:30am. The tour goes to 3 parks that I know like the back of my hand. The cost was $199.00 (with a 15% discount for annual passholders). I did everything I could to back out. What were they going to tell me that I didn’t already know?
I was just as whiny as it sounds.
Let me tell you…..I was 1000% wrong
We met our tour leader in front of Epcot’s Guest Relations area. There were 12 of us. The tour is limited to groups of 20. We were given name tags and we were off.
Our first stop was just inside the park where we went backstage. You certainly lose perspective backstage. Things are much closer. The back of Guest Relations is very close to the back of the Living Seas. It’s hard to imagine when you think that if you enter the front gate at Epcot, you have a twenty minute walk to the Living Seas. Not so behind the scenes.
This was where I had my first surprise of the day. We were shown the way to a beautiful air conditioned tour bus. We were told that this would be our mode of transportation for the day. Upon boarding, we were offered chilled bottled water, which was available to us all day. We could even store the drinks we had brought in the ice chest. Nice touch huh? Completely unexpected.
The bus takes you around the backstage perimeter of Epcot to the back of the American Adventure pavilion. Just a note……backstage is a completely different experience than what the guests see. No frills, no landscaping….a bit bleak.
After getting off the bus, we walked to the front of the pavilion. As the World Showcase was not yet open, it was just us and a few Cast members getting the park ready for guests. As we stood in front of the building, our tour guide told us some interesting facts. The American Adventure was originally going to be built at the very front of World Showcase in between Canada and Mexico. This would have put Canada to America’s north and Mexico to the South. Clever Imagineers. This was not done as the building that houses the American Adventure had to be considerable larger that it’s northern and southern counterparts in order to hold the show that it does. It was decided that it would become the center piece of the World Showcase.
She told us that building uses a different sort of forced perspective. Most Disney building are built and situated as to look bigger. An example would be Cinderella Castle. Not the case with the American Adventure. They wanted it to look smaller to fit in with the other countries. She explained that the building façade was built using the same methods used to build building in the late 1700s. There are 110,000 hand formed red Georgia clay bricks in the façade. Another interesting fact….the flag on top of the building is unique. It has 15 stars and 15 stripes. The thought at the time was that a star and a stripe would be added for each state. The decision was that this would look unwieldy and that only a star would be added to the 13 original stripes. This is a small detail that the majority of the public would never notice, but Disney loves the details
We were taken backstage and downstairs to see how the show mechanism works. There are hundreds of facts and numbers given about this mechanism, but my describing it in words would just be frustrating. It’s truly an amazing piece of machinery. For the sake of time and space, I have abbreviated the description of this part of the tour. I was also asked not to give away all of the secrets.
So far, I’m impressed. This isn’t the same Disney trivia available in guide books.
Our next stop was Epcot Cast building. Each Epcot Cast member arrives for their work shift through this building. There are break areas, learning centers, costuming, employee computer access, a huge warehouse type room with a personal locker for each employee, a character makeup area and something I found intriguing….Disney tests each variety of carpet in this building. Whether it is for a resort, office, cruise ship, theme park…anywhere…..it is tested in the Epcot employee building. Disney realized that over 5,000 people would walk on this carpet twice a day. Quite a clever way to let the employees test the carpet huh?
We got back on our air-conditioned bus and headed out for Disney - MGM Studios.
End of Part One
- Inaugural Disney Fit Challenge to be held in September - Competitions will include tests of power, speed, balance, strength and endurance.
- Blog - A Shopping Oasis: Merchandise at Disney's Flower & Garden Festival
- Pollo Campero at Downtown Disney will be closing 3/19/14 - Pollo Campero, Bodie's All-American Grill and Babycakes NYC will be closing 3/19/14. Babycakes NYC will still be providing gluten-free items to select Walt Disney World food courts and restaurants.
- Blog - 2014 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival opens in Epcot
- Registration for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon opens today - This race is held in conjunction with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
- Blog - Haunted Mansion Merchandise Materializes in Disney Parks
- New dates for D23's Destination D - The event will be held November 22-23, 2014.
- 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon dates - Registration for the 2015 marathon begins 4/22/14.
- Blog - A Brit's Perspective - Changing of the Seasons at the Orlando theme parks
- Rebel Rendezvous merchandise event planned for Star Wars Weekends - Attendees will receive exclusive access to Darth's Mall a day before it opens to the public.
- Blog - A February Stroll through the Magic Kingdom
- Walt Disney World restaurants add Braille menus - Beginning March 1, select restaurants will be adding Braille menus, though a list of participating restaurants is not yet available. The Braille menus will have examples of the menu items but may not list all the short term or temporary items.
- Family Ticket offer - get one free day! - Get one FREE additional day on each ticket when you buy 6 or more 4-day or longer Magic Your Way tickets!
- Blog - Disney's Polynesian Resort is Changing in a Big Way
- Just announced! Festival of Fantasy parade will debut March 9! - This parade will run daily in the afternoons at the Magic Kingdom.
- Celebrate Earth Day at Disney's Animal Kingdom - The park is also celebrating the release of Disneynature's newest film Bears, which hits theaters April 18.
- Car Masters Weekend to be held at Downtown Disney - This event takes place June 14-15.
- Walt Disney World ticket prices increase - Ticket prices have gone up effective today, Sunday, February 23.
- Mighty St. Patrick's Day Festival planned for Downtown Disney - Downtown Disney celebrates St. Patrick's Day with live music, a step-by-step Irish jig workshop, classic Irish food and drink, Irish storytellers, Irish history and merchandise at Raglan Road's Shop.
- Star Wars Weekends - extra weekend added, plus Hyperspace Hoopla cancelled - A nightly fireworks show has been added instead of the Hyperspace Hoopla party.
- Major staff cuts at Disney Interactive
- Blackfish director denies receiving confidential information
- Hank Wiliams Jr. and Alabama to perform at SeaWorld
- Universal Orlando parking garage closed for suspicious vehicle
- SeaWorld calls for investigation of OSHA inspector
- Preview of food items for Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion
- Disney announces theme parks will stay open for 24-hour party
- Magic Kingdom Hub Expansion Announced
- Disney Cruise Line takes top honors from Cruise Critic members
- Scotty McCreery and Steve Miller Band to perform at SeaWorld Orlando
Today's Theme Park Hours
Epcot Future World:
Epcot World Showcase:
|9:00 - 1:00
9:00 - 9:00
11:00 - 9:00
9:00 - 10:00
8:00 - 8:00
10:00 - 5:00
10:00 - 5:00
Extra Magic Hours Morning: Animal Kingdom
Extra Magic Hour Evening: Magic Kingdom