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