Keys to the Kingdom Tour

I made (was granted) the time to go to the “Keys to the Magic Kingdom Tour” so I could learn a bit more about Disney World, one of my favorite places, and Disney, the company who makes the magic. It was a really nice tour, with Sean, a fantastic tour guide who had more information tucked away inside of him than you would have thought possible. Without further delay, here are my raw, feverishly typed-out-on-my-iPhone-til-the-battery-died-iPhone notes. There are a bunch of fat-finger typos that I keep finding and correcting, and I apologize in advance if I’ve mis-typed (or mis-heard) anything that is here, and welcome corrections and additions!

  • 62k cast members. Largest on-site employer.
  • Main Street train station acts as a curtain
  • Posters are on the walls on the outside are like previews
  • Lots from movie industry; designed like shots
  • They award building windows to long term employees
  • Roy O. Disney is Walt’s brother and provided financial wizardry to get this built
  • Downtown resembles Marcelene, MO, his home town. His memory of it; not reality :-)
  • Mortimer was Mickey’s first name. Walt’s wife said no. Mickey it was.
  • Snow White cost 1.5 million to make. Made 8 million. Lots of dimes and nickels. Do some math here Russ.
  • Initially theme parks were thought of as disgusting, dirty places. Walt made fun of them in Pinocchio where the kids all turned into donkeys.
  • Walt didn’t like being able to see all the hotels etc from Disneyland. Decided if he did this again he’d make the fantasy better.
  • This is where the Epcot community/city notion came from–city of tomorrow. Infrastructure etc. cars only drive underground.
  • Add “magic” to something at Disney and you’ve got a parade; being in marketing is easy.
  • If you lived in Epcot and GE created a prototype product you could get it for free. (Example; paraphrased)
    42 square miles of land. 1/3 never to be touched as a reserve, 1/3 not yet used. Has landfills, tree farms, etc. twice the size of Manhattan.
  • Called the Grand Floridian add-on the DVC & said he’s not supposed to say
  • Walt died at 65; Roy came out of retirement to finish. Walt never saw more than swampland. Bummer.
  • No Disney family members have any influence in the company. Walls nephew, Roy’s son, had a fight with Eisner to save Disney, but that was it.
  • At the end of Walt’s life he was focused in Epcot and CalArts; trusted the Imagineers to finish it.
  • Disney was built by a man, Magic Kingdom, etc. by committee.
  • Steve Jobs was the largest shareholder for a long time
  • First day staffers spend time at Disney University and learning traditions in the park. Used to be a 2-hour session, now full day.
  • General attitude is that Disney is less strict. Growth means they need to hire more applicants.
  • In 71 had around 5500 employees. They’re always hiring. Majority of hires are college and international.
  • Growth and culture shifts have loosened the strictness.
  • Example was if they had no uniforms to fit you, you just couldn’t work that thing.
  • Until 1982 men couldn’t be your guides or in guest relations.
  • Tattoos have to covered. Rule.
  • Most internships are paid with some room and board. Some of the more advanced internships such as Imagineers are unpaid.
  • All the parks will be getting Starbucks soon
  • Disney has undercover security in the park and on the outside. If you’re anywhere in Disney in a public area you are probably on camera.
  • Obama was here this year. They had to wall off Main Street. The top of the contemporary was closed off, etc.
  • They had 36 hours to prep for Obama; an operational nightmare and lots of cancellations, etc.
    use forced-perspective to make things look and feel bigger-buildings on Main Street and the castle appear bigger than they are and farther away.
  • We have no TinkerBills (someone asked if Tinkerbell was male or female)
  • Top of castle is 189 feet
  • People get to stay in the suite–celebrities and VIPs and make a wish. Involves generous donations to charities etc.
  • They are a business first; in the 80s there were threats/fears of hostile take over and shift in how it works.
  • 2 types of cast members. Walt-people and progressive types. Some in between. Interesting discussion about how audience has changed and can’t treat us in a fake way.
  • Rides are inspected every night very thoroughly.
  • They do sensory tickles. First palm tree after the Main Street and at crystal palace. Leads you to Adventureland area.
  • Tour guide has a masters from Taiwan and can speak mandarin. Don’t judge the book by the cover.
    all volcanic rock around Swiss family Robinson tree.
  • Ground color changes as a sensory tickle for the next area while in Adventureland.
  • Theme park connection is a website to learn from
  • Enchanted tiki room is first animatronic experience. Roof is faux thatch made of aluminum
  • More sensory tickle of ground and fences as we move to the plaza
  • Pirates of Caribbean was a Walt thought of a pirate museum. Sad trombone; didn’t happen but the better experience did. Under the waterfall is actually going under the railroad tracks. Before the waterfall everyone is dead/skeletons and after its like time travel because they’re all alive.
  • More sensory tickles. Ground, lamp posts, horticultural shifts to preview next area.
  • Back stage. No photos or video here. Nothing. This is a fire-able offense for staff.
  • Warning to keep quiet so we don’t ruin it for the “little ears”
  • Talking of getting rid of the tour because of Dark Side of Disney (book) and they would sneak through and get photos, etc. fan club D23 is after these people, etc. basically, they’re jerks trying to ruin the experience/magic (my opinion)
  • Yellow sight line so characters know when they need to be performing or not.
  • Most parade rehearsals are done back stage. Real dress rehearsals are done late at night or early mornings to preserve experience.
  • Boom. We’re backstage. “Smells like six flags” says one guy. He’s right.
  • Pirates building is painted “go away green” so it blends in with local foliage.
  • Produces about 40-45% of their own energy. Methane gas from water hyacinths on a lake.
  • Splash mountain reservoir is 20 feet deep. Have 2 spare pumps in case some go out. They capture any waste etc here. Don’t use chlorine; bromine. Won’t stain clothes and has the smell. Turn off pumps and all water empties in about 45 minutes from gravity for splash mountain.
  • They don’t paint nor build what an eye can’t see.
  • Paw prints on ground in case of evacuation so kids can easily find their way out.
  • Production center holds Ll the parade floats. Inside is for night time floats. They operate on the equivalent of golf cart batteries. They all have drivers in them.
  • Sometimes the driver isn’t hidden but instead disguised or in costume.
  • Told the story of a float has a joystick. One has 2 levers for 360 control like a lawn mower.
  • Mushroom buttons allow cast members to hit them and force a stop to prevent accidents with people or debris.
  • Night time lights are basically Christmas tree lights. Every other light is a different strand to prevent full blackout.
  • Most floats built on location, but based upon cost it may be outsourced.
  • All the costumes–fur characters, etc. are done here. Security and some others may be outsourced.
  • Talking about shifts for characters to keep them cool.
  • Talking about pantomime for auditions of characters. Characters are based upon person height; “mouse group” – Mickey usually played by a woman because of height.
  • Showed a float that is 30 years old. Was a Snow White float, now a Xmas float.
  • Some floats have scents-ors that will push out smells.
  • Floats get general maintenance everyday so they don’t die on stage. Casts may spend time doing cleaning and light maintenance daily, too.
  • Face characters do their own make-up. They get trained by cosmetology team. They do half themselves as they go, they graduate by doing it themselves.
  • They’ll drain water in the canal when they know a hurricane, etc. so they can prepare.
  • Back to the park.
  • And off to lunch!
  • They have a creek they call the Little Mississippi because it divides the east and west sides.
  • Lunch at the Columbia Harbor House on the 2nd floor.
  • Chimed in about some Henson facts and have spent a lot of time talking about Jim at lunch.
  • People reveling And chuckling at how many notes I’ve taken and my battery is at 15%
  • You can request VIP tours by your guide for upto around $175 (?) hour.
  • Haunted mansion based upon the Henry Packer museum in Jim Thorpe, Virginia
  • This is the only place with blood red roses
  • Horticulture chosen to look more forlorn
  • Lawn is handcut to make it purposefully uneven
  • Tombstones are names of Imagineers who created the haunted mansion
  • Tour guide has been here 7 years
  • In California the stretch room is an elevator. Here the walls get higher.
  • They use a lot of really old parlor tricks as effects
  • Steam boat goes by and razzed the guide–loud long horn blows, mocking. Nice touch.
  • Ghosts in the ballroom – has a bunch of reflections in glass based on light flickers.
  • There is a hidden Mickey in the dining room plates. Official now; used to be just from the maids and cleaning staff.
  • Albert Hague did deep voice in the Haunted Mansion; also did Mean One Mr. Grinch, Tony the Tiger, bears, etc.
  • Graveyard has a hidden Mickey. In the crypt is a keeper, the left hand has a silhouette. When the buggy turns to the left, lean out and look to the right to see it on the crypt keeper.
  • Tour guide says tour guides are bottom of the barrel and don’t have a lot of sway/social currency.
  • New projects appear to be more skewed toward enhancing/re-vitalizing the park. Instead of adding a 5th gate; labor supply/shortage is a factor.
  • Disney Springs will be the new name for Downtown Disney.
  • First mention of Star Wars at 1p. Tour started at 9:30a.
  • Rumors are that Disneyland Paris would be the best prepared to get a Star Wars themed area.
  • Next stop: utilidors.
  • Liberty bell is cast from same mold as original but the crack they did on their own.
  • Christmas lasts about 3 months here. On November 2 all the Halloween decorations go down and 36 hours later all the Xmas decorations are up. Xmas music loop in Main Street is 30m long.
    2nd floors are used for office buildings.
  • Parking lot for parade staging.
  • In the utilidors. Mash location signs. No smoking here. Cement corridors. Incredibly underwhelming and amazing at the same time. Break rooms, offices, etc. everything is accessible down here so no one has to make holes in the park.
  • Facades on buildings are about 6 feet to allow for lighting effects, etc.
  • Roy Disney did the dedication but only after Mickey showed up; Roy felt it was a personification of Walt and made him comfortable.
  • 2 months later in December, Roy passed away. Many think he stayed alive long enough to see his brother’s dream come true.
  • When he passed away, they named a train after Roy.
  • Buggy in front of haunted mansion is a real old child’s hearse.
  • Until the late 80s all the skeletons on properties were real.
  • Showed an out-of-use Scents-or; they used to pump a “cookie dough” smell in/near a bakery to get people in and wanting fresh cookies. Andy Budd does a talk about Persuasion and how McDonald’s has done something similar.
  • Wigs – Real people get fake hair, fake people get real hair. Some of the “It’s a Small World” dolls have “yarn” hair and it grows in in the summers so they have to sometimes trim it. In the winter it may contract so it may need to be replanted. Fake hair is relatively inexpensive so they can customize wigs easily for staff. Real hair is expensive, but it goes on fake people that they know will never leave. The leg hair on some of the Pirates of the Caribbean pirates is real hair!
  • Tinkerbell – They have 5 people playing the role; 3 full time, 2 part time. Women, weighing between 95 – 105lbs. Weight and the “kick” they receive from the castle (can’t be pushed or the pusher might and up going for the ride) determine how far Tinkerbell flies. If she stops short, she’ll turn off her lights and hand-pull herself to the end of the line. 1 of the people who plays Tinkerbell is on maternity leave after having her second child.
  • Pin replacement – they have a station where staff members can replenish their pins; staff can trade / give away pins to people who collect them.
  • Executive parking – the executive parking is closest to the Magic Kingdom; right behind Main Street. Not a lot of high-end vehicles; more sensible–but nice cars (just my observation)
  • Water at Epcot – the water/pond at Epcot is filled with water from all over the world; kids were asked to bring water to pour into it

2 Responses to “Keys to the Kingdom Tour”

  1. It was Thurl Ravenscroft who provided the voices in the Mansion, not Albert Hague (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thurl_Ravenscroft) (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0712391/)

    Reply

  2. I only took notes on the tour, which I am assuming is accurate since it came from Disney.

    That said, I only noted that Hague did the “deep voice” in the Haunted Mansion.

    Ravenscroft provided voices for, “…the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland as Uncle Theodore, the lead vocalist of the singing busts in the cemetery near the end of the ride.” according to the Wikipedia entry you provided.

    I have no doubts that Ravenscroft is involved all over the place in Disney! I only know what I typed out from my notes, and I may have missed an item or two along the way, so thanks for additional information!

    Reply

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