The Magic Kingdom is Built on a Series of Tunnels
By Chad Upton
Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando Florida is the largest resort in the world at 100 km squared (39 sq miles).
It started off as mostly swamp land. In fact, there were many people who owned pieces of that land before Walt Disney secretly bought it all up. He didn’t want people to know he was buying the land because he feared prospectors would buy it up and hold out for exorbitant figures.
In order to secretly buy this land without attracting attention, a number of dummy corporations were formed. Some of the company names included M. T. Lott Real Estate Investments (“empty lot”), Ayefour Corporation (“I 4” because the resort is near Interstate 4) and many of them were owned by “Mr. M. Mouse.” In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious. But, nobody caught on until someone leaked the information to the Orlando Sentinel in October of 1965. Many of these names can be found on a window on Main St in the Magic Kingdom.
Walt Disney World Resort includes a number of theme parks, but the oldest and most well known is The Magic Kingdom. It’s crown jewel is Cinderella’s Castle.
The castle is directly across the park from the front gate. In fact, if you look at the castle from inside the front entrance, you can tell the castle is built one story higher than the gate — Main St gradually slopes up to the castle. This gives the castle a grand presence and it also accommodates a big secret below the park.
If you look at the picture of the Magic Kingdom Railroad Station (below) which is just beyond the front gate, you can see that it is one level above ground level. The elevation of the train station and the castle exist because concrete utility corridors (“utilidors”) are built at ground level and the rest of the park is built on top of these tunnels.
The Seven Seas Lagoon, in front of the Magic Kingdom, is a man made lake. 1.5 million square meters (5 million square feet) of dirt was excavated to create the lake — that dirt was used to build up the ground around the utilidors to make the Magic Kingdom seem like it is at ground level. The main tunnel starts just on the other side of the railroad station and runs below Main St, leading directly to Cinderella’s Castle.
There are entrances into the utilidors all over the park (see the attached map). The main entry is behind “It’s a Small World” at the back of the park where there is a large loading area for people and supplies to enter the tunnel system. There are 2.5 km (1.5 miles) of tunnels below the park. They’re not just for moving around, there are many other features built in to the tunnels: break rooms, restrooms, locker rooms, “Kingdom Kutters” (hair cutting), “Mouseketeeria” (cafeteria), makeup room, first aid facility, money room and training rooms.
The tunnels make it efficient for cast members and utility crews to move around the park without disrupting park guests. It prevents guests from seeing characters in parts of the park where they don’t fit in, although visitors can pay for a tour that includes a look behind the scenes of some shows and a trip through the utilidors. This is an all day tour of Walt Disney World Resort called the Backstage Magic Tour and it costs $238 per person. If it’s just the tunnels you want to see, watch this video for free.
Guests under the age of 16 are not allowed in the Utilidors because Disney is worried about ruining the magic if a child sees two of the same character together or two characters from different stories talking together. The walls of the tunnels are labeled and color coded to make navigation easy.
Just like other places, Disney World has it’s own secret language, including terms such as “Protein Spill” (vomit) and “Alpha Crew” (first aid). These codes allow them to communicate on radios without spoiling the magic for guests within earshot.
There are many secrets that make the Magic Kingdom seem so magical — I’ll share more again soon.