Inside Disney World's Secret "Tunnels"
There’s never a dull moment at the Magic Kingdom. Parades, food vendors, shows, rides, characters, barbershop quartets, shopping—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But what you may not realize is that there’s almost as much hustle and bustle happening right beneath your feet.
Legend has it that Walt Disney was once strolling around Disneyland in Anaheim when he saw a cast member in a Frontierland cowboy costume wandering through Tomorrowland. He felt the incongruity was disruptive to the “magic” people were meant to experience at the park, and decided to do something about it at his next park.
When construction began on the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, the first layer of the park that was built was 392,040 square feet of “underground” tunnels, known as utilidors. Fun fact: They’re not actually underground. The “basement” level of the park is actually at ground level, and the part of the park visitors experience is the second floor. Cast members access the utilidors via staircases positioned at key areas in the park.
The utilidors are used for way more than just allowing cast members to move about undetected. Here are some of the others:
All of those cast members have to eat somewhere. The Mouseketeria is where you’ll find Snow White and Elsa munching on pizza alongside Tigger and Gaston. The eatery, which includes a Subway, is located back behind the castle, near Pinocchio’s Village Haus restaurant.
Disney is notoriously strict on the hairstyles their employees are allowed to have. Luckily, cast members who find themselves getting a little too shaggy can pop down to Kingdom Kutters to get a trim before their shifts start. There’s another one at Epcot called “HairPort International.”
The “Glow Room"
Don’t get your hopes up—the Glow Room isn’t a secret place for raves. According to former cast members, there’s an area under Adventureland where all of the carts selling light-up bracelets, necklaces, swords, and Mickey ears are stocked.
Despite the massive amounts of trash generated at Disney parks every day, you won’t see garbage trucks anywhere. That’s because the AVAC (Automated Vacuum-Assisted Collection) system takes care of it instead. Giant pneumatic tubes at designated areas in the park carry garbage to a processing area behind Splash Mountain—and it’s all concealed within the utilidors.
Similarly, you’ll never see food trucks backing up to a gate to deliver produce or meat. All of those churros, turkey legs and Dole Whips you eat are stored and, in the case of prepared meals, even cooked down in the utilidors.
The Character Zoo
It takes a lot of costumes to make the Magic Kingdom go ‘round, and until 2005, all of those 1.2 million costumes lived in the Character Zoo area of the utilidors. Many of those costumes moved to a building in the cast member parking lot about a decade ago, but the wardrobes of key characters, such as the Mouse himself, are still housed in the Zoo.
The Entire Park Operating System
It’s not just Tick-Tock Croc lurking beneath Peter Pan’s Flight. Engineering Central, or what used to be known as DACS (Digital Animation Control System), is the place where parades, lights, music, and more are controlled for the entire park.