In early December I got to complete another backstage tour at Disney World – the Keys to the Kingdom tour! I’d heard a lot of good things and my dad in particular wanted to “go in the tunnels under Magic Kingdom”, so we decided to check this out. It’s about a 5 hour tour of Magic Kingdom that takes you into different onstage and backstage areas with a knowledgeable tour guide. Lunch is included and it’s about $100 per person.
We met in the town hall area right where the entrance is to meet Mickey and Tinkerbell. We were given headsets so we could hear our guide. The Keys to the Kingdom tour then started down Main Street as we learned a bit about Walt and the history of the company, as well as other fun facts.
It’s called “Keys” to the Kingdom because it plays off of the 4 main keys to the Disney company: safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency, in that order. These are the 4 most important things when it comes to doing anything in the theme park, with safety first.
A couple of fun facts from this area:
- The center flag in Main Street where they do the flag ceremony afternoon is real. Every other flag in Magic Kingdom is not – they are all altered slightly, such as not having the right amount of stars, so they aren’t official American flags and don’t have to follow the strict procedures of taking care of an American flag. The reason why they are actually there at all is because they also serve as lightning rods.
- If you see a cast member that says “Chris” or “Pat” from Orlando, this is probably someone who forgot their real nametag that day. They use these two names on backup nametags because they are unisex.
- Magic Kingdom is set up to enter Main Street from the sides, rather than directly on, so you don’t see the castle til you’re right in the middle of main street to create more of a “wow” moment.
From here we headed into Adventureland. Our guide showed us how the large trees and foliage not only help create the feel of Adventureland, but also help to block the castle from view so you truly feel like you’re in a different area. We next rode the Jungle Cruise (at that time the Jingle Cruise), but instead of a skipper narrating our guide took over and told us all sorts of fun behind the scenes facts about the ride. It was a really cool way to experience it.
Some fun facts about Jungle Cruise:
- At one point on the Jungle Cruise you can see a barrel that says “gooseberry preserves”. This is a nod to Snow White.
- The three canoes represent Mickey, Donald, and Goofy – you can kind of see the different shapes on them that go with each character.
- In the totem pole scene, the bottom man on the pole is the same animatronic face as the graveyard guy in the Haunted Mansion.
- Schweitzer falls was originally used to add dye to the water (the water is dyed differently now)
- If your skipper isn’t paying attention, he or she can time it incorrectly and you can in fact get hit with water from the elephants!
After riding Jungle Cruise we explored more of Adventureland. We learned some other interesting things – the thatch on the Enchanted Tiki Room is actually aluminum painted brown, but everything in Animal Kingdom is real. As for Pirates of the Caribbean, it was so popular in California that everyone in Florida wanted it too, so they wanted to add it quickly. That’s why it’s shorter than the CA attraction – they didn’t have as much space and didn’t have time to re-route the Railroad, which would have been necessary to bring over the full Disneyland attraction.
From here we made our way into another backstage area, by Frontierland where the parade floats enter (I’ve actually been here many times thanks to RunDisney races, because this is where you exit Magic Kingdom during the half and full marathons!). We went and looked at a number of the parade floats and learned about the different types and some fun parade facts. They had floats out for the Christmas parade as well as Festival of Fantasy.
Then it was time for lunch, which we enjoyed at Pecos Bill’s. They’d had us order what we wanted for lunch in the morning before we started the tour, so everything we asked for was already set up at tables waiting for us. It was here we were also given a small gift.
From lunch we went and rode the Haunted Mansion. Our guide didn’t speak to us while we were actually on the ride, but he told us some fun facts before and after. I knew most of it already, thanks to my friend Kristin who is a huge Haunted Mansion buff! But here are some fun things he told us anyway.
Fun facts about the Haunted Mansion:
- There is a book in the dining room that has pictures of every cast member who has ever worked at the attraction.
- If you closely at the wrought ironwork gates outside of the mansion you’ll see that it’s actually scenes of people getting tortured.
- Paul Frees is the narrator of the Haunted Mansion – you can also see his face as the inspiration for one of the paintings in the stretching room, as the man in brown over the quicksand.
- The busts in the library are an optical illusion. It’s an inverted, recessed human face. As you move past it you see the depth as if it’s moving.
- The outside architecture of the Florida mansion is based on the Harry Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe, PA.
After a quick bathroom break at Rapunzel’s tower, where we talked about the 10 hidden pascals, it was then onto the part of the tour people were most excited about – down to the utilidors under the Magic Kingdom! I’d actually been down there before as part of the Backstage Magic tour, but it’s interesting to hear other things from a different guide and see different parts of the area. They are basically giant concrete hallways that help cast members get from one place to another, but it’s fascinating to see how it was designed and the idea behind it all.
By then it was almost 1:00 and we ended back at Town Hall. Our guide was really excellent and I learned a lot, even as a big Disney fan who knows a lot already! I would definitely recommend the Keys to the Kingdom tour to anyone interested in learning more, whether it’s about Disney history or how attractions are made.
Have you done the Keys to the Kingdom tour? Is this something you would be interested in doing?