FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
Cinderella Castle

Disney's Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park in the world, having attracted some 17.5 million guests in 2012. The vast majority of those visitors are completely unaware that a hidden underground complex lies beneath their feet. Most Disney fans (and Theme Park Tourist readers) will know about the "Utilidor" tunnels that are located underneath the park - but even they may not realize the staggering scale and scope of this subterranean world.

Walt Disney planned to locate many of the roads and utilities at his never-built Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) below ground, to avoid its residents having to deal with typical urban problems such as traffic and smog.

After Walt died, his successors failed to fully deliver on his dream of a futuristic city. But they did incorporate elements of it into the design of Walt Disney World - including the creation of the utilidors at its first theme park. The utilidors were among the first elements of the Magic Kingdom to be constructed, and are actually located at ground level (placing them lower would have caused many issues, due to the water table in the Orlando region). They were covered over using seven million cubic yards of earth that was excavated during the creation of the artifical Seven Seas Lagoon that is located in front of the park.

The underground tunnels span an incredible 392,040 square feet. They span most of the park, with the exception of the part of New Fantasyland that was previously Mickey's Toontown, as this was added as an expansion in 1988. You can get an impression of their scale by looking at the (possibly outdated) map below:

Utilidor map

A whole range of infrastructure and support functions are hidden away from guests' eyes in the utilidors. Here are 15 examples of things that Disney conceals so they don't spoil the fantasy world that it has so carefully constructed.

15. The "nerve center"

Pirates
Image © Disney

Located roughly underneath Cinderella Castle is the Digital Animation Control System, a computer system that monitors almost everything in the park. This includes lighting systems, stage curtains, fire protection systems, security systems and power systems. It also controls and sychronizes the movements of hundreds of audio-animatronic figures that feature in the park's attractions.

14. Cast Members

Legend has it that Walt Disney once spotted a cowboy from Frontierland wandering through Tomorrowland at Disneyland. He was incensed at this breaking of the "reality" of the futuristic land, and this is frequently cited as one of the motivations for the construction of the utilidors. Every day, the thousands of Cast Members that work at the Magic Kingdom park in a dedicated lot around a mile away from the entrance to the utilidors, catching a bus the rest of the way.

13. The Character Zoo

Mickey MouseUntil 2005, the entire costuming department for the Magic Kingdom was located in the utilidors, housing over 1.2 million outfits and dispensing them to Cast Members. Since then, the department has occupied a large building in the Cast Member parking lot. However, Mickey and the other characters still "live" in the Character Zoo, located underneath Fantasyland.

12. "Pargos"

UtilidorNaturally, Disney wants to keep the air in the utilidors as clean as possible - and that means keeping gas-powered vehicles to a minimum. Instead, Cast Members and goods can get be ferried around using golf cart-style electric vehicles that are known as "Pargos".

11. Cash

Cash One type of gas-powered vehicle that is allowed into the utilidors is the armored cars that come into pick up the mountains of cash generated by the park every day.

FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Comments

Where is the fire protection system located and who led its design and construction?

We went down the stairs through the giftshop near Mickeys Philharmagic. We saw the door to the computer area, the cast member entrance, went under Cinderellas castle, saw the pin trading area, then saw all the photos, memorabilia on the walls. We came up near Main Street. Very cool tour. We also went backstage behind Splash Mountain. Saw the AVAC system and parade float storage areas.

In reply to by Jean (not verified)

To follow up on the up-date of this matter on your blog and
would wish to let you know simply how much I loved the time
you took to produce this valuable post. In the post, you actually spoke regarding how to truly
handle this matter with all comfort. It would be my pleasure to
get together some more ideas from your web site and come as much as offer other people what I have benefited from you.

Thanks for your usual terrific effort.

I danced in the Electrical Light Parade, was character trained and played Snow White in 1989. I loved working there and would sing Zippity Do Dah and skip down the hall from where we checked out our clothes for the day to wherever I worked that day. Loved it! We would even check out socks and tube shirts to go under our dresses. The dresses we would dance in for the ELP were 60lbs. There were 4 colors. The pink dress would smell the worst. They couldn't be washed because they had lights sewn in them. We would spray them with deodorizers and purfume. We would also pass deodorant around and spray each other's pits because we didn't trust anyone who said they did. We also had our own plexiglass makeup tray in the makeup department. One of my friends complained one night that someone took her false eyelashes. We had to wear long ones. She ran to check out new ones and got back just before we were supposed to walk to the "staging area" before we went to the "line up". She put them on and I used scissors and trimmed them for her. She didn't want them super long so I cut more than I was supposed to. I ended up cutting her real lashes. Didn't find that out until later that night. The staging area would have our dress skirts laid out on the floor. We would wiggle our legs in and our partner (the guys) would slip our bodice on. Someone would come around and zip us into the dresses and it would take 2 people to pull us to our feet. Then someone would reach under and turn our dress lights on for us. When we would dance and turn around, we would have to stop turning half way around. The weight of our dress would pull us the rest of the way around. As for the underground utilidors, they would smell and have lots of noise from the air filtration and tube systems. It was so much fun to work there. I got homesick though and left soon after becoming SW. Oh and the t-shirts/sweatshirts were navy blue with white big letters "WDW" on them. If we ever wore them off property, we were told to tell people it stood for "Winn Dixie Warehouse" if we were ever asked because we could get taken for ransom if someone thought we were from the Character Zoo.

Security office is actually above uptown jeweler's

View More Comments

Add new comment

About Theme Park Tourist

Theme Park Tourist is one of the web’s leading sources of essential information and entertaining articles about theme parks in Orlando and beyond.

We are one of the world’s largest theme park guide sites, hosting detailed guides to more than 80 theme parks around the globe.

Find Out More About Us...

Plan Your Trip

Our theme park guides contain reviews and ratings of rides, restaurants and hotels at more than 80 theme parks worldwide.

You can even print them.

Start Planning Now...

X