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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 You can get an impression of their scale by looking at the (possibly outdated) map below: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.

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Comments

The pin room! My husband so wanted to do some personal trading there at the door to the room which houses the pin supply from which all cast members and stores get there supply that is traded with guests. From what our tour guide said, they have to account for pins and sign in and out what is switched.

Up above some of the buildings on Main Street West, there is office space used for managerial positions. Cast members of the Magic Kingdom will go there sometime for new holiday training. Also, only cast members that work in Magic Kingdom are allowed to get on the bus from the MK cast parking lot to the utilidors. Castmembers must scan their badges upon boarding and the light will turn green to board as long as they are scheduled a shift for that day. That means, no castmembers from Epcot or other locations on property can go walk around the utilidors. Not even MK employees on their days off can go there. There is also a computer lab down in have utilidors that is there primarily for job training. You must sign in at the front desk in order to use them. Just some little tidbits of the utilidors :)

In reply to by Visitor (not verified)

Scanning badges must be pretty new. I worked at WDW until 2006. We never scanned our badges. We used to show them to a security person. When we would go to the park on our day off we would always park in the cast lot and take the bus, avoiding the crowds at the gates. Also, anyone who worked at the other parks could do that, too.

In reply to by Visitor (not verified)

That's actually not true, the light turning green only means that you still work for the company and that you didn't leave/get termed and kept your ID. Any CM can go on the bus and the only time they're "strict" is during holiday time or when the park is supposed to be pretty full.

There's also a computer room and small library near the entrance of the tunnels. And there's a basilisk that lives in the AVAC. I heard it late one night when I was cleaning up after the fireworks.

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