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5 Crazy Things Aerial Images Can Teach You About Walt Disney World

3. Magic Kingdom is more compact than you think

Disney's Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom has a larger than life reputation, but the park isn’t nearly as large as it seems. In fact, the entire theme park is hardly bigger than the area covered by the Contemporary Resort next door. You can barely spot Cinderella Castle in an aerial map.

The compact size of the Magic Kingdom is due in large part to its creative layout. Though you’ll never see it from any point on stage, the rivers of the Jungle Cruise are just behind Main Street USA, separated only by a parking lot. Keep in mind that the large river visible on a map of the Magic Kingdom isn’t the Jungle Cruise. Those are the Rivers of America that the Liberty Belle travels.

Jungle Cruise Behind Main Street

While most of what you notice about Magic Kingdom is focused on how small it is, there are also a few points that are much larger than you might expect. The two large grey buildings to the left of Be Our Guest in the top picture are It’s a Small World on the right, and the Haunted Mansion on the left. The façade of the Haunted Mansion is so small in comparison that you can hardly spot it.

4. The real world is just outside the walls

Magic Kingdom and Cast Parking

Walt Disney World is carefully designed to make you feel like the real world is far away. Unlike Disneyland, where Anaheim sprung up literally outside the gates, Walt Disney World was built on a giant tract of land where designers could ensure that guests would never see other unsightly attractions peeking over the walls.

Despite the illusion of distance, the reality is that Magic Kingdom is perched at the very edge of Disney property. Guests probably imagine this central park located right in the middle of the land that Walt purchased, but it’s really at the far northern end. North of the Magic Kingdom is a series of parking lots that again underscores just how small the park really is. These are the Cast Member parking lots. Magic Kingdom Cast Members have to ride a bus from the parking lot to get into the park. Literally across the street from the Cast parking lot are apartment buildings that are officially off property.

This close proximity means that it’s possible to live so close to the Magic Kingdom that your apartment parking lot is almost the same distance from the fireworks’ launching point as Main Street inside the Magic Kingdom. It also means that you can live so close your car alarm will go off when there are perimeter fireworks. Despite the illusion of being in a world all its own, the Magic Kingdom is really just a few minutes’ drive from the real world.

Thanks to the creativity of Disney’s Imagineers, you may never suspect how Walt Disney World really relates to the world around it. Though it’s really just a small retreat from the realities around it, Disney still offers an immersive world all its own.

5. There are large areas that are abandoned

Disney's River Country

With so much territory to work with, it doesn't always make sense for Disney to actually dismantle attractions when they've reached the end of their useful life. That's why two major Bay Lake attractions, Disney's River Country and Discovery Island, both stand abandoned.

The Disney's River Country water park was located on the shore of Bay Lake, and boasted a rustic "wilderness" theme. Packed with rocks and boulders, it was designed to resemble an old-fashioned swimming hole. The water for its pools and slides came from Bay Lake via a filtering system, and abundant sand was used to enhance the natural feel of the park.

When Michael Eisner took over as Disney CEO in 1984, he took a more competitive approach than his predecessors. He decided to build a full water park, Typhoon Lagoon, to take on nearby Wet 'n' Wild. River Country's capacity was limited, and its days were numbered. It shut on November 2, 2001, but remains in place today - it was abandoned rather than demolished.

You can see more aerial shots of the decaying Disney's River Country in this article.

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There are 2 comments.

I remember River Country. I took my two small girls there in 1997, and we had fun sliding down the water tubes and jumping into the deep pool that had a short vertical slide. I was so afraid my girls wouldn't go down the slide, but they did better than I did - when I saw the drop from the top, I almost backed out, but my girls (8 and 6) wanted to do it. I didn't take any pictures of the place (shucks!) because I knew we would be in the water the whole time and didn't bring my camera.

Is Lake Mickey still there with the Speedway being razed?

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