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10 Off-Limits Areas of Walt Disney World Revealed in Aerial Images

Discovery Island

Disney’s theme parks and resorts offer a carefully-constructed view of reality to their guests. Undesirable aspects of the real world are hidden from view, helping to ensure that visitors feel as though they really have stepped into a fantasy world.

The reality, though, is that running a resort on the scale of Walt Disney World requires a huge amount of infrastructure. It’s also true that large areas of the resort are inaccessible to guests, including several abandoned attractions that ceased operating long ago.

With the advent of services such as Google Maps and Bing Maps that offer imagery captured from satellites and planes, those areas are suddenly visible to non-Cast Members. And, far from detracting from the magic, we think that they help reinforce the impression that Disney goes to huge lengths to optimize its customer experience.

With that in mind, let’s take an aerial leap backstage…

10. The power plant

Reedy Creek Energy Services

Electricity is an essential resource in the modern world, and Walt Disney World requires a lot of power. To that end, the Reedy Creek Improvement District operates its own power plant, although this only supplies part of the resort's needs (and is useful in the event of emergencies, such as hurricanes). The plant provides 55,000 kilowatts of net capability, with the district buying in the rest of its electricity. A transmission system includes nine substations and an extensive underground distribution system, with the peak demand being 196 megawatts.

The power plant is fired by gas, which is transported by Florida Gas Transmission Company pipelines to Walt Disney World's own gas system.

9. The waste water treatment plant

Wastewater treatment plant

Walt Disney World is said to require an equivalent level of infrastructure to a city with a population of around 300,000 people. The huge number of staff and visitors that are on site at any one time do, naturally, need to visit the restroom occasionally. And something has to be done with all that sewage.

The solution? The Reedy Creek Improvement District operates its own wastewater treatment plant, which is so effective that the resulting water is actually safe to drink. Instead of serving it up to customers, Disney instead uses it to irrigate landscaped areas, such as golf courses, lawns and flowerbeds.

The plant can handle up to 15 million gallons per day, while an effluent disposal system features a 1,000 acre site containing 85 rapid infiltration basins and a reclaimed water system that can handle demand of 5 million gallons per day.

8. The real Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion is one of the Magic Kingdom’s most iconic attractions, with its foreboding exterior providing a hint as to the spooky goings-on within.

The reality, though, is that the actual Haunted Mansion façade is relatively tiny in comparison to the size and length of the dark ride within. Hidden behind it is an enormous, warehouse-style structure that contains the actual scenes that the Doom Buggies pass through. Although, technically, this isn’t off-limits (if you ride the Haunted Mansion you will, of course, go inside it), it’s been included here because its exterior is so well hidden that you really wouldn’t know it was there.

7. The Avenue of the Stars

Avenue of the Stars

One of the most famous hidden elements of the Magic Kingdom is the “utilidors” -  a network of underground tunnels that allows Cast Members to move around the park unseen by guests. Utilities such as the garbage disposal system are also tucked away in the tunnels.

The construction of the utilidors added extra expense to the cost of Walt Disney World’s first theme park – the tunnels were constructed first and covered with dirt excavated during the creation of the artificial Seven Seas Lagoon. The theme park was then built on top of them.

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. However, when Disney did finally get around to building EPCOT long after Walt’s death, they decided that the cost of burying the backstage areas underground would simply be too high.

Instead, the backstage areas are mostly hidden around the perimeter of the park. They are accessible via the Avenue of the Stars, a service road that runs around most of Future World and the World Showcase.

6. Discovery Island

Discovery Island

Located in Walt Disney World's Bay Lake, Discovery Island first opened to the public in April 1974 as Treasure Island, and operated as a wildlife observation attraction until 1999. At that point, many of its captive animals were moved to the newly-opened Disney's Animal Kingdom.

While several alternative uses of the island have since been put forward - including turning it into an attraction based on Lost - it remains off-limits to guests. Urban explorer Shane Pérez reached the island in 2010, claiming to have discovered "abandoned buildings, cages, preserved snakes in jars, even old employee photos".

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There are 11 comments.

We have a friend who worked years ago in the horticultural department at Disney World and told the story of multiple versions of the tree in Liberty Square being planted in the nursery just in case. They actually replaced that gigantic tree overnight one night because the current tree had developed an illness that couldn't be fixed. They carefully dug up one of the gigantic "back up trees", and slowly transported it to the Magic Kingdom backstage area. Then in the brief hours between park close and park open, they pulled up the old tree, planted the new one, replaced all the surrounding plants, flowers, etc, and cleaned up the mess. No one visiting the park was any the wiser. Crazy to think that such a thing would even be attempted, much less successfully done. :) I would imagine that doing such a thing now would be more challenging since the roots have likely grown under all the concrete that makes up the walkways.

That's why it's called The 'Magic' Kingdom:-) Wish I could LIVE there - happiest place on Earth:-0

Yeah, I considered moving to Orlando awhile ago, then I came to the conclusion that I don't want to live in Florida, I want to live in Walt Disney World. As that's not too practical, I decided against it. (Hey, read "The Free Lunch" by Spider Robinson. It's about a kid who tries to live in a theme park (not Disneyworld) and finds out there's someone there already. That person helps with the provision that the kid help her ferret out a mystery. Seems there are move dwarven actors leaving at the end of each day than came in that morning.

If you take the all day back stage tour you can mark off a few of these. The tour takes you to the fabrication shops and the Avenue of stars as well as the nursery. Plus a few more. Great tour I suggest it to anyone, well worth the money

I feel the best way to reuses Discovery Island is that they should make it all Honeymoon Suites and make it part of the Wedding Packeges..or private Bungalows

EPCOT actually utilizes utilidoors along with Avenue of stars. The utilidoors are just not as widely used as the Magic Kingdom's, and also do not reach the World Showcase.

Don't they already have a wedding pavilion?

We did the Magic Behind the Steam Engine tour a fews years back and they take you to the Roundhouse. It's really something to see the amount of work that goes on backstage with the trains and the monorails. This tour is well worth the cost and you get to come in to the park before opening, which is always a treat.

I work for wdw. I think this backstagepictures and ttours are horrible. Guests should not be seeingany of this. Walt is spinning in his grave. He worked very hard to keep it magically. And you are ruining it....

Dude...Walt was nuts.

Not everyone is a little kid living for a fantasy world. I for one, like to see the technical aspects of how things work. And I'd love to do some "urban exploring" of the abandoned sites.

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