From hubs to FastPass, "DVC" to Dole Whips, "Disney Parks" is a language all its own. Do I wear a MagicBand, or listen to it? While the answer might seem obvious to you, frequent visitors to Walt Disney World and Disneyland might not even realize just how many invented words, phrases, and abbreviations have made their way into their every day vocabulary!
Take a look through our alphabetical dictionary below. Are there any of these terms you didn't know or hadn't heard? Which ones do you suspect would confuse your friends?
The attractions at Disney Parks represent – in many cases – some of the most sophisticated technology on Earth to be used for entertainment. So it's unavoidable that attractions are bound to unexpectedly fail to perform for a few minutes, hours, or days. When a ride is closed due to technical difficulties, internal speak notes that the attraction is "101," or not operating. A radio call that an attraction is "104" is good news for guests who choose to wait out the closure – it means the ride is re-opening. "102" signals that a ride is operating as expected, in full show mode.
Many Walt Disney World visitors are more familiar with ADRs – advanced dining reservations – than they'd like to be. Increasingly, fans note that if you choose not to make ADRs as soon as you're able (6:00 AM EST 180 days out), you might as well assume you'll only be dining at "quick-service" spots during your trip.
It's not only that Walt Disney World's "table-service" restaurants are in high-demand... it's that – unlike many full-service restaurants – Walt Disney World's finer dining options do not set any tables aside for walk-ups. While a last-minute cancelation may grant you a table, Disney is content having every single seat pre-booked 6 months out, meaning ADRs are your best chance to dine well.
Formally trademarked in 1964 and registered in '67, Audio-Animatronics is the name given to three-dimensional animated figures created by Walt Disney Imagineering. Literally a fusion of audio, animation, and electronics, Walt and his early designers oversaw the invention of the spectacular technology (first debuted in the Modern Marvel: The Enchanted Tiki Room). Though our must-read list of the 25 Best Animatronics on Earth includes robotic figures from around the globe, technically, "Audio-Animatronics" are exclusive to Disney Parks and Resorts.
This is a term you'll quickly pick up even if you've only been to Disney Parks once or twice.
Walt Disney had a few famously groundbreaking ideas when it came to Disneyland (like its exclusion of alcohol, for example... oops), but one of the most famous was his theatrical terminology. Walt decreed that when Guests (not customers) stepped into his "worlds of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy," they would be stepping into a show. Fittingly, anyone who was a part of that show – from the CEO to a sweeper – was, to a Guest, a Cast Member, playing a role in their story.
That also played into the strict rules Walt had about what could be seen "on-stage" versus "backstage," helping to flesh out the illusion of an insulated park protected from the outside world. That theatrical mindset was taken even further in subsequent parks, with Magic Kingdom going so far as to provide the "Utilidor" corridors beneath the park so Cast Members can travel discreetly between different lands without shattering any illusions.
All rides and shows are equipped with E-Stops (short for Emergency Stops) that will halt the attraction safely. E-Stops can be initiated for any number of reasons, as serious as an Earthquake or power outage to as simple as a hat falling onto a ride's path.
Of course, all rides are equipped with countless sensors, cameras, and other redundant safety features to ensure that guests (and the attractions themselves) are safe, so experiencing an E-Stop isn't even that rare.... Most guests to a Disney Park have probably been on a ride that's unexpectedly stopped for a moment. In some cases, the house-lights may even turn on as a Cast Member makes an announcement. And if the situation requires it, an E-Stop might even trigger another term later on this list...
Long before "e-" meant electronic, E-Tickets were still a big part of the Disney experience.
In 1955, admission to Disneyland cost $1.00.
But of course, it's not quite that simple. Though Disneyland's single entrance and its charged admission fee were revolutionary, the park also had a feature that very closely resembled other amusement parks and boardwalks of the early 20th century: a pay-per-ride system. In its earliest years, some attractions (like the 20,000 Leagues exhibit or King Arthur Carousel) required 10-cent A-Tickets, while the most exciting (think Jungle Cruise) needed the 35-cent C-Ticket. An 8-ticket booklet cost $2.25 on top of admission.
The year after opening, Disney reevaluated its rankings, creating the D-Ticket. In 1959, the largest expansion in the park's history saw the opening of three brand new, headlining rides at once: the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Submarine Voyage, and the Disneyland-ALWEG Monorail. All three were so grand, a new designation was created for them, requiring the most expensive and limited ride voucher yet: the E-Ticket.
Disney officially switched to "pay-one-price" admission in 1982. Even though it's been almost 40 years since the last "E-Ticket" coupon was exchanged for a ride on Big Thunder Mountain, the term "E-Ticket" is still used to describe Disney's highest-caliber rides; anchor attractions that headline new expansions or use cutting-edge technology.
When Disney Parks enthusiasts talk about a "gate," they usually don't mean entrance turnstiles. Often, "gate" is a synonym for theme park. Simple enough, except when fans begin talking about "Walt Disney World's cinematic gate" (Disney's Hollywood Studios) or "Disneyland's second gate" (Califonia Adventure), essentially turning the name game into a pop quiz on association or Disney Parks history.
When will Disney World add the legendary and mythological "fifth gate?" It's anyone's guess.
Have we mentioned yet that Disneyland was revolutionary? Just as its single entrance and its admission fee were radical, so was what followed: how that long, single, shared entry forced all guests into the center of the park. But this, too, was intentional and groundbreaking. While other amusement parks had developed as long, stretched midways or piers lined with attractions, Disneyland was built all-at-once in what designers called a "hub-and-spokes" layout.
You can see why – when viewed from above, the park is laid out like a wheel or a bicycle tire. Main Street forces all guests to the center of the wheel, with themed lands branching off via pathways laid out like spokes on a tire. From that center point, guests are "pulsed" into the lands, able to circumnavigate the park however they'd like. What's better, the hub-and-spokes layout ensures that guests are never too far from anything – even the opposite ends of the park are connected via a path through the Hub! – and that wayfinding is simple and natural: just get back to the castle!
Obviously, Disney's "castle" parks and Animal Kingdom are the best examples of the hub-and-spokes layout, with subsequent parks using figure-8 (California Adventure, DisneySea, and Epcot) and... y'know... an utter, unplanned, horrible collection of dead-ends (Disney's Hollywood Studios), but the hub-and-spokes layout is still used in urban planning and design and is recognized as one of the great innovations of Disneyland as a functional place.
Most times when a ride E-Stops, it's only a momentary interruption before the attraction resumes operation. Even when a show can't resume in its optimal show condition, it's often easiest to simply cycle through the ride vehicles and have guests disembark at the station, with a FastPass to return later. What happens if your ride E-Stops and Cast Members determine it can't be continued? As its name suggests, an "in-show exit" is Disney's friendly wording for what the less-thoughtful would call an evacuation.
Certainly, most in-show exits aren't emergencies. But if it's determined that maintenence or a hard reset will be required before an attraction can continue or if it's unknown how long a problem might persist, Cast Members will visit each ride vehicle, manually release guests, and escort them to the nearest exit in an expectedly orderly fashion.
As you can imagine, many industry fans have their wishlist of rides they'd love to have an in-show exit while riding (who wouldn't want to walk through Disney's epic dark ride scenes, or come within feet of a frozen, malfunctioning Audio-Animatronic?). Like all things, Disney's got the in-show exit down to a science, so even if it requires stepping off of a boat or a seemingly-perilous trip down stairs, such evacuations are really quite simple with all the right hardware to make it as easy as possible for guests.
It's hard to be a part of Disney Parks fandom today without seeing debate and discussion around IP – intellectual property. IP is a legal area meant to protect intangible things like trademarks, patents, and copyrights. At least for now, U.S. Intellectual Property legislation protects Mickey Mouse, for example, as an image and likeness usable only by the Walt Disney Company (an incredibly controversial protection which is near expiration...).
Disney has perhaps the most extensive, recognizable, and valuable portfolio of IP on Earth. Look at Mickey and Friends alone! Then think of how Disney took public domain fairy tales (like Snow White, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Sleeping Beauty) and created the definitive (and very, very protected) versions. Then add in recently-acquired IP (Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, Indiana Jones) and you can see why Disney's intangible brand is said to be worth $40 billion.
Naturally, IP and its place in Disney Parks is the hot topic of today. While Walt himself stocked Disneyland with the IP that mattered to audiences of the 1950s, the concept was thrown into overdrive during Michael Eisner's cinematic tenure in the '80s and '90s and has been increased exponentially by today's Disney CEO Bob Iger. That's why fans mourn that the era of original concepts appears to be over (Disney World's last major, non-IP attraction was Expedition Everest in 2006) with any and all known future projects tied to box-office blockbusters or heavy-hitting brands.
Both Disney Resorts in the U.S. have a hefty population of Annual Passholders (APs) who visit often enough to make the expensive passes a worthy investment. A very distinct subset of those may be what are sometimes called lifestylers – people for whom Disney Parks are part of their (almost) every day life. Lifestylers are often locals who pop into the parks after work just to grab a quick dinner or stake out a spot for a nightly parade. When tourists see a line a hundred people long waiting to purchase a "collectible" popcorn bucket and ask, "Who would waste a day here doing that?", the answer is... lifestylers!
Especially at Disneyland (renowned for its heavy local draw and its massive percentage of APs), lifestylers tend to descend on the park in the evenings and on Sundays... just to mill around! Of course, that can draw the ire of tourists, who find that – from 5 PM on – the park's pathways become increasingly crowded with people who aren't really going anywhere. Lifestylers also tend to stake out spots for shows they've seen dozens times before, hours ahead of time... shows that tourists only have one chance to see and can't waste an afternoon holding spots to watch!
Many times, lifestylers won't even bother queuing for rides. They may snag a last-minute cancellation FastPass or catch a showing of the Modern Marvels: Carousel of Progress or the Country Bear Jamboree, but for these lucky locals, stopping by Epcot for dinner and a drink is no different from going downtown after work for the rest of us.
Though it's become deeply embedded in industry fans' vocabulary, your average Joe probably wouldn't have a clue what you meant if you mentioned a "nighttime spectacular." Of course, that's the term applied to grand, show-stopping, final productions put on nightly at most Disney Parks. Reserved only for top tier entertainment, "simple" projection displays (like the gorgeous Tree of Life Awakenings or the Chinese Theater projection shows) rarely qualify; in fact, most fans wouldn't count awesome nighttime parades like Paint the Night or even fireworks shows in this exclusive category.
Rather, think on the scale of Disneyland's Fantasmic!, Epcot's Illuminations, or California Adventure's World of Color – each truly sensational, memorable in every way, and a perfect capstone to a day at the park. Another common giveaway that you've found a nighttime spectacular is that guests either have to get a ticket or queue up hours in advance to secure the best spot. The benefit for Disney? A nighttime spectacular keeps guests lingering in the park for dinner and shopping when they might otherwise have chosen to head back to the hotel in the early evening.
Nighttime spectaculars are the reason that Disney Parks fans are known to visit their city's Independence Day fireworks and let out a resounding, "Meh."
As the story goes, soon after the opening of Disneyland, Walt allegedly overheard a guest say they'd like to skip the Jungle Cruise, as they'd already been on it last time they visited. Not content with the idea, he went to his design team and gave them a simple mission: "plus it." What he meant was that designers need to revisit attractions – even classics! – and improve them in big and small ways. Wonderfully, the idea of "plussing" has become one of the most enduring elements of Disney Parks: their adaptability and continuous enhancement.
In so doing, Disney returns even to its classics and adds a little more magic by way of enhanced special effects, projection technology, refreshed music, updated Audio-Animatronics, and more. "Plussing" has become a signature different of Disney, and it's all in the tradition of Walt wanting to keep things moving forward to impress his Guests.
Though "it's a small world" might not seem to have much in common with Mission: SPACE, they share one fundamental thing: the kind of building they're housed within. Showbuilding is "Disney speak" for something relatively simple: a soundstage, just as you might find on a studio backlot. Showbuildings give Disney Imagineers complete environmental and atmospheric control, allowing them to create ancient temples, moonlit Caribbean towns, the Hundred Acre Woods, and even the vastness of outer space.
It's impressive enough that Disney parks are littered with massive, gargantuan, enormous showbuildings that contain their biggest rides; what's even cooler is that most guests never, ever see them. Spectacularly concealed, 16 of the Biggest Showbuildings in Disney Parks absolutely amazed us... you'd never guess that only 5% of the Haunted Mansion actually takes place in that stately, mysterious manor itself...
In 1999, Disney engineers, executives, and thinkers had a wild idea: what if they could finally solve the number one issue raised by Disney World guests...? Naturally, surveys indicated that guests hated waiting in line, and since Disney Parks' attendance was growing faster than the parks' capacity, it was beginning to seem that Disney World was more "waiting" than "doing." Their idea was revolutionary.
Don't misunderstand; we (and many others who study the industry) valiantly argue that Disney should get rid of FastPass altogether. But at least in the Blue Sky dreams of industrial-organizational psychologists, FastPass was going to make it so that guests would spend very little time waiting, and more time in shops and restaurants. Ideally, use of the system would be so proficient and so natural, FastPass would be the line for the ride, with a paltry queue of guests who preferred to wait "stand-by" – literally, a secondary option for guests who didn’t mind waiting for an opening, somewhat like a Single Rider line.
Of course, FastPass has gone through many iterations and has never reached that peak, 100%, utopian utilization early designers seem to have hoped for... Part of factoring FastPass+ selections into pre-visit planning (alongside ADRs, hotels, and transportation) was supposed to be to "socialize" FastPass, ensuring absolutely equal access. Now, guests are "guarunteed" at least 3 low-wait attractions, but (as we argue) FastPass means every other wait will be much, much longer. The end result? The "Stand-by" line isn't really "stand-by." It's the regular ole' queue line that you'll be in for many attractions.
Combine sugar, nerves, and exhaustion; mix with swirling, twisting, spinning rides; set to high Floridian heat... This is a classic recipe known all too well to Cast Members: the "protein spill." Like it or not, vomit is more than a daily occurance at each Disney Park. As you'd expect, Cast Members always treat guests with dignity and respect in such vulnerable, embarassing, and potentially-scarring moments, finding First Aid as necessary. Meanwhile, a quick call of "Code V" signals that a clean-up is needed. You can imagine what "Code P" and "Code U" are for."Code H" has to do with the Main Street horses, and we'll leave it at that.
WDI – Walt Disney Imagineering – is the research and development arm of Walt Disney Parks, Experiences, and Consumer Products. Originally founded in 1952 as Walt Disney, Inc., this new engineering company was tasked with creating initial designs for Disneyland. When Walt's brother Roy objected to the name (which tied the Walt Disney Studios brand to this experimental, "doomed" park), it was renamed WED Enterprises (for Walter Elias Disney), which remained the name throughout all of Walt's life. Obviously, the engineering group and its Disneyland became so integral to the brand, it was purchased and absorbed by Disney in 1965, and renamed Walt Disney Imagineering two decades later, in 1986.
Imagineers – a portmanteau of imagination and engineer – are the Cast Members who create, design, and construct Disney Parks and attractions. Make no mistake: Imagineers come from varied backgrounds and represent the fields of illustration, architecture, engineering, lighting design, show writing, graphic design, and many more fields.
Perhaps the strangest term that Disney Parks fans throw out to concerned family and friends, Walt specifically coined the term "weenie" – a wayfinding, architectural feature that serves as a "visual magnet." An obvious example is one of the simplest: the Hub at Magic Kingdom. Standing at its crossroads, distant "weenies" are purposefully positioned to draw you further: the Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland, the fort of Frontierland, the Astro Orbiter of Tomorrowland, and the Castle itself.
Follow one. If you step into Frontierland, Big Thunder pulls you further; in Rockettower Plaza of Tomorrowland, you'll be attracted toward Space Mountain.
Try it yourself! Any time you come to a crossroads in a Disney Park, stop and look around you. More than likely, you'll see obvious, attractive "weenies" in each potential direction. And like showbuildings, the hub-and-spokes layout, and so many other elements "invented" for Disneyland, "weenies" have been extrapolated beyond Disney Parks, with the concept (and the term) used in urban planning, museums, science centers, and more.