I was up bright and early to meet up with Tim, Saralyn and JR (AKA Joe) for our Magic Kingdom backstage tour. I grabbed a quick breakfast at IHop and then attempted to locate the Wilderness Camp where JR had rented a cabin for the 3 of them. They invited me to stay too but I had my accommodations all set up and I figured that although it might be fun to all be together that I would get a better night’s sleep at my own resort. After all, I’m not used to all this togetherness! 🙂
I was supposed to meet them at 7 am so we could all take the bus from the Wilderness Camp to the Magic Kingdom. I had a parking pass for my car (courtesy of J.R.) so I did not have to pay for parking that day. As it turned out I didn’t have to pay for parking my whole trip thanks to Joe so that alone was a major savings.
I got lost. No surprise there. I asked Joe for an address so I could use my GPS but he said there wasn’t one..hmmm. I’m sure there is but probably he didn’t know what it was. After all, he knows his way around. Eventually he answered the phone and directed me that way.
He drove into the parking lot right after I got there. We locked up and headed over to the bus stop. It was cold! Which was a big surprise to me.
We all had our Birthday buttons on. We were in front of the Entrance when a cast member dropped to one knee to sing Happy Birthday to me. Do you think anyone thought to get a picture of that? Of course not but it was really fun. No one has ever sung to me from one knee before. 🙂 That certainly made up for getting lost. It started my day off with a nice feeling.
Inside the park we checked in with the tour office and picked our lunch choices. The tour was a “Birthday Gift” from Joe to us. He paid for all 3 of our tours . Thanks Joe!
Then we settled in to wait. It’s pretty different seeing the Town Square empty. The last time I was here was on Christmas day and there wasn’t room to breathe much less walk! Now, before the park opened it was empty. The buildings were really pretty in the early morning sunlight.
We spent the time waiting by taking pictures since there were no crowds to get in the way.
When it was time for our tour we were handed head sets so that the guide could speak to us without yelling. If we’d been able to answer back by talking into our sleeves we could have pretended to be FBI or CIA or Secret Service. After all the Prez had just left a couple of days before.
Our guide’s name was Patrick and he has been leading these tours for quite a few years and he did tell us about the going’s on with President Obama. They had to close down a whole section of the Magic Kingdom to guests while he was there.
But back to our tour. Patrick was going to show and tell us all the secrets of the Magic Kingdom. There are 4 keys. I’m not sure I can remember them and we didn’t take notes. In fact what they tell you in the tour is supposed to stay on the tour. (Kind of like “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”) When we were “on stage” (street level) he answered questions with comments like “Of course it’s real” and Here come “Chip and Dale”.
When we would go behind the scenes he would tell us how many lights are in the Electrical Light Parade and how the cast members get from place to place and so on. In other words, when “on stage” he couldn’t share secrets because he had to stay “in character” . When behind the scenes he could be candid and answer all the “burning” questions.
But let’s see if I can remember the 4 Keys. Safety was one, in fact I think that was #1 although I question that since it seems all the rides have moving sidewalks to get you on and off. I staggered around a lot because of those sidewalks!
#2 is COURTESY and I have to say I did not hear one harsh word from any cast member in the 3 days I was in the park. Everyone was smiling and pleasant and even willing to go out of their way to help you. I definitely can see this Key in action.
#3 is the Show. And all I can say is What a Show! Although it’s apparent in all the parks, each cast member dresses and acts as if they are in the location represented by that park, It’s especially apparent in the Magic Kingdom because so much of that is Fantasy. You won’t see a cowboy in Africa for example but you might see Goofy dressed for a safari.
#4. is Efficiency. Now from a guest standpoint things seem to run very efficiently but from the off stage comments Disney may be a bit light in this area. Some of the things they are working on is improving the Status Boards so you can check the wait times for your favorite rides and have them accurate.
The tour included a couple of rides. Patrick explained the animatronics of the River Safari Ride. Later while backstage we saw one of the boats being removed from service to be repaired. Pictures are not allowed backstage. They told us not to bring our cameras but Patrick said “It’s Walt Disney World! Of course you can take pictures…on stage only”.
The Haunted Mansion was much more fun than I expected especially the special ghost effects.
Lunch was included. Saralyn and I had Fried Shrimp. Quite a nice lunch for a tour lunch. Our name cards included a pretty little golden Key lapel pin. A very Nice touch.
After lunch our tour wrapped up with a tour of the Tunnels under the Magic Kingdom. From what Patrick said, this is the most requested part of the tour by real die-hard Disney fanatics. It’s almost mystical to those folks because this is where everyone gets around without being seen by the guests above. All the utilities and electrical conduits run through here too so if something needs to be repaired plumbers and workmen aren’t seen trudging through the park and ruining the ambiance for the guest. All deliveries are distributed throughout the park via these tunnels for the same reason. It was pretty cool. I like the idea. For some reason they didn’t run tunnels under the other parks. Patrick didn’t say why but maybe no one asked him.
Although that about wrapped up our tour, the day was still young. It was only about 2:30 pm. The tour was both interesting and entertaining. I am not a “Disney Fanatic” and I enjoyed it so I guess I can recommend it.
I think I’ll save the afternoon for my next post. I’ve gotten a bit long-winded here.