Whether you’re a Disney World die-hard or new to how it all works, you probably know the basics. There is a system of tunnels underneath the Magic Kingdom called Utilidors, plenty of hidden Mickeys throughout the property, and the windows lining Main Street are insider dedications to those who made Walt Disney World possible.
As interesting as those are, there are plenty more mysteries, tricks, and no-way-that’s-true! tidbits lurking in the shadows of the four parks that comprise Walt Disney World. From little-known facts about your favorite rides to construction secrets, and more, here is a bit of insider knowledge straight from house of mouse:
1. Have you heard the one about Magic Kingdom piping in the scent of freshly baked cookies onto Main Street? It’s true—the system still exists in the utilidors to prove it. The park did away with the practice, deeming the odor too artificial, but one thing is still piped in over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: the screams for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Riders are screaming like crazy throughout drop sequence, but what you hear from the ground is primarily pre-recorded. Listen closely enough and you’ll notice how identical each run sounds.
2. Tinker Bell flying over the Magic Kingdom is one of the most iconic parts of the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, but it doesn’t happen with magic alone. Tink is given a hefty push from the window of Cinderella’s Castle, but if she’s not shoved hard enough, she won’t have enough momentum and will need to hand-over-hand her way towards the end. Cast members who audition for this part are said to need major upper body strength—turns out, they really do have to fly!
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3. The most harrowing part of putting on EPCOT’s nightly show, IllumiNATIONS: Reflections of Earth, is actually getting the globe to the center of the World Showcase Lagoon. When it’s transported from backstage through the canal, there are only six inches on each side for the LED-covered orb to pass through—which explains the dark scratch lines on the walls!
4. Even with its replica Liberty Bell and Liberty Tree, Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square is much more authentic than you may have realized. Because there were no modernized bathrooms in the colonial days, it’s said that there technically aren’t any within this land either. Been to the ones in Liberty Tree Tavern or Columbia Harbor House? Well, those are so far back in the restaurant that they’re technically in other lands, keeping it truly authentic to the time period.
5. Be Our Guest is Walt Disney World’s toughest restaurant reservation, but if you’re lucky enough to end up inside, don’t miss the artwork throughout the ballroom. The snow outside the ornate windows was created from original movie animation cells, and the lifelike cherubs lining the ceiling mural bear the faces of children of the Imagineers working on the project—as well as the Imagineers’ baby faces themselves!
6. Magic Kingdom’s Main Street is lined with our nation’s flags—only they’re not technically American. Because regulations require traditional flags be raised, lowered, and flown at half-mast, each is missing a star or a stripe In order to be left up permanently. They serve double duty, too, as the flagpoles are actually lightning rods in disguise protecting guests below from inclement weather.
7. Supposedly, the Imagineers working on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror liked to play pranks on each other, many of which involved a certain jar of pickled sausages. They hid and surprised one another with the jar, until an Imagineer mistakenly left it behind one night, which just so happened to be when every prop was being glued down. The jar still sits behind the photo pickup area today as an insider nod to Disney’s geniuses having fun while on the job.
8. The Jungle Cruise is one of WDW’s most iconic rides, so it’s fitting that it would quietly feature a handful of props recycled from across the property. The spiders inside the temple are leftovers from Haunted Mansion and the monkeys foraging for gold are actually repurposed from Living With The Land at EPCOT. Trader Sam sports a bit of Disneyana as well, as his striped loincloth is an homage to the original fabric lining the top of Jungle Cruise boats. The most surprising duplication, though, is the face of the explorer on the bottom of the totem pole. On this ride, he’s being poked in the rear by a rhino horn, but the same character can be seen in The Haunted Mansion’s graveyard scene, complete with shaking knees and a pouty old pup nearby.
9. The turbulent prehistoric thriller Dinosaur! at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland aren’t just similar—they feature the same ride track. And, if you think Animal Kingdom’s turbulent trip backwards through time is scary now, just know that Dinosaur in its original form, Countdown to Extinction, was so terrifying that its original soundtrack, motion and interaction had to be toned down.
10. Disney pays incredible attention to detail, right down to the sidewalk you step on. On Main Street, the differing colors help to subconsciously guide guests and keep them from tripping at night and at Liberty Square, well, the brown wavy path down the center of the road is said to represent how colonial-era residents would dispose of their waste back in the day. (Kind of ruins the craving for fried fish, doesn’t it?)
11. Though the true reason varies between Disney experts, the current monorail stop at EPCOT is not originally where it was intended to be. Sinkholes made building so challenging that the monorail had to be rerouted, which is why it now travels completely around EPCOT before stopping. Some say there were actually supposed to be two monorail stops—one at Future World and one at World Showcase, so they could function as separate parks—so we may have Floridian swampland to thank for saving us the cost of a second ticket.
12. You can buy nearly anything you can think of with Mickey Mouse on it, but there’s one thing you can’t get—the color of his shorts. The exact hue of the famed character’s bottoms is proprietary and will never be shared publicly!
13. The exotic species on Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safari are treated exceptionally well, but naturalists do use exercise and feeding to their advantage. Staff shoot raisins out of cannons to get the gorillas to move out and about by the safari vehicles and put elephants to work for honey, their treat of choice, by smearing it on their roof so they need to use their trunks to earn it. If you see the lions out on your next trip, know that there is behind-the-scenes magic happening for that one, too—the top rock is actually air conditioned to entice them to spend time there!