20 Walt Disney World Secrets You’ve Never, Ever Heard Before (Video)
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. 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.
4. 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!
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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?)
10. 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.
11. 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!
12. The species throughout Animal Kingdom are treated exceptionally well, but naturalists do use exercise and feeding to their advantage. Staff shoot raisins out of canons for the gorillas on Animal Kingdom's Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, and they put the elephants seen from Kilimanjaro Safari 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!
13. Believe it or not, there are two barber shops inside the Magic Kingdom. The first, Harmony Barber Shop, is open to guests and located just off of Main Street, USA, while the other is located within the park’s “underground” Utilidor System. Most Disney fans know these hidden tunnel passageways allow employees (and characters!) reach various ends of the park without being spotted crossing through themed lands, but it’s also where they can grab a haircut at the employee-only Kingdom Kutters salon, which specializes in Disney-approved styles.
14. Main Street, USA may be an idealized homage to the small towns of Walt Disney’s Missouri birthplace, but its second level hides references to the company’s most valued employees. Each window inscription is actually a distinctive honor, personalized to an integral “cast member” who made a noteworthy contribution to the park. Look up and you’ll see cheeky dedications to folks like Buddy Baker, who composed the music for many Disney films and theme park attractions; Roy O. Disney, who ensured Magic Kingdom opened after his brother Walt’s passing; and artists like Yale Gracey and Claude Coats for their theatrics and tricks put on display in rides like Haunted Mansion.
15. Given that it’s the “Most Magical Place On Earth”, it only makes sense that Magic Kingdom’s garbage is magical as well. The theme park uses an AVAC pneumatic tube system, which sucks garbage through vacuum tubes in various spots throughout the park to a central location just beyond Fronteirland’s Splash Mountain. Invented in Sweden, the tube system never really took off in the states, but is still utilized in the Disney theme park to this day.
16. Epcot’s The Land pavilion — which houses rides like Soarin’ and Living with the Land — also has some design secrets within its walls. The building itself is shaped like a volcano, and the large-scale mosaic lasting the entire length of the entryway is intended to look like layers of lava and stone within a proper one. Both intricate designs are mirror images of each other, save for one intentional flaw: a single tile that’s said to be the muralist’s birthstone. (Look closely near the entrance doors and you can spot it!)
17. The hallowed history of Disney’s Haunted Mansion has yielded many interesting factoids, but there are plenty more within the cobweb-covered manse, so long as you pay close attention. If it’s quiet enough, you can hear gargoyles whispering for you to leave the “stretching room”; conversely, the ghastly piano player at the beginning of the journey, is playing the attraction’s iconic Grim Grinning Ghosts, even if you can’t audibly hear the music. Don’t get too distracted by the many spirits within the dining room scene and miss the Hidden Mickey made from plates on the dinner table — or the homage to Donald Duck by way of the ride’s creepily decorated armchair midway through. It doesn’t stop there; take a peek at the graveyard just outside the ride’s exit and you’ll see a gravestone dedicated to Mr. Toad — a nod to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which was removed to make way for a Winnie The Pooh ride two decades ago.
18. Though Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a new land themed more to the recent films, it still has some serious connections to the classics. Droids wheels modeled after a A New Hope-era R2-D2 were dragged through the walkways for authenticity, and select merchandise was even created by digitally scanning props and costumes in the Lucasfilm archives and replicating them for purchase. All the things you’d expect to be for sale are — lightsabers, droids, stuffed Yodas — but a few hidden favorites are intended for only the biggest of Star Wars fans, like a Resistance MRE modeled after the one Luke Skywalker ate in The Empire Strikes Back.
19. Most Disney fans are aware there’s a secret room hidden inside Cinderella Castle, but given that you can’t book a night or even beg your way in, only a lucky few are allowed to see what’s inside. Located through a nondescript door within the castle is a lobby lined with tapestries, where guests board an elevator to be whisked up to the suite. Its foyer, which features a glass slipper and crown on display, cels from the original animated film on the walls and a tiled floor mosaic of the princess’ gilded carriage on the floor, sets the scene for a true bedroom tucked within Walt Disney World’s stunning tower. The mystical room is breathtaking — the view, although somewhat obscured, is unparalleled — but it’s the details that are never discussed, including marble columns with Cinderella’s mice etched into the top and antique desk that’s hundreds of years old that surprise and wow. There’s even a royal “bath chamber” with a starry sky over the tub, proving it’s truly fit for royalty.
20. Walt Disney World has its own private members club — and the locations are hiding in plain sight. It’s called Club 33, and it’s a spinoff of Disneyland’s hallowed version, only here each theme park has its own unique take. Epcot’s is located above the American Adventure, Magic Kingdom’s is to the right of the Adventureland entrance, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios operates one on the second floor of the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, with a fourth being built at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; all four offer a theme honoring a different aspect of Walt Disney’s life and travels. You can get nary a peek inside without a member, but know the spaces are impeccably decorated with plenty of nods to the man who started it all, right down to a Nautilus-themed bar in Magic Kingdom’s version that pays tribute to the early Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.