TOP SECRET - Disney Tunnels EXPOSED!

By
Real Estate Agent with Ekday Realty - Opening Dec 2007
http://actvra.in/qXc

disney tunnel pic

 

I can't believe what I'm about to post. Trust me, it's not because I took a Mickey oath saying I would never discuss the "behind-the-scenes" stuff at Disney, but just because I'm not really a Disney fan.

I guess I should preface this post with my brief history, and why I'm qualified to even discuss this.

First, I am a native Floridian - one of only four (number might be off slightly). I was born in Miami, but moved to Orlando when I was 6 months old. I was raised on the west side of town, very near Disney - close enough to see the fireworks nightly - actually, as a kid, I just heard them nightly, and they always woke me up. Like almost every Orlando resident, I served my time working for the mouse, spending 7 years on and off, working in Epcot attractions (RIP World of Motion and Horizons - or MOHO for you CMs out there), and various roles in the Magic Kingdom. When I finally turned in my ears, I was one of the 5 Mike Fink Keelboaters that brought the keelboats from Liberty Square to its rightful home in Frontierland, after serving a year in the tunnels as an operations manager.

The reason I'm writing this is because, for some strange reason, my last two clients asked me what I did before becoming a real estate broker. I went through my resume, discussing my experience as a financial planner, licensed stock broker, marketing specialist, teacher, and yep, a little bit of time at Disney during high school and college. Why that's the ONLY job they hear, I'll never know, but it is. Then the conversation turns to Disney stuff. Are there really tunnels under Disney? Are there really hidden Mickeys? Did you see Walt's frozen head? I guess these questions really only come from buyers from outside of Florida, but having 2 clients in the past week get into this discussion prompted me to write about "The Tunnels."

The Tunnels under the Magic Kingdom

When you get hired by Disney, you become a Cast Member (or CM for short). You are required to attend a Traditions class (mine was 4 days long, but I believe they have shortened it to 1 or 2). It's all rah-rah during Traditions. They teach you a very detailed history of Walt, the park, the characters, and how to look and act when you're "on stage." According to the class, Walt was walking through Disneyland and saw a Frontierland character walking through Fantasyland, and thought it killed the perception of the theme for that land. There's a very long, interesting story about how Walt came to Orlando and bought land under the radar, as he planned his new theme park - the Magic Kingdom. He decided he wanted people to be able to escape reality and needed a way to keep cast members in their designated areas. The tunnels were born - and if you really want to sound like you know what you're talking about, they're called the "Utilidor," short for utilities corridor.

Anyone who lives in Orlando knows that if you dig deeper than 6 feet, you'll hit water. So how can there be tunnels UNDER the magic Kingdom? Well, because the park is built on the 2nd floor (technically speaking). the tunnels are at ground level, and the park is built on top of them. They serve many purposes, the main one being the ability to get from wardrobe to your spot, "on stage," without crossing lands. It also gives cast members a much easier way to get to their destination without having to fight crowds.

So what's in the tunnels?

Lot's of stuff. Here's a map:

mk tunnel map



At the top of the map is the tunnel entrance. As a cast member, you park in a parking lot about 1 mile away from the tunnel entrance, and take a bus to the tunnels. If you're hungry, your first stop with be the "Mouseketeria." Burgers, pizza, sandwiches, and amazing omelettes are available for a fraction of the cost of the park prices. The "mouseketeria is immediatly on your right as you enter the tunnels from the bus (on the left in the map). If you look to the right of the entrance on the map, you will see costuming, and locker rooms. The best part of working in the Magic Kingdom was being able to show up in shorts and a t-shirt. You walk up to a window and say the name of the area or attraction you'll be working for that day, and your measurements, and they hand you a freshly laundered (questionable) costume. You change, and travel the utlilidor to your final destination.

If you look at the map, you'll notice the tunnels are fairly simple. It's a large circle, with a line through it. There are other sections that branch off of the tunnel, but only a few. To make things easier, the tunnels have lines on the ground that are color-coded for the section of the park that is directly above you. To travel the tunnels faster, there are bikes parked at many of the exits to the park - so they say. I often saw people on bikes, but never saw one waiting for me to jump on. From wardrobe to the back of the tunnels is about a 10 minute walk if you travel around the circle.

In the map, each of the park's "Lands" are labeled. Here's a map of the Magic Kigdom to give you some idea of where the tunnels are in relationship.

mk map


What Else is down there?

Disney has an amazing trash system called the AVAC system. The trash is sucked through tunnels to a centralized collection area. Walking through the tunnels, you know when trash is flying by you - it's very loud. There are service vehicles driving around all over the place. There is plenty of room for you to walk, and a full-size truck to pass by. They deliver merchandise to each area via the tunnels so you never have to see a delivery truck "on-stage." There are also offices, storage, kitchens, break rooms, two employee cafeterias, including the Fantasyland Dining Room, Kingdom Kutters (a hair salon), a Fire Prevention Center, Studio "D" and many of the support departments for the Magic Kingdom.

So how do you get out of the tunnels?

There are so many unmarked doors in the Magic Kingdom, you would never think that most of them lead to a stairwell that leads to the tunnels. Here is a list of most of the exit doors and their locations from the internal phone book:

  • Stairway 1 - to Pinochio Village Haus
  • Stairway 4 - to Liberty Square, Columbia harbor House, and Peter Pan
  • Stairway 5 - to Fantasyland Theatre (Lion king)
  • Stairway 9 - to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland
  • Stairway 10 - to theHall of Presidents
  • Stairway 12 - to Ye Old Christmas Shoppe
  • Stairway 13 - to Liberty Square and Adventureland Veranda
  • Stairway 16 - to Adventureland and Frontierland
  • Stairway 17 - to Crystal Palace and First Aid
  • Stairway 18 - to MO-8
  • Stairway 19 - to MO-6 and West Parking Lot
  • Stairway 20 - to Town Square Kitchen
  • Stairway 21 - to MO-5 and East Parking Lot
  • Stairway 22 - to MO-7
  • Stairway 24 - to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe
  • Stairway 25 - to Mickey's Star Traders
  • Stairway 27 - to Transportarium
  • Stairway ? - to Tinkerbell's Treasures
If you've ever curious about the Magic Kingdom Tunnels in Orlando, I hope this has answered all your questions. Why is it on my Real Estate blog? Well, because I work in Orlando, and my clients have asked me about it. For some reason, the tunnels have always been a local mystery. I intended to shed some light on the subject. If you're an Orlando Realtor and you find this post, the next time someone asks you about Disney, you'll have a wealth of information to share with them.


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Anonymous
Anonymous
CM from 1971

I found this posting and was thrown back in time.  I was an original CM from the first Thanksgiving in 1971.  I worked in what you call the Mousekateria.  It was called the Fantasyland Cafe back then. After a year and a half I moved to Merchandise and the Emporium on Main Street.  When I left in 1981 I was working at Kingdom Jewels located in the Contemporary Hotel.  Thanks for the memories!

Dec 05, 2008 08:34 AM #5
Anonymous
Anonymous
chuxarnio

This is nowhere near the labyrinth I expected.

Dec 09, 2008 04:57 PM #6
Rainer
4,244
Alison Swain
3rd Generation Appraisal Services - Orlando, FL

It's enough of a labyrinth.  I worked there for 4 years in the early 80s --- probably didn't go past the Adventureland/Frontierland breakroom for the first two years.  Just to give you an idea: if your shift was over at 10:30, you'd actually leave your job site at 10:10.  They'd pay you for the 20 minutes they figured it took you to walk back to wardrobe, change, exchange your costume for a fresh one and put it in your locker, walk out to the bus and ride the mile to the employee parking lot, which was (still is?) on 535. 

In the 80s, the ride along 535 to the parking lot was pretty desolate for several miles.  I commuted from Seminole County, so I usually either took I-4 all the way the LBV and picked up 535 or I went down Conroy-Windermere and then wound thru Windermere on Chase Road and then picked up 535 on the north end.  There was a little check-cashing place just a mile or so from the parking lot where we'd buy beer and sit out in their parking lot and hang with our buddies.  The only other entertainment options were the Laughing Kukabera in LBV or Bennigan's on I-Drive.  Later we discovered The Big Bamboo in Kissimmee which was run by a WWII vet and was decorated inside and out to look like a South Seas tiki hut.

Disney sponsored a college internship program for people majoring in hospitality management.  They'd pay them peanuts and rent them double-wides that slept 8 at the KOA camp ground right where 535 met 192.  I made friends with several kids from Boston and had a great time for a few months in '83. 

One thing was left out about the tunnels --- the money.  I forget the name --- "Cash Control" maybe.  That's where all the shops & restaurants turned in the cash and credit card receipts, where we bought our employee discount tickets and where we clocked in and out.

Wow --- I haven't thought in any detail about those times in years --- best years of my life --- late teens/early 20's.  A lot of water's under the bridge since then.

Thanks for the nostalgia, Shaun.

 

Mar 09, 2009 08:31 PM #7
Anonymous
Anonymous
Daley C.

what is there at Epcot or the other theme parks? I know about the utilidors at the Magic Kingdom. So what about the others? I wonder if the utilidors information slipped and they are trying not to let people know about the other parks.

Apr 11, 2009 04:36 PM #8
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Thanks for the post

Idaho Real Estate

Jul 06, 2009 09:36 AM #9
Anonymous
Anonymous
steve
rick turner, what kind of question is that--GET A LIFE..not a job...a life.Who cares about some corporation besides ugly people with no life. have a disney day :D
Jul 06, 2009 06:49 PM #10
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

cool posting - great read! Our RE/MAX convention is in Orlando next year - so Disney World is on the list - now from a totally different perspective.

Aug 14, 2009 07:40 PM #11
Anonymous
Anonymous
D

It's closed now, but Pleasure Island had a small network of underground tunnels running below the entire "island".  These tunnels included the kitchen for most of the clubs where food was served, storage, management offices, a large breakroom with couches/tv's/vending machines, wardrobe facilities for dancers/performers, and access to the controls of the giant stone face that spoke to audiences in the center of the Adventurer's Club.  Speaking of the Adventurer's Club, it had a network of walkways behind the walls that allowed performers to seemingly pop in and out of all the rooms without anyone seeing them.  Panels in fake sections of the walls opened up to allow access.  Going through those walkways at night, when the park was closed, was reaaaaaalllly creepy.

 

:)

Oct 14, 2009 02:06 AM #12
Anonymous
Anonymous
The Johnson Family: Six In All

Thanks for sharing!!! My seven year old son and I are fascinated!!!!! We anticipate checking for evidence of the Utilidor while on our first real family vacation!!!! 

Jan 08, 2010 09:23 AM #13
Anonymous
Anonymous
Dean Beaver

I remember back in January of 2002, my friend and I had just got down to Orlando to start as Disney interns, and the first place we went to was the magic kingdom. As our only method of transportation was the busses taking "cast members" back of forth to work. So we hopped on that bus, not knowing that it would deposit us in the back of the magic kingdom, where we had never been and had NO idea where we were going. It was cool to see the other side of disney, and we spent a lot of time exploring down there (read: lost), but it was fun to say the least. Great post brought back lots of memories!

Jan 16, 2010 02:08 PM #14
Anonymous
Anonymous
Benita Cheng

Ok! If you were still working for Disney you will be soooooooo fired!!! And thanks you just killed some of the magic to our guests!

May 31, 2010 01:14 AM #15
Anonymous
Anonymous
Dayna Kerr

I love Disney, and its sad that you are "not really a Disney Fan."

Jun 02, 2010 10:00 PM #16
Anonymous
Anonymous
Joe Zydeco

I did the "behind the scenes" tour with some friends...in 2000.  A decade ago.  No special connections, you just needed the $100 advance ticket and had to be sure nobody in the group was under 16 for safety reasons and because they didn't want some family dragging their 6 year-old along and seeing Mickey with his head off.  That's all.

Oct 04, 2010 02:41 PM #17
Anonymous
Anonymous
Lloyd

I worked for Disney briefly and went into the tunnels under Magic Kingdom. They're not really that big of a deal. They were fun to go into initially but after some time they're almost more of a basement for most of the Magic Kingdom. They do have a cafeteria and other 'cast member' facilities.

Epcot has two short tunnels only in Furture World, one on each side of the buildings in the center of Furture World.

As far as I know, those are the only tunnels in Walt Disney World.

Disney cast members do sign a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) but the tunnels are hardly a secret anymore and they're not exactly trade secrets. They're just tunnels for moving around the park quickly and to keep people in themed costumes from being seen in the wrong areas. I like the idea of underground tunnels, so that's the only reason I became really interested in these tunnels under Magic Kingdom.

 

Jan 17, 2011 01:19 AM #18
Anonymous
Anonymous
Emily

Despite all the negativity in these comments, I would just like to say thank-you! I'm doing a project on the utilidors uner the Magic Kingdom and this was an amazing resource. So, thanks! (:

May 17, 2011 08:00 PM #19
Anonymous
Anonymous
Rodney Chalfant


Shaun, who are you CIA, this is only an ex-employee sharing what one can learn from the history channel.  Calling this ex-employee a Rat! Makes you Suspect.  Have you worked for Walt? or are you more concerned about this information becoming public for more secret reasons which have to do with the government desiring to keep these tunnels secret in case of a National Emergency were thousand's of people could find refuge in case of the worst possible senerio's such as a Nucular Weapon being lunched upon Orlando.  Is it your plan along with your buddies to save only a select few who have been chosen to survivle this holicost which is planned to take our Countries population down to less than 100 million people.  Yes, I've said it.  The plan of modern day secret government is to eliminate our present day population by 2/3 percent over 4 1/2 Billion people dying by our own Weapons being set off by people of power who will go under bunkers such as the one Walt built for his employee's as we both know from being both Walt Disney Employee's and Government Employee's the truth of what is about to happen to America as the United Nations is going to claim that countries like Iran, and North Korea are the reason we have set these Nucular Weapons off against these nations as well as our own nation.  Yes, again I said it.  There are people within our own government in high places who see the only solution to this economical crisis in America is to eliminate 2/3 of the Earth's population by convincing America and the rest of the world that we all must set off the remainder of the Nuclear Weapon's which America has over 2000 as Russia has over 1000 while the rest of the World only has a few hundred.

Why do you thing this man along with others don't want you to know about the Disney Tunnels as this will be one of the best places of refuge during the Nucular Holicost which will be taking place very soon as these World Leaders who will be giving the Orders to destroy the Earth as we know it are almost in place like that of a Chest game.  I have no problem in you calling me a Whistle blower as the most significant news I can share is the truth.  You may ask the question why am I not in panic myself as I have five children and a grandson myself?  The answer is my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as I know the moment I die that I will be present with the Lord as he promised in his word.  John 3:16-17 John 14: 1-2  Don't fear as God Loves You just as you are invite his son Jesus Christ into your life as your personnal Savior.  I John 1:9  Romans 3:23 & 6:23 as God promises us Eternal Life.  

 

 

Apr 21, 2012 12:23 AM #20
Anonymous
Anonymous
Lol

Seriously. "Rodney Chalfant" Shut up and keep your Bible crap to yourself.

May 22, 2012 09:18 AM #21
Anonymous
Anonymous
SGN

Thank you for posting all this information about the tunnels below the Magic kingdom in Walt Disney World. It can't be that big of a secret if they give tours to anyone who will pay the additional fee they charge.  Are there any tunnels below Disneyland in Anaheim?  I have been to both parks and they both look identically clean and had cast members stay only within their perspective areas. Also, I don't think the tunnel system below the Magic Kingdom would be prepared well enough to help people survive a nuclear holocaust. You'd have to have extremely thick concrete bunkers, complex air filtration systems, be completely self contained and be able to be completely sealed, etc.  Thanks again shaun for the posting.  God bless!

Aug 16, 2012 04:10 PM #22
Anonymous
Anonymous
persephone

How hard would it be to get in and out without being caught. What would happen if you were caught.

Sep 18, 2012 01:55 PM #23
Anonymous
Anonymous
connor

i have heard there are some in epcot but it is small

Apr 02, 2013 05:47 PM #24
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Rainer
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Shaun McLane

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