If you think you know all there is to know about Disney World simply by visiting it as a guest, you may want to think again. Behind the scenes, there are an absolute wealth of secrets the general public simply aren’t aware of. Indeed, from underground pipes to a population of feral cats, these revelations will tear down everything you thought you knew about the Magic Kingdom. And if you find yourself bumping into Chris from Orlando a lot, you’ll soon know why…
20. There’s a secret underground network of tunnels
Don’t try jumping into the nearest manhole – these utility corridors or “utilidors” are for staff only. The system of tunnels was apparently concocted after Walt Disney noticed cast members walking through the wrong areas of the park. The utilidors, then, allow them to get around the park without breaking character or ruining the illusion.
19. There are “hidden Mickeys” everywhere
Next time you head to Disney World, take a closer look at your surroundings. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing the famous mouse ears everywhere you turn. That’s because the Imagineers who designed the park left imprints of the ubiquitous symbol in every nook and cranny they could find, from rides to restaurants. And one blogger, Steven Barrett, has even spent years tracking them down.
18. There are scents engineered into the park
Disney World isn’t just any old theme park – it’s a top-to-bottom experience. And that means invigorating all the senses, including smells. So it’s little surprise that the park has almost total control over what scents enter your nostrils, specifically piping in certain aromas depending on where you are in the park. Soarin’, for instance, incorporates a variety of fragrances to give guests a real sense of flying, from the sea air to lush forests.
17. Feral cats help keep the rodent population under control
Back in the 1950s, Walt Disney decided to build a new attraction inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. When the Imagineers took a look inside, however, they found that it was overrun by wild cats. Eventually, they were allowed to stay – if only to curb the other pest problem that had sprung up, mice of the non-Mickey variety. There are now around 200 wild cats living across Disney’s parks.
16. It has the largest wardrobe in the world
With a costume library boasting some two and a half million items, stored on eight miles of racks, Disney is basically in ownership of the world’s largest wardrobe. That’s right, no matter how many outfits or pairs of shoes you own, you’ll never compete with the Mouse. But that means you can at least enjoy all those wonderful costumes at Disney World – Mickey himself has in excess of 290.
15. Underground pipes transport litter using pressurized air
The utilidors aren’t just for helping staff members get around – they’re also a convenient method for moving trash around the park. Thanks to a series of pipes, litter is sent on its way using pressurized air, at speeds of over 60mph. There may be fewer than 30 steps between trash cans at Disney World, but the real ingenuity is underground.
14. There’s only one substitute name tag
If you’ve been to Disney World, chances are you’ve bumped into Chris from Orlando. And there’s a reason the odds are so high: that’s the only name tag available to staff who forget theirs. Indeed, maybe there’s a real Chris from Orlando out there who never has to worry about forgetting his or her tag. Everyone else just has to impersonate them.
13. The water is dyed green on purpose
You’ve probably noticed that the water at Disney World is predominantly green. Don’t worry, it’s not dirty: it’s actually intentionally dyed that color, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the murky hue hides the tracks beneath the water, making that boat ride a little more immersive. And it also helps to conceal trash and other objects that end up in the water over time.
12. The water bubbles at “Fantasmic!” to save ducks’ lives
If you’ve ever hung around for the “Fantasmic!” show on the Rivers of America, you’ll know that it involves a lot of fire. Specifically, an enormous dragon sets a river ablaze. In the early days of the show, though, this meant that the ducks on the river were basically being sizzled. Now, the water bubbles a few minutes beforehand to frighten them off, saving their lives.
11. There are secret codes for everything
And when we say everything, we mean everything. There are the simpler ones, like Code 101, meaning a ride has broken down, or Code 102, meaning it’s open again. Then there’s Code V, which you may have used yourself once or twice while hungover. Most surprising, though, is “white powder alert,” which signals a guest trying to scatter ashes at Space Mountain. Apparently, it happens regularly enough to need a code.
10. Main Street windows honor the park’s creators
Those names plastered on the windows of Main Street buildings aren’t just random monikers. In fact, they’re actually the names of people who contributed in some way to the creation of Disney World. Indeed, the store that each name is bestowed upon sometimes relates to what their job was. However, only top-notch, retired employees stand a chance of getting their name added, at the behest of the Imagineers.
9. There are secret cast member parties
Imagine getting after-hours access to Disney World, dressed in full costume, among dozens of other people dressed in full costume. It’s basically every childhood fantasy come true at once, and it’s exactly what cast members get to do. While there are no doubt downsides to standing all day in a hot outfit with a permanent smile etched on your face, it has its benefits too.
8. Until 2001, some workers had to essentially share underwear
Part of cast members’ costumes includes a variety of undergarments, provided by Disney. And that used to mean relying on the Mouse to do the laundry properly each and every night. But as recently as the early 2000s, workers were complaining about getting scabies and pubic lice from their costumes. In 2001, though, unions won the right for workers to take the undergarments home with them and wash them there.
7. “Have a magical Disney day” is actually code for something else
It doesn’t matter how obnoxious guests are being – as a cast member at Disney World, you have to stay polite and in character. Fortunately, there are ways to vent steam while doing so. One phrase devised by cast members, for instance, is “have a magical Disney day.” It may sound sweet, but it’s actually their way of saying “f*** you.” So, you’d best hope you never hear it.
6. It’s not always the Happiest Place on Earth for its employees
Or for some of them, anyway. Back in 2008, a group of staff – dressed in full costume – protested over pay and conditions, right outside the park. In the end, 32 costumed characters were arrested, while scores more chanted in front of bemused guests. It’s certainly not the image Disney would like to portray of its parks.
5. Crazy items have been handed into Lost and Found
Among the strange things that have turned up in Disney World’s Lost and Found over the years are a glass eye and a prosthetic leg. Thankfully, both were later claimed – we imagine their owners would have been pretty stuck without them. Meanwhile, a whopping 210 pairs of sunglasses are typically turned in each day, so if you lose your shades, good luck picking them out.
4. There’s a lot of laundry
According to Disney, you’d need to do a wash and dry cycle every day for 52 years to match their daily laundry loads. In fact, a whopping 285,000 pounds of laundry is washed each day across Disney World resorts, with another 30,000 items of clothing being dry cleaned. The numbers are absolutely staggering, but considering there are 70,000 employees in Florida alone, perhaps not surprising.
3. Cinderella Castle contains zero stones
Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle may look impressive on the outside, but it’s even more extraordinary when you realize it contains precisely zero stones. Yes, the entire building is actually just a fiberglass shell. We guess it’s a little more durable that way – and less prone to people carving out their own souvenir slice.
2. Cast members have been accused of serious misconduct before
While Disney characters are usually known for being wholesome, there have been a number of lawsuits filed against the people who inhabit them over the years. For instance, in 2011 a woman settled out of court after accusing Donald Duck of groping her and then making joking gestures about it.
1. There’s a strict dress code
In fact, there’s an entire 34-page manual dictating employees’ appearances, titled the Disney Look Book. Visible tattoos and body piercings are forbidden, the style of prescription glasses must meet Disney’s demands, and there are even length limitations on fingernails and facial hair. So, if you want to work for the Mouse, you’d best be prepared to change your entire appearance.