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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Backstage Magic Tour With The Williams Family

During Spring Break 2018, we ventured to Walt Disney World for the 20th or 21st time as a family (we've sort of lost count).  We were celebrating birthdays--mine at the end of February and the husband's which is at the end of March.  On the day, smack dab in the middle between the birthdays, we celebrated with the Backstage Magic Tour!  Click here to read about booking the tour.

 The tour, which lasts 7 hours, begins and ends at EPCOT.  The cost, when we booked it, was $275 per person.  There was a 15% discount for Annual Passholders.  No park ticket is required for this tour.  The tour is operated by Adventures By Disney, a separate company.  We received an email and two phone calls reminding us about the tour.  Reminders included when and where to meet for the tour.  Closed toed shoes required, no photographs, that the majority of the tour is spent standing and/or walking, etc.

Our day began with breakfast at our resort and then a bus to EPCOT.  We needed to check in for the tour by 8:45 am.  We were on a bus to EPCOT at 7:30 and had made it through security by 8:00 am.  The check in for the tour is to the right of the EPCOT entrance, near Guest Services.  There's a sign indicating tour check point.  Note:  It's near the large gates that guests use at the end of the day to exit to the buses, if that helps you.  If you need to use a restroom, there is one just outside those gates and depending on your security guard at the gate, you will be allowed re-entry without going through bag check and scanner another time.  I was allowed, but a different security guard did not let the husband.  If you don't want to risk it, use the restrooms at the far left of the EPCOT entrance.

Our two tour guides/adventure guides greeted us with lanyards. Another Cast Member checked us in and inquired about food allergies, etc.  We were then assigned a position on the bus/motor coach--right or left side.  Our side was the driver side.  We traveled as this group for several parts of the tour.

After photos were taken of each group by our guides, we were taken back stage and climbed aboard the motor coach.  The transistors were in our seats and our guides passed out ear pieces.  Water and snack were on board the bus.  We drove around the back of EPCOT's Living Seas, The Land, and on to World Showcase, getting a glimpse of the Ratatouille ride being built, stopping at The American Adventure Pavilion.

 This is when we divided into two groups for the first time--driver's side of the bus or the right side of the bus--each group with one guide.  We toured the outside of the pavilion learning about scale and the history of the pavilion.  Then, we got to go inside, looking at the rotunda from both floors, riding upstairs through the Hall of Flags, learning about the carved wall hangings were done by the same artist who carved the bird at the end of Mary Poppin's umbrella.

Then, once inside the theater, we went back stage and got to view the "show slider."  This huge piece of equipment slides completely under the guest seats.  When the show begins, it moves out, towards the back wall behind the stage from where the show is rear-projected.  As the slider moves, each scene raises up and then recedes, the slider moves again, etc.  By the end of the show, the slider has reached the farthest wall of the stage area.  Then, the slider goes all the way under the seats again as guests exit.  There is no "stage floor" of the stage area.  It is all open so the scenes on the slider can move up and down.  There are also some pieces that move in from the sides.  We also go to see a close up of an animatronic head of Mark Twain.  Incredibly realistic!  We learned that the clothing of the animatronic characters is cleaned frequently causing for some unique ways to secure the clothing on the characters.

We all took a bathroom break at the restrooms at The American Adventure Pavilion, and then it was back on the motor coach.

Our next stop was Creative Costuming!  We learned that costumes for Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, and sometimes Disneyland were designed here.  Some costumes were made onsite while others were contracted to be made off site.

Interestingly, since the closing of The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios, some of the props could be found at Creative Costuming!

We learned about the fabrics and how they are selected to tell parts of the story.  We also learned that mock-ups of some costumes are made either life-size or on a smaller scale.  We also got to see their giant cutter in process, cutting fabric to be the most efficient with use.  This is done on a huge table with air holes that suck down on the fabric to secure it to the table while a large piece of plastic weighs the fabric down from above.

Next stop, Textile Services!  There are four Textile Services facilities on Walt Disney World property. Three of the four, handle resort laundry, while the fourth is to clean cast costumes.  One building, handles 2 1/2 million pounds of laundry per year!  They run 24 hours a day, with two shifts handling laundry and the third shift providing maintenance.
The blue bags carry 150 pounds of dirty laundry and dump then into one of four 10 compartment tumbler washers.  The dirty laundry makes it was through those 10 compartments, coming out as a huge block of clean/wet laundry.  It is then put inside a white bag and taken to the dryers.  Some laundry gets dried and folded simultaneously using large heated folding tables.

The dirty/clean laundry is transported to/from resorts by the tall green carts, called metros.  Know that the carts get a wash, too, when laundry is taken out of the them.  The clean carts are filled with clean laundry, covered with plastic, and are ready to be transported back to the resorts.

Watching the bags fly around, carry, and dump laundry reminded me of the door scene from Monster's Inc.  I wasn't the only one thinking that and was told that Textile Services may or may not have been the inspiration for that scene!

We got to walk on the upper walk-way on the left side of the photo above.  The design, a recent addition to the building, was built just for the Backstage Magic Tour and is representative of the 10 compartment tumblers that wash the laundry.

We also learned the most often found item in the laundry.  Any guesses?  Remote controls!

Did you know that the same RFID technology that makes MagicBand works also helps unit Cast Members with their costumes when they go to pick them up at Cast Member Costuming, which is located near EPCOT?  There are small chips installed in the costumes and when a Cast Member comes in to get their costume--think even what they wear if working rides or shows or in restaurants--and they use that technology to find their costumes.  While this info isn't part of the tour, I had heard about the use of RFID for costuming, so I asked and got an answer!

Photos were taken by our tour guides, as were all of these photos, before we left for our next destination.

Next up, lunch!  Our motor coach made it's way to Wilderness Lodge, where we had lunch at Whispering Canyon Café.  We learned about the forced perspective of the entrance to Wilderness Lodge along with the history of the resort before lunch.

The skillet lunch was our menu!  Ribs, pork, chicken, corn on the cob, potatoes, baked beans.  We did not have the salad that is usually served with the meal.  But did have the corn bread and cobbler for dessert.

Our group of 36, took up three tables inside the restaurant.  Drink orders were first, then bathroom visits, both before and after the meal.

After lunch, our motor coach drove behind the Magic Kingdom.  We passed the fireworks launch area, the fireworks fallout area which had sprinklers going in the middle of the day to keep the brush moist.  We saw the two story round house, which isn't round, where the monorails and trains are stored, outside the motor coach window.  Then, our bus stopped near a large building.  Central Shops!

Central Shops is where most rides, attractions, and other vehicles are built or repaired.  Some of the areas inside Central Shops were behind windows that were covered working on projects we weren't meant to see.  We did see the alien from The Great Movie Ride, along with other attraction vehicles in various states of disrepair. To consider how big this building is, located behind the Magic Kingdom, we saw one of the boat launches that travels from Port Orleans resorts to Disney Springs in one of the rooms getting a paint touch up.

We learned about and got to feel the various plastics and silicones used to make attractions and animatronic characters.

Speaking of animatronics, we also learned the story of Walt and the first animatronic character--a bird.  Walt had purchased a wind-up bird that chirped and moved during a trip to Europe.  He was disappointed in how the movement slowed down as the wind-up came to an end.  He handed the bird to imagineers and told them to make it look real.  They worked and worked and returned to show Walt.  While he was impressed that the motion continued at the same pace, the wings, beak, eyes, and head moved, he said it still didn't look real, as birds breath.  Back to the drawing board for the imagineers who dismantled what they built and designed a bellow system to put in the chest to make the bird look like it was breathing.  While they were hesitant to show Walt, he was pleased and asked them to make 30 or 40 more for a new attraction--Enchanted Tiki Room!

We also got to see the animatronic polar bear in action that was a part of Maelstrom in EPCOT, which the boy immediately recognized.  Since the re-theming of that attraction to FROZEN, there wasn't a need for the polar bear, so it is being stored at Central Shops.

Know that not even Cast Members get to visit or see Central Shops.  We were fortunate to be able to visit and were required to wear safety glasses throughout our visit.

The next portion of our tour was the highlight, at least for us.  We were back on the motor coach and made our way around the rest of the exterior of Magic Kingdom, getting a peek at the land being cleared for the new Tron attraction in Tomorrowland.  We parked in a lot behind Buzz Lightyear, that guests who had used Express Transportation previously, would recognize.  We entered the park, though, through doors behind Main Street and came out between The Plaza and Tomorrowland Terrace for a restroom stop.

We then went back through the doors and made our way through another set of double doors where there was an elevator and set of stairs.  At the bottom, the Utilidors, the set of connected hallways located below the Magic Kingdom used for Cast Members, trash, and deliveries.

The halls are painted various colors depending on the "land" they are under.  The Utilidors slant down, under the moat that surrounds Cinderella's Castle.  The Utilidors have maps to tell you where you are, are big enough that there are several vehicles driving around making deliveries and picking up food, packages, etc.  We saw the "pin replenishment" window which was of specific interest to the husband, although it wasn't open at the time.  We got to peek into the lounges and restaurants for Cast Members.  We got to hear the trash being suctioned through the 18" diameter pipe along the perimeter of the ceiling of the Utilidors along with several other pipe and wiring systems.  These are exposed to allow for easy access and maintenance.

There are large entrances to the Utilidors behind Fantasyland, like big enough for trucks!

We got to meet a Cast Member, John, who is responsible for the Cast Member recognition system.

While we were experiencing the Utilidor tour, our motor coach had repositioned itself to the bus stops at Magic Kingdom.

We came back up the same steps/elevator we went down and made our way to Town Square using the entrance between Tony's and the hat shop.  This is the exit that is open after parades and fireworks to relieve congestion on Main Street.  We then exited the park and walked towards the bus stop.

While the majority of the guests rode the motor coach back to EPCOT, we asked if our tour could end there as we were headed to The Contemporary for our next adventure of the day.  Our guides were happy to accommodate although they wanted us to walk to the bus as they had something for us.  We were happy to oblige!

Each guest received a card with a commemorative pin.  On the back of the card was the download code for all of the photos that had been taken with our tour.

The overall impression is that we are very glad that we took this tour!  Many of the guests on the tour had either taken the Behind the Steam Trains or Keys to the Kingdom tours and had some great knowledge of Walt Disney and Walt Disney World.  We were warned at the beginning that this tour may break some of the "magic" as we were going behind the curtain, so to speak.  There were no worries for us and it didn't seem as if any others on the tour had difficulties.

There were some guests on our tour that had never been to EPCOT or Magic Kingdom.  They did not have any background knowledge about what they were seeing.  One family of two adults and four older children who spoke French, who were taking selfies with Cinderella's Castle in the background when we were "onstage" during the tour, when asked about why they hadn't been to either EPCOT or Magic Kingdom said "it was too expensive."  Huh?  Considering the cost of the tour for their family would have far exceeded the cost of a one day park hopper ticket for the theme parks.

It became evident very quickly that our family had significant Disney knowledge.  When we were taking the first bus ride around EPCOT the boy could name the buildings/pavilions and we were the only ones who know what attraction was under construction near the France Pavilion.  From that point forward, when the questions were asked, the guides looked at our family.  Funny, that while we were in the Utilidors, there was a corner beam that was dented due to vehicles cutting the corner too close and the wooden barrier was no longer on the beam exposing the original metal.  The guide covered up the beam and asked the group, me, when Magic Kingdom opened.  1971.  October 1, 1971 to be exact.  She uncovered the beam and the date of June 30, 1970 was written on the exposed metal revealing the date the beam had been installed.

I don't think we'll do this particular tour again, but we will definitely take more tours!  Our recommendation would be to have at least seen the American Adventure show, heard Voices of Liberty, and have some knowledge about the Magic Kingdom before enjoying this tour.

Click here to read about our Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour.

Click here to read about our Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour.


  1. Hi, great post!
    I hear ABD is now running the Backstage Magic tour, so do you tip the guides? I know other tours run by Guest Services you don't, and VIP you do, but am not sure about this one. Thanks!

  2. You are correct, Adventures by Disney is running the tour, but as an extension of Guest Services. We did not tip. We treated like any other tour where tipping isn't/wasn't allowed. Great question!

    1. Thank you so much for your reply...it helps a lot. We are taking the tour this Tuesday, and I wasn't sure what was expected. Great Blog!