Three years ago my wife and I got the opportunity to take the Keys to the Kingdom tour that is offered at the Magic Kingdom. I say opportunity because with a 6 year old who usually accompanies us to the “World” we’ve never been able to take the tour because children under 16 aren’t allowed. But with some help from the grandparents and a small monetary exchange we were able to enjoy a 4-day weekend by ourselves without our beloved ankle biter in order to experience this magical tour.
I did a little research prior to making the reservation as to what the tour entailed and I have to admit that it sounded pretty interesting. So I called the reservations number (800-wdw-tour) a few weeks before the trip to lock in a time on a Friday at 8:30 in the morning. I was told we could come in 15 minutes prior to the tour and that the park didn’t open until 9:00. We got to the park the day of our tour and went through the usual baggage check. The cast member at the ticket turnstiles told us we could check in at Town Hall when we were ready. We arrived at 8:15 and decided to take some photos down Main Street before the masses arrived, because of this we got some pretty nice shots down Main Street looking at the Castle with not a soul in the pictures. After about 10 minutes of picture taking we went to rent a locker to store our camera and backpack because we were told they weren’t allowed on the tour. At 8:30 we made our way over to Town Hall and checked in. We were given our nametags, our earphones and a menu to choose what we wanted for lunch at Columbia Harbor House.
After signing in we were instructed to the courtyard to the right of the Town Hall and meet up with the rest of the group, which consisted of about 12 people. Julie, our cast member guide, later greeted us. She did a quick introduction of herself and briefly told us how she came to work at Disney. She then asked the group to introduce themselves, where they were from and who their favorite Disney character was. Of course all the biggies were named, Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, and Donald.
The tour began on Main Street and Julie began by telling us how the Magic Kingdom was designed to be like a movie theatre. As you make your way through the tunnels under the train station it is a representation of curtains being lifted in a theatre. Along the way are the posters you see of different park attractions that’ll be coming soon to you throughout your day in the park. As you walk down Main Street and examine the windows you’ll see various names printed on them. These are to represent the opening credits of a movie. The first window on the right as you enter is that of the producer, Roy O. Disney.
As we made our way down Main Street she led us down an alleyway off to the right and let us sit at some tables in the shade. Here she explained to us some of the smaller details that Disney undertakes to protect guest and cast members that we may never notice. Julie told us that all of the flagpoles along the rooftops of Main Street aren’t flagpoles at all but are lightning rods, and that the reason that those flags aren’t lowered at dusk is because they aren’t flags, they’re pennants. Another thing she pointed out was that when vacationers come to the “World” that most are in a “daze” and have tunnel vision. So the curbs were painted different colors than the sidewalks. This was done so guest could differentiate the curbs from the sidewalks. Next she explained what castmembers wore was a “costume” and not a uniform and that they were called “castmembers” and not employees. Vacationers are refereed to as “guest” and areas are known as “onstage” and “offstage”. All of this vocabulary helps to keep the movie idea in focus.
So as Julie led us out of the alley she pointed out a few of the names on the windows down Main Street. At the very end of the street she pointed out the last window, that of Walt Disney, the director. Along the way she talked about “forced perspective” and that as you come into the park the castle is made to look like it’s far away, but as you leave the train station is made to look not so far away so it didn’t seem like such a long walk when departing. As we made a left coming off of Main Street we entered Adventureland and took our first bathroom break. After everyone returned we sat at some tables under an awning and she gave a little history on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Most Disney fans know that Walt lost the character Oswald to Universal Studios. He later came up with the idea of Mortimer Mouse but Lillian Disney renamed him Mickey. She then gave some history on the parks and the fact that Walt wanted to create a magical place that parents and children could play together.
Julie then led us over to the Tiki Room and pointed out one of the many illusions that is in the park. She pointed out the thatched roofs on the Tiki Bird huts. “See the straw?” she asked. Everyone replied that they did. “Well it’s not straw at all but aluminum strips made to look like straw.” She stepped up on a park bench and tapped the thatching with a cane. Sure enough it was aluminum. We then made our way over to Pirates of the Caribbean and through the queue only for the ride to break down right when we were going to board a boat, but they gave us fast passes to use later.
We then walked over to Frontierland, as we entered the group made a left right next to Splash Mountain. She told us that there were absolutely no pictures to be taken. As we walked up the path she pointed out a yellow line painted across the concrete. The yellow line is a visual marker for cast members to know when they are and aren’t on stage. She walked us behind to swinging gates and it was a completely different look as to when you’re “onstage”. We could see cast members out of costume practicing for the nightly parade. The backside of Splash Mountain looks as if it has never been finished. Julie pointed out the AVACS building. The what? The Automated Vacuum Assisted Collection System. It’s where all the trash around the park is collected through pipes connected to trashcans. The warehouses that store all of the parade floats are behind these gates but we were not allowed to go see them due to the fact that cast members were practicing. After we made our way back into Frontierland Julie led us to Colombia Harbour House for lunch.
When we arrived to Columbia Harbour House we were led upstairs to a private area reserved for the tour group. There were nametags on the tables for us to know where to sit. As we took our seats she told us to look underneath our nametags. Located here was the “Keys to the Kingdom” Pin that is only available to those guests who take the tour. As we ate we conversed with our tablemates about various topics. After lunch we had the opportunity to go to the restroom but Julie told us that there were no restrooms in Liberty Square because in colonial times there were none. The closest one is located just as you leave Liberty Square and walk into Fantasyland. She also pointed out that there is brown concrete down the middle of the red concrete. This represents that in colonial times there weren’t bathrooms to use so people would dump their waste in the streets.
After our bathroom break she then led us over to Haunted Mansion. We entered the ride through the servants’ quarters which required us to miss the stretching room. She told us that the dust used in the ride is hypoallergenic and that the stretching room is different than that of Disneyland. The west coast version is actually an elevator but at Disney World the ceiling is really rising. After we exited the ride she walked us over to the Liberty Tree and explained that the 13 lanterns represented the original colonies and that the Liberty Bell replica was made from the mold of the original Liberty Bell.
Julie then led us over to the bathrooms behind Casey’s Corner. Everyone took a quick restroom break while we were there. When the group returned she led us through a cast member only door. There was a parking lot right behind Casey’s. Over to the right was a dry dock for the Jungle Cruise. It was crazy how close Casey’s and Jungle Cruise were backstage. It was literally like a 30 second walk. She then led us down a flight of stairs and into a concrete tunnel. We were in the famous Utilidors. Needless to say it was a little underwhelming. There was nothing fascinating at all about the decor of the Utilidors. Non-Disney music was playing over the sound system. Mickey walked by with his head off. She explained that the Utilidors were actually the first level of the Magic Kingdom because due to the low water table they had to build it up. She then led us down the corridors and showed us the cast member cafeteria and also the pin room where cast members could grab pins to trade with guests throughout the day. We then headed back up to the park level.
When we came up we were backstage on the opposite side of Main Street in another parking lot. Julie showed us the cable that Tinker Bell uses during Wishes and informed the group that the Tinker Bell cast member only works for about an hour and a half but gets a full eight hours pay. And after that the tour was complete. It took about 5 hours and was worth every minute of it. The cost of the tour was around $70 but we got a 20% discount for using the Disney Visa card. After the tour we spent the rest of the day in the park and stayed until 1 a.m. It was definitely a long and fun day
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One thought on “The Keys to the Kingdom Tour”
I have taken that tour I loved it.