Walt Disney World 2000 Day 8: Magic Kingdom, Downtown Disney

Friday September 15, 2000
Woke up at the un-godly hour of 6am to catch the behind the magic tour. Roger had way too much fun the night before and had a wicked hangover. Dark sunglasses and lots of water were his accessories for the day. We arrived at the tour garden at the Magic Kingdom right on time. We mingled with the others on the tour while we waited for the tour to begin. People in the group were from Florida, New Jersey, Michigan and Roger and I as the California delegation. Our tour guide’s name was Jill and she was also from Michigan. We started on Main Street USA where Jill told us about the Disney priorities: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency. She pointed out examples of each up and down Main Street. She also told us what TEAM stands for: Together Everyone Achieves Magic. She emphasized that Disney is a team effort and it takes everyone working together to make the show happen. She pointed out some of the windows on Main Street including Frank Wells, former President of the Walt Disney Co., Roy Disney, and of course Walt’s Window. She also pointed out the lightning rods that are on every structure in the park to protect guests. From Main Street, we walked over to Tomorrowland where we rode the TTA (or PeopleMover as I like to call it) so we could see Walt’s original model of EPCOT. Jill confided in me that since Walt died before construction began in Florida, they all go ape for any artifact that is photographed or personally linked with him. At Disneyland, we have the luxury of Walt’s stamp on everything. As we moved over to Fantasyland, Jill pointed out that some of the benches were not at uniform level in the transition area. She said it was because they needed extra time for the concrete to set, they did not spend as much time leveling the ground as they should have. She said no one fixed it because it didn’t really detract from the four Disney priorities.
After a quick break, We headed over to the castle where Jill gave us some quick facts on the construction of the castle and how it helped form the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the municipality that controls the land that Disney owns. Apparently Orange County was not going to let Walt build with Fiberglass, so he went to the legislature and asked for his own municipality to make their own building codes. The legislature laughed until Walt also said he needed massive amounts of infrastructure paid by the taxpayers. He then said that if given his municipality, he would pay for it all by himself. Needless to say, the Florida legislature agreed and the Reedy Creek Improvement District was born. Jill then pointed out Cinderella’s statue and how that from a child’s perspective she has a crown on her head and that all the adults pay respects when they get a drink of water. It was now time for our first trip backstage. We were led downstairs to the main employee access tunnel. It was interesting finding out that the Magic Kingdom is actually on Level 2 while the cast member areas are on level 1. We managed to sneak a peek at several areas including the lunchroom, costuming room, and makeup/hair room (where Aladdin, Belle, and Prince Charming were getting their final touches). It was fascinating to be in this part of the park. I had always wanted to go underground at Disneyland, but they do not offer this type of tour. I can understand some of the cast members not liking the idea of tours backstage, but I agree with Jill who said that it adds another level to the magic. Disney policy prohibits photos backstage, but there was really nothing to take pics of save for the endless room of costumes. Jill mentioned that WDW has over 2 million pieces of costuming. She also mentioned that Characters at the hotel restaurants received their costumes from the nearest park (i.e.: Contemporary gets it from MK while Yacht Club gets theirs from EPCOT). Cast members then carry the costumes over to the hotels in black trash bags that look like they are full of body parts. All in all it was a cool experience. We emerged topside back in Fantasyland and then broke for lunch.
We regrouped in Liberty Square. I once again noted what a fabulous air conditioner that the Hall of Presidents has. I think it is the best one in the parks. It should have its own exhibit – “Hall of Air Conditioning” Oh yes, when pressed Jill confirmed that they are indeed studying George W. Bush and Al Gore so that the winner of the 2000 Presidential election can be put in the attraction fairly quickly. We then headed over to the Haunted Mansion where she provided some “unofficial” story lines for the attraction. I wont go into detail here, but one of them was very interesting and explained a great deal of the ride, but had too many gaping holes to be totally believable. We got a chance to ride the attraction and I again noticed that the sound was not as good as DL. Jill mentioned they just recently digitized a lot of the effects and that is why the faces singing and Madame Leota all look a bit brighter than usual. We then headed backstage of Frontierland where we were shown where all the parade floats were parked. Floats included Spectromagic (due back at WDW sometime after March), The Disney Magical Moments parade, and the Main Street Electrical Parade (the original one from CA is here for the millennium celebration). For some strange reason it was very humid in that part of the backstage – it might have to do with Splash Mountain’s large water tanks. Apparently once a week, someone scuba dives into the tank to retrieve sunken lost and found items. This is in addition to the daily skimming of floating objects. It was then time to wrap up our tour with a brief stop at Pirates of the Caribbean. Jill went over some of the details of the ride, including some information on Marc Davis, the original designer. She also had me do a demonstration of forced perspective by having me climb up to a balcony where I towered over the door.
It was then time for us to leave the MK and head back to the hotel. We thanked Jill for a great job (be sure to request her if you are taking the tour), and then caught the bus. We decided to nap for an hour then go return the rental car from yesterday. On my way into the hotel after returning the car, I started talking to the Disney Vacation Club people. The whole plan sounds very cool, but I still don’t think I can afford it for awhile, so hopefully it won’t get too expensive over the next few years. It was then time to get Roger and head off to Downtown Disney. I wanted to visit Disney Quest which I had heard mixed reviews for and felt the need to investigate. We had dinner at the Cuban restaurant Bongo’ s Cuban Café (created by Gloria Estefan and her husband). The food was excellent and the view was great.
Inside Disney Quest was a very interesting set up. Basically they have everything from Virtual 3D rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and a version of the Jungle Cruise to Creating your own Roller Coaster at Virtual Space Mountain. Roger and I created a level 5 (apparently way wild with 4 upside down parts). It looked scary in the drawings, but when we rode it, the ride was lethargic and not very exciting at all. There was a booth where you pick lyrics, singer, and music style to create your own song. Roger got one using the name Rogelio Charo. DQ was 5 stories tall and definitely had some promise, but I can see why people would only visit once or twice. This does not bode well for the future of the franchise. In the merchandising shop, I made a photo mug using Goofy and the Gorn. I think this virtual theme park might go the way of Club Disney unless they can figure out a way to make it more appealing to all ages. Based on the admission price and the crowd, I think they have a lot of work to do. We did have fun, so it was not a complete waste of time. I created a very respectable Pluto in the animation lab.
We then headed back to the hotel to turn in and get ready for tomorrow. It is our last full day here, and we have a tour in the morning and the Main Street Electrical Parade and Fireworks at night.