Do you ever wonder how the characters at the parks seem to appear as if by, well, magic? There is a story behind that. One day while strolling through the park, Walt Disney saw a Frontierland cowboy walking through Tomorrowland. He then decided that for Disney World that some needs would have to be hidden. Trash, costume characters, etc. had to be out of sight. To do this, each area, section, or ride was first planned out in story boards. Then, the Imagineers constructed models, and viewed them in every angle. To hide the utilities, underground tunnels put in for Walt Disney World. Disney built a nine acre network of tunnels so Cast Members would be able to move around out of the public view!
The park was built over a huge underground complex. Disney did not dig tunnels under the Magic Kingdom. The corridors were built at ground level. The tunnel complex consists of 15 foot high walkways, meeting rooms, computer rooms, etc. with all having exposed utilities (it somewhat resembled a parking garage). The tunnel complex originates from the castle and spreads out like spokes from a wheel to the other lands. In fact, the bottom two floors of the castle consists of the tunnel complex.
The soil from the excavation of the Seven Seas Lagoon, around 5 million square feet, was heaped over this complex. Additionally, sand from the Seven Seas Lagoon excavation was used to line the Lagoon, Bay Lake and many other bodies of water.The Seven Seas Lagoon is Walt Disney World’s man-made lake. Although Bay Lake is a natural lake, soil from its bottom was also used to cover the complex. Thus, the pseudo-tunnel system was born. Another name for the system of tunnels under the Magic Kingdom is Utilidors, even though the internal Walt Disney World phone book does use the term “tunnels.” Utilidor stands for utility corridor.
No guests under 16 is allowed in the tunnel system because it would bother children, seeing two Goofys passing each other, Mickey without a head, seeing Minnie eating with Snow White, and ruin the magic.
Walt Disney World guests do not realize the existence of this underground complex because they enter from the monorail. But, the tunnel system is considered by Cast Members as the 1st floor, and not really a tunnel system. The entire Magic Kingdom is technically on the second and third floors. While most areas are on the 2nd floor, Fantasyland is on the 3rd floor. If you notice while in the park you will see how Fantasyland and the castle are higher.
You have never seen a delivery truck at Disney – have you? Magic Kingdom’s first floor has all the access roads for the Cast Members (employees) and service vehicles, the “tunnels” or Utilidors, the AVAC, service rooms, wardrobe and costuming, male and female locker rooms, offices, storage, kitchens, break rooms, two employee cafeterias, including the Fantasyland Dining Room, Kingdom Kutters, a Fire Prevention Center, Studio “D” and many of the support departments for the Magic Kingdom. The Fantasyland Dining Room and restrooms are to the left.
Cast Members use the utilidors to get from place to place. Walt Disney was very concerned with themeing and “the show.” He did not want a Cast Member in a Tomorrowland costume walking through Main Street or an Adventureland Cast Member in Fantasyland. The utilidors allow each Cast Member to show up where he/she belongs without walking through the other lands.
The walls are color coded for the land in which they are under to allow easy navigation. Since some people are color blind, the names of the different lands and pictures relating to each land also appear on the walls. This is to allow Cast Members to quickly know where they are and to avoid the mixing of lands. If you walk around Magic Kingdom, you will notice that Disney tried very hard to position things so that lands do not interfere with one another.
The Cast Member parking lot is a restricted lot. The road, called Magic Kingdom Drive, leads from the underground entrance out to the Emergency Services, Center Building, Monorail Central, Security Booth, Disney University, and Reams Road. Magic Kingdom Drive is the road directly behind the attraction 20,000 Leagues. It is hidden behind a row of mostly evergreen trees which can be seen looking across the attraction’s lagoon. If you are a normal Cast Member at the Magic Kingdom, you actually have to park at the parking lot, approximately 500 yards behind the Magic Kingdom itself, and take a bus to the main tunnel entrance! However, if you have a Gold Walt Disney World football shaped parking sticker on your car, you can enter into any backstage parking area with whomever you want in your car. You can even park at the mouth of the tunnels.
After taking “The Great Bus Ride,” you end up at the main tunnel entrance underneath the Pinocchio’s Village Haus right next to Fantasy Fair and Small World in Fantasyland. There is a sub-tunnel to the left that goes to costuming, and locker rooms. The tunnel has the costumes for all the characters and themed areas hanging for the Cast Members. With 1.2 millon pieces of clothing, it is the largest operating wordrobe department in the world. Each Cast Member has 3 costumes. The one s/he is wearing, on on the rack and on in the wash (or bag as the Cast Members call it).
As you walk in the main tunnel, there is a relatively short central corridor with pictures on the walls of the Magic Kingdom during construction. After the short corridor, it opens into the main tunnel system. This can be described best as an octagon underneath the entire park, with a central corridor cutting right down the middle to security offices at the front of Main Street. The central corridor slopes down in the center of the park then back up again. this probably has something to do with the moat around Cinderella Castle.
From the center, an elevator with a special key, goes to the famous “secret” apartment inside the castle.
From various sites inside the octagonal tunnel, stairs and elevators go up to points “On Stage,” usually, elevators go to kitchens, and stairs go right out into the park or into a shop. The next time you see an unmarked door remember the tunnel system. There are many hidden entrances throughout the park. As an example: in Main Street there is a door that leads to the back of the bank where Cast Members get their checks; there is a door besides the carrousel. Walk through the door and go down some stairs and you are in the utilidors.
The tunnels connect all of the theme areas in the Magic Kingdom, except for Mickey’s Toontown Fair since it was added much later to the Magic Kingdom. The utilidors go into Frontierland as far as Peco Bill’s Cafe. There is a stairwell behind Peco Bill’s Cafe, and there is one at Diamond Horseshoe which also lets Cast Members out in Adventureland. Stairwells are also in Liberty Square, Small World, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White, Alien Encounter, East and West Main Street and the Adventureland Veranda.
Here are the list of tunnels from the internal phone book.
- Stairway 1 – to Pinocchio Village Haus
- Stairway 2 – unknown
- Stairway 3 – unknown
- Stairway 4 – to Liberty Square, Columbia Harbor House and Peter Pan
- Stairway 5 – to Fantasyland Theater (Lion King)
- Stairway 6 – unknown
- Stairway 7 – unknown
- Stairway 8 – unknown
- Stairway 9 – to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland
- Stairway 10 – to the Hall of Presidents
- Stairway 11 – unknown
- Stairway 12 – to Ye Old Christmas Shoppe
- Stairway 13 – to Liberty Square and Adventureland Veranda
- Stairway 14 – unknown
- Stairway 15 – unknown
- 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 23 – unknown
- Stairway 24 – to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
- Stairway 25 – to Mickey’s Star Traders
- Stairway 26 – unknown
- Stairway 27 – to Transportarium
- Stairway ? – to Tinkerbell’s Treasures
You can also see them on the map.
The bigger restaurant kitchens are split in two, with a cooking kitchen on the tunnel level, and a prep kitchen at park level. The tunnels are also used to store merchandise, and hurricane provisions. Gasoline powered vehicles are not allowed in the tunnels for safety reasons. Normally, the only exception is the Brinks truck which collects money from Cash Control. Cash Control is located underneath Pinocchio’s Village Haus. It never closes. Ambulances are allowed to drive in the tunnel, but only in cases of extreme emergency.
The utilidors occupy 392,040 square feet of space under the Magic Kingdom and are bustling with action. Beside navigation information the walls are covered with motovational information, such as the 7 rules of a Cast Member, guest feedback and other items to insure that your stay is magical.
Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and the Hollywood Studios do not have tunnels like the Magic Kingdom does. At Epcot, there is a small tunnel under connecting the two parts of Innoventions and The Land. It’s mostly for storage, kitchens, and break rooms. And another tunnel that leads from Universe of Energy, under Spaceship Earth, and ends at The Living Seas.