Friday, June 4, 2010

Knocked my socks off, and washed them too.

Today we had Christmas in June. And I am sorry to tell you, cameras were not allowed at the celebration, so this will be a picture-free post. Keep reading though... it is worth it!

Last Christmas we gave my mother-in-law tickets to Disney's Keys to the Kingdom tour. Fast forward 6 months and we got to go!

We met up this morning at 7am for the hour and a half drive to the Magic Kingdom. We arrived, umbrellas in tow, for the 9am tour.

Jeff greeted us in typical Disney fashion-- over-the-top happiness and cheer. (My favorite part!) We quickly learned Jeff was a Disney nerd and is making a career out of the useless Disney facts he knows. Love it!

In a nutshell, the tour gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how they make Disney so magical. The 5+hour adventure spent about 3 hours "on stage" (or walking around along side all the other guests, but having Jeff show us the park through Walt's eyes) and then 2 hours "backstage" (or in the utilidors seeing how cast members make the magic happen).

Here are some of my favorite tidbits I learned along the way:
  • Walt Disney wanted to create a place where children and adults could play together, thus Disney Land was created. But after it was built, Walt realized he wanted to have control over the whole Disney experience. He hated that from the roof of the Swiss Family Robinson tree in Disney Land you could see an IHOP. (In Disney World, you never see out, never see a car, are never taken out of the Magic.)
  • The keys to the Kingdom are: safety, courtesy, efficiency and show.
  • Your smile is part of your costume. And while on stage, you are always in costume and in character. (BTW, I really think this should be a general rule used in life!)
  • At the end of main street, on the left hand side, there is a big board (called the Tip Board) with a cast member there at all times. This board is updated at least every 30 mins. with park information. A ride that says continuous shows, has no wait! If it has a wait time, or is shut down, that will also be indicated here.
  • The new car used at the beginning of the afternoon parade was Tim Allen's Hot Rod in Home Improvement.
  • Charters have a 40 / 20 rule. Characters that are standing in air conditioning will work for 40 minutes and have a 20 minute break. Characters that are standing in the heat will work for 20 minutes and have a 40 minute break.
  • Cast members do not do one task for more than 45 minutes a day. Example, it would be hard to continuously smile and greet guests while pushing a button to start the ride all day long. But for 45 minutes, no problem!
  • Approximately 98 hats a day are lost on the rides in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Disney has a Christmas warehouse for all things holiday. We learned today that every ornament and decoration has a barcode. When you scan it, it tells you exactly what park, what location, what tree, and what level the ornament or decoration gets placed on.
  • Costumes are treated similar to Christmas ornaments. (Uniforms are called costumes.) Cast members may go to the costume warehouse and check out up to 5 costumes at a time. Then they scan them out like a library book. Once worn, they return them (dirty) and pick up 5 new ones.
  • And finally, probably the thing I will remember the most is the laundry. All those costumes have to be cleaned, and ironed. Apparently, if you do one load of laundry a day, everyday, for the next 44 years, you will still not do as much laundry as Disney does in 1 day. And yes, it is someones job to iron, all day. (YUCK!)
The tour ended with a very heartfelt speech from Jeff. He told us about how Roy is really the unsung Disney hero. Walt died before Disney World was a reality. Roy came out of retirement and for 5 years did nothing but make his brother dream come true. On the day of the grand opening, Roy, a very punctual man, couldn't be found. Turns out, he had taken his boat out into the lagoon with a close friend and was refusing to open the park without his brother.

But the good family friend knew the saying that: Walt was Mickey and Mickey was Walt. When animators were unsure how to have Mickey do a movement, they would have Walt do it. And when Walt was unsure about a decision, he would watch Mickey films.

About 30 minutes after the scheduled opening of the Walt Disney World Resort, Roy and Mickey opened the park. (Side note: Roy spent a ton of his own personal money to change the name of the Disney World Resort to the Walt Disney World Resort so that it truly honored his brother.)

I am a Disney nut. I truly believe it is the happiest place on earth. I have been to all the Orlando parks multiple times, I have done a Disney cruise, and been to Disney's island. I have seen every movie (at least twice) and am actively trying to go on a 'Disney Adventure'. And yet somehow, today, I just saw Disney for the first time.


  1. This sounds awesome, can't wait to take Lilli. :)

  2. That's really cool! I had no idea Walt Disney died before the park was opened. I'd like to go back and take that tour.