The Utilidor system at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is top secret, like a James Bond I-could-tell-you-but-I’d-have-to-kill-you kind of thing. Photographs of their interior are strictly forbidden, but I was able to find an excellent website, Hidden Mickeys of Disney, that not only displays a photo but also offers tunnel details and maps of their design. (Thank you to the Hidden Mickeys website for granting us permission to use both copyrighted images!)
The ingenious infrastructure did not come about by happenstance. According to legend, one day when Walt Disney visited Disneyland, he saw a costumed cowboy pass through Tomorrowland on his way to Frontierland. He felt that the out-of-place character detracted from the show. To eliminate that problem from his Florida Project, Walt decided that the business of the Park would remain out of Guests’ view. When Walt Disney World was built, planners implemented an idea proposed for Walt’s EPCOT and had built approximately 1.5 miles of Utilidors—utility + corridors—access tunnels beneath Magic Kingdom Park. Thus, the integrity of each land’s theme remains intact and Guests lose none of the magic.
Due to the high water table in Florida, basements cannot be dug. Therefore, the Utilidors’ underground appearance is merely an illusion. The complex maze of storage areas, offices, and utilities occupies ground level. Dirt excavated from Seven Seas Lagoon was used to cover this first floor and to establish the main Park access. The majority of the Magic Kingdom is actually on the second floor. Entry level of Cinderella Castle is on the Park’s third floor, enhancing its wienie effect by allowing it to be the focal point of the Park rising high above and being visible from most locations.
The Utilidors mirror the wheel design of the ground above. With the hub at Cinderella Castle, color-coded tunnels spoke out to the all lands of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom except the now defunct Mickey’s Toontown Fair (new Fantasyland extension), which was not an original feature to the Park and was added later.
So what goes on in the land below? The complex not only provides a means for Cast Members to get to location unseen, it also houses the largest working wardrobe in the world! Nearly eight miles of costume racks hold more than 2.5 million individual costume pieces. Also in the nine acre system are administrative offices, cast cafeterias and locker rooms, and the brains to all of the audio-animatronic operations. Trash is funneled through pneumatic tubes and deliveries take place all beneath Guests’ feet as they wait in line for Space Mountain, pose with princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and purchase souvenirs at the Emporium.
I’d say Walt had a pretty good idea, wouldn’t you? His system keeps the magic in the Park and the distractions out—or under.
Next time you visit Walt Disney World, take advantage of one of the Backstage tours. Guests must be at least 16 years of age or older to enter the tunnels – photo identfication required. Call (407) WDW-TOUR or (407) 939-8687.
Another Utilidor system exists under the American Adventure Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. It, however, is much smaller in comparison and serves only to house the Audio-Animatronics figures and controls for the featured show. For further detailed information about the Magic Kingdom Utilidor system, stop by Hidden Mickeys of Disney.
Jodi Whisenhunt is a Disney-devoted veteran homeschooling mom of 3 and an award-winning freelance writer and editor. Think outside the textbook and learn while you play at her Magical Mouse Schoolhouse, where Disney IS school!