The Magic Kingdom, Fun Facts and Secrets

The Magic Kingdom, Disney World

Photography by Brandon Gurr
Photography by Brandon Gurr

Secrets of the Magic Kingdom

Anyone lucky enough to have been able to experience the "magic" that is a Disney Vacation in Orlando knows that the level of detail put into every aspect of construction by the Imagineer's is second to none. Every cast member, building, storefront, ride, and street corner has been adorned with a theme that tells a story of its own. With nearly 60 million patrons going through the parks each year, it's not uncommon for park visitors to be so focused on hitting the major attractions that they forget to take in the small mystery and subtleties that make the experience complete. I share with you now some of the lesser known "Secrets" of Walt Disney World Orlando to enhance your next visit, and so that you may possibly encourage others to "stop and smell the roses".

Gaston's Tavern, redesigned Fantasyland

Fountain of Gaston in the new Fantasyland. Photography by Brandon Gurr
Fountain of Gaston in the new Fantasyland. Photography by Brandon Gurr
Mainstreet, USA
Mainstreet, USA | Source
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Mainstreet Train Station. Photography by Brandon Gurr
Mainstreet Train Station. Photography by Brandon Gurr
Utilidors. A network of tunnels and walkways built above ground, but beneath the Magic Kingdom.
Utilidors. A network of tunnels and walkways built above ground, but beneath the Magic Kingdom. | Source

Mainstreet, U.S.A.

Easily the most iconic of the parks is the Magic Kingdom. Visitor's are greeted by the towering Castle of Cinderella as they make their way down Main Street, USA. As you explore the different lands of Adventure, Fantasy, Tomorrow and Frontier take note of the following elements:

  • During the construction of the park, Kodak was brought in as consultants to the design. Suggested were the red sidewalks of Main Street as it was likely patrons would want to stop and have their photo taken with the Castle as the background. The red sidewalks would act as "red carpet" and ad enhancement to the surrounding colors.
  • Wonder why the dining room inside the castle was changed in 1997 from King Stefan's Banquet Hall to Cinderella's Royal Table? It is said that the question of morality arose as to why King Stefan (who is Sleeping Beauty's father) would have a room within Cinderella castle. Note: It is actually Cinderella Castle, not possessive.
  • Mainstreet, U.S.A. was modeled after two American cities: Marceline, MO where Disney spent time in from 1905-1910, and Fort Collins, CO "Old Town".
  • Walt Disney did not like the disillusion of seeing cast members from one land walking through another to reach their destination. The Magic Kingdom sits at an elevation of around 105 feet above see level. This is due to the construction of what became known as utilidors (utilty-corridors) beneath the park. This allows crew to travel through the park unnoticed out of sight of visitors. The tunnels are so large in some places that vehicles can actually drive through them. Due to Florida's high water table Disney was unable to dig an underground tunnel system but instead constructed the tunnels above ground and built the park on top!

Space Mountain

Space Mountain
Space Mountain | Source
Space Mountain boarding the ride
Space Mountain boarding the ride | Source

Spaceport 75

From concept to completion, 11 years passed before Space Mountain was opened in Tommorrowland in 1975. After the success of the Matterhorn in Disneyland some years before, Disney recognized that big thrill rides did indeed have a place in Disneyworld. Quickly it became one of the most iconic, and popular rides in the park and to this day tends to hold the longest wait time for a ride.

  • As you wait your turn to board, notice the Interplanetary route map on the left of the queue. You'll notice Pluto and Ariel both make a guest appearance. This is a play on Pluto (formerly a planet in our solar system before being downgraded) and Ariel (a moon orbiting Uranus).
  • RCA was the original ride sponsor, investing $10 million into the initial construction.
  • Space Mountain, as you may have noticed, is not actually a mountain. This is actually a term used by Imagineers when naming a ride. The premium thrill rides tend to have mountain in the name: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Expedition Everest- The Forbidden Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain.
  • Why all the references to Starport 75? This pays homage to the year the ride opened in the Magic Kingdom, January 15th, 1975.
  • The silver FedEx logo on the right of the main entrance leads to a secret back entrance and lounge within the ride.
  • The two tracks you can ride on are named Alpha and Omega.
  • The narrative of the ride itself is actually based on traveling to space, not traveling in space.

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain
Splash Mountain | Source
Splash Mountain
Splash Mountain | Source

Chick-a-pin Hill

This Disney icon began getting folks wet on October 2, 1992. Sitting on roughly 10 acres, and at a height of 87 feet, it's hard to miss the home of Brer Rabbit in Frontierland.

  • What is Splash Mountains real name? Chick-a-pin Hill. The ride is from 1946's Song of the South based on Uncle Remis' stories. You may have a hard time finding the movie because it is not currently released entirely in the United States due to the rumored controversy surrounding it as a "racist" motion picture.
  • As you are standing on the bridge overlooking the falls, you may want to count the number of logs that have fallen. After every 3rd Log a water cannon shoots a wave of water in the air to appear as though the log splashing at the bottom caused it (this feature is disabled at times throughout the year, usually winter).
  • When it was being constructed, Splash Mountain became one of the most expensive projects in Theme park history. A whopping $75 million went into development before the ride even opened. It was so expensive it caused Disneyland in California to close down the "America Sings" attraction so they could use the characters in Splash Mountain.
  • Michael Eisner, the CEO of Disney at the time of construction, wanted to use the ride as a way to promote the upcoming Disney (Touchstone) movie "Splash", starring Tom Hanks. This request was ultimately ignored by the Imagineers.

Pirates of the Carribean

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Castillo Del Morro

Originally opened in Disneyland 1967, Pirates was the last ride Walt Disney himself oversaw the production of, dieing just three months before the ride was to set sail. The Magic Kingdom attraction began taking visitors to the cursed world of high seas buccaneering on December 15th, 1973. Originally designed to be a wax museum showcasing famously deceased pirates, the plans were scrapped in favor of robotics to better bring to life Disney's vision of what a roguish Pirates lifestyle would be like. Upon entering the Castillo Del Marrow (the castle entrance to board the ride) you will hear "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)". The song was written by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio and brings life to the ride while setting the narrative for the theme: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

  • The ride in the Magic Kingdom was originally named The Western River Expedition due to Florida's proximity to the Caribbean.
  • When walking to the boarding area at the beginning of the ride, take note of the two skeletons playing chess. Marc Davis designed the chess game so that any move made would result in a stalemate. During a refurbishment some years later the board was moved and the pieces accidentally rearranged. It wasn't noticed until the original sketches by Marc were found.
  • Originally the animatronic pirate men would chase the women around in circles. This was later changed to have the women chase the men, stated as "political correctness".
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl opened to audiences in 2003. The popularity of the movie drove high demand for the ride to be modified to incorporate elements from the movies. In 2006 the Magic Kingdom added Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa to the cast, as well as an overhaul to the ride itself.
  • Evil Mermaids now swim next to the boat and sing the song "My Jolly Sailor Bold" from the movie On Stranger Tides released in 2011.
  • Hector Barbossa now captains the ship in the cannon battle with the fort, the ship is named the Wicked Wench.
  • The Gluttonous Pirate, who was once tired from chasing a young female around the town, mutters the line "It's sore I be to hoist me colors upon the likes of that shy little wench". The girl used to pop her head out of the barrel hiding directly behind him. Now Jack Sparrow resides in that barrel.
  • The barker bird who used to reside at the entrance to the ride can now be found in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney.

The Jungle Cruise

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Jingle Cruise which runs during the Holiday season at the Magic Kingdom
Jingle Cruise which runs during the Holiday season at the Magic Kingdom | Source

The Jungle Navigation Co.

Operating since October 1st, 1971, the Jungle Cruise was inspired by "A True Life Adventure"; 14 short documentaries produced by Walt Disney showcasing animals in their natural habitats as the stars. Disney's original dream was to feature real animals that visitors would ride next to and see in person. This idea was actually much closer to what later became the Animal Kingdom. Realizing the cost of keeping real animals, and the inherent dangerous they posed to parkgoers, it was decided to use robotics instead. It is important to note though that using audio-animitronic animals was never meant to fool anyone into believing they were looking at real animals. Instead, Imagineer's decided to embrace the parks personality and show it was fun to ridicule the absurd and not take yourself too seriously. If tongue-in-cheek comedy is your thing, try not to miss this scripted tour through the rivers of three continents with the Jungle Navigation Co.


  • Disney actually dyes the waters beneath the tramp steamers (tour boats) so visitors cannot see the tracks the boat sits on nor the platform for the animitronics. Originally dyed brown, it was later changed to green, then blue-green.
  • Starting in 2013, Jingle Cruise will run during the holiday season. The lines for the ride will be adorned with Christmas lights, wrapped presents, and various decorations while the ride itself will be adorned with its own Christmas flair.
  • When the ride originally opened, children were allowed to drive the boat and fire the air rifle. Cast members used to carry real firearms loaded with blanks, they now use plastic guns.
  • There are fifteen boats in operation at the Magic Kingdom. They are: Amazon, Bomokandi, Congo, Ganges, Irrawaddy, Mongala, Nile, Orinoco, Rutshuru, Sankuru, Senegal, Ucyali, Volta, Wamba, Zambesi. Kwango was retired in 2000.
  • While standing in line you will see references to the Adventurer's Club Nightclub, formerly in Pleasure Island (Downtown Disney).
  • Near the hippos you will see the back half of a crashed airplane (Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior). The other half can be found at Disney's Hollywood Studios on the Great Movie Ride.

Ariel's Grotto

Photography by Brandon Gurr
Photography by Brandon Gurr

Be Our Guest

Photography by Brandon Gurr
Photography by Brandon Gurr

Gaston's Tavern

Photography by Brandon Gurr
Photography by Brandon Gurr

The New Fantasyland 2014

It is worth noting that they are completely redesigning Fantasyland and has now become one of the most popular areas in the park. Check out the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White Themed areas (including the new rollercoaster coming soon, the Seven Dwarves Mine Train being constructed right now!). Reservations are required well in advanced to dine at the Belle's Castles' Be Our Guest Restaurant, so plan accordingly!

Gaston himself can frequently be found near his Tavern. Belle and Ariel are nearby in Ariels Grotto, and The Enchanted Forest.


Check back soon for more secrets of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World!

Visiting Epcot?

© 2014 Brandon Gurr

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