Backstage Magic Tour

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Around this time last year I had the opportunity to take the Backstage Magic Tour.  This day long affair takes guests into normally restricted area at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom.  This is a great way for adults to have a grown up day at WDW.  Don’t get me wrong I love kids and I always get a kick out of watching them their faces light up when they see Mickey, but sometimes I need some time away from them.  Since the tour is restricted to folks over 16 years old, it provides a more mature atmosphere.

The group met at the entrance to Epcot early in the morning.  Our guides let us know the ground rules (such as no pictures backstage) and discussed what we were in for during our day long tour.  They also handed out headsets that would allow the group to hear them without having to shout.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember their names but they both did a wonderful job throughout the day.

We headed into Epcot to start the day.  It was fun to see the park before opening without any crowds.  Before long we were backstage.  It was even more fun to see this normally forbidden area!  A private bus waited for us behind the Seas Pavilion.  We hopped on and drove to World Showcase.  It’s interesting to see how plain the backs of the buildings are in comparison to the strongly themed areas on stage.  Our first stop was the American Adventure where we first stood in the deserted World Showcase to hear some facts about the attraction and its building.  Then, we got to venture inside first to hear about the rotunda, then to see the mechanics of the show.  I have to say this was highlight of this tour for me.  I wrote my senior honors thesis about the American Adventure and the Hall of Presidents so it was a real treat to see this attraction’s audio animatronics up close and personal.  I was close enough to touch Ben Franklin and Mark Twain.  It was pretty awesome.

Next up in Epcot we drove over to the Cast Center.  We were able to see rows and rows of cast member costumes waiting to be checked out.  We learned all about different aspects of cast member life including costuming.  We even saw a few friends of princesses getting ready for a day’s work.  Some may say it ruins the magic to see princess wigs lined up waiting to be worn, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest.  A big part of what draws me to WDW is knowing what makes the place run like clockwork.  It always amazes me that they can employ so many people and accommodate so many guests every day.

After finishing up at Epcot, the motor coach made its way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The group got to see a Tower of Terror ride vehicle and hear about how the attraction works.  We also took a walk through the costuming department where almost all of the cast member costumes are created.  At the time they were mostly working on the costumes for the (at the time) upcoming High School Musical 3: Senior Year show.  The use of computers and technology to design, cut patterns, was very interesting.  The tour of costuming wrapped up DHS segment of the tour.

Then, it was back on the bus to head to Wilderness Lodge.  Lunch at Whispering Canyon Cafe in this resort is included in the price of the tour.  This is always a fun place to dine, but with a large group the Cast Members really go to town.  The women who served us were great characters and made for a very silly meal.

After lunch, it was back on the bus to make our way to the nearby Magic Kingdom.  We were able to tour several backstage buildings in the North Service area such as Holiday Services, Central Shops, and Textile Services where all of WDW’s laundry is done.  First, we headed into Holiday Services which is basically a warehouse for Christmas and other holiday decorations.  As someone who adores the holidays at Disney World it was fun to see the huge space used to store all of the festive embellishments.  Then we took a walk through Central Shops where ride vehicles are built and maintained.  It was fun to see Splash Mountain logs, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh honey pots, etc. in various stages of production.  We also go to play with some audio animatronic figures and learn about how they operate.

The other highlight of the tour for me was saved for last; we were led into the Utilidors beneath the Magic Kingdom.  Here we learned all about these underground tunnels which service Disney’s most visited theme park.  Though, they are nothing too exciting to look at since they are pretty much just painted cinder block walls, but any Disney geek would be excited to see them.  This concluded the tour and we hopped back on the bus which brought us back to where we started at Epcot.

I apologize if I am forgetting some details of the tour since it was about a year ago and a blog wasn’t even a thought yet so I didn’t write anything down to help me remember.  Overall, it was a fun day and I’m glad I got t see some of the restricted areas.  The down side was I’m such a Disney geek that I knew a lot of the facts our guides shared with us.! If you can stomach the expense ($219 per person) I recommend the tour to Disney experts and novices alike.

Next week I’ll discuss the Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival…

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Posted on September 27, 2009

13 Responses to “Backstage Magic Tour”

  • by Phillip Stewart on September 28, 2009, at 12:06 am EDT

    Thanks for an excellent review, Kristen!
    I was lucky to have taken the tour in the 1990s and again recently with my daughter. I am still in awe. What a completely magical experience. As stated, it is expensive. And I sincerely believe it’s worth it for people who really appreciate the magic and desire an opportunity to see how carefully it is crafted.
    The tour does vary, depending on a variety of circumstances. For instance, during our tour we were able to enjoy The Great Movie Ride without the traditional narration. Instead, we were treated to facts and fun trivia for each scene, as well as seeing a few “Hidden Mickeys” throughout the attraction.
    Thanks for reminding me of some of my favorite WDW memories, Kristen.

  • by Kristen Helmstetter on September 28, 2009, at 9:32 am EDT

    Hey Phillip! Thanks for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I should have mentioned that things can change depending on what’s going on that day. Your experience at the Great Movie Ride sounds like a lot of fun!

  • Wonderful review, Kristen. My daughter and I have reservations to take this tour October 30. It sounds fascinating and fun. None of the magic of WDW will be lost by seeing the backstage tour as I love looking around and knowing how things operate. And to see the corridors under Magic Kingdom is in itself, a dream come true.

    • by Kristen Helmstetter on September 28, 2009, at 4:36 pm EDT

      Hiya Edie! Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great time in October! The utilidors are pretty fun to see for geeks like us.

  • Hi, loved the review! I am sooooooo tempted to take this tour but afraid that the price is too steep. I have taken most of the tours in WDW and was only disappointed in the Undiscovered Future World tour.
    Some aspects of the tour seem to go beyond trivia into minutiae. Only so many swatches of cloth a person can observe without falling asleep. Is the laundry facility really that interesting?? What to do?? lol.
    If I take the tour in January, I’ll post my thoughts. :)

    • thanks for the thoughts on Undiscovered Future World. This is the only tour I’ve done so I have no basis for comparison yet. Luckily we only stood outside the laundry facility and heard about it hehe.

      There are discounts available on the tours for ap holders and dvc members… maybe even disney visa members if that helps you at all.

  • Thank you for sharing your view on the tour. My daughter & I will be taking this tour Nov 16. We’ve been going to WDW since 1992(she was just 6 at the time) & we NEVER tire of going back.
    My goal is to one day say I ate at every Disney Restuarant & did all the tours. When I get back I’ll try to remember to post my thoughts too. Thanks again Kristen :)

  • Thanks for the review. We are taking the tour on the 12th, sooo excited. They say NO CAMERAS! but I have also read that sometimes the tour guide will stop for photo ops. Was this your experience?

    • by Kristen Helmstetter on October 21, 2009, at 11:13 am EDT

      They are very strict about no cameras backstage. In the public areas they allow you to snap photos though. I think we may have even taken a group picture in front of the castle if memory serves correctly. Have a great time and let us know how it goes!

  • by Rain Mäekivi on October 26, 2009, at 4:16 pm EDT

    Thank You very much of the interesting review. I have one question: can one enter the WDW Textile Services building during this tour and see the laundry in action or is it just shown from outside?

    • We went on the tour November 12th 2009. It now includes Animal Kingdom. We were told that we were only the 4th group to see all four parks. We toured the parade building and horticultural buildings at AK and then watched the parade.

  • How do you book one of these tours?

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