Hidden from the view of the thousands of Disney World visitors is a labyrinth of out-of-sight tunnels called Utilidors. The term is taken from the words, “utility corridors,” which is a conduit through which utility lines such as sewer, electricity, or water are carried. Of course, the concept can be (and is) expanded to facilitate the movement of many other things – even people.
The Utilidors under the Magic Kingdom are built on nine acres, take up 392,040 square feet of space, and are bustling with action. The floor plan resembles a wheel with spokes, the hub of which lies beneath Cinderella’s Castle. From there, the tunnels branch out to all the other “lands.”
The original idea of a system of tunnels stemmed from the fact that Walt Disney was adamant that the integrity of each land “theme” be preserved. He did not like the idea of a youngster seeing someone dressed in a Frontierland costume walking through Tomorrowland, which would spoil the magic. Hence the Utilidors were designed from the outset.
Disney did not dig tunnels under the Magic Kingdom. The fifteen-foot-high corridors were built at ground level. After construction, they were covered with soil taken from excavation of the Seven Seas Lagoon and from the bed of Bay Lake after it was drained. Approximately 5 million square feet of soil was banked over the Utilidors. And thus the secret tunnels were set in place. Essentially, the Utilidors are at the “first floor” level, and the park itself at the second and third levels. With all of the exposed utility lines and pipes, it somewhat resembles a parking garage.
Visitors never see delivery trucks in the Magic Kingdom. Those vehicles arrive through the private access roads and park at the mouth of the tunnels. Cast members also enter through the Utilidors. The walls of the tunnels are color-coded, to make it simple for cast members to tell which land they are in. For those who might be color blind, the names and pictures relating to each land also appear on the walls. Cast Members quickly know where they are and thereby avoid mixing of themes.
Here you will also find 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 tunnels are the staging area for all of the Magic Kingdom. Cast members know once they leave one of the access doors, whether their job is to sell Disney goodies at a kiosk, or operate an attraction, or act as a park greeter; they are considered, at that moment, to be onstage.
The massive undertaking of costume dispersal takes place in the Utilidors. Each day, cast members present their bar-coded ID card the window of the costume store. After the card is scanned, the costume is assigned to that cast member. When their work shift is completed, that person takes the costume to the laundry bin located in the Utilidors, once again scans the card and drops the costume into the bin. Voila! It will be laundered and ready for the next time it’s needed.
The control room for the parades is also located in the Utilidors. Disney keeps track of all the parades through the amazing use of sensors that are built into the streets along the parade route which correspond to sensors built into the floats. The people who work in the large parade control center can monitor the movement of all the floats for stopping and starting throughout the whole parade route. Just another one of the little hidden innerworkings of the Magic Kingdom.
For safety reasons, the vehicles allowed in the Utilidors are all battery-operated – many of which are golf carts. One exception of a gas-powered vehicle navigating the tunnels is the armored truck that comes in to pick up the daily cash. (It is said that the cash office is in a very secret location and that many cast members don’t even know where it’s located.) The only other exception of a gas-powered vehicle being admitted, is an ambulance and that is only in the case of an extreme emergency.
The next time you visit Disney World and see an unmarked door, remember the Utilidors. There are many hidden entrances throughout the park. So now you know how the cast members and workers seem to “magically” appear. That magic is due, in part, to the Utilidors, but the Utilidors are due entirely to the incredible foresight and imagination of the man named Walt Disney.