Sams Disney Diary Episode #49 – Walt Disney Worlds Keys to the Kingdom backstage tour.
The Video Edition “SamsDisneyDiary Episode #49” below, features a ride on the Jungle Cruise like no other, inside information on the Haunted Mansion, The Enchanted Tiki Room and Pirates of the Caribbean, The video is direct from our Keys to the Kingdom tour guide. Hope you enjoy!
Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom backstage tour… Keys to the Kingdom! This 5-hour walking tour focused on the creation, development and daily operation of the Magic Kingdom. A simple walk down Main Street is transformed into a history lesson with intriguing stories about Walt, his vision, philosophies and accomplishments. The tour is age restricted; all guests must be over 16 with a photo ID. Previously, I had participated in the Epcot Segway Tour, a great way to combine a futuristic means of transportation with a behind the scenes look at World Showcase. I blogged about the Segway tour here at samsdisneydiary.com.
One of the biggest differences was Keys to the Kingdom included a trip backstage. It was a combination of “onstage” and “backstage” locations. I was able to use my camera while the tour was “onstage”, but it was restricted while “backstage”. The backstage location included the parade building, the building where all of the parade floats are kept. The parade building is between Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, which alone was interesting. These attractions are normally a 15 minute walk from each other onstage. Standing backstage looking at the two buildings, they are now a mere 2 minute walk away. Wow.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself. There are 3 tours a day, starting at 8:30, 9:00 and 9:30am. Check park hours, as always times and locations are subject to change. For the latest information and to book your tour check the official Disney parks page for Keys to the Kingdom. Our tour was 9:00 am, the same time as rope drop. We arrived about 15 minutes early (you can get into the Magic Kingdom and check in at the Chamber of Commerce). Once checked in, Main Street was just about empty!!! I recommend an early tour because the photo pass photographers will be out and more than willing to take a picture on an empty Main Street for you. You’ll get to pick your lunch, as the tour stops at Columbia Harbor House, and get a headset so you can hear your tour guide. Of course I had my camera, but most of the audio from the tour itself is bad. I used what I could in the video edition of this blog.
Being in the park at the Chamber of Commerce Building before opening gave me the unique view of watching the rope drop and the wave of people running down Main Street… I’ve heard about it, so it was interesting to witness. After a few minutes, the crowd had moved down Main Street, and we started our tour. The tour traced the history of Walt Disney World, and our tour guide James surely had a passion for the story. He pointed out windows along Main Street and gave a quick history lesson on each. Did you know Walt has two windows on Main Street USA? There were stories about original Imagineers and about the strategy for acquiring the land that would become Walt Disney World.
One of the most interesting parts of the tour was riding two classic attractions. First was the Jungle Cruise, but this was a Jungle Cruise like no other. In fact, the skipper handed the microphone to our tour guide who gave us a history lesson about the Jungle Cruise and shared some of its secrets, such as, “I Love Disco”. I was able to record that cruise, and it’s part of the video. After the Jungle Cruise, we found a place to sit at the Tortuga Tavern and continued our history lesson of park development. It’s amazing to me how many places 10 people could find to just sit and talk while everyone else in the park was running ride to ride. It helped that Tortuga Tavern was running seasonal hours, but isn’t it always?
After a quick restroom stop, we headed backstage…finally! We made the left just past the Golden Oak Outpost, before Splash Mountain where the parades start. You would think as soon as you pass the gate you’re backstage. In reality, there is another line that actually starts backstage. The parade performers start and end their performances based on the out of sight backstage line. So if you’re watching the parade end, the performance continues until the performers are out of public view.
We walked down a ramp to an area between Splash and Pirates; the buildings from the back are very plain, in fact not even marked. We saw lots of ride vehicles in various stages of restoration, all neatly placed and ready to be worked on. The parade building was straight ahead, a large shed housing all of the Magic Kingdom parade vehicles. Elliot, Pete’s Dragon, just fit while Big Ben (Clock Tower) from the Main Street Electrical Parade needed to have the top lowered. Like an umbrella, the center folds down for storage. The Boo to You Parade and Christmas Parade were both under clear plastic, and I had to ask about Spectro Magic. According to the tour guide, Spectro was in the building until “earlier this summer” (about the time the rumored fire
destroyed most of the floats). Note to self, if you’re storing lights for an extended period of time, take the batteries out. After the parade building and quick look at the Splash Mountain Reservoir, we headed back “onstage” and headed through Frontierland towards the Columbia Harbor House. Our tour guide continued to tell us stories about the history of Frontierland as we traveled the Wild West to New England. Lunch was waiting for us upstairs in a private area of the Harbor House; it’s been a while since I’ve eaten at the Harbor House. I’m not sure why, but the food was great!! Don’t let anyone try to tell you what’s good and bad about any restaurant; give it a try. The Fried Shrimp was great!
After lunch, we headed for our second group ride… the Haunted Mansion. It wasn’t the same as the Jungle Cruise, but our tour guide told us what to look for, and we talked about it after the ride. We made our way from the Haunted Mansion towards the Crystal Palace. This is where we
made our second trip “backstage”. We went through a Cast Member entrance near First-Aid and the Baby Care Center. That basically put the Jungle Cruise on our right and the back of Main Street on our left. There were lots of people and activity here, unlike the parade building which was empty. We walked toward the front of the park and entered the back of the Emporium. That’s when we took the steps down into the Utilidors! Finally… the stuff of legend! The tunnels below the Magic Kingdom, I’m not sure what I was expecting, are more like hallways as in any office building. There are rooms for electric, storage, conference rooms, supplies, offices and break rooms. It was disconnected from the rest of the Magic Kingdom with real music was playing, not background music. It was just cool to be under Main Street. The tour continued “around” Town Square, toward the front of the park, then down the opposite side of Main Street USA.
Our tour guide continued his story of the Magic Kingdom with pictures and props placed along our tour. It was obvious that this was the “Tour” area of the Utilidor, the “almost” backstage, but not actually backstage area that’s set up for tour groups. The tour was very controlled and planned, and one of the coolest stops for me was the Pin Check-In Center. This is where cast members get their trading pins for the day. Wish I could have traded right there We finished the
tour backstage behind Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and headed back to the Chamber of Commerce. Where did the 5 hours go?
Overall, the tour was great!! I’m glad we decided to add it to our adult trip, and I would do it again. Park Admission and advance reservations are required. The cost?…A reasonable $79.00. For reservations call 407-WDW-TOUR (407) 939-8687 or check the latest details online. Be sure to ask for discounts, Disney Visa, Annual Pass, D23, DVC and even AAA may be accepted.
Hope you enjoyed the blog and video. Sharing my passion for Disney is something I love to do. For all of my latest blogs be sure to visit www.samsdisneydiary.com, follow me on twitter @samsdisneydiary like the show on facebook and for of my videos be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel www.youtube.com/samsdisneydiary.