By Matthew Wallace
On my last visit to Walt Disney World, I celebrated my birthday (same as Walt’s) by taking the Backstage Magic tour. It wasn’t what I had originally scheduled, but I was really excited to see some of the ‘magic’ that goes on behind the scenes. Sadly, no pictures were allowed, so I will try to give you as much description as possible.
The tour began by meeting up with everyone else outside the entrance to EPCOT at 8:45 AM. There were about 18 of us on this particular tour. After getting the rules from our Tour Guides, we boarded a Mears bus and began our adventure. First stop, The American Adventure. Now, I don’t want to give too much away for those who may want to take this tour someday, so let me just say that if you have seen this attraction from the front side? You ain’t seen nothing yet! From the back of the theater, you get a real appreciation for what it takes to coordinate the screens, animatronics, and backgrounds used in the show. It’s huge in back! One little fact I will share, the length in the back is NOT where they started. You’ll have to take the tour to find out why.
The Second Stop on our journey was costuming at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Did you ever take the Backlot Tour ride at DHS? Remember the little ‘tunnel’ you went through and these people were staring back at you through the glass? Yep, that’s costuming! On the day I was visiting the costumer was working on Minnie’s new outfit for the “Festival of Fantasy Parade”. It was in pieces, but you could kind of get an idea of how it would all come together. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back to see the finished product. Someday, I hope!
We continued our look at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a look at the Tower of Terror ride vehicles. The talk about the level of technology and the constant maintenance made me think that this ride is very safe to ride. Now, if I could just overcome my fears of bumpy, dark, falling, certain death? The size of the vehicles really caught me by surprise. I didn’t think they would be a big as they are, but I can see now why that is necessary. I found this to be particularly interesting!
The Animal Kingdom allowed a look at the Holiday adorned vehicles and floats used for the Jingle Jammin’ Parade. The detail of the floats was cool to see up close. We were told how the parade was prepped each day, how the performers practiced getting the timing just right, and how they get set up at the starting point. There’s a lot that goes on that we can’t see from the onstage view. Sadly, the parade is no more. Maybe it will return once Pandora is done?
After a quick stop at the Disney World Greenhouses, we were off to lunch at Whispering Canyon Café. Can I say that THIS was probably my favorite part of the tour? The food was fantastic! Service was second to none! And, we were treated like royalty! I can’t remember if anyone in our group asked for ketchup, but there were at least a few of the escapades while we visited.
Our final stop was The Magic Kingdom! We got to tour the Utilidors, the city beneath the park! There were a few rooms of interest on this level. And, it seemed that most of the Cast Members came in through here and made their way into the areas they were assigned. It was busy, and a really nice experience! We toured Main Street U.S.A. and got a tutorial about the windows and sound system being used for parades. Let me just say that it’s amazing the things you DON’T see when you’re in the park! And, finally, we had a front-row view of the 3 PM parade. At the time of my visit, it was nearing the end of the “Celebrate a Dream!” I know it was getting old and about to be replaced, but it was wonderful to see it from that perspective.
So, let me wrap this up by saying that this is a very expensive tour. It cost me nearly $200 and lasted for 7 hours! While seeing what I did was eye-opening and exciting at times, I am not sure I would do it again. The meal at Whispering Canyon was the highlight of the day, for me. The tour guides were good, during the tour, but when it was all over they disappeared as though hit by some extra-strength pixie dust. No have a nice day, glad you came, nothing. It didn’t ruin the magic for me, it enhanced it! After seeing all the work taking place backstage, gave me an appreciation for what happens onstage.