The Utilidors at Magic Kingdom

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Did you know that as you walk along Main Street USA at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom you are walking on the second floor of the park?

Yes, it’s true! As you walk through the Magic Kingdom there is a whole unseen world just below your feet. It’s a series of service tunnels which cast members call Utilidors. The name is a mash-up of Utilities and Corridors.

Florida is very flat and it’s mostly made of sand. If you dig a hole almost anywhere in Florida you will find water just a few feet down! That’s why very few homes in Florida have basements; most are built on concrete pads which lay directly on the sand.

Back in the mid 60’s when Disney began construction in Florida the Utilidors were the first thing they built! They didn’t excavate the tunnel system; they built it on top of the ground. Then as soon as the network of tunnels and service areas was completed they began dredging sand to create the Seven Seas Lagoon. All the sand they dredged was piled around the Utilidors and raised the ground level throughout the Magic Kingdom by 10 to 12 feet. Just like that the Utilidors were underground!

Here’s an experiment for you! The next time you are entering the Magic Kingdom, after you’ve gone through the bag-check area, stop for a minute and look ahead toward the Main Street Train Station. Do you see that gentle but steady upward slope? Now turn 180° and face the Seven Seas Lagoon. Do you see the downward slope?

That’s where all the sand went when they created the lake. As you walk up that slope you are walking from ground level to the second floor!

Magic Kingdom Utilidor construction

The picture above shows the construction of the Utilidors. Click on the image to see a larger version. Those cars and trucks in the foreground, at the very bottom of the picture are parked in the Utilidor, in the area that we now know as The New Fantasyland. In the background you can see Cinderella Castle taking shape, and at the very top of the picture are the buildings at the top end of Main Street USA. The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on the left and Casey’s Corner on the right. The Utilidors run under all of it!

Over the years Carol and I have enjoyed a number of tours at Walt Disney World. I really enjoy getting behind the scenes to get a glimpse of the “backstage” areas and listen to some of the insider information that the guides share with guests.

One of our first tours was the “Keys to the Kingdom” tour at the Magic Kingdom and it remains one of my favourite!

Why was it special? Because we got to go down into the Utilidors!

We weren’t there very long, but it was a real eye-opening experience.

There really is a tiny city down there that is totally invisible to guests just a few feet above!

Overhead are color-coded pipes, ducts, flues and conduits carrying all the necessary utilities to keep the theme park functioning. On the walls are signs and arrows providing directions to the many corners of the park which can be accessed underground.

Underfoot are tiled or polished concrete floors, some with directional stripes like in a hospital to help folks navigate. “Follow the purple stripe to the wardrobe department.”

It’s a hive of activity. People, equipment and merchandise are in constant motion.

There are forklifts moving inventory to the stores and restaurants above, there are cast members walking to work or heading to a break room or a meeting room. There are lockers and lunch rooms for the cast members, wardrobe, makeup and personnel departments. Cast members can even do their banking or get a hair cut in the Utilidors.

As our tour group walked through the main corridor beneath The Emporium we heard a very loud rumble overhead. It was so loud that our tour guide paused in her presentation and continued once the racket had died down. “That was the trash going to the recycling department.” she said.

There is a system of big pipes overhead that form a huge air-powered garbage chute, sort of like a giant central vacuum system. Cast members open hatches located in backstage areas around the park and toss in the trash. It all gets sucked to the central recycling area where it’s sorted for processing.
Not my idea of the world’s best job;
– “paper in dumpster A”
– “plastic in dumpster B”
– “food waste in dumpster C”
– “carefully wipe the sunglasses and cell phones then sent them to Lost and Found”

Magic Kingdom Utilidors

The diagram pictured above shows the extent of the system of tunnels. It extends south to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, north to the Pinocchio Village Haus Restaurant, east to Tomorrowland and west to Frontierland and Adventureland.

Disney asks guests to refrain from taking pictures while backstage, so I have no pictures of the Utilidors to share with you. The two images I have included in this blog are used in many web sites with no source mentioned. Whoever originally provided the images, thanks for sharing!

There’s plenty more than the Utilidors included in the Keys to the Kingdom tour, but in my opinion the opportunity to walk down those stairs and navigate a bit of the tunnel system was worth the entire cost of the tour!

If you haven’t already done the tour, give it some thought for a future trip!

Details can be found HERE.

Gary hails from Canada and he’s a lifelong Disney fan. In the 1950s he watched the original Mickey Mouse Club and The Wonderful World of Disney on a snowy old black-and-white television. Gary was mesmerized by the Disneyland that Walt introduced to the world during those Sunday night shows! In 1977 he took his young family to Walt Disney World for the first time and suddenly that Disney magic he experienced as a child was rekindled. Since then Gary and his wife Carol have enjoyed about 70 trips to Walt Disney World, 11 trips to Disneyland and 11 Disney Cruises.

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6 Replies to “The Utilidors at Magic Kingdom”

  1. Hello Gary, as I was reading your article I got to thinking. I knew there were utilidors and the slope as you enter the park. But something hit me this time. Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mtn. All have ramps that lead down to the level of the utilidors. It’s funny that I just thought of that. As I rode ISW and POTC, I have always wondered why the ceilings look like they are over 30 feet high. Now I know.
    Thanks for your time and knowledge.

  2. I agree. Been to WDW many times. Been to Disneyland years ago. Went again last year and it can’t be beat.

    You stay on site (Grand Californian) and you can truly park hop, not only to parks but to Downtown Disney and your hotel plus Disneyland Hotel. Trader Sam’s is much better–live Hawaiian entertainment. I enjoyed Small World and Haunted Mansion so much more. Cars Land is spectacular.

    Entertainment is so much better, but, considering you’re in LA, I can see why. So glad we got to see Aladdin show before it left for Frozen. We were sitting in nosebleed section but glad we were due to the flying carpets.

    Can’t wait until they finish Star Wars land because we’ll then go back. Sure wish they wouldn’t have gotten rid of the barbecue place though. So good!

  3. After many trips to Disney World, I made my first trip back to Disneyland in 30 years this past summer. It was kind of odd to see cast members walking along Harbor blvd. from a parking lot already dressed for work. Just don’t see that at Disneyworld. The utilidors I’m sure have something to do with that. (As a side, my trip to Disneyland was much more enjoyable than my last few visits to Disneyworld. Disneyworld has lost some of its luster over the past decade. Disneyland has temporarily restored my faith in the parks).

    [Gary writes: Yes, it certainly is more common to see cast members in the “wrong” place at Disneyland. I once saw Kirk, the lead hillbilly in Billy Hill and the Hillbillies strolling past Pirates of the Caribbean. It seemed a bit in-congruent! And I agree with you about the “feel” of the two resorts. I still feel much more of Walt’s influence when we visit Disneyland. His ideals are not nearly as apparent, in my opinion, at Walt Disney World.]

  4. Hi Gary –

    I also have had the pleasure of taking the Keys to the Kingdom Tour, in 2006. Seems like only yesterday!! It was worth every penny of the cost. Disney lifts up just enough of a tiny corner of the Magic Blanket to make us Disney fans want to learn more about and see more of backstage. Thanks for a great article.

    – Jeff

  5. One of my fondest memories is also The Keys to the Kingdom tour. I’ve been to WDW hundreds of times, have had many experiences, yet this is my favorite tour. Still have the Key pin, name card, and everything else they gave us. It’s not the longest or most expensive tour, but to me it is the best. Maybe because it’s centered around what always interested me the most, Magic Kingdom.

    It’s not an exhausting tour, nor is it boring. The only stipulation is children under 16 (I think it’s 16) are not allowed on the tour, for obvious reasons. I highly recommend it if you’ve been to WDW a number of times and want something different to do.

  6. Hi Gary,
    I agree that this tour is great. My husband and I did this tour many years ago so I was surprised to see how the price of the tour increased. It is still worth the price though.