What REALLY Goes on in the Disney World Tunnels?

If you’re a big Disney World fan, you probably know that there are a series of tunnels beneath the Magic Kingdom, known as the Utilidors. Maybe you’ve even seen some of the Utilidors when you’ve taken the Keys to the Kingdom tour.

Magic Kingdom Tunnels

But have you wondered what REALLY goes on in those mysterious passageways? We’re not talking about BEYOND what you might see on the tour!

We have some former cast member friends who’ve shared these secrets with us. But SPOILER ALERT:  don’t read on if you’re afraid of having a little bit of the Disney magic ruined.

First, a little background. The Utilidor tunnels were created so cast members could move throughout the Magic Kingdom more quickly, without having to deal with the crowds. Plus, cast members can move around without being seen. Walt Disney did not want a Tomorrowland cast member, for example, to be seen in Frontierland. The costumes are so vastly different — seeing an out of place cast member could ruin the magic.

Adventureland Cast Members

But, beyond just getting around, the areas underground are where a majority of Magic Kingdom cast members go to take  a break and relax for a bit. There are locker rooms, break rooms, and a cafeteria, as well as grab-and-go food spots located in the tunnels.

The cafeteria is known as the “Mouseketeria.” This is where most of the Magic Kingdom cast members grab a quick bite to eat. There are three different dining options to choose from, one of which is the popular sandwich chain, Subway.

Costuming, dressing rooms, and makeup rooms are also located in the tunnels. In costuming, entertainment cast members check out their basics, which is the required athletic wear. This is either a gray or white t-shirt with black basketball shorts. Costuming for entertainment cast members has to be in the tunnels because, unlike other cast member costumes, these outfits are not allowed to be taken off Disney property. The costumes must be turned in at the end of each day to protect the integrity of the characters and the costumes themselves.

Each day, entertainment cast members pick up their costumes for the day. Because many of these performers portray multiple characters, what they “check out” will depend on their location for the day. Rolling black suitcases line the hallway, which allow the cast members to transport their costumes throughout the tunnels easier and without drawing attention. Performers will load up their costumes into these bags and will scan their castmember IDs before exiting the room in a system that keeps track of who has checked out which items. Cast members can be charged for pieces that are not returned within a certain period of time.

Winnie the Pooh

Dressing rooms and makeup areas allow so-called “face characters” (that is, those who don’t wear masks over their faces, like Cinderella or Gaston) to get prepped and ready for the day. But, before performers can go out and do their jobs, they must warm-up. Therefore, there is a warm-up room in the tunnels as well. These warm-ups are led by a coach, who will make sure that the performers’ bodies are stretched and ready to go. This is done to help prevent injuries on the job.

The tunnels are a really special place because it’s where you will see Belle chatting with Piglet and a Frontierland quick service cast member talking to a Tomorrowland merchandise cast member.

This is also a fun place for cast members, at times. Sometimes, Disney invites in vendors, so cast members can shop. They bring in DJs for special events. They throw parties for holidays and they even have rare character meet and greets. Yeah, all of this just might be happening beneath your feet as you walk around the Magic Kingdom. Crazy, right?

Another really cool feature of the tunnels are the trash pipes. These are more like chutes that are installed on the ceilings of the tunnels. They were created to transport Disney trash from one end of the park to another, so you don’t see cast members carrying large bags of trash around or overflowing trash cans.

How do cast members know where they are in the tunnels? The walls are painted a different color depending on which land you’re in — or under, I should say. Also, you’ll know you’re standing beneath the Cinderella Castle because there is a very large dip, which had to be created because of the moat.

Cinderella Castle

So, as you can see, the tunnels really are a unique place where magic can be made… or spoiled. And, another fun fact, there are tunnels beneath Epcot as well. They are much smaller, but have a very similar dynamic!

We’d also like to apologize for the lack of photos. Disney prohibits them to preserve the magic, obviously.

Have you ever been in the tunnels beneath Magic Kingdom? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Debra Martin Koma wrote about food, travel and lifestyle issues for a number of local and national publications before she fell in love with Walt Disney World on her first visit — when she was 34! She's returned to her Laughing Place more times than she can count in the ensuing years, and enthusiastically shares her passion with readers of AllEars.Net and AllEars®. Deb also co-authored (along with Deb Wills) PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, a travel guide designed for all travelers to Walt Disney World who may require special attention, from special diets to mobility issues.

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18 Replies to “What REALLY Goes on in the Disney World Tunnels?”

  1. Did it as part of a special multi park tour many years ago but don’t have any recollection anymore of where we entered or exited

  2. Think of the tunnels as borrowing tunnels underground with small and sometimes larger rooms attached to them. Not everywhere you were standing in the Magic Kingdom is above a tunnel or a part of the utility such as the cafeteria, cash control, costuming or a break room. Much of the underground is soil. Not everywhere you’re standing above ground is above a room or utility corridor. Attractions such as the Liberty Tree actually do sit above an area that is nothing but soil. The corridors and utility spaces were built first and then covered over like a pitcher’s mound with the park built on top. That’s why the park doesn’t cave in.

  3. I took a tour of the utilidoors about 10 yrs ago. I still talk about it. We had a tour guide for our group of 6. Ate lunch at Columbia Harbor House. It was awesome.

  4. Disney used to employ an outside company to photograph their events. I used to work for one of the photography companies. So I have been in the tunnels a handful of times. I also once was able to drive my car into Tomorrowland in the very early morning hours.

  5. I took the key to the kingdom tour 2years ago,best birthday ever. I heard rumors about tunnels under Disney since I wasa kid. It was cool to experience this. Unfortunately photos are not allowed in the tunnelsbut the memory will always be with me. Tour is available but extra cost.

  6. I took a tour a few yrs ago that culminated underground. It added more to the Magic of WDW. The attention to detail in every aspect of design whether above or below ground was incredible. Now every time I’m in the magic kingdom I point out to my family where one entrance to the utilitdoor is. They’re sick of me saying it but how exciting it is that all these yrs later I’m still talking about it. It’s like I’m privy to an amazing secret. I do remember a distinct smell underneath though. Lol.

  7. Did the KTTK tour last fall and really enjoyed it. It didn’t really destroy the magic, as to me part of the magic is how well thought out everything is at WDW. Th Utilidors are the high point of that thought process. Being old 🙂 and retired, seeing the Utilidors and the cast members made me a bit jealous I wasn’t younger and could try for employment there. I also have to shout out to our tour guide, who was simple amazing. I wrote to Disney giving her a “thumbs up” and hoping they recognize her ability.

  8. Yes we have been in the tunnels below the MK very impressive how they get around. Like a small city with food areas, dressing rooms, and so on. They have golf carts etc to move thru the park very fast! If you ever want to see this and its for Adults only its called Keys To The Kingdom I would highly recommend it. You sure learn a lot.

  9. I’ve taken the Keys tour and been in the tunnels. They are amazing and I enjoyed all the behind the scenes info. As a grown women who has been to WDW over 15 times I did loose some Disney Magic. It’s crazy and I do know it’s not real but once that bubble is popped there’s no going back.

  10. I’m curious about how the weight of things above ground don’t affect the tunnels. If they are big enough for all that. That is a lot of open space down there. How can it not cave in?

  11. worked at Disney for 27 years and can tell lots of fun things that happen in the tunnel area. It’s a tour every one should see. it’s sad now when I visit the parks things are so different from when I worked there. they have become to lenient on dress code such as facial hair and the length of men’s hair now. I started in the 70’s when things were very different.

  12. WDW needs to put the Utilidors back to work. Lots of people reporting seeing cast members roaming out of their assigned areas these days.

  13. Loved the Keys to the Kingdom tour. I wish I could have spent the day just taking time to read each placard and poster, pin display, etc. It was so wonderful and our guide was so knowledgeable and loved sharing her experience with us.

    1. My high school marching band played at Magic Kingdom in 1983 and we were staged in the Utilador prior to the leader with strict rules about not taking photos and so forth. I can still picture being in there!