Our Backstage Magic Tour – Part 1

(originally posted on FrugalDinks May.12.2010)

Yesterday, we took the Backstage Magic Tour; this tour was focused on the four WDW theme parks and provided a glimpse of what goes on backstage to create the magic we all enjoy.

Right up front, while we enjoyed the tour – we’re big readers, I’m a particularly avid reader of books about WDW and about Walt Disney & Nick has begun to dive into WDW literature – there wasn’t really anything in it that we haven’t seen elsewhere on the ‘net or in ink & paper books or in electronic books. In fact, some stuff that we had expected to see or hear about – not there.

Our tour guide was a business type – for the two of us, it might have been more enjoyable if it was all about business-stuff backstage. Or, it might have been more fascinating if it wasn’t about business AT ALL. Nothing wrong with the tour guide, when he was on a topic that he felt really excited about – it showed in a good way. Some of the stories that he told, well, I’d read them before or Nick had seem them before (Nick has made it a practice to use some of the materials from the Disney Institute in creating the practices and the culture at the other business we have).

So, on to the tour —

Spoiler Alert — I’m trying to keep the details to a minimum in case anyone wants to read this AND wants to do the tour (or do it again)

We started out by meeting near the Guest Relations window on the right of Epcot’s entrance. We had to go through security and bag check and contrary to what we had been told, we weren’t checked in at Guest Services but at a little bitty sign in a planter in front of Guest Services. There were 19 people in our group – all couples except for three friends from northeast England. After doing introductions and getting our badges, we trooped out to a Disney Cruise Line Bus to start the tour.

First stop on the tour was American Adventure – enter Epcot’s on-stage area via a sidewalk on the left of the American pavilion, stop out front talk some, answer some trivia, go backstage via a sidewalk on the right – enter AA & see the attraction undergoing it’s morning trial runs. This was pretty neat, but as I’m currently reading “Building a Better Mouse” – the images I’m making in my mind while reading are more detailed than what we saw.

Pretty neat to see how large the rear projection screen is, could see some of the carriage mechanism for moving the various sub-stages (my word) with audio-animatronics, saw Mark Twain’s (well, one of them) audio-animatronic head sans wig & with wiring exposed.

Other things that we observed backstage – the colonial ship that’s usually near the American Gardens Theater was docked in the back for rehab (we suppose), backstage areas are really spartan (no reason to use money on areas guests aren’t going to see), numerous grills & seating outside, lots of shipping containers being used as storage

Next we went over to Central Shops. This was the first building at WDW and was used to build the Magic Kingdom (& everything that followed). Story is that when development on WDW started, it was so hard to find Central Shops (where hiring took place), that if you could find it, you were judged to be smart & persistent & you got a job.

The mechanical geek and the artistic geek in me liked this a lot. This is where rides are made & painted & tested. This is where signs all over property are created, either electronically or painted by hand (loved the smell in the sign area). Really cool to see boxes and boxes of materials waiting to be transformed into wonderful “toys”

Then it was on to Magic Kingdom. We entered MK via a backstage area next to Tony’s Town Square; first on-tour bathroom break. The tour was timed so that we arrived to the center island in front of the train station, facing Cinderella Castle, as the parade started (Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It!) After the parade passed by (it’s rather short), we went up Main Street learning about the various windows, about the architecture, about forced perspective (there was a quick demo of forced perspective at AA in Epcot), etc… Pretty neat, again, but the “Imagineering Field Guide” books provide a lot of this detail in a highly entertaining manner.

We stopped at the entryway to the “white & yellow umbrella” area near the Plaza Resturaunt – there’s an inclined walkway that leads down to the patio area next to the water. Our guide pointed out that WDW is respectful of their guests that smoke, and that the area down there was smoking permissible, WDW doesn’t want smokers to have to stand around a trash can. Well, the sign indicated that the area was smoking permissible, BUT there were two smoking trash cans next to the sign & there were no smoking trash cans or ashtrays on the white & yellow umbrella patio. I kept my mouth shut on that one.

Backstage again to see the Utilidoors. Pretty cool to see them in person, but if you NEVER see them, you ain’t missed much. When we came back up from the Utilidoors, it was time for lunch at Whispering Canyon Cafe.

Whispering Canyon Cafe – we had a very nice server, Deddy. He cracked a few jokes & played a few practical jokes on us all – nothing too extreme. Lunch was a specially prepared  repast (they paid attention to any food issues – we were asked about these before the tour began) – the usual ribs, chicken, sausage, mashed potatoes, baked beans, cole slaw, and cornbread; and a specially prepared peach & strawberry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. Lunch was good, but not fabulous; I suppose it was better than Mama Melrose’s (the previous lunch stop) – based on our personal experience with Mama’s.

Oops! I forgot about dairy for me! If I ate that ice cream, I’d have to stop the tour in about half an hour and just get off the bus for good. Well, Deddy and the chef were very nice; no way I could have cobbler without ice cream, but would I like pecan pie? apple pie? chocolate cake?  I went for the apple pie & I must say, this is what I’d order if I ever had dessert there again. It was a bit sweet, but not nearly as much as the cobbler; the apples were sliced very thin and really packed into the cake-like crust and were topped with crumble & caramel.

Okay, that’s enough for now 🙂

I’ll continue tomorrow with what happened after lunch.

nora

p.s. Other books I can recommend

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