Our Backstage Magic Tour – Part 2

(originally posted on FrugalDinks May.14.2010)

Now, back to the Backstage Magic Tour.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The first thing we noticed as we drove backstage on the big cruise bus – backstage is “finished” – it looks like a hollywood studio – with good reason, it used to be a working studio.

Our first stop was the costume shop – this isn’t where the costumes for “run of the mill CMs” are made (those are contracted out) – it’s where the costumes for the performing CMs for WDW, the Disney Cruise Line, etc… are created. I was in heaven! All the fabrics and the threads and the sundries that go in to creating the costumes was intoxicating for me (because I used to sew a lot and because I still do a lot of needlework and knitting). We saw where the costumes are created, beginning with muslin “dry runs and patterns”, on to cutting tables and then the seamstresses and tailors. Most of the costumes are destroyed after they’re used because Disney doesn’t want them showing up on Ebay <giggle>. There were quite a few costumes still being stored on racks that resemble those seen in dry cleaners, way over head. Our last stop was with a documenter – her job is to document EVERYTHING for posterity. The area where she works is like a mini-museum with nicely framed and hung examples of the Millennium Parade in Epcot and the Festival of the Lion King items.

Did you know that face characters – princesses, princes, and the like – must meet certain body habitus guidelines? The costumes are one size so that all of those CM-actors must wear that particular size. This cuts down on “revealing the Magic” – because you wouldn’t want Cinderella to be two different sizes, there’s only one Cinderella – right?

At this point, another tour group had caught up with us and the going became tight. We soldiered on, returning to the bus and going over to the backstage area between Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. Another bathroom break (this time to the bathrooms in the RnR courtyard – one of our LEAST favorites on property – good thing we didn’t need to go). Our guide, Walt, had been teasing us since lunchtime about riding ToT – about 30 to 40% of our tour group had never ridden and swore that they never would! Well, as you may know, when you do the Backstage Magic Tour – you don’t ride anything except the bus.

We went inside a mechanical area (loading dock basically) to see a ride vehicle for ToT – TJ was there! (TJ is a “famous” CM because he’s been in so many commercials and so many tv specials about WDW). He was training a new CM and they went around back so as not to disturb us – I think that Nick and I were the only ones who knew who he was – years ago, we met him and had a lovely conversation – whenever we see him on stage, we try to get a photo made with him, he does an excellent job of being in character and making the guests feel special. The whole ride vehicle thing was actually rather boring, but the story that Walt told wasn’t. Nothing special, just spoke about guest-recovery as it relates to kids who aren’t big enough to ride ToT.

Do you know the Tower of Terror pickled sausage story? If you don’t, you’ll have to post a comment to find out!

Back on the bus and over to Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom

This part of our tour was broken up into two parts with a visit to the “tree farm” (actually, I’d call it the plant staging area).

Our first stop was the parade float barn for Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade – now, we’ve never seen this parade for a couple of reasons. 1. We’re rarely in AK in the afternoons. and 2. We absolutely refuse to wait for hours just to get a good viewing area for a parade.

I think it goes back to a pretty dismal viewing of the Millennium Parade in 2000 (I know that isn’t the real name, but you know what I mean). Nick and I got “caught” in a narrow area surrounded by boisterous teenagers in 2000. We were both hungry and hot and tired. The damned parade seemed like it would never end so that we could escape!

On further thought, we also had a similar experience, this one complete with a surly CM, when we tried to see the Spectromagic Parade in 2004. People being rude, running over you with strollers, going the wrong way when it was clear that you should do “x” to get out of the area. Sigh, guess we just don’t “do” parades.

The floats were amazingly intricate and detailed. Wow! Again, this appealed to the “fiber-artist” in me. While leaving the area, Nick saw them putting Goofy on his float using a forklift – so that’s how the characters get up there.

At the tree farm, we learned that since WDW expanded to include Epcot, the plant area isn’t large enough to supply ALL the plants and flowers that WDW requires on a regular basis. These days, most of them, especially perennials, come from outside growers. We went into the topiary area – of course it’s mostly empty because of the Flower and Garden Festival, but we were able to see how the topiaries are made (photos at a later date). The huge wire structures have a much smaller wire structure inside for ventilation (Disney discovered that if they just packed the huge forms with moss, the topiary would begin to rot from the inside out – yuck.) The moss that they use comes from Norway? Sweden? someplace like that <grin> because it’s the best suited for making the topiaries and being bacteria and bug-free.

Back to Animal Kingdom where we had a private viewing area for the parade. Now this is the way to see a parade! Nick took a lot of photos and many of them turned out excellent – I’ll post those separately. As always for me, seeing dancing characters & hearing Disney music put a smile on my face and a wiggle in my dance. Very enjoyable.

Afterwards, back to Epcot and the tour was over.

Final Thoughts

We received pins after the tour – very nice pins in fact – Walt pointed out that they’re valuable on the pin-trading market (big whoop! if I get a pin, it’s because I want to wear it, not trade it!)

Would we do the tour again? Maybe, but not for a while. Like I said at the beginning, we really knew a lot before we took the tour. While we weren’t DISAPPOINTED in taking it, it wasn’t as “gee golly whiz” as it might be for some guests.

We were grateful for the ready supply of cold dasani water throughout the tour. Thank goodness! It was hot & we got rather sweaty. Plus the air conditioning in the tour bus was appreciated.

do you have any thoughts? comments? have you ever done a backstage magic or other tour?

Thanks for listening,

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