Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Tunnel

You may or may not know that there is a tunnel system which runs under Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Theme Park.

The story goes that Walt Disney was dissatisfied with the setup of Disneyland in California where cast members from one themed area in costume had to walk through other themed areas in order to get to work. It looked very out of place for a cowboy to be walking through Tomorrowland.. He wanted to fix this when he built his Florida theme park. He envisioned a tunnel running under the park so a castmember in a Tomorrowland costume didn’t have to walk through Fantasyland. Also deliveries could be made through the tunnel keeping the inner workings behind the magic hidden from the guests.

Other articles I’ve found on the internet love to refer to the tunnel as the Utilidor, which sounds really cool but no one who works there calls it by that name. Perhaps Utilidor might have been the name for it on some original design drawings but I’d never heard that term till the advent of Disney sites on the internet. During the three years I worked there one of my office doors opened into it. Everyone who works at the Magic Kingdom simply calls it the tunnel.

The tunnel wasn’t built as a tunnel in the traditional sense. Because the elevation in Florida is so low and the ocean so near the water table is very near the surface. Digging as deep as was needed for the tunnel would have yielded trenches filled with water, which would continuously have to be dealt with for the life of the park. Instead the tunnel and lots of rooms off it were built at the original ground level, covered over and the Magic Kingdom was built on top of that. The tunnel isn’t level, in several areas it dips under structures and the waterways above.

The Magic Kingdom Tunnel is a huge structure, at least 20 to 30 foot high in different areas, wide enough in some places for a large truck to drive through with room to spare. It’s always a hub of activity; castmembers walking to and from work or breaks, electric forklifts towing trains of carts with supplies destined for the various restaurants or retail locations, electric carts moving supplies or people to and fro, or maintenance workers on bicycles riding to a job. There are many castmembers who never set foot in the park, they spend their entire day in the areas off the tunnel (kitchens, offices, stockrooms, computer areas, cast support functions).

Doors off the tunnel lead to elevators or stairs to the park above, castmember break rooms, kitchens, storerooms, offices, and ride machinery. Overhead you’ll see a huge amount of conduits and plumbing, everything needed to run the park. There is electrical wiring; hot, cold, and chilled water (for air-conditioning and refrigeration) piped in from a long distance behind the park; communications and ride control wiring; and the Avac system.

What’s the Avac system? While walking through Disney’s parks you’ll notice custodial castmembers with dust pans on long handles and little brooms sweeping up the small trash that inevitably makes it’s way to the ground. The contents of these pans and other light trash from the trash cans in the park are taken to numerous backstage points around the park and dumped into what looks like a large trash can attached to the floor with a lid that seals. The trash falls down through a tube to the tunnel overhead area where it is stored temporarily. Periodically the Avac system “fires”, and the trash whooshes through large tubes through the whole tunnel complex. THese tubes lead to a collection facility located behinf Frontierland . There it’s loaded into conventional garbage trucks. The Avac system operates much like a toilet but with air instead of water and on a huge scale.

Disney doesn’t allow photography in the tunnel so there aren’t lot of pics out there, but if you Google image search Disney utilidor you can find some pics, also there is a cast member map you can find on the net.

Fortunately there is one way you can experience the tunnel yourself in person, you’ll need to reserve ahead of time the Keys to the Kingdom Tour a five hour walking tour which spends some time walking through the tunnel. There is an additional fee of $$78.81 for this tour on top of your regular Magic Kingdom admission, lunch is included. Tours begin at 0830, 0900, and 0930 in front of City Hall.

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