Thursday, January 19, 2006

Day Five AM - Magic Kingdom

My day began at 6:30 AM with the usual character wake-up call. I used one of my counter service dining credits on the Waffle Platter from the Food Court. Today was the day we were taking the “Keys to the Kingdom” Tour and I knew we wouldn’t be able to eat until lunchtime.

The bus to the Magic Kingdom pulled up just as we arrived at the bus stop and we were on our way. Even though the park hadn’t officially opened yet, we were able to duck under the rope and make our way to the tour check-in area located next door to City Hall on Main Street. We checked in and were given a tour badge with our names on it and a radio with an earpiece to wear during the tour. We also made our lunch selections from a menu. Coffee and bottled water were available to us.

Our tour guide’s name was Mandy and she had first come to work at WDW through the college program. We began on Main Street, stopping periodically for Mandy to share interesting bits of information about the Park. She also explained to us the four Keys to the Kingdom: Safety, Courtesy, Show and Effeciency and we discussed examples of each that we found on Main Street. Our next stop was Adventureland were we boarded our own Jungle Cruise boat. More bits of information and trivia were shared during the cruise.

Moving from Adventureland, we moved to the far end of Frontierland and after waving at the passing train, were treated to a tour of the backstage area. Making our way down the road to the gate in the fence, Mandy pointed out a line painted in the road and explained that it marked the boundary between what is considered “onstage” and “backstage.” Anyone in the “onstage” could possibly be seen by a guest passing by and they should ensure that they are in character.

Backstage was pretty average looking which didn’t really come as a surprise. There’s no reason for any type of theming in that area. We saw warehouses containing the floats for the parades and a hippo that had been brought from the Jungle Cruise to have his tooth repaired. Interestingly, only the portion of the hippo that actually showed above the water was built to look like a hippo.

After returning to the Park, we made our way back through Frontierland where Mandy pointed out the RFID’s imbedded along the parade route. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and is used by Disney to monitor the position of the float as well as control the lights and music on the float to make sure it stays in sync with the rest of the parade.

Lunch was at the Columbia Harbour House restaurant which serves sandwiches, fish and chips and chicken strips. The entire upstairs dining area was reserved for the tours and we entered the dining area to find the lunches we had pre-ordered that morning waiting for us. We were also given a pin shaped like a key as a memento of our “Keys to the Kingdom” tour.

After lunch we rode the Haunted Mansion, during which time Mandy tried to communicate interesting bits of information to us via the earpieces we were wearing. At least I think that’s what she was doing. All Jason and I heard was a bunch of static.

Exiting the Haunted Mansion, we made our way through Fantasyland and the Castle and back to Main Street. We entered one of the shops and made our way to the back of the store where we again went backstage. There were actually two sets of doors situated a few feet apart that we had to go through. This was to prevent any guest shopping in the store to see backstage, thereby increasing the mystery of the backstage area. The two sets of doors were not supposed to be opened at the same time, so a few of us at time had to go through the first set of doors, wait in the small space, then once the first set of doors were firmly closed we could proceed through the second set of doors.

This backstage area looked very similar to the first area we visited, only this time we were led to a set of stairs and invited to descend into the bowels of the Park, the infamous tunnel called the Utilidor. This underground tunnel is used to transport food, merchandise, trash and employees to and from different areas of the Park. We toured through the halls, stopping periodically so Mandy could impart interesting information. One stop was in front of a large bulletin board and computer kiosk where Cast Members could check their schedules and pick up their daily pocket schedule. In spite of being told at the beginning of the tour that we were allowed to take anything from backstage, one man picked up one of the pocket schedules. Mandy immediately spotted it and asked him to return it, which he very sheepishly did. Also posted on the board were seven traits of good customer service. Each one was based on one of the Seven Dwarfs. For example: Bashful: Don’t be shy, make eye contact with each guest. I wish I could remember the rest of them.

After wandering around the tunnel for a while, we emerged into the bright sun only to find ourselves in the VIP Cast Member parking lot. This lot is limited to a small number of important cast members. The majority of cast members park in a lot located at the edge of the property and take a bus to the cast member entrance. It was here that Mandy showed us the spot where Tinkerbelle lands after she makes her magical flight from the castle during the fireworks.

It was now time for the tour to end so we followed Mandy through a gate and emerged near the very front of the Park next to Tony’s Italian Restaurant. We gave Mandy back our earpieces and thanked her for a wonderful tour. Before leaving the park to go back to the hotel for a rest, we stopped by City Hall to fill out a compliment card. Unlike Disneyland where they give you a form to complete, the Cast Member filled out the form for us. It was a little awkward, but much quicker than agonizing over what to say.


Post a Comment

<< Home