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By James R. Warda

1.  It truly is the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Whether it’s because Orlando sits in some weird dimensional time shift or the laws of physics are suspended there, it is physically impossible to be somber at Disney World. In fact, even frowning is frowned upon.

2.  The minute you arrive, you become part of a fairy tale. Unfortunately, when you get home, it’s hard to come back to reality. In fact, I’m still trying to convince my boss that I’m King James and have a Princess Daughter. Though it’s not as hard to convince my daughter.

3.  Walt used to love walking through Disneyland in the morning  before anyone else had arrived. When we take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and walk down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, before the park has officially opened, we know why he did, and what he was probably feeling. 

4.  Watching old B-movies with our kids at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. After all, where else can you be harassed by carhops, dunk French fries in your shake, and tell your kids to stop poking each other in the back seat, all while enjoying the nuanced storyline of “The Giant Gila Monster”?

5.  The Kitchen Sink dessert at Beaches and Cream in the Beach Club Resort. Eight scoops of ice cream covered with fudge, fruit, caramel, nuts and candy bars – with an entire can of Whipped Cream on top. But don’t worry; I always ask for a diet drink.

6.  Every time you go to Disney World, something will happen that you’ll remember the rest of your life. On our most recent trip, my nine-year-old daughter forgot her purse – with her cell phone inside – on the monorail, which meant that life as we knew it stopped. After sharing our story with Security, they radioed the train we’d been on, and asked the conductor to drop it off at the next station, so another train could pick it up on the way back. Within half an hour, I was giving Alexandra’s purse back to her. While Disney had given her something even more important – the belief that magic does exist.

7.  Watching my family’s faces as they try the different Coca-Cola products at Club Cool, especially the ones they don’t like. As for me, when I drink “Beverly” from Italy, I end up looking like Yoda. Or Ernest Borgnine.

8.  The Friendship boats that take you between the parks and resorts. In fact, just saying “Friendship” makes you feel good. It’s definitely better than “Acquaintance Flotilla.”

9.  The miniature village and trains in the Germany Pavilion at the World Showcase. I don’t care how old the man, the minute he sees those trains, he becomes seven again. And he doesn’t even want a refund on his adult ticket.

    9-1/2.  Why a half? To remember that you can’t do anything halfway at Disney. You have to commit, like Walt did. After all, he’s the same man who bought a first class train ticket for Hollywood, to try to become a director, after his Laugh-O-Gram company in Kansas City failed. When his wife Lillian was asked later why Walt would buy such an expensive ticket when he had almost no money, she said it was because “he always liked the best way.”* And, all you have to do is ride “Peter Pan’s Flight,” watch “Illuminations,” listen to the detailed “backstory” behind the Tower of Terror, or sit wide-eyed on the Kilimanjaro safari, to realize that Walt’s commitment to perfection endures.

What are your reasons?


*“Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler, pp. 77. (2006, Vintage Books)

Copyright 2010, James R. Warda. All rights reserved. James R. Warda, author of Where Are We Going So Fast?, is a Speaker, Writer and Workshop Presenter on finding meaning in our moments. He has written and spoken for Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Chicago Tribune.


The “Year of a Million Dreams” promotion is now a thing of the past. The year long celebration began on October 1, 2006 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California was extended and ended in December of 2008.

The promotion enabled Disney Cast Members to award a million dreams to randomly chosen guests as part of the”Disney Dreams Giveaway” promotion. Many of these dreams were priceless experiences.

Ever imagine having the Magic Kingdomto yourself? The winners of this prize, the Spangler family from Ohio, did just that. These lucky VIP’s toured each land and enjoyed the attractions as the Disney characters greeted them. The Spangler’s were interviewed on Good Morning America and dined with Disney “royalty”.  They also served as the Grand Marshal of the daily parade and concluded their day with a special viewing of Wishes.

No doubt one of the most coveted awards was a one night stay in the royal bedchamber being that it is constructed inside Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World. A comparable Mickey Mouse Penthouse at the Disneyland Hotel had emersed a lucky guest in Mickey decor with spectacular views of the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks. These are just a few examples of the fantastic things Disney has done in real life, but my challenge is to let your mind run free. If you could imagineer your own “Disney Dream” , what would it be like?

My son Jacob would like a VIP bagde that would allow him full access to any theme park ride without waiting in line. My Daughter Caitlyn would like Epcot all to herself, her friends, and her family. My wife and fellow Disney blogger Melissa, says she wants an all access pass behind the scenes to Animal Kingdom so she can have first hand experiences with all the animals there.

Myself, I would like to be able to have a “ friends and family”  weeklong get together at The Wilderness Lodge with park passes for everyone. I have several friends and family that would never be able to go and experience the “Magic” without a little help. As a bonus, throw in a few guided behind the scenes tours, character dinners, free swag, line cutter passes, etc. Is that too much to ask? I would not, however, want the parks all to myself  because I think the people are a major part of the experience.

So the question is what’s your dream?

My family loves this series. Great books by a great Author.

I know we have all heard about the tunnel system under Magic Kingdom and the Magic and Myths associated with it so I decided to dig deeper(pun intended) to unearth(and again) the mysteries behind this magical underground city. Enjoy.

Heres the Top Secret scoop by Cast Member turned Orlando Realtor Shaun McLane

The Tunnels under the Magic Kingdom

When you get hired by Disney, you become a Cast Member (or CM for short). You are required to attend a Traditions class (mine was 4 days long, but I believe they have shortened it to 1 or 2). It’s all rah-rah during Traditions. They teach you a very detailed history of Walt, the park, the characters, and how to look and act when you’re “on stage.” According to the class, Walt was walking through Disneyland and saw a Frontierland character walking through Fantasyland, and thought it killed the perception of the theme for that land. There’s a very long, interesting story about how Walt came to Orlando and bought land under the radar, as he planned his new theme park – the Magic Kingdom. He decided he wanted people to be able to escape reality and needed a way to keep cast members in their designated areas. The tunnels were born – and if you really want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, they’re called the “Utilidor,” short for utilities corridor.

Anyone who lives in Orlando knows that if you dig deeper than 6 feet, you’ll hit water. So how can there be tunnels UNDER the magic Kingdom? Well, because the park is built on the 2nd floor (technically speaking). the tunnels are at ground level, and the park is built on top of them. They serve many purposes, the main one being the ability to get from wardrobe to your spot, “on stage,” without crossing lands. It also gives cast members a much easier way to get to their destination without having to fight crowds.

So what’s in the tunnels?

Lot’s of stuff. Here’s a map:

At the top of the map is the tunnel entrance. As a cast member, you park in a parking lot about 1 mile away from the tunnel entrance, and take a bus to the tunnels. If you’re hungry, your first stop with be the “Mouseketeria.” Burgers, pizza, sandwiches, and amazing omelette’s are available for a fraction of the cost of the park prices. The “mouseketeria is immediately on your right as you enter the tunnels from the bus (on the left in the map). If you look to the right of the entrance on the map, you will see costuming, and locker rooms. The best part of working in the Magic Kingdom was being able to show up in shorts and a t-shirt. You walk up to a window and say the name of the area or attraction you’ll be working for that day, and your measurements, and they hand you a freshly laundered (questionable) costume. You change, and travel the utlilidor to your final destination.

If you look at the map, you’ll notice the tunnels are fairly simple. It’s a large circle, with a line through it. There are other sections that branch off of the tunnel, but only a few. To make things easier, the tunnels have lines on the ground that are color-coded for the section of the park that is directly above you. To travel the tunnels faster, there are bikes parked at many of the exits to the park – so they say. I often saw people on bikes, but never saw one waiting for me to jump on. From wardrobe to the back of the tunnels is about a 10 minute walk if you travel around the circle.

In the map, each of the park’s “Lands” are labeled. Here’s a map of the Magic Kingdom to give you some idea of where the tunnels are in relationship.

mk map

What Else is down there?

Disney has an amazing trash system called the AVAC system. The trash is sucked through tunnels to a centralized collection area. Walking through the tunnels, you know when trash is flying by you – it’s very loud. There are service vehicles driving around all over the place. There is plenty of room for you to walk, and a full-size truck to pass by. They deliver merchandise to each area via the tunnels so you never have to see a delivery truck “on-stage.” There are also offices, storage, kitchens, break rooms, two employee cafeterias, including the Fantasyland Dining Room, Kingdom Kutters (a hair salon), a Fire Prevention Center, Studio “D” and many of the support departments for the Magic Kingdom.

So how do you get out of the tunnels?

There are so many unmarked doors in the Magic Kingdom, you would never think that most of them lead to a stairwell that leads to the tunnels. Here is a list of most of the exit doors and their locations from the internal phone book:

  • Stairway 1 – to Pinochio Village Haus
  • Stairway 4 – to Liberty Square, Columbia harbor House, and Peter Pan
  • Stairway 5 – to Fantasyland Theatre (Lion king)
  • Stairway 9 – to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland
  • Stairway 10 – to the Hall of Presidents
  • Stairway 12 – to Ye Old Christmas Shoppe
  • Stairway 13 – to Liberty Square and Adventureland Veranda
  • Stairway 16 – to Adventureland and Frontierland
  • Stairway 17 – to Crystal Palace and First Aid
  • Stairway 18 – to MO-8
  • Stairway 19 – to MO-6 and West Parking Lot
  • Stairway 20 – to Town Square Kitchen
  • Stairway 21 – to MO-5 and East Parking Lot
  • Stairway 22 – to MO-7
  • Stairway 24 – to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
  • Stairway 25 – to Mickey’s Star Traders
  • Stairway 27 – to Transportarium
  • Stairway ? – to Tinkerbell’s Treasures

Have any secrets to add click on the comments tab on the top right and post them there.