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Old 01-16-2009, 03:03 PM   #1
WDRabbit
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Backstage Magic Tour Report - 10/13/2008 - VERY DETAILED/SPOILERS!

I'm finally posting the details of the Backstage Magic tour I took on October 13, 2008. For the most part this was sitting on my laptop since I got back and I just had forgotten to upload it!

****WARNING! SPOILERS! This is a VERY detailed account of the Backstage Magic tour. If you are planning on taking the tour soon and don't want to know about it then I suggest you stop reading because your tour will most likely be almost identical. Also, obviously if you don't want to know what happens backstage, then also stop reading! ****

We started in front of Epcot near the external Guest Relations area around 8AM. Johnny and Dena from the Disney Institute greeted us, checked IDs, handed out name tags for us to write our names on, and gave us the listening devices (PALs). Walked through the turnstiles at Epcot, stopped for a bathroom break at the bathrooms to the right of Spaceship Earth, and then went through a cast member only door to the left of the bathrooms. This put us behind Guest Relations and The Living Seas. We boarded our Disney Cruise Line bus from the parking lot there.

We then drove around to the back of World Showcase. Stopped at the American Adventure Pavilion. Walked through to see the front of the pavilion before World Showcase opened for the day. Lots of maintenance work ,trucks, etc. right in the area where guests would be in a couple of hours. Johnny told us that they placed the pavilion in the back because it was so big and they didn’t want it to overpower the other nations. Told us the bricks were all made just for the attraction and demonstrated the use of forced perspective… the building appears as 3 stories but is really the height of 5 stories on the front, and a total of 7 stories if you include the 2 lower levels where the show resides. He pointed out that the roman numeral for the number 4 on the clock is represented as IIII instead of IV because that is how it was written in colonial days. He told us that all the flowers were always red, white, and blue. Then we walked back around to the rear of the building. He showed us how the back of the American Adventure has an addition because when it was originally built the screen used front projection, but that caused the shadows of the animatronic figures to be cast on the screen. So they built the addition on the back so they could begin using rear projection. The film runs at 30fps instead of 24fps to eliminate flicker along the edges. We then went inside the building beneath the show to see all of the animatronic figures for the show. Many of the shows scenes are handled by the scene changer, which is a large sliding device that holds the individual scenes. As a scene is needed it silently moves forward and backwards beneath the stage, and the scene and characters are lifted onto the stage like an elevator. The mechanism actually extends ¾ of the way under the area where the audience is sitting, but is very very quiet so you don’t hear it operating. They told us that in the writing of the Declaration of Independence scene that all the crumpled up drafts of the declaration on the floor really do have other versions written on them. They showed us how all the clothing on the animatronics is velcroed on for easy maintenance of the underlying parts. They also told us that all the wiring, etc. for each character usually runs through whatever foot, etc. is touching the ground. Since opening in 1982 the American Adventure show has been operating continuously 365 days a year with only 14 days cumulative downtime.

We then got back on the bus and drove around Avenue of the Stars some more to visit Epcot Costuming. On the way we passed by the area where they prepare the fireworks boats for Illuminations. We saw the large globe that is used for the show as well. We walked in and saw all these pictures demonstrating Disney pride for the various teams and departments at Epcot. We stopped for a bathroom break inside the building. They noted that normal radio station music was playing in the building to give the cast members a break from hearing Disney music all day. They showed us the break room and the Company D store. We also happened to be standing in the hallway around the time that World Showcase opens so we saw lots of cast members walking out to go to their various areas. Many had headphones and ipods as they were walking out. We then saw the castmember locker room, which was enormous. We saw the personal care vending machine with items such as panty hose and razors. The guides explained that since the castmembers have to maintain the clean cut Disney look they can easily get items onsite. We also saw the wardrobe area where castmembers “shop” for their outfits. It looked like a grocery store but instead of food items each aisle had a list of the types of costumes that were in it. They have every possible size. They have a separate area for belts and accessories. We saw several cast members in the checkout line with their items. We learned that they can have several outfits to wear during the week, then they can bring them back in for cleaning and take fresh ones. Cast members have to buy their own shoes. We then saw a sewing area where minor alternations can be done and then got back on the bus.

We then drove past the cast member parking lot for Epcot and around the area where Test Track goes backstage (where the GM cars are sitting in the center of the circle). We headed over to Disney Hollywood Studios. When we arrived a security guard got on to do a bag check (this seems to be standard whenever you enter a park). We then stopped right behind the Tower of Terror. The guides explained that they are on the 4th revision on the Tower. They also told us that they made special walls that fluctuate at the bottom because when the ride was initially built the vents they had in the walls were not enough to hold the air pressure from the falling ride vehicle and the walls actually blew out. They showed us how the ride vehicles are not on tracks and follow a radio signal guide in the floor. They showed us how the cars have cables at the top and bottom because they get pulled down faster than the speed of gravity. It was mentioned that the tower was built to be 199 feet instead of 200 so they didn’t need to put the airplane warning lights on the top.

Then we got back in the bus and headed over to the wardrobe area at the studios. This is the area that you see from the backlot tour. The backlot ride vehicle drives through the building. When we first went into the building the receptionist announced that we were there over the PA system. We saw all of the offices and cubicles and then went into the actual room where they make the costumes. One of the cast members gave us a demonstration of how the automatic fabric cutting machine works. They showed us that they make teddy bears out of the scrap fabric and clothes for them to give to children with respiratory illnesses.

We then headed to the Wilderness Lodge for lunch at the Whispering Canyon Café. When we arrived the valet pointed out 3 hidden Mickeys to us. 1 in the pavement right where the cars drive in that has been painted over. One at the end of drive in area on the vertical wooden beam, right above the support for a small black pipe running up the beam, and 1 on the other side of the drive in, looking back to the hotel right above the second black metal band on a vertical beam. We then took a quick tour of the lobby and Johnny explained the use of compression where you enter into a smaller doorway/vestibule that then opens up to the larger spacious lobby to give a sense of awe. We stopped at the fireplace to see another hidden mickey and Johnny explained that the fireplace contained rocks representing all the different levels of the grand canyon. We walked outside in the back to the observation area and saw how the real natural spring water flows from inside the lobby, into the creek outside, and then at the bridge gets emptied away, but is made to look like it flows under the bridge into the pool. The water on the other side is the chlorinated pool water. They also said that from Bay Lake the Wilderness Lodge looks like a bear lying down facing out. With the hotel room wings the arms and the windows in the center the bear’s eyes. We then went back inside and ate at the Whispering Canyon. We had a family style meal with BBQ ribs, chicken, sausage, mashed potatoes, baked beans, corn bread, corn, and Mango/Strawberry cobbler for dessert. After lunch we paused for a bathroom break in the lobby before reboarding the bus.

We then headed behind the Magic Kingdom. On the way it was pointed out that there are only 5 of the “water bridges” where the cars go under the water in the world, and 3 are at WDW. We went on the road past the Contemporary and turned right into an area with several large buildings. Our first stop was on the left side where we visited the Textile services group. They use an image of a Mickey head made out of bubbles as their logo. We went upstairs in the building to see all the laundry being sorted into large bags. There is an automated system that carries the bags over to a chute, and then release the laundry into the chute. We then walked back downstairs to see how the chute is able to dump the laundry into the washing machines because the machines open and lean back to accept the laundry. This is all automated. When the laundry is done a moving platform positions itself in front of the washer and the washer leans forward to dump out the clean clothes. The platform then sends the clothes to a conveyor where a castmember “marries” the clothes to a “mother hanger”. The clothes have a barcode that tell the size, number of times they’ve been washed, etc. The bar code is married to a RFID chip inside the mother hanger and then placed on the automatic hanger line that circulates around the building. Most clothes are line dried. Some that are heat dried pass through a dryer while they are on the hanger. We were then shown how the clothes can be pressed in various ways, including one where the clothes are steamed to release wrinkles, and then inflated with air to press them. This process was done by a castmember. In their station we saw how they get to stand under a air conditioning duct so they remain cool while steaming the clothes. We then saw the area where the clothes go after they are cleaned. They get “divorced” from the mother hanger, and then the items are sorted automatically by location and size and ride down the lines to individual lines for each area. We also saw that the dresses used in the BBB are steamed when they arrive from the manufacturer because they get wrinkled in the boxes they are shipped in.

After this we walked to the Central Shops building. We had to wear safety glasses while in this area. The guide explained that they are known as the Can Do people because Walt used to have a general that he asked if something for an attraction could be made and the general always said “can do!”. We saw the fiberglass molds for various things, saw ride vehicles for Space Mountain, Dinosaur, Maelstrom, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan, etc. being serviced, painted, and built. A lot of the equipment in the shop is old because it is needed to service the older rides since many of them have been at WDW since 1971. Our guide told us that they are having problems with their apprenticeship because not many young people are interested in the type of work they do. We saw the wood shop and were told that the horses on the carousel are all original from 1913 when it was made. The horses had been painted over and over across the years so when Disney got them they had lost a lot of the detail. They were sanded down and repainted to restore the detail. The big horses on the outside of the carousel have the most detail, and even have more detail on the side that faces out than on the side that faces in. Disney takes the horses off and sands and repaints them once every 18 months. They have fiberglass horses that can be put on the ride one by one as the real wood horses are refreshed. The floor of the wood shop is made of wood because wood is more forgiving than concrete if you drop wood on it, and also because it helps absorb a lot of the machine vibrations and is easier on the workers feet. We also saw the paint shop and got to see the various trashcan designs that are used all over WDW. We were shown how the patterning on the Wilderness Lodge trashcans and the Frontierland trashcans at MK are very similar, but are slightly different in color just to blend in appropriately. We then went to a hallway where they have the robot girl from Kitchen Cabaret setup so the guide can show you how the animatronics work with pneumatic pressure. They also had a tiki room bird there and explained that Walt liked the bird and all the things that the imagineers were able to make him do, but wanted to see the bird breath, so they added the chest plate that moves to make the birds look like they are breathing even though it tripled the cost of the figure. The guide then allowed people to make the animatronics move using the controls. On the robot he showed the hand movements and explained that the Disney Point is using two fingers or an open palm instead of one finger, that way if they point in a general direction other guests don’t think that they are pointing directly at them and saying things about them. Near the animatronics was an old animatronic dog in a doghouse that said security, the dog had a badge and a radio mic attached to him. There are multicolored lines on the floor that lead you to different areas of the shop, if you need to find a certain area you just follow the line color designated for that area.

We then boarded our bus and headed over to the Magic Kingdom. We went in the side road parallel to the normal bus drop off area and went into the parking lot that is actually inside the railroad loop, to the side of Main Street and behind Tomorrowland. It was raining pretty good at this point so the guides gave us all umbrellas to use. We got off the bus and went into an entrance behind the Plaza restaurant. We went down a stairwell into the Utilidoors. They explained how the Utilidoors are not actually underground since they were built at ground level and then the dirt that was excavated to create the seven seas lagoon was placed over the utilidoors and the park built on top. The tunnels are big enough to drive a car through, but the only time that ever happens is for an ambulance, or for the brinks type money truck to come in. There is a road entry from the outside at the very back of the park. Other that they use electric cars with parking spots along the sides of the tunnel. There are maps of the tunnel system that show your current location, and a picture of what is directly above you OnStage. Each area of the tunnels has a different colored wall to show what area of the park you are in. Main Street was burgundy. Utilidoor is formed from Utility Corridor.

We came up the same stairwell that we went down and then walked into the park through the castmember walkway between the Plaza restaurant and the Tomorrowland Noodle Station. We stopped right there for another bathroom break. It was raining slightly at this time and the afternoon parade had been delayed. After the break we walked over to Main Street and were able to stand in the middle without many people crowding us because everybody was already on the sides waiting for the parade. Dena had one of the photopass photographers take a group shot of our entire tour group and we could then each have him scan our photopass card so everybody got the group picture. Dena pointed out Walt Disney’s window above the Plaza restaurant. We then walked down Main street towards the front of the park, with everybody looking at us as if we were part of the parade since it was still delayed. They pointed out Roy E. Disney and Roy O. Disney’s windows. We stopped to see the “real” window that lists all of the land acquisition companies that were used to acquire the WDW property while trying to remain secret. We proceeded to walk back to the circular park right behind the train station. The parade was cancelled due to the rain, but we were treated to the special "Rainy Day Parade" where all the characters drive out in old time cars along the parade route. Our guides told us that it was very rare to have the Rainy Day Parade, and that even they had never seen it before!

From there we got back on the bus through the cast member only area to the left of the Town Square restaurant. On the ride back the guides were happy to answer any other questions that we might have. When we got back to Epcot we were let off in the bus area right in front of the park, and as we got off were given the special "Backstage Magic" trading pin.

This was a great tour with very knowledgeable and professional guides. If you're a long time Disboard reader then you may already know a lot of the facts that are explained, but there really is nothing like actually getting to see things for yourself. My only complaint is I would have liked to see the backstage areas at a few more attractions instead of seeing things like Textile Services, but I guess alot of the attractions really don't have backstage areas with anything interesting, as most things are on display to guests (unlike The American Adventure, for instance, where the show is presented in pieces). If you are a WDW veteran I highly recommend you take a day out of your next trip for this tour. If this is your very first WDW trip then I don't recommend going on the tour, unless it's the last thing you do... because you don't want to see how things work until after you've seen them from the "on stage" side of things!

I hope you've enjoyed reading, I tried to remember as much as possible and get it all on my laptop as soon as we got back to our hotel room!
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Old 01-31-2009, 08:28 PM   #2
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Bump found.

Glad you put a Spoiler on the Heading.

I took the Keys to the Kingdom Tour
and I couldn't believe how much info I knew.
But it was still fun.
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Old 02-01-2009, 01:24 PM   #3
Danauk
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Fab report, we did the BSM tour last trip (Dec 2005) and loved it. This version seems very similar only we ate at Mama Melrose and we went through the Christmas warehouse and the florestry shop (we saw the CM's making the Christmas trees for the rooms that people had ordered.)
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Old 02-01-2009, 01:58 PM   #4
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Thanks for the report, loved it!
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