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Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour

by Jamie Rumph

“Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour

Disney is made up of layers. You can’t do it all of Disney in one trip or even two. Today’s adventure, Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour, can definitely be filed under the extra magic “layer” of Disney! And it’s a layer worth doing!

Partners Statue

There won’t be too many pictures to share in this post simply because much of what you’ll want to see on the tour I wasn’t allowed to photograph.? So I’ll just tell you all about it!

What You Need to Know

The Keys to the Kingdom tour is 5 hours long and begins at the Town Square Theater on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. A valid park ticket for the day is required and not included in the cost of the tour.

There are 5 Keys to the Kingdom tours each day beginning at 8 am and the last tour departing at 10 am. These tours are fairly small so book early to get the time you’d like. It is Disney’s most popular tour. We toured with the 9:30 group.

After checking in you’ll be given your name tag and will place your lunch order for Pecos Bills.? Then it’s time to get the Keys to the Kingdom tour started!

Keys to the Kingdom Name tag

Keys to the Kingdom is based on the four keys that Disney’s Cast Members follow

1. Safety

2. Courtesy

3. Show

4. Efficiency

Main Street

As we wandered down Main Street Macky, our tour guide Macky, pointed out elements on Main Street that exemplified these 4 keys. From the names of great former Cast Members in the Main Street windows right down to the music coming from these windows in the small alcove off of the hustle and bustle of Main Street. After all, it’s the little things that make Disney so magical. All of these elements are the show portion of what makes up Magic Kingdom and it’s the “Show” that all of us love! But the combination of all of the keys is truly what makes Disney, Disney.

Main Street windows

These windows can be seen in the little street that is off of Main Street by the Main Street Jewelers. If you listen closely you can hear music coming from them!

The open doors on all of the Main Street shops and Cast Members waving and saying hello (and goodbye) exemplify “Courtesy” telling us that we are all welcome and appreciated here. It may not feel huge at the moment but go to any other theme park where no one greets you and you’ll feel the difference.

Adventureland

After departing Main Street USA we walked through Adventureland talking all about the early years of Disney (both Land and World) and how “Efficiency” came into play when moving guests through the park. The idea of efficiency is an ongoing process from the early years to now. For example, the Swiss Family Treehouse is a park attraction in where guests choose the pace in which they experience the attraction. Therefore Cast Members have very little control over how many guests can move through the attraction, or be able to gauge the wait time because each individual does it differently.

Newer attractions with ride cars have a controlled pace in which you move through the ride. Because of this wait times can be estimated and more people are able to view the experience within a given amount of time. As the concept of efficiency continued to develop at Disney, things like paper fast passes came into play and eventually fast pass plus, the electronic version of the fast pass was introduced, thus eliminating the need to walk all over the parks to get your daily paper fast passes. Hello, amazing efficiency right in the palm of our hands!? It will be interesting to see what Disney comes up with next to increase the number of attractions we’ll be able to do in a day while visiting the parks!

After entering Adventureland we boarded our own private boat on Jungle Cruise. Macky took over the microphone and we had a different tour of the Jungle. She shared details of the animatronics and a history of the first days of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. The details she pointed out were amazing. Did you know that the face in the picture below is used throughout Disney just with different details to fit the scene? Talk about reusing content! Walt was smart enough to recognize that you can change up the details and storyline and save time and money by not constantly recreating the wheel. I should take note!

Jungle Cruise guy

Backstage

Next up was a stop we had all been waiting for! A trip backstage! We were ready to see where the magic happens!

We went backstage by Splash Mountain, the area where the Festival of Fantasy Parade starts. This is an area I hear a lot about because my husband is a Cast Member and spends a fair amount of time?backstage for meetings.? So it was extra fun to see what he had been describing and where he spends so much time on a daily basis.

As we made our way backstage we experienced the smell of the huge amounts of trash Disney deals with on a daily basis. Yikes! (Yes it’s true there’s a trash shoot, no it’s not true that the Main Street trash cans connect directly to the shoot. They’re just regular trash cans too!)!

Did you know that there is a large fan of sorts that blows the garbage smell away from the inside of Magic Kingdom near Splash Mountain? I had no idea!

The magic or “show” of Disney uses all five of senses to enter into this world of fantasy that happens at Magic Kingdom. Just imagine if the wind blew wrong, you smelled hot garbage and were suddenly whisked back to reality and no longer were fully immersed in the Disney experience. Sure you’d probably still have a good time, but you wouldn’t have the same show experience that we all know and love when spending a day at Magic Kingdom or any other Disney park for that matter!

After entering backstage we were able to go inside the parade float garage. It was so fun to see them up close and really be able to look at the details.? You’d be amazed at the thought that goes into each of the floats and the story they are telling as they glide through the Magic Kingdom.

While inside the float garage we did have to stand inside a taped off area and were not able to wander freely, but we were still up close to many of the floats.

It’s hard to image these floats being maneuvered in and out of this building daily. They are massive in size and many of them are literally driven by looking at cameras similar to a backup camera on your car. There is literally no windows and no doors. Just kidding about the doors. The no windows, that’s the truth.

Another great surprise was spotting some of the Halloween and Christmas floats in the float garage. It’s great anticipation for what’s to come in just a few short months! I absolutely love the Boo to You Parade during Mickey?s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

Lunch

After touring the float garage we were led back “on stage” meaning where guests are present and cast members must be “show ready” (perfectly dressed and in character) to Pecos Bills for lunch. Our food was ready and waiting for us in a private dining space just off the entrance. No lines for us!

lunch at Pecos Bills

While eating we were able to visit with other tour guests and Macky our tour guide about all things Disney. She came from California for the College Program and never left. This happens often I hear! As I tell my husband we’ve all been pixie dusted and brainwashed. It’s just that magical around here!

Me with my Keys to the Kingdom tour guide Macky

Liberty Square

After lunch, we headed to Liberty Square talking about the show elements and details along the way. Did you know that the building numbers from Frontierland into Liberty Square go from smaller to larger mimicking the time passing? Another great show element is the different colored concrete through Liberty Square mimicking the emptying of bedpans that was thrown in the streets before indoor plumbing made life a little simpler and a lot cleaner. So many little details tell the story of times past, present, future, and fantasy.

Just past Liberty Square we took the back entrance into Haunted Mansion and rode the attraction with a few new show secrets in mind. We had our eyes peeled for the hidden Mickey, the matching character from Jungle Crusie and a handful of other show secrets to keep our eyes wide open for. Don’t miss the shooting hidden within the dining room scene of the attraction.

Haunted Mansion

The Utilidor!!!

And then the part we had all been waiting for, the part we paid a $100 to see, the time had arrived! The tunnel! We entered this forbidden zone we’ve all heard about but never seen! We entered from inside Fantasy Faire and descended into the infamous Disney Utilidor!

Once in the tunnel, I expected to be quickly marched through and back out the other side but was surprised to get a tour. As we walked under Fantasyland we saw the wide open entrance to the tunnel from backstage where all of the Cast Members are dropped off by their magical carriage aka the bus. It was like a New York subway train had just unloaded watching the hustle and bustle of Cast Members head to their place to make magic for the day! We all just stood around watching and taking in all in. I’m sure the Cast Members we’re thinking you dummies paid a $100 to see this! (At least I know my husband would be thinking that!)? This entrance and the tunnel is what keeps costumed Cast Members from being seen in the wrong areas of the park and keeps the stories true to the time period it’s in.? You may have never noticed before, but you will never see the wrong costume in the wrong land.? The tunnel keeps this from happening!

We continued walking the tunnel and right past costuming, under Cinderella’s Castle (seeing the inside of the elevator that goes up to the Cinderella Suite) and up Main Street, the whole time getting a quick run through of the history of Disney complete with pictures on the wall of various events.

Cinderella's Castle

Back to Main Street

As our tour neared completion, we ascended back into the park and came out behind Main Street in the bypass. You know the bypass, it’s the “kind of backstage area” that guests sometimes use to exit the park after fireworks when the park is extra crowded. (This is also the area that guests are directed through at the beginning of Mickey?s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.) And then as quickly as it began our tour came to a conclusion right where we started at the Main Street Theater.

Would I Recommend This Tour?

The story of how Walt and Roy Disney purchased the land for Disney World in secret after Disneyland was such a success, the timeline to what Disney World has become and the details that make it Disney were so entertaining to hear. Much of it I knew simply because I’m a huge Disney fan and have read many books and internet articles on the subject.?However, the tour was still worth the price of admission!? I’d recommend it to anyone who loves Disney, has visited the Magic Kingdom many times, and is ready to unlock another layer of the park! If all of this describes you, sign up! You won’t regret it!

What you need to know about this tour:

  • The Keys to the Kingdom tour can be booked at 180 days prior to arrival.
  • Call 407 – WDW – TOUR to book.
  • Participants must be 18 or over
  • This is a 5-hour walking tour with minimal breaks.
  • Lunch is included.
  • You will visit backstage behind Splash Mountain and go in the utilidor (underground tunnel) at the end of the tour.
  • The cost for the tour at the time of publishing this article is $100 per person. Price is subject to change.

Have questions? You can email me at jamie@LOTMV.com

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