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It seems that even for a company willing to manufacture everything from sticking plasters, to cruises and even entire housing complexes based around their famous mouse, the one thing Disney isn’t quite ready to sell is its secrets.
It all feels a bit Downton Abbey, with the ‘downstairs’ section hidden from view, despite being a hive of activity.Here is where the staggering 285,000lbs of daily clothes washing takes place; where much of the food sold in the Magic Kingdom is prepared and cooked; where delivery trucks drop off supplies for the park; and where a special vacuum system sucks up all of the park’s rubbish – it’s why you’ll never see an empty crisp packet or crumpled can en route to visit Cinderella.Moments of excitement come when employees on golf buggies come trundling down the corridors.Actually seeing the utilidors, the part of the tour that had really piqued my interest, was left until right at the end.Would we catch the actor playing Mickey without his head on? Instead we’re taken to a tiny section of corridor which seems to be mostly office space, with a surprising amount of detritus piled up against the walls – ageing water-coolers, broken fax machines, and so on.Other than that, it’s more upbeat stories of the park and its founder, which involves looking at plenty of framed photos of Walt.
Ever the intrepid reporter, I spend my time trying to slope further down the corridor than strictly allowed, and poking my head around doors into rooms full of people on computers – not one of them dressed as Princess Jasmine.
The Keys to the Kingdom Tour is a lengthy five hours, including a walking tour of the Magic Kingdom, three rides (which vary) and a brief trip into one small section of the utilidors.
If I'm totally honest, it’s a bit like an interactive advert for Disney. There are lots of facts that I found a little tedious (for example, the colour of bins, how water on the rides is treated, landscaping anecdotes) and plenty of heavily-scripted tales about Walt and his brother Roy.
There are nuggets of interesting info though, including one story about how the character of ‘Tinkerbell’ can be played by either a man or a woman as long as they're short in height and light in weight.
it's a rare glimpse behind the iron curtains of Disney secrecy.
Whether you’re a fan of the company or not, you can’t fail to be impressed at the level of effort that has gone in to keeping the experience ‘magical’, while all the nuts and bolts are carefully hidden away.