This will be a booming summer at Walt Disney World for Disney’s Avatar attraction has opened at Animal Kingdom to do battle with the Wizard and Dragon at Universal. Don’t expect the tradition Fast Pass to work well if you are there for the day for people staying at Disney resorts can reserve attractions sixty days in advance. You will not be able to avoid giant lines in the Florida sunshine.
This is not a travel guide, but I think people like to read about some unusual and unique WDW items. People who avoid Orlando and Disney will probably use this article as evidence to stay away and people who love WDW like to gobble up every fact they can find. That has become the nature of the giant Mouse and his domain.
My family has been annual pass-holders for years; I’ve been a stockholder and never missed a Florida convention (now they hide meetings in non-park states); and I once even owned a condo on Water Street in Celebration, a town built by the Mouse. At a local pub I once sat down next to the British couple that played Mickey and Minnie for years. So let me tell you some things even most Floridians don’t know about “the Happiest Place on Earth.”
Welcome to Walt Disney World
You don’t read much about legal problems in the media in WDW. That is because all the land at WDW is under the jurisdiction of the Reedy Creek Improvement District set up by Disney in the 1960’s and given almost complete autonomy by the State of Florida. State land use regulations do not apply to Reedy Creek which makes its own contracts for police and fire and some other services. Since they own their own power plant, Reedy Creek gets no electric bill. The 39 actual residents within WDW are all Disney employees and they have no vote over who supervises Reedy Creek. WDW indeed operates like a different kind of world compared to the rest of Florida.
WDW may have been built on the shoulders of a mouse, but at night Disney has used a team of feral cats and released them to wipe out the field mice and other nearby rodents. Disney loves nature as long as they control it so they even have a Federal permit to shoot vultures. I wonder if vultures would be spared if they land at the Tower of Terror?
It’s A Bird; it’s a Plane; it’s Tinterbell!
Cinderella’s Castle, Mount Everest, and the Tower of Terror are all just under 200-feet high for another foot higher, they would be required to have airplane warning lights and that would ruin night effects at the attractions. The Castle is also Florida’s highest zip-line, where every night a five foot 105-pound woman dressed as Tinkerbell flies down a wire at 35 mph onto a Tomorrowland rooftop mattress landing the cast has named “Neverland”. She carries a backpack to control her illumination and she can turn off the lights if high winds prevent her from reaching her destination. Unfortunately, modern cell-phones can shoot in the dark and sometimes visitors capture Tink struggling going hand over hand high over the crowds.
There is one thing you won’t find at any Walt Disney World park – gum. Once Disney had an exclusive with Coke, but I’ll let you figure out the official drink where and when at WDW.
Most visitors to Main Street in the Magic Kingdom know the names on the second floor windows are the names of notable Disney employees. But don’t waste your time looking for the name of former Disney President Michael Eisner unless you want to travel to Burbank or Paris.
The fastest ride at WDW is the Aerosmith Rock and Roll Coaster at Disney Studios at 65 mph. It was supposed to be the U-2 Coaster but U2 did not want to put their name on the coaster. Don’t ask me why.
In the competition of great amusement parks, few things are sacred. Old rides and old memories fade away as Disney replaces rides with new attractions. The entire back lot of Disney Studios is gone as the Star Wars and Pixar areas are built. Avatar replaced an entire theme section of Animal Kingdom. There are always protests when a ride vanishes. Even the space-wasting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine ride had its supporters. I still weep when I see the empty Discovery Island.
Perhaps the biggest outcry came when the funky Mr. Toads Ride was replaced by Winnie the Pooh in the Magic Kingdom. The Toad ride continued in the California park where I guess having a cheating British toad sending riders on a reckless ride to Hell is acceptable children’s fare. As a lame concession to Floridians, riders at the Winnie the Pooh ride should notice a mural on the wall that shows Toad turning over the deed to the property to Owl, Pooh’s associate. This good will didn’t last long when Toad fans discovered some nasty Disney employees gave Mr. Toad a grave stone at the Haunted Mansion. And it is in the PET Cemetery!
Toad Gives Up His Empire and …
Gets Buried In The Back of the PET Cemetery!
Disney not only replaces rides, they replace live characters. When Disney “canned Push”, a talking trash can in the Tomorrow land section of Magic Kingdom, Push’s supporters launched a big Facebook campaign. Disney people told newspapers that the “canning of Push” was a rumor, but two days later Push was gone. If you witness any people talking to a WDW trash can, they are not escapees from a mental institution, but Push fans are probably making a little symbolic protest.
The Fifth Largest Parking Lot In The World
The parking lots at the Magic Kingdom in Florida are larger than the entire Disneyland complex in California with some 500 car spaces to spare. Yet, here comes the horror show that is not in October. The Magic Kingdom park closes its gates about six days per year due to overcrowding: usually at Christmas, Easter, Spring Break, July 4, and New Years. Epcot closes only about once a year and Disney Studios and Animal Kingdom about twice per year. Blizzard Beach is twice more likely to close due to capacity crowds than Typhoon Lagoon. Disney has a Four Phase plan with Phase One eliminating people with no ticket or one day tickets. Phase Two prevents one day ticket people from transferring (like by monorail from Epcot). We have annual tickets and 50% of the time are staying at a hotel and would not be turned back unless there is a Phase 4, a total closure. Here is a secret to prevent being a park victim: get to the park early for closures usually starting at 11:00 AM. The park often reopens at 4 PM when people start leaving but that is not a guarantee. Don’t get mad at Disney because it is so popular: remember some National Parks out West also close their gates during the popular summer season..
No one has ever reported a ghost at the Haunted Mansion, but when an imaginer named George was killed during the building of the Pirates of the Caribbean, workers began to see ghostly images. Today every night the last person to close the attraction says “Goodnight George” as a superstition to prevent the ride from breaking down the next day.
“George, where are you? George?”
When you ride the Kilimanjaro Safari, which is 3 acres larger than all of the Magic Kingdom, there is an obvious African animal missing from the open plains. The zebras were removed. They were banished because they picked fights with other smaller animals and in the morning took out their wrath on ride vehicles. There are zebras at the Animal Kingdom Lodge if you love zebras. You might also note some eggs on the ground. They are fake eggs, which calm older birds who sit on them. Some birds will even lie down on the fake eggs of the other birds. I guess WDW has a bird psychologist.