24 March 2017

Walt Disney World: Marceline to Magic Kingdom Backstage Tour

When heading to Walt Disney World in October last year I knew I wanted to do something a little different than I had done when I've visited previously.  I was making the trip with friends instead of family and we all had our own plans so I thought this would be the perfect time to do a backstage tour.

If you head to the Disney World website you will see that Disney actually has loads of different backstage tours across their parks, ranging in length and price.  I spent a long time deciding which one to go for, before finally settling on the 3 hour Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour, which takes place in The Magic Kingdom.  Booking was fairly straight forward, I just had to call the reservation line and I was booked within minutes.  I was slightly concerned when I didn’t receive an email confirmation but when I called back just before my holiday they said that this was normal and my name would just be on a list when I arrived. I have to say the reservation line for Disney is particularly good, with hardly any wait and amazingly friendly customer service.

Fast forward to the day of the tour and I was so excited!  I set off early, but not really early enough to get through the increased Disney security. A word of warning, Disney’s new security procedures can add 30-45 minutes onto you getting through the gates, especially at the Magic Kingdom first thing in a morning.  I was trying to rush through and was rather stressed so obviously I got pulled aside for additional screening, adding even longer on.  Luckily the meeting point for the tour was just to the right as I entered the park in the Town Square Theatre so I wasn't too late.
I arrived a bit out of breath but met with my group and grabbed a headset and a badge to show I was officially a tour guest. The headset was a stroke of genius, each of us was given one so our tour guide could be mic'd up and talk directly into our earpiece as went around, which was really useful when navigating the busy, noisy Disney crowds.  
We started our tour with a walk up Main Street, stopping at several places to point out interesting nods to Walt Disney’s legacy that exist subtly all over, like the cinema that was based on the one in Disney’s home town, or the names on the shop windows.  There are the loads of interesting facts but I will leave them for you to find out when you take the tour, I wouldn’t want there to be too many spoilers!
We headed towards the castle for more fascinating insights into the park's history before winding through Adventureland to Liberty Tree Square.  The mics meant we could have commentary from our guide the whole way through, even when walking from one area to the next.  We entered the new interactive queue for The Haunted Mansion where we learned all about how the Imagineer’s (Disney’s name for ride developers) use subtle clues in the design to create a storyline way before you even enter a ride, which is something I love about Disney parks!  This ride in particular has a ton of urban myths behind it that eager Disney fans have created over the years, so when Disney created the new queue they hinted to these in lots of smart, subtle ways. Including adding a ring in a hidden corner as a nod to the popular theory that the dead bride from ride had thrown her ring out of the window so hard it had embedded itself on the concrete below. Make sure you keep an eye out for it, it can be a hard one to spot!  Also, did you know that the four statue’s at the start of the interactive queue also contain a riddle?  Read the inscriptions on them all and see if you can figure out who the murderer is.

We then headed straight to the front of the queue and rode the ride as a group, again the headpieces meant our guide could talk to us throughout the ride without disturbing other guests, pointing out how Disney created certain special effects and hidden gems most guests wouldn’t know or notice.

After the ride we got to do something really special, and one of the coolest things I’ve ever done!  If you have ever been on The Haunted Mansion, Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris or any other variations of this ride around the world, you will know doubt know its famous ballroom scene.  In it ghosts at a party seem to appear and disappear quite magically at will, right before your eyes.  Well, not only did we find out how this trick was performed, but we were allowed to go backstage and inside the ride to see how it is done, while it was in motion!  We weren't allowed to take pictures in any of the backstage areas understandably so I can’t show anything to you unfortunately, but it was honestly amazing.  We went through a side door right into the ride, being careful with where we stood so we couldn’t be seen by anyone on the ride, it is a memory that will stay with me forever.
After a short break we headed into Fantasyland where we took in the story of the mosaics inside Cinderella's Castle, before heading to the front of the queue for The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, which we rode as before with loads of things to look out for, I even got to ride in my own honey pot!

Finally, we headed into Tomorrowland for more inside information before finally heading towards one of the biggest lasting reminders from Walt Disney’s legacy, The Carousel of Progress. This attraction was created by Walt for the 1964 World’s Fair and it was the success of this that helped him rocket his parks to success years later.  It's a revolving theatre that takes you through the history of technology's impact on the American family, taking you right into Walt's (slightly outdated these days) vision of the future. We got out very own theatre and our guide talked us through all the scenes throughout the ride, pointing out loads of things I never noticed before despite my countless times viewing this attraction.
All too soon it was over. This is without a doubt one of the best things I have ever done in Florida, and next time I go back to Disney World I will definitely be doing another. It was a true VIP experience and if you are a Disney Parks nerd like myself you will not regret it for a second!

The price of this tour was $49 for 3 hours and it includes water (you will also need to have a Disney Parks ticket to get in, this is not included) and for me it was 100% worth the price. It is one of the shortest and cheapest of the tours Disney offers but if you want something more extensive there are plenty of others to try at all four parks.

Planning your own Disney trip? Why not check out my posts on My Top 3 Disney World Planing Podcasts, What to expect from Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party and Florida's Tastiest Theme Park Snacks. Would you do a Backstage Magic Tour?
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