Thursday, February 5, 2009

Disney Behind the Scenes Day 4

Today was our sixth "backstage" tour to learn about the Mystery behind the Magic of Disney World -- an all-day, 7 hour tour led by Dena and Monica. Again, photos are not allowed backstage, with one exception today. First it was back to Epcot to The American Adventure, where we proceeded to the staging area beneath the stage to see the Audio-animatronic characters and how they appear on or above the stage. Mark Twain and Ben Franklin were mere feet from us and the realism of the costuming and face and bodies was impressive even though no one in the audience would ever be this close to see the detailing.

Next was the Cast Services Support Facility where we toured the costume issuing department. Disney has the second largest collection of costumes -- 200 different costumes totaling over 3 million garments -- with only the military surpassing it. Each is barcoded to track who has ever worn it, how often, and how many laundering cycles it has gone through. We also saw the tailoring/seamstress department as well as the cosmetology and wig department. Did you know that Mickey has over 500 "looks" and Minnie even more!

Next it was back to Disney Hollywood to see the shop where costumes are designed and "built" for all the Disney parks and all the Disney cruise ships. From vision to drawing to engineering to CAD to pattern cutting to mock-up and building and tailoring and embroidery and final fitting -- all of which can take many months with the most expensive costing as much as $40,000! Some have lights for evening parades and thus require wiring and chips and batteries inside and are quite heavy for the cast members to wear and dance or move in. Leftover fabric or fabric from no longer used costumes are made into stuffed animals for disbaled children or for crocheted rugs for animal shelters. Then we learned the secrets of the Hollywood Hotel of Terror ride, a 199 foot tall building in which elevators fall at 1 1/2 the speed of gravity.

Then we had lunch at the Wilderness Lodge Whispering Canyon Cafe -- a wonderful family style BBQ with ribs, chicken, and sausage. Here's an interior shot of the lodge...

The next stop was to learn of Disney's dirty laundry -- the Textile Services Costume Processing Building -- among the world's most sophisticated and automated laundry plants. 12o workers daily launder 30,000 costumes, many including ironing and some needing dry cleaning, and another such plant washes 96 tons of towels and bedding in 8 hours. Laundry gets hand-sorted, then washed in 400 pound loads, then dried in a steam tunnel unless ironing is needed. Each garment's barcode tells the computer where to send it next, and at the end quality assurance finds imperfections like loose hems or buttons and sends it to seamstresses for mending. Finally, all garments are sorted by destination, type of garment, and size -- and then to a dock area to be picked up for delivery to the appropriate theme park or lodge. Quite impressive!

The Horticulture facility next to Animal Kingdom was next where we were allowed to take photos of the topiary being created and prepared for the Flower and Garden festival starting in April.

One of my favorites was this one, replete with hairy mane...

We then traveled to the Magic Kingdom and walked part of the Utilidor (utility corridor) where all the pipes and wires travel below the entire park and which also allows deliveries to all the shops and restaurants to be brought in unseen by the public, and permits all the cast members to appear in their kingdom (Adventureland, Fantasyland, etc.) without having to walk through the other theme areas. It is over 1 mile in length, has over 30 stairways and elevators for cast to use, and contains break rooms and other necessary services - all below the actual park. A large pipe delivers all the non-recyclable trash to a trash collection area using compressed air traveling 60 miles per hour -- and it was part of the 1961 original construction!

The final event was "onstage" as we joined park guests and viewed the daily 3pm parade down Mainstreet...

Here's our "magical" group of Elderhostelers on a cold Florida February morning (click to enlarge photo)...

Behind the Scenes -- Day 1

Behind the Scenes -- Day 2

Behind the scenes -- Day 3