The world is a perfect circle; a wheel with a central core, the nucleus of the city. At the core of the radial design are business and commercial areas. Outside of the core lie community and recreational complexes along with public schools. Lining the perimeter are residential neighborhoods with modest rental rates. Not that it matters, because everyone is steadily employed. While the working class travels by monorail, the remaining traffic takes place underground for the sake of pedestrians. This is the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”, a hypothetical society built to house 20,000 people. A utopia with qualities of a dystopia, this plan never materialized in quite the way Walt Disney had hoped. When he died, his vision was honored with a theme park. This park, known as “EPCOT”, acronymized Disney’s idea into a model of his forward-thinking mentality. This motif of innovation laid the foundation for which Disney World would be built on, and yielded what is now an obscure layer that sits below the surface of the iconic Mickey Ears and Space Mountain.
This literal layer, known as the utilidors, is the catalyst for Disney as an experience and a business. It is the underground transportation system that was designed to reify the guest experience and expedite the innerworkings. When in Magic Kingdom, you will never see a character out of place- Buzz Lightyear in the Twilight Zone, or Chip and Dale in Tomorrowland. You will never see a staff “cast” member take out the trash because all of the trash is emptied into an uber-efficient, inconspicuous system in the utilidors. You will also notice that you are never more than thirty steps away from a trash can at any location in the park. This is because in a Disney study, it was concluded that an average person will travel no farther than thirty steps before they simply drop the trash on the ground. Next time you are at Disney, look around and observe the spotless parks. Guests are never exposed to trash or out of place characters because everything takes place underground. This is the other dimension of Disney World, one of the many unknown secrets that keep the entertainment empire the most magical place on earth. While the intricate inner workings of Disney certainly contribute to its success, everything starts on the surface.
The magic begins the moment you enter the vicinity of the mother park, Magic Kingdom. If you listen closely, you can hear Walt Disney’s opening speech playing outside of the railroad in morse code. Walt Disney is revered in the world of Disney, and his legacy is tributed as borderline divine. His remembrance is symbolized through the existence of over 1,000 hidden mickey mouse ears throughout the park in the form of paintings, sculptures, and even entire parks. Disney’s Hollywood Studios, formerly known as MGM, takes the shape of Mickey ears when studied from a bird’s eye view. Furthermore, in every attraction lie hidden tributes to the Imagineers who created them in the form of inside jokes. For example, in the Tower of Terror lobby, if you look closely behind the “tickets counter”, you may see a pickle jar nailed to the desk.This is because the Imagineers who crafted the attraction played pranks with that pickle jar throughout the creation process. This hidden magic pairs with an impeccable customer service branch to ensure the perfect guest experience. But there is one more secret that separates Disney from the rest of the entertainment universe.
The secret to Disney World’s immense success is their ability to consistently tailor to an audience of any age, any background, and any culture. They achieve this by holding unmatched standards for the persona of cast members that can be hired. The rigorous training process entails hours upon hours of research and reading, an eight hour course on history, a textbook of dress rules and code of conduct. Less than half of the applicants are still standing by the end. The rest are “terminated”, which means that they are fired and left to pursue other careers because they are deemed incompetent to withstand the high-stress working environment of Disney World. A very particular dress code, known as the “Disney Look”, reads that men can not have piercings or hair that falls past their shirt collar; while women are required to keep hair neatly brushed and at a reasonable length. Furthermore, the criteria becomes even more specific when it comes to characters; princesses have to stand between 5’4 and 5’8, while no Mickey Mouse can trump 5’2. This means that most likely, you will meet Mickey while a woman is behind the mask. In addition to following a strict dress code, members also have a set of rules in which they need to follow in order to ensure no guest is offended. For example, when you ask any Disney employee for direction, they will always point with two fingers. This is because in some cultures, pointing with one finger is considered offensive. The employee will also never respond to a question with “I don’t know”. They will always make sure to point you in the right direction or refer you to another cast member in order to maintain their all-knowing reputation. If a guest throws up, nearby cast members will simply call it a “protein spill” or a “code V” to spare the ego of the visitor. It is the sum of these small practices that contribute to ensure a happy experience for each of the park’s visitors.
Surely at some point in your adult or adolescent life you have heard something along the lines of “I have grown out of the Disney magic”, or “Disney is for children, it’s all fake”. But take a step back and think: weren’t some of your fondest memories fostered by the Disney magic? There is much more to Disney’s ageless success than meets the eye. What began as a charismatic cartoon mouse and a map for the future, now stands as one of the most successful, well-run, fascinating organizations in the world. A child may describe it as magic. A pseudo-intellectual may describe it as a business. But a true Disney Fanatic and Imagineer would combine the two, and explain that Disney is a perfect, positive world of escapism and magic with one of the most brilliant system of innerworkings and architectures that the world has ever seen.