Wow, has Walt Disney World got a lot of strange but wonderful secrets!
We all love to learn new facts and stories about Walt Disney World, from the amazing shape of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park to the best way to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks. There are so many hidden Mickeys, attraction tricks, and dining tips across Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs that continue to make us smile.
Here, we provide some of our favorite fun stories behind the magic at Walt Disney World and hope that some of these will surprise you!
The Magic EPCOT Umbrella
When rainfall happens at Walt Disney World, Spaceship Earth is a great place for Guests to avoid getting wet, but it doesn’t seem like it would be! Spaceship Earth is a geodesic sphere, which means that theoretically, rainwater should gush downward and around to the base of the ball when rain hits the top.
In actuality, EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth was designed so that when it rains, no water ever pours off the 16-million-ton sphere. Instead, the water travels through a gutter passage through the ball itself and is funneled into the Disney Park’s World Showcase Lagoon. EPCOT uses Alucobond panels, which create a drainage system that runs internally. There are one-inch gaps between each panel which allow rainwater to funnel in and collect through the drainage system. If you walk under Spaceship Earth, Guests will be able to see the small gaps between the panels. Great Disney Imagineering, right?
The Disney World Attractions that Almost Break the Law
It’s no secret that Expedition Everest and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror are tall attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort. Their iconic structures can be seen across Lake Buena Vista – both thrill rides that send Guests screaming down classic drops. Across Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme parks, there is no building taller than these popular rides. Expedition Everest stands at 199.5 feet tall, and the Tower of Terror measures up at 199 feet. The Magic Kingdom Park’s Cinderella Castle, for comparison, is only 189 feet high.
Very specific heights, right? Well, there is a reason behind these deliberately measured-out buildings, and it comes down to the law. Buildings taller than 200-feet are required to flash aviation lights. And, of course, that would ruin some of the Disney Park magic.
These heights avoid ruining Disney Imagineers’ work with theming and also remain within the plane safety regulations of the FAA. The Hollywood “glitz and glitter” of Disney’s Hollywood Studios doesn’t get interrupted. At the same time, the carefully designed Asian aesthetic of Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom isn’t taken away by a big red light on top of the mountain.
Walt Disney World Acts As Its Own “Government”
We all know that Walt Disney World is huge. The theme park Resort covers over 25,000 acres, which is a whopping 43 square miles. If you need some context, that is the same size as the entire city of San Francisco, making Disney World large enough to have its own zip code.
You might have thought that Walt Disney World was located in the City of Orlando, but it’s actually a part of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Since 1967, the Walt Disney World Resort has been able to reside in Lake Buena Vista unregulated, basically acting as its own “government.” The Reedy Creek Improvement Act involved creating a special taxing district that acts with the same authority as a county government. Local taxpayers – residents of Orange County and Osceola County – do not have to pay for building or maintaining Disney’s essential services like water and electricity.
Disney manages its own essential services, fire departments, and building improvements in Walt Disney World, including at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme parks.
Now, however, after over 50 years, it looks like this is all about to end. With a considerable amount of ongoing conflict between Disney Parks and the Florida Governor, it was announced that this act would be dissolved in the form of a bill that was welcomed by Florida Legislature and signed off by Ron DeSantis. The bill has been seen as Republican retaliation for Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s stance on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
A 68-Year Disney World Vacation
There are many options available when booking accommodation for a Disney vacation. Airbnb, hotel chains, and RV parks offer cheaper stays for visiting Guests, but nothing beats returning to your own room at a Disney Resort Hotel on property.
The Walt Disney World Resort owns and operates more than 25 Disney Resort Hotel locations for Guests, ranging from Value Resorts like Disney’s All-Star Movies and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort to Deluxe Resorts like Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Have you ever wondered, though, just how many hotel rooms Disney has on-site? Well, even at a rate of one Guest room per night, it would take 68 years to stay in each of the 36,000 rooms at all of the Walt Disney World hotels and Resorts!
That’s right, you’d need a 68-year stay to see every bedroom on property. Not included in this astonishing number are the 800 campsites available at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, which add a whole other realm to staying at Disney World. There are 28,037 rooms owned and operated by Disney World, and another 8,000 across other area hotels, including the B Resort & Spa – Disney Springs Resort Area Hotel, Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan Hotels, the military Resort Shades of Green, and more.
Walt Disney World’s Enormous Cast Member List
If you added up the number of Cast Members at every other Disney Resort worldwide – Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, and Shanghai Disney Resort – you would still fall around 12,000 people short of the 77,000 employees who work at Walt Disney World in Central Florida.
From Princesses and restaurant servers to housekeepers and bus drivers, Walt Disney World is the largest single-site employer in the United States. Over 285,000 pounds of laundry is cleaned by WDW employees every day!
And as any Cast Member at The Walt Disney Company will tell you, Disney guards its secrets well, with many of the illusions, training, and Imagineer gems all hidden from the public eye.
Cast Members are trained in a Traditions class at Disney University – getting your very own degree in Magic! The University is located behind the Magic Kingdom Park, and newly hired Cast Members and Disney College Program participants attend employee orientation, known as “Disney Traditions.” The class shares the importance of Disney’s culture, heritage, and policies, with lessons including “We Create Happiness” and “SafeD begins with me.”
Magic Kingdom’s Flag Fakery
Have you ever noticed how many flags and buntings there are down Main Street, U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom Park? When Guests walk down the famous theme park street at both Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom, they are greeted with a continuous July 4 celebration. Walt did love America, after all!
These flags hide a secret, however – they are not official American flags! During the flag retreat, only one flag is taken down each day at each Disney theme park — the flags at the entrances of EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney California Adventure are taken down by security Cast Members without added fanfare.
With so many American flags across Disney theme parks – especially at Walt Disney World – Disney did not have enough manpower to honor the United States Flag Code. So, Imagineers used props to keep the American spirit alive in the Disney Parks.
These fake flags do not have 13 stripes and are missing a few stars. They, therefore, do not need to be taken in during inclement weather, nor do they need to be illuminated at night. These flags are more accurately referred to as pennants and so are not bound by the regulations of the national flag code.
So, there you have it. The weird and wonderful facts and secrets behind the iconic Walt Disney World Resort and its four theme parks. From fake flags and a Spaceship umbrella to Cast Member secrets and a short Mount Everest, there is always something new to discover about the Lake Buena Vista Resort.
Next time you’re on a Disney vacation, make sure you look out for these fun tidbits!