Revealed! Five secrets of Walt Disney World, Orlando!

It’s been 50 years of making magic at Walt Disney World in Florida. And today, Disney mascot, the globally loved Mickey Mouse, turns 93! What better day than Mickey’s birthday to delve into some Disney fun…

When Walt Disney created his dream world out of a Florida swamp, few imagined that it would have such staying power, becoming one of the world’s most well-known tourist destinations and continue to live up to its tag as ‘The Most Magical Place on Earth’ even 50 years later. Now, along with the original Disneyland at Anaheim in California, and the others across the world in Paris, Hongkong, Tokyo, and Shanghai, Disney parks have capitalised on the films and their characters, just as Walt had envisaged.   

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Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse take pride of place at the park entrance at Magic Kingdom.
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For this prolific creator, winner of the maximum number of Academy Awards in history, it all started with Mickey Mouse, the cartoon character that he first revealed to the world on November 18, 1928.

Almost a century old and still a household figure that’s so close to our hearts, Mickey (who almost got named Mortimer Mouse, at first!), is the mascot of the Disney empire and stands tall with Walt Disney at the entrance of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

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Mickey Mouse’s first outing in 1928 in ‘Steamboat Willie’.

Hey Mickey, hi Mickey!

No matter how often you’ve been to Walt Disney World (or are hoping to go there soon), each visit is different. And what promises to make it extra exciting is a hidden treasure trove that not everyone knows about. There are hundreds of Hidden Mickeys liberally sprinkled all over the parks by the Imagineers or original creators and new ones keep appearing now and then even today. It’s fun to keep a record of all the ones you spot as you go along, and also a great way to keep yourself and the kids entertained when waiting in queues for the popular rides!

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Spotting such ‘Hidden Mickeys’ is a popular thing amongst Disney fans who visit the parks often.

Many are easy to find, be it those familiar three circles that form Mickey’s head seen behind a waterfall, around a drain on the ground, or tucked away behind some foliage. But some others will need all your powers of observation and imagination combined! There’s even a book published to help you find the most enduring ones — The Hidden Mickeys of Walt Disney World — written by former Imagineer Kevin Neary and his wife Susan! Grab a copy before you go.

The various worlds of Walt Disney World

Even as Walt Disney World keeps changing and reinventing, with the addition of new rides and new parks, the Imagineers work really hard to make sure that each remains a universe unto itself. So, if you’re standing in one area, you will never see bits of another park intruding in your line of sight. They always have trees or some other way to create a visual barrier between different themes.

What’s more, just to keep the illusion of each ‘world’ intact, they ensure that no one who isn’t dressed the part wanders into the wrong world. And if the sight wasn’t enough to keep you grounded, they apparently also have a whole team dedicated to creating what they call ‘smellitisers’, aromas crafted to suit the mood of a certain space, such as a salty sea breeze around Pirates of the Caribbean, or warm bakery feel near Main Street, USA! Be ready to sniff your way around Disneyworld the next time you visit!

They don’t just phone it in

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While you’re on Main Street, drop by The Chapeau for yet another reveal. You may be distracted by all the cute Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears, caps, and other headgear you can buy here but keep your ear out for something even more unique created by the ingenious Imagineers! If you see an antique phone in the back of the shop, pick up the receiver and you could listen in on a chat from decades ago.

Yes, this well-kept secret is a conversation that apparently dates back to 1971. If you have the patience, you can spend three-and-a-half minutes listening in to worldly wise advice and complaints between an anxious mother and daughter who is supposedly shopping for groceries at Mr Dinglinger’s General Store.

Even their BTS isn’t boring!

You’ll have seen how the Cast Members (as the team at Walt Disney World is known) seem to appear and disappear almost magically. Well, the fact is, there are actually backstage exits and tunnels called Utilidors (yes, really!) that connect up the main parts of the parks so that people can get around quickly without bumping into visitors. You may not be allowed to peek inside a Utilidor, but wouldn’t it be fun to try and spot the entrance and exit of these secret corridors?

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50 years of Walt Disney World!

Still a parade of talent, 50 years later!

When Walt Disney World opened with Magic Kingdom in October 1971, they had the first ever grand parade with a full marching band, thousands of balloons, and scores of Disney characters led by the mascot — Mickey Mouse! Today, even if there are no live elephants participating (thank goodness for their zero-cruelty approach!), it’s still a really grand affair and takes place several times a day.

Called Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade, the high-energy parade heads down Main Street, the USA towards the Cinderella Castle. Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy host the party along with several other characters. This year all of them, as well as Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale, received awesome new ‘EARidescent’ costumes as part of the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary celebration!

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