UA-140396414-1Utilidor – Theme Park Architect

Utilidor

What is a Utilidor?

A Utilidor is an above water table but below finished grade hardened tunnel constructed for the conveyance – out of sight from theme park Guests – of utilities, support rooms, and Cast Members at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World. The Utilidor at Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park near Orlando, Florida was constructed on top of the existing finish grade level, several feet above the high water table that is innate to the Florida landscape. Walt Disney Imagineers realized early on in the design of the Magic Kingdom’s utilidor would be required to be built at grade with the remainder of the theme park built atop and over the Utilidor.

The word Utilidor is actually the combination of two words, the word ‘utility’ and ‘corridor’. Disney Imagineers learned their lesson from the construction of Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, that the daily movement of Cast Members, merchandise, food and beverage products, support utilities, etc. were a visual intrusion to the theme park’s overall story for the Guests. Walt Disney and his Imagineers wanted their new Magic Kingdom theme park to address these issues and thus decided to create a network of tunnels – a.k.a. Utilidors – beneath the theme park to allow for the free-form and conveyance of unsightly day-to-day operational items they did not want their Guests to view

  • The Magic Kingdom’s Utilidor varies in size and configuration depending on its location below the theme park.
  • The Utilidor system was one of the first vertical elements constructed during the Magic Kingdom’s original build.
  • The Utilidor does not extend under the entire Magic Kingdom theme park it is strategically located beneath clusters of the main facilities.
  • There are many different types of rooms within the Utilidor system but contrary to popular belief there is not a Cast Member car service station nor spare parts to Cinderella Castle.
  • The Magic Kingdom’s Utilidor has only been modified and added onto only once in the park’s near 50 year history. A small addition was added in 2012 as a part of the New Fantasyland expansion and addition to the theme park.

Understanding a Utilidor

The Magic Kingdom’s utilidor system in plan is essential a large loop around the main core building elements with a few spur ‘tunnels’ to serve specific sections of the Magic Kingdom. Additionally, there is a central ‘tunnel’ that runs down the center of the theme park connecting the Main Street area directly under Cinderella Castle to the Fantasyland portion of the Utilidor. There two short spur ‘tunnels’ are located in the Main Street area and the Frontierland area of the Utilidor system. To assist Cast Members for directional purposes, the Utilidor is color-coded depending on which ‘Land’ and portion of the Magic Kingdom you are under.

The Utilidor is constructed of thick – approximately one foot thick – concrete walls on all four sides in most locations. In certain areas, such as under the Fantasyland portion the use of a structural steel column and beam system with a thick concrete ‘roof’ that is actually the exterior promenade and floors to attractions and restaurants for the Guests above. The Utilidor has one vehicular entry located behind the Fantasyland portion of the tunnel system. The Utilidor in most main areas is large enough to drive a small commercial truck through, however, nearly all service vehicles in the Utilidor are battery powered to assist in air quality and other safety issues.

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A Utilidor was an ingenious and expensive feat of engineering unique to the Magic Kingdom theme park. However, the Utilidor is an effective operational device that is utilized twenty-four hours a day. The Utilidor contains many important functional elements required to keep the world’s most popular theme park – the Magic Kingdom – functioning smoothly on a daily basis.

There are many different types of functions and spaces contained within the Utilidor’s system. There are mechanical (A/C) rooms, pump rooms, boiler rooms, a host of various types of electrical rooms, merchandise and restaurant storage rooms, large coolers and freezers, and Show and Attraction support rooms. In select locations there Cast Member support spaces such as offices, break rooms, security rooms, locker areas, and Entertainment and Wardrobe areas supporting the various Shows and Characters. Near the vehicular entrance to the Utilidor there is a Cast Member cafeteria. At select locations around the Utilidor there are elevators and stairways connecting the Utilidor to the upper Guest and Cast Member only locations.

Another unique feature to the Magic Kingdom and its Utilidor systems is the central trash vacuum system. This system was a part of the original build of the Magic Kingdom. This vacuum system is comprised of pressurized steel tubes approximately 20 inches in diameter in which trash is whisked around from various specific back of house input stations to a central dump location located behind Frontierland near the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. From the central trash location, trucks remove the trash to the Walt Disney World landfill or recycling center.

Related Terms

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About the Author J. Daniel Jenkins, AIA, NCARB is a licensed Architect, Theme Park Design Consultant, and former Senior Project Design Manager at Walt Disney Imagineering with over twenty years of subject matter expertise and design team leadership experience. Jenkins is the creator of themeparkarchitect.com who's goal is to teach individuals about theme park architecture and design, how to become theme park architects and designers, and discuss themed entertainment industry related topics. For nearly a decade, Mr. Jenkins has worked in the themed entertainment industry on new themed entertainment attractions, theme park lands, and new theme parks. Upon leaving Walt Disney Imagineering, Jenkins started his own Design Management Consulting company where he has consulted with and provided subject matter expertise and project leadership for new, confidential projects for several themed entertainment companies. Mr. Jenkins holds a five-year Master of Architecture degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a Virtual Design and Construction Certificate from Stanford University.
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