Scouting Disney World

This photo is driving me bonkers – what intersection is this?

I’ve lived near madison square park for 4 years and i have never seen this view. Where is this? If this was the intersection of 23rd and b’way where is the plethora of cars?

08 Downtown View

Well, most people realized pretty quickly that my last post was riddled with lies! If you didn’t recognize the pictures, they’re a combination of Disney World and Universal Studio’s wonderfully wrong New York City streetscapes. If you’re a NYer, the subway entrance should have been the first giveaway…

02a Subway 02

The W and D trains of course run on completely separate lines, and Jersey travelers would be amazed to find a PATH train at 18th Street. So why WD? Walt Disney, of course! Also note that the steps lead nowhere.


My parents never took me to Disney World as a kid, and my first time visiting was at the ripe age of 25. I was all set to be cynical and unimpressed, only to have my preconceived notions blown out of the water. I’m clearly a huge fan of detail work, and I think a major reason why Disney World is such a singular phenomenon is the overwhelming attention to every single inch of the parks.

I was down in Orlando recently and stopped in for the second time. I was hoping to do a full article on the park’s hidden treasures, but I didn’t have time. Here are a few of my favorite bits…

As you’re walking down Main Street, you might notice the building proportions seem a bit off. The reason is, of course, forced perspective. While the first floors are full-sized, the second (fake) floors are all 3/4 size, and the upper floors even smaller.


This effect is used most notably on Cinderella’s Castle, which, while actually 189 feet tall, appears much larger in person.


Also on Main Street, if you note the windows on the upper floors…


…you’ll see names listed along with the fake businesses. These are all former Disney employees who have made various contributions. Yale Gracey, for example, was a park “Imagineer” who designed many of the special effects in the Haunted Mansion ride (the Mansion’s “owner,” Master Gracey, is named after him). Wathel Rogers was an imagineer who was responsible for many of the Animatronics in the Hall of Presidents.


My favorite part of Tomorrowland are the elements of retro-futurism that have managed to survive various renovations (modern futurism is so boring!). This “future salon” as seen on the People Mover ride is pretty great.


I also dig this view of a futuristic diner along one of the rivers cutting through the park.



Most people run past the entrance for the Muppet 3-D show, but if you stop and take a moment to look at the front desk…


…You’ll see a sign that says “key is under mat”…


…Yes, there is a mat…


And hey, there’s a key! (glued down, unfortunately – Disney! This should be a souvenir for those who find it!).


To me, the rides are great, but I have the most fun taking in all the details…Like looking up and noticing the huge ACME anvils being held up by giant magnets overhead…


And there is no better place for detail than the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, which, late at night, is exactly where my 8 year old self hoped to live.



Someday, I’d love to do a full behind-the-scenes article on the over-looked details of Disney World. Any favorites?


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  1. There actually used to be an 18th St. PATH station — you can still see bits of the platform if you know where to look while you’re on the PATH. There’s also a Christmas tree in the tunnel this time of year.

    One of the most incredible things about Disney World is actually the background music:

  2. Go to Epcot. The time and effort that went into some of the International Pavilions is incredible. Morocco especially with the tile work. Mexico is impressive inside (plus there’s a sweet new tequila bar!). Inside Spaceship Earth there’s an awesome 1960’s living room that I would love to have in my own home, my grand parents had the funky terrarium in their living room!
    My wife and I went to Magic Kingdom when they were still renovating Space Mountain but the People Mover was open, when the People Mover went inside Space Mountain all of the lights were on and there were a few places where you got a good look at the roller coaster and the interior dome. Man that place needed a good cleaning!

  3. I would love to see some coverage from the following:

    Pirates of the Caribbean
    The Jungle Cruise
    Tom Sawyer Island
    The Backlot Studio Tour.

  4. I love the whole place and I love knowing details like this. Thanks for posting. I hope you do a full post on it someday.

  5. Glad to see the Swiss Family Treehouse there. One of the best atmospheric and thematic experiences of the whole Disney property. When I was 8 I really did want to live there.

  6. One of my favorite trivia about CA Disneyland was learning that the park was built approx. 12 feet down which makes it impossible to see the outsideworld. In addition, the airspace above Disneyland is a no fly zone. Why? All of this so you never see the “real” world during your visit.

  7. Love this series! Disney World has always scared me a little but these great details make me appreciate the twisted nature of the place! So intriguing! Thanks!

  8. Not sure if they’ll let you explore it, but there’s supposed to be a whole “city” or at least an extensive underground system of tunnels that staff use so they don’t ruin the “magic”.

  9. Wow. Your correspondent has lived near Madison Square Park for 4 years and doesn’t know the Flatiron Building is higher than six storeys?

  10. I seem to remember my 15-year-old self being seriously impressed by the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride. The drop itself didn’t stay with me so much as all the incredible detail put into the fantastically abandoned “Hollywood Tower Hotel.” Would love to see your take on it.

  11. I know this is months later, but one of my favorite things about Disney is the “Hidden Mickey’s” all around. I love looking for them, especially with the little kids in the family because they find them everywhere. There are a few different websites that document them, but it’s more fun to find them on your own.

  12. A friend of mine works at the parks and pointed out something to me once that was very interesting in the Magic Kingdom. If you start at the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square, and follow the path along the water where Tom Sawyer’s Island is, you will notice that the architecture of the facades change with the geography of the United States going west as you move towards Froniter Land and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The Haunted Mansion is likened to Hyde Park, NY ( I think), then Liberty Square is Philadelphia, Pecos Bill is Texas and the Southwest, all the way to BTMR which is California. I can’t remember everything specifically, but the next time you go, take a look. It’s pretty cool.

  13. all of my kids enjoy the park and rides in Disney World, disney really knows how to please kids ,:~