Welcome to Theme Park Insider! Join the community or log in
Theme Park Insider
Facebook Twitter Google Plus Email Newsletter

Theme park cast member stories: Where in the world is Walt Disney World?

By Robert Niles
Published: May 10, 2010 at 11:10 AM
Did you know that there's no theme park named Walt Disney World?

Well, okay, you're Theme Park Insider readers. You're the best informed theme park fans anywhere. :-) You know that "Walt Disney World" means the Walt Disney World Resort, a collection of four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels and a shopping district, located on tens of thousands of acres in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

And that what many, more casual, theme park fans call "Walt Disney World" is simply the original attraction at the resort, the theme park we know as the Magic Kingdom. (You'll notice that I label the park "Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom" here on the Theme Park Insider, since I learned early on that if I label that park simply as "Magic Kingdom," too few new readers to the site knew to which park I was referring.)

Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Working anywhere on property at Walt Disney World, the whole Disney World/Magic Kingdom thing can cause major frustration. I've lost track of the number of such stories told to me by cast members at the various WDW theme parks, but they all reduce to an exchange something like this:

Guest: "How do I get to Disney World?"

Cast Member: "Well, to get to the Magic Kingdom, just (board the monorail/take the bus/follow the highway signs) once you exit the park."

Guest: "But I don't want to go to the Magic Kingdom! I want to go to Disney World!"

First impressions are hard to overcome. And for the first 10 years after its 1971 opening, Walt Disney World offered little more than that original theme park, the Magic Kingdom. (The resort's second theme park, Epcot - I'm sorry, EPCOT Center, didn't debut until 1982.) With the then-single Disneyland Park on the west coast in Anaheim, people found a simple parallel with a single Disney World (or, even, Disneyworld) park on the east coast near Orlando.

So that's how a generation came to know the Magic Kingdom. Disney tried its best to rebrand the park, following Epcot's opening, but millions of visitors have failed to buy that, and continue to call the park with the castle "Disney World."

Even working within the Magic Kingdom, we weren't exempt from guests asking us "how to get to Disney World." Each of us learned, quickly, that you never respond with "you're already here!" People don't like being told that they're stupid. Instead, we have to make our best guess at what the guest really wanted to see when s/he asked for directions to "Disney World."

Most of the time, we just ended up directing them toward the castle.

Giving directions anywhere at the Walt Disney World Resort often requires a bit of detective work, if not guessing. Where do you send a family that's asking for "the cowboy show"?

Did they want the afternoon stunt show in the Magic Kingdom's Frontierland? The old west scene in the Studios' Great Movie Ride? The Hoop-Dee-Doo Review at Fort Wilderness? I've encountered folks asking that question who ended up wanting each of those three.

What about "the water show"? Is that IllumiNations? Fantasmic? The water pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon? The Little Mermaid puppet show? Yep, I've found folks looking for each of these who'd asked me that same question.

Sometimes, though, even the best Det. Friday questioning won't help me help a guest who's asking for something we simply didn't have, anywhere on the resort. I'll never forget those poor souls who asked me, when I worked at Pirates of the Caribbean:

"Hey, how do I get to the Blue Bayou?"

Well, sir, first you drive to the Orlando airport….

For more of Robert's stories about working at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, visit themeparkinsider.com/stories. Or listen to Cosmic Reid's Starlight Cafe Mondays at 1pm ET.

Readers' Opinions

From Thomas Caselli on May 10, 2010 at 12:12 PM
The unfortunate thing is that people can act stupid, but you don't want them to think that you think that they are stupid. The Disney cast members always have to be kind and considerate and sometimes show some tact. One of the best things about the Disney parks is that the guests are always treated nicely, in my experience anyway.
From Anthony Murphy on May 10, 2010 at 12:26 PM
I always thought about what was "Disney World" before EPCOT. Guiness Book of World Records calls Walt Disney World the biggest Theme Park in the World.

As for the questions, I hear them when I am at WDW and sometimes cringe.

As for the strange requests, here are some I asked at the Disney Store:

Dora the Explorer
Madagascar
Spiderman (though we will have them now!)
Superman
Thomas the Tank Engine
Shrek
Blues Clues
Fivel
Wizard of Oz

From 72.40.154.214 on May 10, 2010 at 1:25 PM
To add to the confusion, I remember (while living in California) commercials advertising the Kissimee/St. Cloud area in the '90s. They said they were located in the heart of it all and listed the attractions in the area including; Walt Disney World and Epcot. I always found that funny since Epcot is part of WDW, but they apparently didn't want to refer to MK, Disney-MGM Studios or DAK. I could see how any non-Disney fan would get confused on what is/isn't part of Walt Disney World.
From 96.254.183.2 on May 10, 2010 at 2:32 PM
There's also some confusion with the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area and the 4D film "Honey I Shrunk the Audiance". When "Captain EO" returns to Epcot in July, there might be either a little more or little less confusion/anger.
From 64.237.249.48 on May 10, 2010 at 7:18 PM
Well i guess that explains why 6 million more people go to the Magic Kingdom. They don't know the other parks are Disney also. Or don't know how to get to them. Ha,ha! Agreed that a lot of people is stupid, they may not what to hear it and cast member shouldn't say it, but they're. The fact that in 2009, 6 more million people went to "Walt Disney World/Magic Kingdom/Disney/The one with the castle" than at any other Disney Park. That much discrepancy has always amazed me. Never mind the non Disney, adjacent parks. But that many more than any other Disney park?

~By the way why is it that sometimes is spelled Disnep? Or something like that.

From Sylvain Comeau on May 10, 2010 at 8:27 PM
They spend all this money to go to WDW and they don't know the first thing about it. Rubes. No wonder people think tourist = dumb.
From Thomas Caselli on May 10, 2010 at 9:11 PM
On a little bit of a different note, one thing that always gets me, whether its on TV or just your average ordinary person saying it, is when someone says Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl. Walt Disney World is not in Orlando, Fl. It is 20 some miles from Orlando.
From 66.192.143.170 on May 11, 2010 at 2:43 AM
We've gotten this from family members more than once. Living in Central Florida means that whenever family comes for a visit, they want to visit the Disney parks. And more than once they've said, "We want to go to Disney World," and I say, "Well, there are four Disney parks, which one did you want?" :-)
From hannah caller on May 11, 2010 at 4:15 AM
ive had a lot of this........

my friend-"im going to Disneyland"

Me-"oh cool how long u going to California for?"

My friend-"im not going to Disneyland California im going to Disneyland Florida"

Me-"So you're going to Disney World then!!"

its very confusing when these people talk to you!

From Adam Dodds on May 12, 2010 at 8:02 PM
working at the Jungle Cruise, people would constantly ask where Pirates is either when they don't bother looking up to see the sign or they walked right past it.

One older lady insisted that the Tower of Terror was moved from the MK to DHS.

ANother insisted we replaced the Jaws with the Jungle, that Dinosaur was Jurrasic park and that the castle used to be bigger.

People also assumed that the Jungle Cruise was either the boat to take them back to the parking lot or that it carried them to another location in the park.

Some people got off the ride and would say "That wasn't pirates at all..."

and then people would ask where the get the monorail to Universal.

And as everyone has said, people don't realize that Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom are also owned by Disney.

People who went to Disneyland but claim they went to MK when they were a kid get confused easily. The park is all arranged wrong and they switched New Orleans Square to Liberty Square on them, changed how the HM looks, made the castle bigger, moved Space Mountain to the left, made Toon Town lame, covered the start of It's A Small World and changed the Tiki Room (granted if they went to MK a long time ago, this is true). There is a surprisingly large number or people this happened to.

And my personal most annoying question was "Where do we go to win free stuff? Like the night in the castle?"

There was the other extreme. I just turned 21, and people assumed I have been working there since 1971 and assume I know the history of what has come and gone (which I know pretty well) but it was still annoying.

But alas...I somewhat miss these questions.

From Tiffany Alfonso on May 15, 2010 at 1:33 PM
That, my friends here at TPI, is my biggest pet peeve - Central Florida attraction illiteracy. Guests with it seem to ascertain whether Shrek is in the Magic Kingdom or Harry Potter is in Disney's Hollywood Studios. As a Disneyphile, I know that they are both at UOR and not at WDW!

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

More Theme Park News

Previous article: Last chance to apply to be Theme Park Insider's Halloween correspondent

May 2010 Archive



Stories from a Theme Park Insider

Stories from a Theme Park Insider

What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
Order now: Kindle | iBooks | Paperback | Kindle (UK)