Undiscovered Main Street by Aaron McElwee

Every visit to Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World begins the same way. You press you brightly colored magic band to a glowing Mickey head, it turns green and the kind cast member wishes you a magical day. As you pass under the Train Station your day begins in what are some of Walt’s fondest memories of his childhood. Main Street USA is a living, turn of the century town complete with all the shops and fun places Walt recalled from growing up in Missouri. But, what most guest don’t notice, as they barrel down Main Street to rocket to the stars on Space Mountain or sail the world on The Jungle Cruise are the fine details and little elements which make up the theming on Main Street. This, the undiscovered Main Street, is part of what makes this one of my favorite places at Walt Disney World.

As you make your way into this first themed land of the park, take a look at the ground around you. Although the street is dark, the sidewalks are red. Now we are pretty sure the sidewalks in Marciline were not paved red in the early 1900. So you may ask yourself, “Why are the sidewalks red here then?” During the construction of the Magic Kingdom, Kodak, the former official photo sponsor for the Walt Disney World Resort, was consulted regarding paint colors for the all parts of the park. When it came to the sidewalks, the folks from Kodak suggested a warm red tone, as it would improve picture quality when the bright Florida sun bounced off of it. Hesitant at first, those in charge finally found fun in the idea of “rolling out the red carpet” for their guests. So the red stuck, and over 40 years later is still one of the first colors to greet guests today.

One of the first things that draws you attention on Main Street, beside the towering castle of course, is Town Square. Home to the flag pole and some park benches. But of all the park benches, one in particular is unique. Seated on the bench closet to Cinderella Castle is a statue of Roy Disney, Walt’s brother, and Minnie Mouse. Most people are familiar with the Partners statue of Walt and Mickey at the hub just in front of the castle, but that is what makes this statue of Roy and Minnie so special. The statue by Blain Gibson is titled “Sharing the Magic” and was placed in the Magic Kingdom in 1999. Gibson created the statue of Minnie sitting next to Roy to show Roy as more approachable as he tended to fade into the background while Walt was the face of the company. Also, take note that Roy is supporting Minnie’s hand from the bottom. This was Gibson’s way of of showing Roy’s support for Walt in his new business venture. It has been said that while Walt and Mickey will always steal the show, just down the street, will forever be, their biggest supporters.

Before you get to far away from Town Square, wander toward the Fire Station. Nestled between the Emporium and the horse stalls is one of the best kept secrets of Walt Disney World. When Main Street opened at Disneyland in 1955 you could find just about any shop along the path. Yes, people could even buy their groceries or ladies undergarments, just before taking a spin on Dumbo. One of the shops was however, was a barber shop, complete with a barber shop quartet. Most everyone knows of the quartet, but did you know, the barber shop still exists on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The cast members inside are happy to offer cool dos to all the cool guys and gals in your group. They will even help you celebrate your little one’s first hair cut, complete with a clipping and a special certificate. Oh and of course a sucker for the brave little kiddo.

Wandering down Main Street may make you feel like you have stepped back in time, to turn of the century America. The Victorian style of the shops, the old timey music, even the cast members costumes will make you feel like you’ve made it back to a simpler time. But did you know that each step you take towards the castle is taking you into the future. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the lamps on either side of the street. As you start your journey down Main Street the lamps look like they might have someone come by and light the gas inside just before night fall. These old style gas lamps would have been the means for lighting the streets at the the beginning of the 20th century. Closer to Cinderella Castle, the lamps make a change. With the popularity of electricity during this time, the lamps would change from gas lamps to electric ones. Those at the end of Main Street are just that. Replicas of turn of the century electric street lamps. Only at Disney World can you walk down the street and end up in a totally different time.

Ever wonder who all those names belong to on the windows in Main Street. Or maybe you just thought they were faked to make the street look more realistic. Truth is, the windows of Main Street are labeled with the names of those who have helped the company and the Magic Kingdom become all that it is today. There is even a window dedicated to all the cast member of the Magic Kingdom. One man, and I’m sure you can guess who, has 2 windows in very special places on Main Street. Walt Disney passed away before he could see the completion of the “Florida Project” which became Walt Disney World. As a special honor 2 windows were given Walt’s name. The first appears just above the train station facing Bay Lake. The window reads “Walt Disney World Railroad Office – Keeping Dreams on Track – Walter E. Disney, Chief Engineer”. The window here serves as Walt greeting to all his guests as they enter the Magic Kingdom. The 2nd window sits just above the Plaza Restaurant at the end of Main Street facing the castle. This window reads “Walter E. Disney – Graduate School of Design & Master Planning – Instructors, Howard Brummitt, Marvin Davis, Fred Hope – Headmaster, Richard Irvine – Dean of Design, John Hench – Instructors, Vic Greene, Bill Martin, Chuck Myall”. This window is said to forever leave a place for Walt to look out over all that he, and his amazing team of imagineers, have done to bring joy and happiness to all who come to their Magic Kingdom.

So as you can see, Main Street USA is full of secrets hidden all around you. Some may be in plane sight and you’ve never noticed them before. Other may be waiting for you to discover. Thanks for taking a trip through Walt’s home town with me. Until next time, remember, there’s a great, big beautiful tomorrow, just a dream away!

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