Okay, we need to take a moment to discuss the paths at Disney World, and no, I’m not talking about the layout of the parks. I’m talking about the actual terrain that you spend your days in the park walking over but hardly noticing.
Imagineers design every single aspect of the Disney parks and they’re constantly hiding little gems in everything. Little things that make you stop and wonder, “who’d ever think of that?” These could be everything from the hidden Mickeys that are scattered around every park to one of my favorites – the key under the mat at the entrance to Muppet Vision. It seems like every time I visit the parks, I find something that I haven't noticed before!
The park paths are no exception to these hidden gems, so I’d like to take some time to give the park paths the appreciation that they deserve and to tell you about some of my favorite paths so you won’t miss them on your next trip to the parks.
Okay, let’s start in Hollywood Studios. The path references are subtler there. As you’re heading down Sunset Boulevard, you’ll see some trolley paths and bricks that look like they’ve been paved over. (Shown in the photo below) I feel that this perfectly ties into the ambiance that the imagineers were trying to get out of Hollywood studios – pulling back the curtain and remembering the golden age of movies, a time when even trolley cars and brick roads were romanticized. But Hollywood Studios also pays tribute to the great cinema of today, which is why the imagineers only give us a peek into this old walkway.
Our next one is much more straightforward, and I included it basically because I’m a huge Muppets fan. If you look at the brickwork on the ground outside of Muppet Vision 3D, you’ll notice that the larger tan pavers form a starburst around the Miss Piggy fountain. This mimics Kermit’s pointy collar.
I may be reaching a bit for this one, but one thing I’ve learned from being an architecture student is that every design decision is intentional. Nothing is chosen randomly.
Okay, now let’s move onto Animal Kingdom. Most of the park has simple earthy path types, which are beautiful and fit the park very well, but for this post I want to draw attention to the paths in the new Pandora part of the park.
During the daytime these paths look like they’re made of dirt. This in itself is a feat of engineering, since in actuality they’re made of concrete. They look like fallen leaves and tree bark have left their mark in them and moss has grown between their rocks. You really feel like you’re walking on a forest floor.
These paths truly come alive at night, though, as does the rest of the Pandora park. Once the black lights come on, the whole park glows blue and green and the paths are no exception.
It really was a genius move by the imagineers to have the paths glow because it eliminates the need for “streetlamp style” lighting, which would feel very out of place in such a natural setting.
Here’s a photo, but honestly, no photos can do justice for the Pandora park at night.
Okay, now onto Magic Kingdom, which in my opinion has the most little hidden treasures.
Most of the path treasures in this park come in the form of smaller items placed into the simple concrete walkways. I'll run through a few examples of these. The photo below shows the path in the queue for the Journey of the Little Mermaid ride. It's somewhat hard to tell in this picture, but there are little shells scattered throughout the path and indents that make it look like a seagull (Scuttle perhaps?) just walked onto the ride, too.
The next example you can also see while waiting in line for a ride. When you're in the queue for "Dumbo the Flying Elephant," look down and you'll see some of Dumbo's favorite snacks - peanuts!
You can find the imprints of horseshoes on the paths throughout Fantasyland, but if you look closely at the ground near Rapunzel's tower (next to "It's a Small World), you might find the hoof-prints of one of our favorite horses.
Okay, I saved my favorite path secret for last! When you're walking through the Liberty Square portion of the Magic Kingdom, if you look down, you'll notice that the path is mainly red, but it has this brown stripe running through the middle of it. This was meant to imitate the roads of colonial America, that were made of earthy clay and that stripe down the middle, that's because everyone would empty their chamber pots into the road. Yep! So think about that the next time you're headed to the Haunted Mansion!
So did I miss any hidden gems in the park paths? I probably did! There's just so many! Let me know in the comments below if you know of any other ones, so I can check them out the next time that I'm in the parks!
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