The department at Walt Disney World charged with decorating and props for special events, park promotions, press events, conventions, and anything in Orlando of a TEMPORARY nature is called Park Event Operations (PEO). They are located several miles off-property, not far from the Florida Mall, in an industrial park area. This weekend, I was able to tour their warehouse as part of an upcharge event for Tables in Wonderland. The $120 ticket (after tax) included a buffet dinner of what must be described as gourmet food prepared fresh (and in some cases in front of us). But let’s be honest: the real thrill here was the chance to wander through the props and receive a guided tour that pointed out many of the highlights.
The building is unassuming from the outside. But just look carefully at the “front” they have set up on the door, and even inside the waiting room!
There are only a few designers here permanently on staff, and each one has an elaborately decorated office, set to a theme. You’ll find one themed to Pirates of the Caribbean, one for Nightmare Before Christmas (with props from the original maquettes used to ‘sell’ the concept of the movie), one for Snow White, one for Dumbo, and one themed like an outdoor BBQ.
Our dinner took place out in the warehouse proper, and was delicious, served by station. They were serving us neverending (strong) appletinis, beer, and wine as well.
We were allowed to take pictures of the props around us, but once the official tours started, we were asked to put cameras away. We saw hundreds of props and photo backdrops from temporary events in the parks, and even things that were not temporary, such as a big Simba from Legend of the Lion King (puppet show in Fantasyland), and ride vehicles from Snow White, Skyway, and Star Jets. It was theme park nerd nirvana, ambrosia to the few dozens of us there at the special event.
Over in one corner was a front cab of a Mark IV monorail, and the top shell of a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea sub I’d seen at some events before (the PEO crew decorates pin events and that sort of thing too).
The PEO has its own paint shop and carpentry shop. They carve a lot of foam core as the basis for many props and backdrops, using a hard coating on top to harden it before painting.
The event was worth every penny. Not only will we be back, we’d go more often than once a year if they ever decided to do it more often.
More information and updates
Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations:
- UltimateOrlando.com – Kevin’s personal blog for daily WDW updates
- Public Facebook page – or friend his personal Facebook account
- Twitter feed (user UltOrlando)
- Google+ account (user cafeorleans)
- Email at [email protected]
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- Kevin’s books on Amazon