Audio Central in the Magic Kingdom Utilidors

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Features, Imaginerding, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Frontpage_Imaginerding

Published on July 07, 2014 at 1:00 am with 4 Comments

Eyes and Ears, the Walt Disney World Cast Member publication, has changed vastly over the decades. In the first ten years or so, the format was much smaller that today’s version and much less glossy. A majority of the subject matter of the early years focused on cast benefits and social functions (lots of softball). Occasionally, you run into snippets of information that talk about new attractions, restaurants or shows opening.

Not only did Disney have issues promoting the Vacation Kingdom of the World to the public, but they also spent a lot of time explaining the Florida property to the cast. The older issues of Eyes and Ears also spent time looking at the behind-the-scenes areas and sharing a lot of upcoming news and rumors; it’s not stuff that you really see today.

on-set-logo-09-09-1972-eyes-ears

I love running across items in which Eyes and Ears focuses of something that Walt Disney World was proud of, so to speak. The technologies that were implemented at the Vacation Kingdom, for the most part, were the real driving forces of EPCOT Center. Solar power, the automated vacuum collection (AVAC), fiber optic communications and more were all examples of how forward-thinking Walt Disney World was. In many Eyes and Ears, there was a section entitled “On The Set” that looked at how the magic happened. This one looked at Audio Central in the Utilidors under the Magic Kingdom.

Audio Central, the division of the Audio Department responsible for broadcasting the hundreds of music and sound effects tapes heard both in the Magic Kingdom and the resort hotels. Taped music is also channeled to many employee offices, break areas and cafeterias from this facility.

I can’t imagine having taped music from the Magic Kingdom in my office! Oh, wait. Yes, I can, but we’ve got Internet Radio. So, let’s take a little peak from the September 9, 1972 Eyes and Ears and journey to Audio Central to see what happens.

on-set-photo-01-09-09-1972-eyes-ears

1. (above) & 2. (below) Brigitte Collum, a department Audio Monitor, removes a defective “Spot-Master” tape cartridge tray. In addition to performing continuous checks for malfunctioning cartridges, Brigitte also disassembles and repairs them right at her desk!

on-set-photo-02-09-09-1972-eyes-ears

on-set-photo-03-09-09-1972-eyes-ears

3. “By ‘punching up’ different number codes on this equipment, we can listen in on any of nearly 800 different tapes,” says Jim McCaskill, an Electrician “A” Trainee. Jim, who joined the cast exactly a year and a day ago, explained that individual sound effects, as well as music, can be monitored here. The equipment can also cut off all sound throughout the Theme Park and be used as a gigantic public address system.

on-set-photo-04-09-09-1972-eyes-ears

4. Cable, cable and more cable! That’s what Jerry Aldrich, Audio Department Supervisor, sees every time he lifts a floor panel. The maze of cables . . . more than 19,000 miles of them . . . link all audio playback equipment with huge amplifiers and thousands of speakers throughout the Magic Kingdom.

on-set-photo-05-09-09-1972-eyes-ears

5. Bin loop tape playback machines . . . nine of them in audio-animatronic functions. “Each of these units retails for around $15,000,” says Audio Department Superintendent Harry Mason. “They use a one-inch magnetic tape that can carry up to 14 sound tracks. Here, Harry (right) oversees the loading of a Country Bear Jamboree tape . . . one of four needed to keep the show running!

By the way, that $15,000 in 1971 dollars would be close to $90,000 today! I’m always glad to run across a behind-the-scenes look at early Walt Disney World. Disney was so proud of what they were doing back then and had no issues sharing it with the world! It was also a way for sharing how Disney was developing EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World.

DACS-audio-control-room

The image above is from the amazing Walt Disney World: The First Decade. If you’re looking for a fantastic read about the development of Walt Disney World with tons of photos from the first ten years, then you need to pick up a copy!

Do you have a favorite piece of Walt Disney World technology? What other examples of early EPCOT Center technology do you remember?


ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

Browse Archived Articles by

4 Comments

Comments for Audio Central in the Magic Kingdom Utilidors are now closed.

  1. Love the old hardware. To think that those banks of tape decks and loop machines would all fit in a couple of equipment racks today.

  2. It really does blow my mind that this stuff was “cutting edge” back then!

  3. Amazing everything they could do with the little technology that existed.

  4. It is fascinating. It also appears that they spared no expense to get the best equipment to seamlessly support the show. Don’t see much of that happening anymore in a world where budget is everything. I’m sure it was also hugely more expensive to go with the “central control” approach as opposed to independent operating systems for most things, which we see more of today. The value of the centralized system has dropped as time (and technology) has moved on.

    Great nostalgic article, thanks George!