Behind the Scenes at Disney World

Tour de Mouse

By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 18, 2006; Page P01

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Let's just get this out of the way: They're chipper even when nobody's looking.

If you go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Walt Disney World in the hopes of catching one of those happy cast members with his smile down -- spitting on the break-room floor, maybe, or being mean to some kittens -- you'll be disappointed. Disney's Cult of Cheerfulness survives even in the no-go zones.

Otherwise, this little-publicized series of backstage tours may offer the most mind-blowing Disney experience you've had since your first wide-eyed walk down Main Street. At least, that's what I thought when:

· I went from staring through the glass of Epcot's 5.6-million-gallon Living Seas exhibit to actually diving into the thing, sharks and all.

· That giant portcullis opened in the back lot of Animal Kingdom and a couple of African elephants lumbered out for our personal viewing.

· Our private boat through the venerable Jungle Cruise revealed stagecraft secrets such as the hidden heaters used to warm the tropical plants and the actual words uttered by the animatronic cannibal ("I love disco," believe it or not).