When Walt was planning Walt Disney World, he envisioned a city of the future, EPCOT. But he knew that the vacation complex needed to be built first. This would help attract corporate sponsors that could be called upon later when it came time to build EPCOT. Walt also wanted the Magic Kingdom to be a “weenie” – the attraction that would encourage guests to drive the length of his acreage. To do this, the Magic Kingdom needed to be placed at the far north end of property. Legend has it that Walt personally picked the site while flying over his land. Here is an early concept drawing for the Walt Disney World property. Although hard to discern, you can see the Magic Kingdom and hotels near the top of the drawing.
When Walt died, the “city” of EPCOT was put on hold. Although this fact was not shared with the public, it was common knowledge in the offices of Burbank. With this information, the “experts” tried to convince Roy that it would be far more economical to build the Magic Kingdom near the interchange of Interstate 4 and Highway 192. By placing the park at this more central location, the company could avoid building a lengthy roadway through the property and they could put off the massive project of digging canals to ensure proper water drainage on the northern acreage.
Roy said no. First, he wanted to honor his brother’s site selection. But he also realized that it would be prudent to do all of the land development now rather than later. Since he was now the President and CEO of the company, he got his way. The Magic Kingdom was placed about a mile south of the north end of property. This would leave just enough room for support facilities to be built behind the park.
However, a new problem was discovered. The area directly in front of the Magic Kingdom was a swamp and would not be suitable for a parking lot. The only solution was to build the parking lot a mile and a half away. The swamp was drained, the muck cleared away, and the Seven Seas Lagoon was born. The Magic Kingdom’s utilidors, the underground tunnel system beneath the park, were built at ground level. The excavated dirt from the swamp was then placed on top of the tunnels and the Magic Kingdom was built on top of this new land. If you notice, you walk uphill from Seven Seas Lagoon to reach the park’s entrance.
At Disneyland, guests parked their cars within walking distance (or a tram ride) of the Main Gate. However, a new solution would be needed for the Magic Kingdom. Thus, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) was born. This would be the spot were guests would buy their admission and secure transportation to the park. At Disneyland, the monorail was considered a ride and required an “E” coupon. Even though it provided transportation to and from the Disneyland Hotel, it still required a ticket or hand-stamp to board (and admission to the park).
Part of Walt’s grand plan for his community of EPCOT was to have monorails and people movers transport guests everywhere within Walt Disney World. Cars were to be used only when arriving and leaving property. So it was decided that people would travel to and from the Magic Kingdom via a “highway-in-the-sky.” In addition, ferry boats would transport guests across Seven Seas Lagoon. In this later concept drawing, you can see monorail spurs leaving the TTC and heading southward through an early model of World Showcase.
Today when we look at the TTC, it’s rather boring. From ground level, all we see are metal posts holding up an uninspired roof. But when viewed from the air, it’s an inspiring design (for 1971) – especially when you compare it to the standalone ticket booths that were used at Disneyland during this same time period.
Even before the Magic Kingdom opened, the idea to build a city at Walt Disney World was abandoned. However, the Imagineers wanted to keep many of the concepts envisioned for EPCOT alive. So when EPCOT Center (the theme park) was being planned, a monorail was incorporated into the design. This next picture shows how the TTC was remodeled to accommodate this third transportation route.
Disney does have blueprints showing additional monorail lines traversing the property. But don’t hold your breath in the hopes that these will ever be added. At $100M a mile, this is not a prudent way to spend money on something that generates no tangible revenue.
When Disney started building non-monorail hotels, buses transported guests between the new resorts and the TTC. As more rooms were added the TTC became overloaded. The monorails and ferry boats couldn’t keep up with demand. To remedy this, an elaborate bus stop was built at the Magic Kingdom. Now, most guests staying at a Disney resort never see the TTC. It is used almost exclusively by those guests staying off property.
Most guests arrive at the TTC via the parking lot tram. Individuals arriving with chartered tour groups are dropped off in an area designated for buses.
In an effort to spruce up a rather drab structure, the Imagineers have used bright colors and festive decorations.
Some years back, guests could purchase an engraved hexagonal brick paver to be placed around the Seven Seas Lagoon. During this time, a grand marker, commemorating the opening of Walt Disney World, was incorporated into the walkway. It can be found out front of the ticket booths.
There are many ways to purchase theme park tickets. If you can, I strongly suggest doing so before arriving at the TTC. This will save you valuable time. However, if you arrive empty handed, there are numerous ticket booths waiting to take your money. There are also self-service vending machines to help with the crowds. For more information about Disney World tickets, click here.
There is a small gift shop located to the far right side of the TTC. You can pick up sunscreen, water, and small souvenirs here. Mickey’s Gift Station is not meant to be an all-inclusive emporium, but rather a “Oh, I forgot to buy a…” stop.
Restrooms are located on both sides of the TTC. Companion restrooms were added on the right side (near Mickey’s Gift Station) some years back to accommodate those guests needing additional assistance from a friend or family member.
A refreshment stand, located between the monorail and ferry boat stations, offers coffee beverages, soft drinks, and pastries to those needing their caffeine or sugar rush to get the day started.
The question that always comes up is, “Should you take the monorail or the ferry boat to get to the Magic Kingdom.” Disney suggests taking one mode of transportation going and the other to return. I agree. Both are enjoyable ways of traversing the mile and a half distance between the TTC and the park. On busy days, cast members stationed near the monorail queue inform guests that the ferry boat is the faster mode of travel. This is rarely true. The monorail is almost always more expedient. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the better choice. As you know, I’m always telling people to slow down and smell the roses. The ferry boat is very relaxing and puts you in a “slower pace” state of mind.
Guests can also travel from the TTC to Epcot via a monorail and to Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Downtown Disney via buses.
There are a few photo opportunities at the TTC. Topiaries of Mickey and Minnie make good backdrops for family portraits. So do the silhouetted cutouts of the various characters that line the fence.
The TTC is a remnant of a dream that never fully materialized and is beginning to show its age. Cinderblock construction is not pretty. Areas of this transportation hub could definitely use an extensive remodel. But beauty can be found everywhere if you take the time to look. Here are a few “artistic” pictures I took at the TTC. If you’re wondering where all the people are, I visited the TTC around 2pm. At this time of day, most people have already arrived at the Magic Kingdom but haven’t started leaving yet.
The previous post in this blog was A Lazy Afternoon on Sassagoula River.
The next post in this blog is LEGO Store at Downtown Disney.