Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The details that are underfoot

There are no accidental props or artifacts at Walt Disney World’s theme parks. All items and signage serve to enhance or extend the overall story in a given area. Think of the elaborate scenery in the external queue and eventually inside the show building for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, for example.

The smaller the item, the better, I say. The reward is finding the minor, esoteric details that Disney designers and Imagineers have concocted. Sometimes, they’re simply underfoot, waiting to be discovered.

Utility holes, in their most basic state, exist to allow access to the necessary underlying infrastructure that any municipality needs, including theme parks. Given their, well, utilitarian nature, they are typically of the no-frills variety. Not at Walt Disney World.

Around the property, you can find the old-school “Globe D” icon embedded in the center of utility lids. My favorite moderate resort, Port Orleans French Quarter, has lids that read “City of Port Orleans,” adding depth to the overall theming of the resort.

In this regard, I was thrilled to find another small nugget on a utility hole cover at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, near the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. The cover I found had a basic grid of raised squares, to allow for traction with the multitude of footsteps that fall upon it. There in the center in a square pattern is a four letter acronym RCID and a water wave icon, combined to make a larger central square. What, exactly, is RCID? And why is it important?

RCID is shorthand for the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and its roots trace back to Walt himself. As the Walt Disney Company was determining how to make Walt’s dream of an experimental prototype community of tomorrow a reality, it knew it needed land, and lots of it. Further, it would need an autonomous agency to aid and assist with the development of the property. Disney petitioned the Florida State legislature to create an Improvement District that “could act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government. The new legislation said that landowners within the Reedy Creek Improvement District, primarily Walt Disney World, would be solely responsible for paying the cost of providing typical municipal services like power, water, roads, fire protection etc.”* The legislation was passed, and the newly minted Improvement District was named for a nearby existing waterway, Reedy Creek.

Orange County and Osceola County sheriffs have legal jurisdiction at Walt Disney World, but the environmental and municipal issues are handled by RCID. The logo on a utility hole cover is perfectly natural.

RCID also provides fire protection at Walt Disney World. It’s why the fire houses on property sport the RCFD — Reedy Creek Fire Department — logo. 

For an in-depth review of development of Disney’s Florida property, including the Reedy Creek Improvement District, turn to Chad Emerson’s fascinating and detailed book, Project Future.

*From rcid.org

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