Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Explaining Disney's Survey Markers

By Keith Mahne

Have you ever walked around a Disney Park and noticed those tiny, three-inch in diameter flat disks buried in the ground and wanted to know what they are? Disney does a fantastic job of separating what's considered "on-stage" and "off-stage" through the use of Utilidors, berms and tree lines. However, tiny objects called survey markers made their way "on-stage" even though they relate more to the "off-stage" world. Believe it or not, these tiny metal markers play an important role in the history of Disney. Find out exactly what those Disney survey markers are and why they are important in today's new article...

Land surveying at Disneyland and Walt Disney World began almost immediately after each property was purchased and, especially in the case of the Florida project, was done even before word got out that Disney was the new owner. Bill Hart, a local Florida surveyor, was quickly tasked to map out thousands of acres, most of which was thick swampland. Hart and his crew came through flawlessly, even relying on solar observations to produce a Cartesian coordinate system so accurate that it's still in use today.

One of the most well-known surveying obstacles for Disney took place at Walt Disney World during the layout of the monorail tracks. Think of all those pylons that had to be placed at just the right angle and height several times over. The slightest mishap would've thrown off the whole thing and each track had to fit perfectly. Using GPS precision and laser rangefinders, modern surveying tools allow for amazing accuracy. However, the tools used in the 1960s were more mechanical and required plenty of patience and energy. Considering that the monorails have been running since 1971, much respect and appreciation goes out to the survey crews of that era and their hard work.

Roy Disney looks over the land that will soon be Walt Disney World

Since the beginning of Disneyland in the 1950s and every Walt Disney World project beginning in the late-1960s, be it the creation of a resort like the Polynesian or an attraction like Splash Mountain, the project begins with a survey of the land in question. Whenever it is deemed necessary to do so, permanent survey markers are placed on the ground to signify a known measuring point to ease the work of future projects. These survey markers serve two purposes: they indicate a fixed and measured way point on Disney property and they also act as another fun piece of Disney magic, similar to Hidden Mickey's, for fans to be on the lookout for.

A surveyor at work during the construction of the Magic Kingdom

Currently, there are approximately eighty Disney survey markers spread out all across Walt Disney World property. These markers can be found in all four theme parks, many resorts, the Disney water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and more. Odds are you probably came across one and stopped to look at it for a second or two. Unintentionally, they have become a fun, accidental find many times for me personally and I always have to point them out to others when I do. It's just another one of those things that makes a trip to the Disney Parks so special. Something as little as this adds up to something uniquely Disney.

Oftentimes, the markers are usually hidden by foliage or placed along less frequently travel areas of the Parks. Here are a couple for you to keep an eye out for on your next visit to Walt Disney World:

1) Take the route in Epcot that runs along the Odyssey restaurant as you head toward World Showcase. You should see one of the Park's original survey markers which is labeled P.I.991510...

2) The next one you can find as you enter the Magic Kingdom via the right side tunnel. After you enter the Park, head toward the railroad station stairs and look for a survey marker that features some unique WDW script compared to some of the originals...

Like Walt Disney World property, Disney survey markers can also be found all around the Disneyland Resort as well. With markers that feature simply the original Disneyland font...

...or ones that have Sleeping Beauty Castle, Grizzly Peak and a monorail (like the one pictured below), these are just as fun to track down or come across on trips to the resort.

So friends, the next trip you make to Walt Disney World or Disneyland you'll know exactly what the Disney survey markers do and how important they have been over Disney's history. Plus, they make the perfect family challenge to see just how many markers you can find. Happy hunting!


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.


  1. I'm a land surveyor. Love the markers!

  2. Also a surveyor. Nice to see an article acknowledging the very important role we surveyors play in the world. Including Disney World��