Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World
When most people think of Disney World what they are really thinking of is the Magic Kingdom. I guess that is only natural. The Magic Kingdom is the centerpiece of it all. It was the first park built. It is the most visited amusement park in the world (not just the Walt Disney World but the real world!) with nearly 17 million guests last year alone! But Walt Disney World is a lot more than just the Magic Kingdom.
When Disneyland was built it was not the first amusement park in the world. But Walt did not set out to build just another amusement park. He did not even set out to build something to compete with all the existing amusement parks. He wanted something totally different.
Part of that difference can be seen in a discussion Walt had with his wife Lilly.
“When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, ‘But why do you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty.’ I told her that was just the point–mine wouldn’t be.” Walt Disney
Being clean was not the only difference Walt had in mind though. He did not want people to visit just another theme park he wanted to transport them to another world. Though he was able to do that to do a degree with Disneyland he was not able to do it to his satisfaction. Built in Anaheim, California Disney was constantly finding the real world into his world.
When the Florida Project, the name for what was to become Walt Disney World, was in the planning stages Walt was able to eliminate real world intrusiveness into his world. He did this by purchasing all the property he could lay his hands on. He often did this under shell companies to keep his name out of the deal and prices lower.
Eventually he ended up with 47 square miles of land. That was more than enough to keep the sounds of the outside world from interrupting his magic. No one was going to build a hotel in his skyline again. From this point forward each building, indeed each tree, visible from this “new” Disneyland would be there by design.
Walt Disney World opened on Friday October 1st, 1971. Sadly this was almost seven years after Walt’s death in 1966. When it opened it was a monumental step forward. Walt Disney World was not just an amusement park it was an amusement mecca!
Though the Magic Kingdom was the only theme park open at the time it was not the only thing Walt Disney World had to offer. It also had two luxurious resort hotels, the Contemporary and the Polynesian. Both were connected by monorail to the Magic Kingdom itself. This new and environmentally friend form of travel was very similar to what Walt had envisioned for his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT).
For an excellent summary of what opening day attractions looked like visit thisdayindisneyhistory.com.
Through the years Walt Disney World has grown exponentially. Now there are four theme parks, seventeen (soon to be eighteen) themed hotels, one campground, five golf courses, two water parks, Downtown Disney, a huge movie theatre and the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex. And those are just the things owned by the Disney Company. There are several more elaborate hotels, all built with Disney input, on property.
The World can now satisfy almost all of your needs and the great thing about it is it is never done. It is always growing and changing. But would Walt be satisfied? Not at all. He was always trying to figure out how to plus it, to make things better. He was a lover of taking what was good and making it great. Still, I think he would be proud of what has been accomplished. He would also remind us it all started with a mouse.
Here is the first part of the press conference announcing Disney World (it wasn’t called Walt Disney World till Roy Disney changed the name in Walt’s honor)