History of Walt Disney World
Walt Disney's Dream
“My only hope is that we never lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.” Perhaps one of Walt Disney’s most famous quotes, this phrase has guided the development of the Walt Disney World company ever since. Walt was a dreamer, who dared to dream big, with enough chutzpah to bring his dreams to life.
Disneyland, the original California park, was groundbreaking in every possible way. Prior to Disneyland’s creation, amusement parks were aimed almost exclusively at teenagers. Parents didn’t go on rides, they sat on benches while the kids played.
As an animator, Walt Disney had already earned a reputation as a maverick, a rebel genius who was able to sell adult audiences on feature-length cartoons, something his peers had claimed would never work. Disneyland was the culmination of many of Walt’s big dreams, a different kind of park, where parents and children could have fun together. Walt Disney told stories, and Disneyland allowed guests to become a part of those stories.
History Changes: From California To Orlando
Walt soon realized that he had made one small error when planning Disneyland. He bought only as much property as he needed. With Disneyland’s massive success, suddenly everyone wanted to cash in on the profits. Cheap motels and cheesy tourist attractions began to spring up all around. Always a dreamer, Walt began to dream of a resort property that was big enough to hold all the dreams he could possibly dream, as well as a buffer zone that protected his land of make-believe from the encroachment of the real world.
In 1959, the Walt Disney Company began scouting new locations. Although many were considered, it was Central Florida that Walt finally decided was the best. Walt began a series of flyovers in November 1963, and on October 23, 1964, the first land parcel was purchased.
Walt held a press conference on November 15, 1965, to announce what he dubbed “The Florida Project.” Much of the focus was on a project then called “Progress City,” which would eventually evolve into two separate projects, Epcot Center in 1982 and much later, the town of Celebration.
The Disney Dream Lives On
Walt Disney himself passed on December 15, 1966. Many at the company feared that the Florida Project would never come to pass. But Walt’s brother Roy was confident that the project could go ahead. Roy had been planning to retire but postponed retirement to step forward and lead the company. Under Roy’s capable guidance, Phase One of the Florida Project, consisting of The Magic Kingdom, two hotels, a campground, golf courses, and a shopping village, plus a monorail for transportation, opened on October 1, 1971.
Roy Disney passed away only two months after opening the new resort. However, operations were taken over by a team that had been personally trained by the Disney brothers, who would lead the resort for the next decade. Growth was rapid in those days, adding additional hotels, attractions, parades, and spectacles at an incredible rate.
Disney's Grows and Expands
On July 14, 1974, the company announced plans to go ahead with Phase II. Progress City, now dubbed EPCOT Center, was to be the centerpiece of the new expansion. However, EPCOT Center had changed significantly from Walt’s original concept. Rather than a city, EPCOT would be a showcase of ideas, demonstrating the interconnectedness of man through a series of exhibits on the past and future. EPCOT would also feature a global neighborhood, celebrating cultures from around the world.
The ground was broken in October 1979, and on October 1, 1982, EPCOT opened to the public. Opening day was a massive success, with a star-studded dedication ceremony rivaling any red carpet event. The building boom continued as EPCOT added many new attractions over the next two years. Meanwhile, other areas of the resort continued to grow as well.
On May 1, 1989, MGM Studios followed as a gateway to how movies are made. through the years it has expanded and been renamed Hollywood Studios. It now focuses on bringing its guests into movies and their entire lands for a truly cinematic experience. It now includes fully immersive lands with Toy Story and and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
The most recent theme park is Animal Kingdom, which opened on April 22, 1998. Part zoo part theme park, this theme park takes you around the world to see nature and its glory. Originally it was supposed to be about present-day animals, prehistoric animals, and mythical ones. The mythical ones were never created, however. But years later the idea was approached again but now represented instead by SciFi animals in Pandora.
The Walt Disney Company is, of course, made up of many departments beyond the parks and resorts. They now include movies, animation, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilms, 20th Century Fox, Hulu, ESPN, and much much more.