Todd D. McCartney
His dream became a reality on July 17, 1955 when the "Happiest Place on Earth" opened its gates in Anaheim, CA. Disneyland was an instant success. Amusement parks around the country quickly followed Disney's model and began polishing up their looks.
During the 1964-65 Worlds Fair in New York state the Walt Disney Company displayed their talents for building creative exhibitions with attractions such as, It's a Small World; Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln; and the Carousel of Progress. Headlines in the NY papers read "Walt Disney - GIANT at the Fair."
With this in mind, as well as the growing success of Disneyland, Walt decided to build the ultimate family amusement park. He purchased 29,900 acres (almost 43 square miles) of land near Orlando, Florida, an area 150 times larger than Disneyland itself. To convince the Florida State Legislature to start such an undertaking (which included the right to be self-governing) he created a short film in which he pointed out, "Here in Florida we have something special, the blessing of size. There's enough land to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine." The state listened and granted his request.
Walt's purpose in purchasing such an extensive amount of land was to prevent outside hotels from springing up next to his resort which had occurred with Disneyland. So in Florida, not only would a theme park be constructed but an entire resort complex with hotel and recreational facilities created from a head full of his ideas.
Sadly, he never saw his Florida dream come true. In December of 1966, not long after introducing his plans, Walt Disney passed away. Roy Disney postponed his own retirement and took command of the project in order to make his brother's biggest dream come true. The creation of Disney World became the largest private construction project in the United States. Over 8,000 workers built the Vacation Kingdom. More than eight million cubic yards of earth had to be moved, swamps had to be drained, and canals and lakes had to be dug.
In October 1971, after a lifetime of dreaming and four years of construction, the Vacation Kingdom of Walt Disney World was opened to the public. Roy 0. Disney honored his brother's memory and aspirations in his dedication speech: "Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney ... and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration, and New Knowledge to all that come to this happy place ... a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together. Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971." This dedication is inscribed on a bronze plaque in the Magic Kingdom. Walt had wanted to call his vacation land "Disney World", but after his death Roy insisted that it be called "Walt Disney World". The resort became an instant success and in one year it had attracted almost 11 million guests.
Before his death, Walt had envisioned many other ideas for parks. His concept of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT as he called it, was conceived at the same time the plans for Disney World were introduced. In the same film that Walt had created for the state of Florida he introduced his plans for EPCOT. He wanted EPCOT to be a city in which people would actually reside, an entire community not only capable of fully surviving on its own, but one which continually demonstrated the world's highest technological achievements. The city's inhabitants would reside around a central hub, or main building. He acknowledged that what he envisioned might not become a reality but the principle behind his idea would always remain the same.
Walt explained in the film that "EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of tomorrow, that will never be completed because they will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. And EPCOT will be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise. When EPCOT has become a reality, it's our hope that it will stimulate American industry to develop new solutions that will meet the needs of people expressed right here in this experimental community."
On October 1, 1982, eleven years after the opening of Walt Disney World, EPCOT Center was opened to the public. Just as Walt had predicted, it was not built according to his original conception, yet EPCOT is an impressive exhibition of the latest technologies and host to an international showcase of nations. The living community that Walt had envisioned is in the works and is expected to open in 1995 under the name of Celebration. Additionally, The Disney-MGM Studios opened on May 1, 1989, offering guests the fun of experiencing America's movie history in the indomitable Disney style.
Currently, the Vacation Kingdom is twenty-three years young, housing three theme parks, two water parks, sixteen resorts, a night club entertainment complex, a hotel complex, a shopping village, a multiplicity of magic, and much, much more. Will Disney World ever cease to grow?! Many new ideas are fast becoming a reality. Four additional resorts are currently under construction, a sizable addition to the Disney-MGM Studios has just been completed, a fourth theme park is now in the planning stages, a third water park is taking shape, and ground has been broken for a residential city. Many other ideas have yet to be released to the public.
The "world" that Walt Disney and his company created brings joy, happiness and inspiration to each and everyone of its visitors. It's a magical land, a place of fantasy and perfection. To experience it is unlike anything else. Walt Disney World has truly earned its title of The Vacation Kingdom of the World.
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The author of this book is solely independent of Walt Disney Productions, Inc. and any of its corporate divisions. The material in this book has not been reviewed nor edited by anyone affiliated with Walt Disney Productions, Inc. or any of its corporate divisions.
Walt Disney World, Mickey Mouse, Adventureland, AudioAnimatronics, EPCOT, Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom, Space Mountain, Walt Disney and CircleVision are all registered trademarks of Walt Disney Productions, Inc. All other resort names, ride names, items/attractions, and themed areas in the theme parks and on the grounds of the Walt Disney World Resort are respectively the property of Walt Disney Productions.
"The Twilight Zone" is a registered trademark of CBS, Inc.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is a registered trademark of Mirage Studios.