Walt Disney World is referred to as the place where dreams come true. Indeed, in many respects the present-day resort was the dream of one Walt Disney whom envisaged a Disneyland not constrained by land restrictions, and one with the emphasis on science and technology.
In 1959, his company, the Walt Disney Company, began looking for sites for a second Disneyland. On a flight over Florida Orlando in 1963, Walt Disney fell in love with the site. His reason for choosing the site, when asked was: “the freeway roads, they bisect here.”
However, Disney needed to keep the land acquisition secret, and so set up a series of dummy co-operations to purchase 27,000 acres in the area. This continued until about 1965, after most of the land had been brought, when the story was leaked to Orlando Sentinel.
On 15 November 1965, Disney held a press conference on the project. Here, their plans for Epcot were revealed, to tie in with the Disney theme.
Sadly, Walt Disney never saw the resort open, as he passed away in 1966. From here on, Roy Disney headed the project and saw to it that it was renamed from Disney World to Walt Disney World.
Further conferences were held in 1967, which again focused on the role of Epcot. Equally, it was emphasized that for the Walt Disney project to be carried out, a special district would need to be formed. This was known as The Reedy Creek Improvement District. This included two cities inside it, the City of Bay Lake and the City of Reedy Creek. This district would receive immunity from state and country land-use laws.
Drainage canals were soon built, along with the first roads and the Magic Kingdom itself. Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian and Wilderness resorts were completed in time for the grand opening.
That grand opening came on the 1 October 1971, when the Magic Kingdom opened to the public. On the opening, Walt’s wife remarked, “I think Walt would have approved.” Not long after the opening, Roy Disney also passed away.
Of course, the grand opening of the Magic Kingdom was only the beginning for the resort. Epcot would follow in 1982, thus realizing those 1960 conferences. In 1989, other popular attractions like Disney’s MGM studios and a water park, Typhoon Lagoon, opened. The biggest new addition, Disney’s Animal Park, opened in 1998. Along the way, numerous other additions to Disney World have been made.
Today, business figures put attendance of the Magic Kingdom at 15 million, Epcot at 9.4, AGM at 8.2 and Animal Park 7.82. The expansion of the Walt Disney resort, made possible by the expansive land purchases of the 1960s and the Reedy Creek Improvement District, has made it perhaps the most successful in the world. No doubt, Walt would have approved indeed.