The first Disney World, known officially as the Walt Disney World Resort, opened its doors on October 1, 1971, in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, near the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee. This was a significant milestone for The Walt Disney Company, marking its expansion beyond the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. This article provides an in-depth look at the creation of the first Disney World, its impact on the surrounding area, and how it was influenced by Walt Disney’s vision.
The first Disney World, officially known as the Walt Disney World Resort, was opened on October 1, 1971, in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, near Orlando and Kissimmee. This marked the expansion of The Walt Disney Company beyond the original Disneyland located in Anaheim, California.
Why Was Disney World Built in Florida?
In the late 1950s, Walt Disney Productions began looking for land to house a second resort to supplement Disneyland. Market surveys revealed that only 5% of Disneyland’s visitors came from east of the Mississippi River, where 75% of the U.S. population lived. Therefore, Walt Disney saw an opportunity to capture a larger audience by opening a second resort in the Eastern United States.
Walt Disney flew over a potential site in Orlando, Florida, in November 1963. The site’s central location, well-developed network of roads, planned construction of major highways, and proximity to an airport made it a prime choice. Florida was chosen as the location, and the development was referred to in-house as “The Florida Project”.
Who Were the Key Figures in the Creation of Disney World?
Walt Disney was the visionary behind the project, but after his death in 1966, his brother Roy O. Disney came out of retirement to oversee its completion. Roy insisted that the park be known as “Walt Disney World,” ensuring that people would remember it was Walt’s dream.
Retired Army General William Potter was hired to oversee the construction of Disney World. His careful approach to preserving wetland areas on the site was remarkable for its time.
How Was Disney World Designed?
The design and theme of the first Disney World were heavily influenced by Walt Disney’s innovative ideas and his desire to create a unique, immersive experience for visitors. The park was divided into themed regions, including Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Each region offered a different set of attractions and experiences, setting Disney World apart from traditional amusement parks.
What Were the Original Attractions?
The original attractions at Disney World included popular rides and shows like The Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Hall of Presidents, Cinderella’s Golden Carousel, It’s a Small World, Jungle Cruise, Mad Tea Party, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, and Walt Disney World Railroad.
The Impact of Disney World on the Surrounding Area
The opening of Disney World had a significant impact on Central Florida, transforming the region’s economy, tourism industry, and population growth. It became a major contributor to Florida’s economy, a significant taxpayer, and the largest single-site employer in the U.S. The park’s presence also led to a population boom in Florida, with people relocating to be close to Disney World.
In conclusion, the first Disney World was built in Florida to capture the East Coast theme park audience. The park’s creation involved key figures like Walt Disney, Roy O. Disney, and General William Potter. Its design was influenced by Walt Disney’s vision of a unique, immersive experience. The park’s opening had a transformative impact on its surrounding area, driving economic growth, boosting tourism, spurring population growth, and supporting local communities.
Frequently Asked Questions
How big is the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida?
The Walt Disney World Resort covers approximately 25,000 acres, making it twice the size of Manhattan.
What was the first park to open in Disney World?
The first park to open at the Walt Disney World Resort was the Magic Kingdom, which opened on October 1, 1971.
How many parks are there in Disney World currently?
As of now, there are four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
How many people visit Disney World each year?
Pre-pandemic, an estimated 20 million visitors attended the Magic Kingdom alone each year, making it the most visited theme park in the world.
Is Disney World open every day of the year?
Yes, all of the parks at the Walt Disney World Resort are open 365 days a year. However, operating hours can vary by season and park.