Building Walt Disney World | The B1M

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10:22   |   Jun 27, 2018


Building Walt Disney World | The B1M
Building Walt Disney World | The B1M thumb Building Walt Disney World | The B1M thumb Building Walt Disney World | The B1M thumb


  • Once upon a time, there was a man with a vision. That man was Walt Disney and his vision was
  • for a theme park like no other.
  • A whole new world of unique attractions, hotels and even a planned community that would set
  • new benchmarks in innovation and city planning.
  • Though he never saw his vision completed, Disney is now immortalised in one of the world’s
  • largest and most visited attractions.
  • This is the incredible construction story behind the Walt Disney World Resort.
  • In 1959, following the success of their first theme park - which opened in California
  • in 1955 - Walt Disney Productions began planning the development of a second resort in the
  • United States.
  • With 75% of the US population at that time living east of the Mississippi River, a location
  • on the east coast was explored.
  • The new project was personally conceived and led by Walt Disney. He disliked the numerous
  • businesses that had sprung up around his California park and the lack of control that he had over
  • developments in close proximity to the resort. With the second destination, he set out to
  • control a much larger area of land.
  • Walt Disney flew over a potential site near Bay Lake in Orlando, Florida (one of many
  • locations he was reviewing) in November 1963.
  • The site was attractive for its proximity to Orlando International Airport (then McCoy
  • Air Force Base) and the well-developed road network which was set to be strengthened
  • further with the construction of Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 4.
  • To avoid unwanted attention and press speculation the early development of Disney’s second
  • park took place in complete secrecy - with even the notion that a second park was being
  • considered being kept under wraps.
  • With the Orlando site selected, Walt Disney Productions began quietly acquiring the land
  • for their second resort.
  • In the early 1960s, many owners were only too happy to let go of the land, which was
  • mostly swamp at the time.
  • The land acquisitions took place as distinctly separate transactions through a number of
  • proxy companies. Some of these company names - such as the “Reedy Creek Ranch Corporation”
  • - are now cast into a window above Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom Park.
  • The agents brokering these deals were unaware who their ultimate client was, and in some
  • instances areas of swamp land were acquired for as little as USD $100 an acre.
  • Knowing that recording of the first deeds would ignite intense public scrutiny, Disney
  • delayed the filing of paperwork until a large enough portion of land was under contract
  • and the proxy companies could be amalgamated under the Disney brand.
  • Despite being undertaken by proxy companies, as the land acquisitions became public in
  • quick succession to each other, rumours began circulating as to what such a large area could
  • be used for. Newspapers at the time speculated that Henry Ford, the Rockefellers or even
  • NASA were behind the purchases.
  • Walt Disney Productions gently stoked these rumours through intermediaries and even announced
  • a $50M investment in their California park, to throw people off the scent.
  • In October 1965, Walt Disney was asked about the land purchases directly in a interview
  • with the Orlando Sentinel. Whilst Disney denied the claim, his momentary look of shock when
  • the question was first put to him led to the Sentinel publishing a theory that Disney were
  • planning a major new park in Florida.
  • With the story breaking, Walt Disney and then-Florida Governor Haydon Burns formally announced what
  • was then described as “The Florida Project” in November 1965.
  • Unfortunately, just over a year after announcing the development, Walt Disney passed away from
  • lung cancer.
  • Roy Disney, Walt’s brother and business partner, delayed his retirement in order to
  • oversee the first phase of his brother’s vision.
  • In order for the resort to grow and succeed, legislation was passed which
  • made the land owned by Disney a special district containing two incorporated cities, Bay Lake
  • and Reedy Creek - known today as Lake Buena Vista.
  • This status gave Disney a degree of immunity from County and State land use laws. It also allowed for
  • the issuing of tax-free bonds to fund public projects within the district.
  • In 1967, the district began construction of drainage canals to dewater the vast site,
  • along with roadways and supporting infrastructure for the Magic Kingdom.
  • By 1971, that theme park, together with the first section of the resort’s monorail,
  • numerous golf courses and hotels were completed - including the Contemporary Resort, Polynesian
  • Village and the Fort Wilderness campsite.
  • When the resort opened to the public on 01 October 1971, Roy Disney dedicated it to his
  • brother, announcing that it would be officially be known as “Walt Disney World” - ensure
  • that the man who started it all would be remembered.
  • Sadly, Roy Disney himself passed away just three months after the park opened.
  • While the first phase of the park opened to much fanfare, Disney were determined to continually
  • grow the resort and never allow it to become dated; maintaining a continuous pipeline of
  • new attractions.
  • In its first decade, Walt Disney World added further golf courses and hotels in the Magic
  • Kingdom vicinity as well as the Village Marketplace Shopping District (now Disney Springs) and
  • the Walt Disney World Conference Centre.
  • From inception, Walt Disney had wanted to develop an ambitious Progress City within
  • the resort district that would act as a blueprint for cities of the future.
  • This concept was abandoned by the board after Disney’s death but later evolved into a
  • version of Walt’s idea known as the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” or ‘EPCOT”.
  • EPCOT officially opened in 1982, becoming the second theme park at Walt Disney World.
  • Famed for its World’s Fair-inspired Future World exhibits and the internationally themed
  • World Showcase, the park is centred around a 55 metre (180 foot) high geodesic dome, known
  • as Spaceship Earth.
  • The completion of EPCOT also saw the monorail system extended and today the system runs
  • for over 14 miles around the resort carrying 150,000 people everyday.
  • In 1989, a Hollywood inspired park, known as “Disney’s Hollywood Studios” was added.
  • Operating as both a theme park and an active production studio - the facility contributed
  • to a number of Disney’s productions in the 1990s and early 2000s including Mulan and
  • Lilo and Stitch.
  • More recently the park has become home to the resort’s latest attraction - “Toy
  • Story Land” - which opened in 2018.
  • Typhoon Lagoon also opened in 1989 marking the resort’s first step into water parks
  • - and was followed by Blizzard Beach in 1995.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom is the latest theme park to open at the resort, dedicated to the
  • natural world and conservation. The attraction was opened in 1998 and has since continued
  • to grow with “Pandora - The World of Avatar” added in 2017.
  • Today, Walt Disney World extends over a 43 square mile, 110 square kilometre area. It
  • features 30 themed hotels and has over 74,000 staff making it one of the largest employers
  • in the United States.
  • With more than 50 million visitors annually since 2013, the resort’s growth shows no
  • signs of slowing down and even more attractions are currently under development.
  • Disney’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009 and LucasFilm in 2012 has given rise to “Star
  • Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” currently under construction and due to open in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • in 2019 and a “Guardians of the Galaxy” attraction due to open at EPCOT by 2021.
  • The Fox-Disney merger currently in the pipeline, is also likely to generate new resorts in
  • the years ahead.
  • Over the past 60 years, this remarkable project has seen an area of swamp land become one
  • of the world’s most visited destinations, a powerful tribute to its founder Walt Disney
  • and symbol of what can be possible if you keep on believing.
  • If you enjoyed this video and would like to get more from the definitive video channel
  • for construction, subscribe to The B1M.

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Once upon a time there was a man with a vision. Watch the incredible construction story behind the Walt Disney World Resort. For more by The B1M subscribe now: http://ow.ly/GxW7y

Read the full story on this video, including images and useful links, here: https://www.theb1m.com/video/building-walt-disney-world

Images courtesy of The Walt Disney Archives, Google Maps, Robert J Boser, State Archives of Florida, Orange County Archives, The Walt Disney Company, Orlando Sentinel, The New York Times, State Library and Archives of Florida, Benjamin D Esham, The Disneyland Resort, Jennifer Lynn, Taylor Strictland, Paula Watson and Blogmickey.com.

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