Disney History: Walt Disney World And How It All Began

Next year will mark 50 years since the public first learned of Walt Disney's plan to expand his theme park enterprise to the East Coast. The 1964 World's Fair was not only a way to showcase Disney's ideas and the achievements of his Imagineers; it was also to test the waters for Disneyland East. When the project proved successful, a plan was set in motion to begin the new "Disney World".

Walt began secretly buying up parcels of land in central Florida. Of course, had the Walt Disney Company bought an area of Florida that was size of San Francisco, the price of the land would have skyrocketed and outside vendors may have jeopardized the project by buying up adjacent land in order to move unrelated products and services closer to the Disney "cash cow." Instead, Disney bought the parcels under the names of fictitious companies like the M.T. Lott Company, an act that is commemorated with a section of windows on Main Street, USA in the Magic Kingdom.

The Disney Florida ProjectThe Disney Florida Project

When Walt passed away in 1966, construction on a new Magic Kingdom had not yet begun. His brother Roy quickly took the reigns, postponed his retirement, and committed himself to completing Walt's dream of creating an even better Disneyland. In order to assure the level of flexibility and cooperation by local government that is necessary for a project with Walt Disney World, the Reedy Creek Improvement District was formed. The formation of this quasi-government entity allows Walt Disney World to be essentially self-governing.

Before the park could emerge in the form that we see as guests, a lot of groundwork (literally!) was necessary. One of Walt's pet peeves at Disneyland was seeing inconsistencies in his carefully planned lands. To solve this problem, a system of "utildors" was constructed under the park to allow cast members to move about the park without disturbing the carefully constructed themes above. Because central Florida is a swamp, digging a basement under the park was impossible. Instead, the utilidors were built on the ground level and covered with ground that was excavated from in front of the Magic Kingdom. The resulting hole from this "big dig" would become the Seven Seas Lagoon that welcomes guests arriving from the Transportation and Ticket Center and builds anticipation for the magical day ahead.

Utilidors Under ConstructionUtilidors Under Construction

In less than 5 years, the entire Magic Kingdom Park was constructed and open to the public. Think about that for a second. Today, it can take 2 1/2 years or more to build a single new building for a commercial enterprise. In about twice as much time as it would take to build one new store front on Main Street, USA in your town, Disney's Imagineers built an entire functioning Main Street, a lagoon, a monorail, a railroad, many beautiful and detailed amusements, and a castle that can withstand a hurricane. On October 25, 1971, less than two months before he died, Roy Disney offered the dedication speech for this new park that would cement his family's reputation as an entertainment giant in the minds and hearts of people all over the world.

A big thanks goes out to Guest Author Holly L. for sharing a little bit of her time in Walt Disney World with us. If you'd like to read more about Holly's trip, you can find her sharing her adventures on our member forum.

Ernest wrote on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 20:50:

Ernest's picture

Its simply amazing and awe-inspiring when you reflect on Walt's foresight and shear genius! I simply adore Disney World and so often wish that I could work at a place with the tier one customer service experience that Disney offers!

-When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.
Walt Disney

Kristen K. wrote on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 12:11:

Kristen K.'s picture

Another great post Holly - Thank you so much!

LaurenMymn wrote on Fri, 04/04/2014 - 11:48:

LaurenMymn's picture

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