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Encyclopedia > Walt Disney World
Cinderella Castle, at the center of the Magic Kingdom, is Walt Disney World Resort's most recognizable icon


Owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company, the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, USA is home to four theme parks, two water parks, several resort hotels and golf courses, and various shopping and entertainment areas. Most of the Walt Disney Company's Central Florida land, and all of the public areas, are located in the Cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, which are both contained in the Reedy Creek Improvement District. These governmental entities, controlled by the Walt Disney Company, are located southwest of Orlando and a few miles northwest of Kissimmee. The Walt Disney World Resort opened on October 1, 1971. It is the largest theme park resort in the world, although Dubai Land, twice its size, is planned to open in 2006.

Walt Disney's concept for Walt Disney World was of a larger, more expansive version of Disneyland, so that it could constantly expand and not be as constrained by the need for land that Disneyland suffered from. Walt Disney World also was to be a sort of "Disneyland of the future" where breakthroughs in science and technology could coexist with the original Disney vision of themed entertainment.

The Spaceship Earth dome is the symbol of Epcot.

Walt Disney also envisioned this project as incorporating a working community where his ideas about urban planning could be tested. He called this concept the "Experimental Prototype Community (or City) of Tomorrow," or EPCOT. The theme park that eventually opened under the Epcot name bore little resemblance to this vision, though the neighboring planned community of Celebration, which was founded by the Walt Disney Company, incorporates a few of the ideas.

Although he participated in much of the planning for the project, Walt Disney himself died in 1966 and never got to see the realization of his vision. The resort was originally to be named "Disney World," but before its opening Walt's brother Roy renamed it to "Walt Disney World" in his honor.

The land within Walt Disney World is part of the Reedy Creek Improvement District which allows the Disney Corporation to exercise quasi-governmental powers over the area.

The Tree of Life is the symbol of Disney's Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World has four major theme parks, each with a main attraction that serves as its symbol:

  • The Magic Kingdom (Cinderella Castle)
  • Epcot (Spaceship Earth, the giant golf ball-looking geodesic sphere)
  • Disney-MGM Studios (the giant Mickey sorcerer's cap, though formerly the 'Earful Tower' water tower represented it)
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom (the Tree of Life)

There are also three water parks:

The Sorcer's Hat is the symbol of Disney-MGM Studios

The Downtown Disney area contains many shopping, dining, and entertainment venues, including DisneyQuest (a "virtual theme park" inside a building), and a permanent Cirque du Soleil show (La Nouba).

Another notable aspect is the large number of hotel resort complexes on the Walt Disney World property. The non-themed hotels are owned by private, non-Disney hospitality companies such as Marriott and Hilton. The themed resorts include:

  • Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney's All-Star Music Resort
  • Disney's All-Star Sports Resort
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Disney's Beach Club Resort
  • Disney's Beach Club Villas
  • Disney's BoardWalk Inn
  • Disney's BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney's Contemporary Resort
  • Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney's Old Key West Resort
  • Disney's Polynesian Resort
  • Disney's Pop Century Resort
  • Disney's Port Orleans Resort Riverside (formerly named Dixie Landings)
  • Disney's Port Orleans Resort French Quarter
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (formerly the Disney Institute)
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney's Yacht Club Resort
  • Shades of Green (named because of its location between two golf courses; it's currently leased by the United States Department of Defense and used for vacationing active and retired military personnel and their families)
  • The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin (operated by Starwood)
  • Walt Disney World Swan (operated by Starwood)

The Walt Disney World resort also includes five world-class golf courses. The five 18-hole golf courses are the Magnolia, the Palm, Lake Buena Vista, Eagle Pines, and Osprey Ridge (the last two are part of the Bonnet Creek Golf Club). There are two miniature golf courses: Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland.

Walt Disney World paved the way for many other theme parks and attractions in the area, including SeaWorld and Universal Studios, and helped make Orlando a popular tourist destination for people from all over the world.

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the Walt Disney World Resort employed about 5,500 cast members. Today it employs more than 52,000 cast members, spending more than $1.1 billion on payroll and $478 million on benefits each year. The largest single-site employer in the United States, Walt Disney World Resort has more than three thousand job classifications.

In a March 30, 2004 article in the Orlando Sentinel, Walt Disney World president Al Weiss gave some insight into how the parks are maintained:

  • More than 5,000 cast members are dedicated to maintenance and engineering, including 650 horticulturists and 600 painters.
  • Disney spends more than US$100 million every year on maintenance at the Magic Kingdom. In 2003, US$6 million was spent on renovating its Crystal Palace restaurant. 90 percent of guests say that the upkeep and cleanliness of the Magic Kingdom are excellent or very good.
  • The streets in the parks are steam cleaned every night.
  • There are cast members permanently assigned to painting the antique carousel horses; they use genuine gold leaf.
  • There is a tree farm on-site, so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available to replace it.

Popular attractions

  • Disney's Animal Kingdom
    • Kilimanjaro Safaris
    • DINOSAUR (formerly named Countdown to Extinction)

Pre-opening history

In 1959, the Walt Disney Company, under the leadership of Walt Disney, began looking for land for a second resort to supplement Disneyland, which had opened in 1955. Market surveys revealed that only 2% of Disneyland's visitors came from east of the Mississippi River, where 75% of the population of the United States lived. Additionally, Walt Disney disliked the businesses that had sprung up around Disneyland, and wanted control of a much larger area of land for the new project.

Walt Disney first flew over the Orlando, Florida site, one of many, on November 22, 1963. He saw the good road network, including Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike, with McCoy Air Force Base, soon to become Orlando International Airport, to the east, and immediately fell in love with the site. When later asked why he chose it, he said, "the freeway routes, they bisect here."

However, the decision had not been made yet; no land had been purchased. If the news of Disney's new resort was leaked, land prices would soar. Thus everything was to be done in complete secrecy. To avoid a burst of land speculation, Disney used various dummy corporations and cooperative individuals to acquire 27,400 acres (111 kmē) of land. The first five-acre (20,000 mē) lot was bought on October 23, 1964 by the Ayefour Corporation (a pun on Interstate 4). In May 1965, major land transactions were being recorded a few miles southwest of Orlando in Osceola County. Two large tracts totalling $1.5 million were sold, and smaller tracts of flatlands and cattle pastures were purchased by exotic-sounding companies such as the Latin-American Development and Management Corporation and the Reedy Creek Ranch Corporation. In addition to three huge parcels of land were many smaller parcels, referred to as "outs". Much of the land had been platted into five-acre (20,000 mē) lots in 1912 by the Munger Land Company and sold to investors. In most cases, the owners were happy to get rid of the land, being mostly swampland. Yet another problem was the mineral rights to the land, owned by Tufts College. Without the transfer of these rights, Tufts could come in at any time and demand the removal of buildings to obtain minerals.

After most of the land had been bought, the story was leaked to the Orlando Sentinel on October 20, 1965. A press conference was soon organized for November 15. At the conference, Walt Disney explained the plans for the site, including EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was to be a futuristic city.

The Reedy Creek Drainage District was incorporated on May 13, 1966 under Florida State Statutes Chapter 298, which gives powers including eminent domain to special Drainage Districts. To create the District, only the support of the landowners within was required.

Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966. From then on, his brother Roy Disney headed the project. For the past few years that the project had been in pre-production, it had been known simply as Disney World, but Roy Disney added "Walt" to the name to make it Walt Disney World. In his own words: "Everyone has heard of the Ford cars. But have they all heard of Henry Ford, who started it all? Walt Disney World is in memory of the man who started it all, so people will know his name as long as Walt Disney World is here."

On February 2, 1967, Roy Disney held a press conference in Winter Park, Florida. The role of EPCOT was emphasized in the film that was played, the last one recorded by Walt Disney before his death. After the film, it was explained that, for Walt Disney World to succeed, a special district would have to be formed: the Reedy Creek Improvement District with two cities inside it, the City of Bay Lake and the City of Reedy Creek (now the City of Lake Buena Vista). In addition to the standard powers of an incorporated city, which include tax-free bonds, the Improvement District would have total immunity from any current or future county or state land-use laws. The only areas where the District had to submit to the county and state would be property taxes and elevator inspections.

The laws forming the District and the two Cities was signed into law on May 12, 1967. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that the District was allowed to issue tax-exempt bonds for public projects within the district, despite the sole beneficiary being The Walt Disney Company.

Construction of drainage canals was soon begun by the Improvement District, and Disney built the first roads and the Magic Kingdom. Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Polynesian Resort, and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground were also completed in time for the park's opening on October 1, 1971.

On opening day, Roy Disney gave an opening dedication, after which he asked Walt's widow Lillian what she thought of Walt Disney World. She replied, "I think Walt would have approved."

Theme park

Major development timeline

Theme park

opening date feature
October 1, 1971 Magic Kingdom
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney's Polynesian Resort
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
1972 Disney's Village Resort (Treehouse and Vacation Villas)
1973 Disney's Golf Resort (later Disney Inn, now Shades of Green)
1974 Discovery Island
1975 Disney's Village Resort (Fairway Villas)
March 1975 Walt Disney Village Marketplace (now Downtown Disney Marketplace)
June 1976 Disney's River Country Water Park
1980 Walt Disney World Conference Center
Disney's Village Resort (Club Lake Villas)
October 1, 1982 Epcot
1988 Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
May 1, 1989 Disney-MGM Studios
June 1, 1989 Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
Pleasure Island
1990 Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts
Walt Disney World Swan
Walt Disney World Dolphin
1991 Disney's Port Orleans Resort
Disney's Old Key West Resort
1992 Disney's Dixie Landings Resort (now Port Orleans Riverside)
Disney Vacation Club at Walt Disney World
Bonnet Creek Golf Club
1994 Disney's All-Star Sports Resort
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
1995 Disney's All-Star Music Resort
April 1, 1995 Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park
July 1995 Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion
1996 Disney Institute
Disney's Boardwalk Resort
1997 Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
March 1997 Disney's Wide World of Sports
September 1997 Downtown Disney West Side
April 22, 1998 Disney's Animal Kingdom
June 1998 DisneyQuest
1999 Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
April 2001 Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
December 4, 2003 Disney's Pop Century Resort

See also:

External links

Wikimedia Commons has multimedia related to:
Selected amusement parks
Alton Towers | Blackpool Beach | Busch Gardens chain | Camp Snoopy | Cedar Point | Disneyland | Dollywood | Dorney Park | Dubai Land | Efteling | Kennywood | Kings Dominion | Kings Island | Knoebels | Legoland | Liseberg | Mystery Park | Paramount Parks | Port Aventura | SeaWorld chain | Six Flags | Tivoli Gardens | Universal Studios chain | Valleyfair | Walt Disney World

Parks and resorts of The Walt Disney Company:
Disneyland Resort: Disneyland | Disney's California Adventure | Downtown Disney
Walt Disney World Resort: Magic Kingdom | Epcot | Disney-MGM Studios
Disney's Animal Kingdom | Downtown Disney
Disneyland Resort Paris: Disneyland | Walt Disney Studios | Disney Village
Golf Disneyland
Tokyo Disney Resort: Tokyo Disneyland | Tokyo Disneysea | Ikspiari
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort: Disneyland
Disney Cruise Line: Disney Wonder | Disney Magic | Castaway Cay

  Results from FactBites:
Disney World - The Largest Unofficial On-Line Guide to Disney World, Walt Disney World (0 words)
The DIS Unplugged Disney Podcast (8/07/07) - A weekly open roundtable discussion about all things Disney with the Orlando team including news and reports.
Florida Resident Disney Cruise Line reduced rates for Sept. sailngs
Disney MGM Studios Rock 'N' Roller Coaster set for refurbishment
A Pansoph's Walt Disney World (447 words)
A Pansoph's Walt Disney World is a large and growing photo archive, currently 514 pages of photos and text arranged as a tour of the four main theme parks of Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Buena Vista Pictures (events, names and attractions) are trademarks of The Walt Disney Company.
With those exceptions, A Pansoph's Walt Disney World is edited and authored by Mary Rolfe and is copyrighted.
  More results at FactBites »



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