| 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.
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 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.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- DINOSAUR (formerly named Countdown to Extinction)
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."
Major development timeline
|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 |
|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 |