DISNEYLAND Park opened in 1955. The founder and create was Walt Disney. After that Disney was built, he was approached many times to build another Magic Kingdom. Offers of free land came from all over the United States.
Building just another theme park" was not what he wanted to do. All that changed when he began developing four attractions for the 1964 New York World's Fair: General Electric's Carousel of Progress, Ford's Magic Skyway, Pepsi-Cola's It's a Small World, and the State of Illinois' Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. THE SECRET MISSION OF WALT DISNEY As early as 1963, Walt sent his brother, Roy, with several close friends and business associates to find a place where he could build his park.
His team traveled across the country in secrecy, checking into hotels under assumed names, and making anonymous inquiries on available land. They knew that if anyone heard Disney was interested in buying land, prices would skyrocket and adjoining land would be bought up too quickly. Several parts of the United States were considered, among them St. Louis, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Niagara Falls. Walt's team eventually set their eyes on Florida. Although Walt had no desire to build an oceanfront resort, Florida was an excellent draw for tourists.
The weather was almost perfect all year round, and its roads were very accessible. Most of all, there was land-untouched and plenty of it. Especially in Central Florida. The only purpose it was serving at the time was cattle grazing.
Back in California, Walt had already begun preliminary design work for "Project X," including his city, administration buildings, recreational areas, and even a theme park. He kept all his work in a large, windowless room next to his office at the studios. This room was always locked and he had the only key. The walls, floors, and tables were literally covered in sketches, maps, diagrams, models, and charts Disney was excited by the news of available land in Florida and wanted to see it for himself. His associates worried that he would be spotted while on the trip, bringing attention to himself and their intentions, so Walt always stayed on the plane whenever they stopped to refuel.
Once he even denied who he was when a curious flight mechanic asked him if he was the famous Walt Disney. They made several fly-overs. As the swamps and pine forests drifted beneath him, Walt was envisioning where all his designs would go. Many Central Florida counties were under consideration. He finally approved the purchasing of land in Orange and Osceola Counties. The actual border line of the two counties splits the property almost in half.
Walt's representatives used false company names to buy the property. The exact number of names is not known, but some of those used were Tomahawk Properties, Latin American Development, and Ret law Enterprises ("Walter" spelled backward). They kept in constant contact with Walt back in California, informing him on every buy and how much land they had accumulated. The average price per acre was around $180. When the number of acres owned reached 12, 500, the Florida team thought they had acquired enough, but Walt, remembering the DISNEYLAND lesson, said to keep buying.
The price was too good to pass up, and the more land he had, the more he could keep the outside world from barging in on his property. And of course, the more space he could develop. Meanwhile, the locals were talking about the secret group buying up all that swampland. The rumors of its identity ranged from the Ford Motor Company to Howard Hughes to Disney. Land prices began climbing, until finally, Walt decided to announce his intentions to the world. The final price tag to the Disney company: a little over $5 million for 27, 443 acres, about 43 square miles: twice the size of Manhattan Island, or the same size of San Francisco.
Now the Disney organization could build all the dreams it could possibly imagine. On November 15, 1965, Walt held a press conference in Orlando with Roy and the governor of Florida. His exact plans for Disney World were still sketchy, but he described them as his city of the future, along with a vacation retreat with parks, resort hotels, and golf courses. At least 7, 500 acres would be permanently kept in their natural state (the total number of acres set aside today is 8, 300). Walt strongly believed in preserving the environment. This would be the EPCOT commitment to the planet's future.
Only days after Walt made his announcement, the price of land surrounding Disney property shot up to $80, 000 per acre. Unfortunately, Walt passed away before any construction took place. Many within the Disney organization questioned whether they could accomplish the near-impossible goals set forth by the company's founder, but Roy believed they could. He also changed the name of the Florida Project from Disney World to WALT DISNEY WORLD, so everyone would remember that its creation and purpose represented the dreams of his amazing brother. Because Walt had so many plans for Disney World, the company decided to build it in phases. The ability to create a city of the future was still a long way from becoming reality.
Phase One would consist of a theme park, two resort hotels called the "Tempo Bay Resort Hotel" and the "Polynesian Village Resort," and a campground. The theme park would be a larger version of the DISNEYLAND Park, bringing the California park's popular wonders to the East Coast. It and the two hotels would be situated around a large, man-made lagoon. Actual construction began in April 1969.
The first task for the Reedy Creek Improvement District was finding a way to drain areas of swampland for construction without damaging the environment. Since the whole Central Florida area basically floats on a body of fresh water, any depletion or damage to one part of this water supply would cause environmental devastation to the region's entire supply. Over fifty miles of canals and levees were constructed on property to control water levels without losing the supply. Water control structures, such as the French-designed Emile Gate, keep levels under control by automatically floating open when water reaches certain peaks and close when peaks subside. They require no electricity or human monitoring, and greatly reduce the risk of flooding or drought. These canals were the first "themed" illusion on property: they curve through the natural landscape much as a stream would, instead of following the straight lines of artificial canals.
Once they had a way to control and drain whatever land areas they needed for construction, Imagine ers in Florida and California began various projects simultaneously. The Disney staff wanted the resort built in two years. They hired an outside group of engineers to oversee construction, but this group said it would take at least five years to complete the project. The Disney staff subsequently let that group go and created their own team.
At the time, Bay Lake was the only natural body of water on property. It was also one of the first areas of property Walt wanted to buy (along with an island in the middle of it, now called Discovery Island). In early planning stages, designers decided to build a man-made lagoon adjacent to it. There would be plenty of space for water recreation, and the lagoon would complement the setting of the Polynesian Village Resort. It could also offer Guests the feel of an exotic journey to the theme park's faraway lands. Bay Lake was first drained with pumps and its bottom layer of muck scooped out.
Next to it, over seven million cubic yards of earth were dug up for the lagoon and used as a foundation for the MAGIC KINGDOM Park. Sand found underneath all the muck was used to line the four and a half miles of beach around the newly created Seven Seas Lagoon. Bay Lake and the 172-acre lagoon were then refilled with water from the surrounding wetland and stocked with more than 70, 000 fish. The concepts of EPCOT moved forward. In the spirit of a self-sufficient city, the resort built its own energy plants, maintenance shops, food center, and laundry to handle the massive needs of Cast Members and Guests. Miles of sewage, water, and electrical lines and pipes were laid, paving the way for future utility plants.
The theme park's and resorts' utility systems were constructed with unique and advanced methods to supply electricity and hot water for heating and cooling. A wastewater treatment plant was built to treat effluent and direct it to a nearby tree farm and golf courses. There was no food distribution center in the Central Florida area large enough to support the volume of the resorts' and theme park's Guests, so the Disney company built its own. Almost all food was shipped there before going out to various locations on property. It had its own bakery for breads and pastry items, and a main kitchen for preparing soups and sauces, produce, meat, pizza, sandwiches, and salads.
A quality control kitchen allowed chefs to keep recipes consistent throughout property and evaluate menu items going in and coming off the line. The world's largest working wardrobe, with offices in the park and separate hotels, was assigned to create and perform maintenance on Cast Member and Audio-Anima tronics figure costumes. To clean all those costumes, the world's largest laundry facility was constructed. It not only cleans costumes, but resort towels, sheets, and napkins handled by Cast Members and Guests... about 100, 000 pounds of linen each day! ! The dedication of the MAGIC KINGDOM Park was held on October 25, 1971. Many celebrities were on hand for the festivities, as well as Walt's entire family.
Arthur Fiedler conducted the World Symphony Orchestra at the base of Cinderella Castle. Roy O. Disney stood with MICKEY MOUSE in Town Square and read the dedication plaque: Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney... and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place... a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh, and play, and learn - together.
The plaque still rests below the Town Square flagpole on Main Street, U. S. A. On October 1, 1991, Roy E. Disney, Roy O.
Disney s son and Walt's nephew, rededicated the WALT DISNEY WORLD Resort by reading the same plaque his father read twenty years ago.