Sunday, October 01, 2006
Today is the 35th anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida in 1971. Walt Disney knew as early as 1959 just how hemmed in his original park Disneyland was. It was of course his brother Roy who took on the great task of finishing Walt's dream after Walt died on December 15th, 1966. I remember (at the tender age of eighteen) just how much I cried at Walt's passing. I thought it was the end of imagination in the world. But although Walt's original concept for EPCOT never really ever materialized , the complex of Walt Disney World ityself is a fine tribute to this most incredible man. There are five thousand cast members, seven hundred and fifty horticulturists and six hundred painters employed full time. There are cast members whose only job is to upkeep the paint on the antique carousel horses on Fantasyland's King Steffan Carousel. They use only genuine gold leaf. There is a tree farm on the property so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced there is a thirty year old tree available to replace it. Here's a fact I did not know. Walt first flew over the property on November 22, 1963 two hours before John Kennedy was shot in Dallas on that same day! Walt Disney used a entire series of elaborate dummy corporations to buy up the land in five acre increments because that is how the land was sold to investors originally in 1912 by the Munger Land Company. Most owners were very happy to get rid of the land which was mostly swamp land. A big problem emerged as it was discovered that the mineral rights to all of the parcels were owned by Tuft University. A quick transfer from the college was sought and obtained for without this transfer the good college could have at any time demanded the removal of buildings to obtain minerals. The leak of the news that it was Walt's project was made to the Orlando Sentinel on October 20th, 1965. Well thank goodness most of the land had been bought because the prices went through the roof after that little discovery! Roy Disney made his first press conference about the project on February 7, 1967. Two cities were formed: The City of Bay Lake and the City of Reedy Creek. In 1971, The magic kingdom, The Contemporary Resort, The Polynesian Resort and Fort Wilderness and Camp Grounds was completed in time for opening day! Epcot opened in 1982. Walt , in my opinion would certainly have been more elaborate and EPCOT would have been built the way it was intended. But a form of that dream was manifested in the city of Celebration-- which is a ghood thing! Thirty-five years since that first opening day! I am told that there are only two thousand acres left that can really be developed-- let us hope that the Walt Disney company uses these acres wisely. Walt's watching, boys-- don't you forget about that!