Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration is in full swing, and we’re excited to take part. Perfecting the Magic will be documenting all the new releases and experiences throughout WDW’s milestone golden anniversary, and we can’t wait to share them with you!
Today we’re rewinding time and sharing the story of brotherhood central to Disney World history, as it adds richness to the experience of the 50th, and is emblematic of the loyalty that pushed the parks forward.
BIG PLANS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
Walt Disney was interested in bringing Disneyland to other areas of the U.S. before Disney World. However, he was unimpressed by the many proposals he received. That changed when Disney looked at prospects in Florida. The Orlando area quickly became his first choice due to a raw landscape that permitted expansive construction, and a centralized location that allowed easy highway access for tourists and locals alike.
With plenty of space in which to plan an immersive bubble, Disney began to stealthily acquire property in central Florida under aliases to avoid paying inflated costs. With the desired land secured and plans in place, Walt and Roy Disney held an official press conference in November 1965 announcing their plans for Disney World.
Disney’s East Coast offering was to be revolutionary. The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) was central to their plan and intended to be an ever-evolving thriving city that was future-focused and community-oriented.
EPCOT was to be the most ambitious and extraordinary Disney creation yet!
Walt’s enthusiasm for the venture was shared in “The Florida Project”; a short film that depicted Disney’s elaborate plans for Disney World. These included a theme park, all-encompassing amenities, transportation, lodging, and EPCOT. Walt’s excitement could be felt through the screen. It was obvious that he understood they were truly creating magic and he couldn’t wait to begin.
A FAMILY LEGACY
Sadly, a month later, Walt Disney was gone. He fell ill just days after filming “The Florida Project” and remained hospitalized until his death. He passed away in December 1966, when his formal plans for Disney World had only been underway for a year.
Even while hospitalized, Walt Disney remained every bit the visionary he had always been. His brother Roy said of his final days: “Walt lay on the hospital bed, staring at the ceiling. It was squares of perforated acoustical tile, and Walt pictured them as a grid map for Disney World. Every four tiles represented a square mile, and he said, ‘now there is where the highway will run; there is the route to the monorail.’ He [pushed] himself right up to the end.”
While the Disney World Project was uncertain without Walt Disney’s genius and leadership, and the community of EPCOT would not be realized, Roy Disney remained determined to honor his late brother’s legacy by forging ahead with building not just Disney World, but Walt Disney World. An achievement that stands as a testament to Roy Disney’s dedication to seeing his brother’s dreams fulfilled.
On October 1, 1971, Roy dedicated the Magic Kingdom to the brother he loved so much, stating: “Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney, and to the talents, dedication, and loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring joy, 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.”
TO THE FUTURE
As we celebrate Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, we’re reminded of the commitment, imagination, and loyalty that came together to create not just magic, but an entire world, and the sibling bond that made it all possible.