The history of Disney World begins over 40 years ago, when Disneyland creator Walt Disney wanted to expand on his original creation. Disney World has been such a part of the landscape for so many years; it is hard to imagine a time without it-or what it looked like on opening day, October 1, 1971. Planning and construction for Disney World began a full decade prior to the opening of the Magic Kingdom, when Walt Disney began seeking a spot for another theme park to complement his California original, Disneyland.
Planning and Construction:
Disney chose Orlando, Florida for its great weather, inexpensive property, and the abundance of major thoroughfares. The company began purchasing land in secret, hoping to avoid rumors and a huge jump at prices. By 1965, all of the desired land had been purchased, and Walt Disney announced his plans for a new park-plans that included both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, along with resorts and transportation systems. Although Walt Disney died a year later, in 1966, his brother Roy was able to complete the project, and the newly named Walt Disney World opened five years later.
While Walt's original plans and dreams were larger in scale, the Disney World that opened to guests in 1971 was small compared to what visitors experience today. Along with the Magic Kingdom, guest accommodations opened that year in the Polynesian, Contemporary, and Fort Wilderness resorts. Many of the attractions we enjoyed today were present at the opening of the Magic Kingdom, including the "Haunted Mansion", and the "Jungle Cruise". Disney world continued to grow in the 1970's, adding several new resorts, and a shopping district that would eventually become Downtown Disney.
Epcot was part of Walt Disney's original plan for Disney world, and it opened on October 1, 1982. Epcot's unique design is modeled after a "city of tomorrow", and the park features two sections, Future world and World Showcase. Future World was created to hold "World's Fair" type exhibits, some of which are still open today. Others, like Horizons and World of Motion, have been replaced by updated attractions. World Showcase allows guests to enjoy a mini trip around the world, and learn a bit about each of the countries represented. World Showcase has retained all of the countries it had on opening day, though some exhibits have been updated.
Disney's Hollywood Studios, originally named Disney-MGM studios, opened May 1, 1989. The park was originally a working animation and movie / television studio, allowing guests to get a behind the scenes peek at how movies are made. Today, the studio no longer produces entertainment, rather, it focuses on movie themed rides and attractions like "Star Tours", "The Great Movie Ride" and "Toy Story Mania."
Disney's Animal Kingdom On April 22, 1998, Disney's fourth large theme park opened. The Animal Kingdom features live and animatronic animals from all over the world-and a few that exist only in memory. Visitors can take a safari trip, scale Mount Everest, and travel millions of years into the past to meet a dinosaur.
Through its almost 40 years, Disney World has continued to grow and change. In addition to the four large theme parks, Disney now houses over 20 resorts, several shopping and entertainment districts, and two water parks. Visiting Disney soon? Be sure to visit the Hollywood Studios' attraction One Man's Dream-it is all about Walt Disney and the History of Disney World.
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