A Brief History of Disney World

A Brief History of Walt Disney World

Nearly everyone knows what Disney World is. Many either have already been or have longed to go there. Some people dream about a visit, plan extensively, and make it a trip of a lifetime. Others are fortunate enough to visit frequently, either because they have the resources to do so, or because they live close by. But how much do you really know about Disney World?

This article will go over some of the background and history of the famous landmark and attraction. Maybe this will stir your interest enough to make you want to plan a visit sometime in the future.

Walt’s dream didn’t start out as a mega-park. He originally thought to open up a small park outside his Burbank offices. But the idea grew and took on a life of its own. He started looking for property and loved the Orlando, Florida area. The weather and beaches nearby were perfect at the time and it was sunny most of the year. Once he started dreaming though, he and his brother knew they had to build the greatest and grandest park ever.

            1.         Did You Know?

            2.         Through The Years


Did you Know?

Walt Disney World, or Disney World for short, is located in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Operated by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, a division of The Walt Disney Company, it was opened on October 1, 1971, to be a supplement for Disneyland in California, which opened in 1955. It was conceived in the 1960s by Walt Disney as “The Florida Project.” Covering nearly 25,000 acres, it is comprised of four theme parks, EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and two water parks, Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. There are 31 themed resorts, 9 non-Disney hotels, golf courses, and camping resorts. Disney Springs, its shopping experience center is also located here. Walt Disney developed the concept for Disney World in the 1960s but died on December 15, 1966, before he could see it completed. Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, EPCOT opened in 1982, Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1989, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998.


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Through The Years

In 1965, Walt and Roy announced their plan for Disney World. A year or so later, Walt also announced his plans for EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow). Then, Walt passed away two months later. May 30, 1967, was the official groundbreaking of the park.

In 1970, the Walt Disney World Preview Center, where visitors would get their first view of the resort in scale models and artist renditions, was opened.

On Oct 1, 1971, Magic Kingdom opened, as well as Disney’s Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts. Also, the new monorail and centralized computer system were introduced.

Oct 25, the Electric Water Pageant made its first appearance on Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. November 19 saw the opening of Fort Wilderness Campground.

In 1973, Shades of Green hotel opened, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

1974 saw the Hoop-Dee-Do Music Revue open, the longest-running dinner show in American history. It was originally meant as entertainment for college-age students.

Jan 17, 1975, saw the expansion of Tomorrowland and the opening of Space Mountain and Carousel of Progress, which is the record holder for the longest-running stage show in history.

March 22 was the opening of Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, known now as The Marketplace at Disney Springs.

July introduced the WEDway PeopleMover, now the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.

July 14 EPCOT plans were revealed and construction began later in 1979. 

The first water park, Disney’s River Country, was opened in 1976 and inspired the Disney water parks of today.

October 1, 1981, saw the opening of EPCOT.  There were five future world pavilions, Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, and The Land, and nine World showcase pavilions, including Mexico, Germany, France, China, England, The American Adventure, United Kingdom and Canada. 

In 1983, Disney World held its very first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and had televised on ABC The Walt Disney World Christmas parade.

In 1984, the Morocco pavilion in EPCOT opened and the Norway pavilion opened in 1988. 

In 1987, Phil Simms, an NFL quarterback, coined the now-famous phrase after winning the Superbowl, “I’m going to Disney World.” 

On May 1, 1989, Disney’s MGM Studios, now Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon opened in June.

1990 saw the opening of the Disney Yacht Club Resort and the Disney Beach Club Resort, with the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels and Disney’s Old Key West, a Disney Vacation Club resort, opening the next year.

Eight thousand, five hundred acres were designated by Walt Disney World to be a nature conservancy as the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

In 1994, the first Walt Disney World Marathon was run, the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival first showed, Sunset Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened with shopping, dining, and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

1995 saw the start of the Disney Conservancy Fund, which has funded $100 million to save the planet and wildlife. Also, in 1995, Disney’s Blizzard Beach, a water park, opened. Disney’s Wedding Pavilion opened on Seven Seas Lagoon in 1995, as well.

In 1997 ESPN Wide World of Sports, a multi-sport complex opened.

On Earth Day, 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened. It houses about 1,800 animals of 200 species. Later in 1998, Fantasmic! debuted, in Disney’s Hollywood Studios Hollywood Hills Amphitheater.

100 Years of Magic celebrated Walt’s birthday in 2001 and in 2005, the Happiest Celebration on Earth celebrated Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

2011 saw the residential community, Golden Oaks, one of Walt’s dreams, open.

2012, the Art of Animation Resort, featuring the first ever family suites, opened and New Fantasyland opened in Magic Kingdom. 

2013 introduced MagicBands and MyDisneyExperience mobile app for guests.

In 2017 Pandora-World of Avatar opened in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

On June 30, 2018, Toy Story Land also opened in Hollywood Studios.

In 2019, Star Wars Galaxy Edge opened and the new Disney Skyliner, a state-of-the-art gondola system,  premiered.

Shortly after, all Disney parks had to close due to the pandemic in 2020.

Now, after the reopening, Disney World is continuing its tradition of entertaining and educating people worldwide.


Disney World sees annual attendance of 21 million at Magic Kingdom alone. Of all those people who choose to go there, you may decide to go as well.  Hopefully, this article will give you some interesting tidbits on the background of the resort and theme park you are visiting, or the attraction you are looking for. Disney World started out as a smaller vision for Walt, which grew into the massive destination that it is today. That being said, I believe Walt would be proud of his namesake today and all the people it has reached. I hope you decide to visit, too, and enjoy all it has to offer. Happy vacationing!

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Linda Aiken

Retired soccer mom; Mom of "the boy" (Gabriel); SAHM; and mom to one furbaby, Leo, who rules the house!

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