One of Walt’s biggest frustrations with Disneyland was his lack of options when it came to expanding. The land that Disneyland sat on left very little in the way of space to add new attractions or expand the lands of the park. In the late 1950’s, Walt and his team began scouting locations elsewhere in the United States to not only build another theme park but to expand the concept of the Disney vacation to include not only resorts and additional parks but recreational activities and shopping.

Shopping under dummy corporation names, Walt and his Imagineers purchased land in central Florida, just South of the city of Orlando. The land was swampy and cheap; that is until word got out as to who was purchasing it. Walt and his team managed to purchase just over 27,000 acres of land to make the Florida Project a reality.

Once the land was purchased, the project got started, moving steadily along in the planning phase. In December 1966, everything came to a screeching halt as a shock wave ran through the Walt Disney Corporation. Mr. Walter Elias Disney had passed away.

It took years for the Florida Project to get underway again after this loss. Eventually, it was Walt’s brother Roy who stepped up to see the project through to fruition, putting his own retirement plans on hold. Roy understood that it was his brother’s dream to create Disney World and he would dedicate it to his memory, renaming it Walt Disney World.

WDW History Timeline

On October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World officially opened its gates. The property featured the Magic Kingdom park, the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Village Resort, a monorail system connecting it all and it’s own power generating and water treatment facilities. Beneath the Magic Kingdom, on its 1st floor, were a series of tunnels called “utilidors” that enabled park maintenance and care to be hidden away from its guests. These tunnels also fixed one of the biggest frustrations that Walt had with Disneyland in that it allowed for Cast Members to come and go from different areas of the park, without ruining the show.

Just over two months after opening, Roy O. Disney joined his brother in passing. It was yet another blow to the Walt Disney Corporation.

Since it’s beginnings, the Walt Disney World resort has expanded beyond anything Walt could have dreamt.

Extinct Walt Disney World:

  • Resorts: The Golf Resort/Disney Inn, Disney’s Village Resort, Dixie Landings
  • Water Parks: River Country (1976-2001)
  • Recreation: Discovery Island (1974-1999)

Unrealized Walt Disney World:

  • Asian Resort
  • Persian Resort
  • Venetian Resort
  • Yesterday Hotel (Planned for Inside the Magic Kingdom in the former Exhibition Hall Space)
  • Mediterranean Resort
  • Fort Wilderness Junction
  • Cypress Point Lodge
  • Pop Century – Legendary Years
  • Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge

For even more WDW History, check out this great link that our friend Ty Fuller found!