Thank Roy Disney. Before we get into all the festivities of Walt Disney Worlds 50th Anniversary, we need to start at the beginning. and here we gooooooo
It is hard to believe Walt Disney World is celebrating it's 50th Anniversary this year. After Walt Disney built Disneyland, he saw what he could do better next time. He needed enough land to build his Florida project. He famously said “Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland…the blessing of size. There’s enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine.” He wanted to shut out the outside world. Guest came to know Disney is a place of integrity and hold it in high regard. To keep guest from seeing or being affected by grubby motels on the side of the road like the ones that popped up in Anaheim after Disneyland opened. An escapism for all and a workplace. He dreamt of a functional hidden infrastructure. If you were in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom he didn't want a cast member dressed in their Frontierland costume walking by. It would take the guest out of that moment. The "Utilidor" was born. Tunnels under the Magic Kingdom for Cast members to get from one side of the park to another without being seen.
Walt Disney World is 25,000 acres big. You could fit 51 Disneylands into WDW. Walt always want to keep moving forward, find ways to improve things, progress as the times changed.
Walt died December 15, 1966. The world lost a genius, the company and Imagineers lost their creative leader, and Roy lost his brother. Roy who had always been the financial guy behind the scenes stepped into his brothers foot steps to finish his last dream, Walt Disney World.
Roy's dedication speech in October 1971:
“Walt Disney World is tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney … and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and 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.
– Roy O. Disney, October 25, 1971 –
4 Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks, over 25 hotels, not to mention award wining restaurants, shopping, golf courses, fishing, spas, and so much more. Making Walt Disney World the most visited recreational destination in the world.
EPCOT, “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” opened October 1, 1982. It was an idea Walt had in 1965. He wanted to create a futuristic city. Of course EPCOT is different from Walt's original idea BUT it is distinctively Disney. Spaceship earth serves as the parks icon and is grand and miraculous.
EPCOT is split unto 2 parts: Future World and World Showcase. Which way do you go? Left to Mexico or Right to Canada? IYKYK :)
Enter Michael Eisner and Frank Wells. Eisner became CEO and Wells the COO of the Walt Disney company in 1984 and can be credited to saving Walt Disney animation. Dubbed the Disney Renaissance, they cranked out hits like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and the Lion King (maybe you've heard of them). Eisner and Wells embodied much of Walt and Roy's sentiments and was ready to tackle every division of the company from a creative point of view. They were also imagineers biggest cheerleaders and they needed it after almost being disbanded and surviving nearly a hostile take over in the company. They needed a dreamer and a doer to push them-Eisner & Wells did just that. Without Imagineers, there would be no park. They recognized how crucial Imagineers were to the company during a time when the imagineers were put in a trailer far away from Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
When there were rumors of another theme park opening down the road from Walt Disney World, Eisner was ready to add a 3rd gate. Disney-MGM Studios opened on May 1, 1989 (13 months before Universal Studios Orlando opened. Eisner had beat them). Dinsey-MGM Studios was a real working movie & television studio. It took you behind the scenes of movie magic and stunts as well as functioning as a theme park. Eisner said in his dedication speech: "We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was—and always will be."
Under Eisner, Disney acquired many other media sources, including ABC, most of ESPN, Fox Family and The Muppets franchise. Plus a good partnering relationship with Lucasfilm. In 2008 the license agreement expired with Metro Goldwyn Meyer and the park was renamed Disney's Hollywood Studios and was on its way from being called "1/2 day park" and the "smallest park" to housing the biggest names in the business, Pixar and Lucasfilm's Star Wars. Unfortunately Frank Wells passed in a helicopter accident in 1994 and Eisner stepped down as CEO in 2005...but not before opening a 4th gate.
Imagineer Joe Rode had a an idea for a 4th theme park with animals. When presenting his idea to Eisner, he brought a 400-pound Bengal tiger into the meeting. It worked.
Disney's Animal Kingdom opened on earth day April 22, 1998.
Disney designed Animal Kingdom as its largest theme park, at more than 500 acres, and located it far from the other parks and developments on property, to provide a isolated environment as possible for the animals.
A land that got cut was named "Beastly Kingdom". It would have celebrated mythical creatures like Dragons and Unicorns with a evil side and a good side. A dragon can be seen on Animal Kingdom's logo still. In 2017 alien's did join Animal Kingdom in a new land, Pandora- The World of Avatar.
Bob Iger become Disney's CEO in 2005. He made the deal with James Cameron to bring the world of Pandora to Florida...complete with floating mountains and bioluminous foliage.
Disney partnered with Pixar, Steve Jobs company, to make Toy Story in 1995. One day while at a Disney Park, Iger was watching a parade. He noticed 90% of the characters were Pixar's intellectual property (IP). Iger was eager to add the IPs Disney's roaster. He is responsible for the acquisitions of Pixar in 2006, Marvel Entertainment in 2009, and Lucasfilm in 2012.
Toy Story land and Galaxy's Edge were added to Disney's Hollywood Studios as completely immersive experience. In Toy Story Land you shrinking down to the size of a toy as you play in Andy's backyard.
Galaxy's Edge opened August 2019 with a real scale Millennium Falcon. Guest can pilot the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy while making a smugglers run for Hondo, a space pirate. Then there is the coveted Rise of Resistance. A combined trackless dark ride, walk-through, motion simulator, and drop ride system. It is the first attraction to offer a virtual Boarding pass instead of a stand by que. This system as been paused and a new technology will be released October 19, 2021 called Genie+.
That brings us here- October 2021.
The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration!
The magic is calling everyone to this 18 month celebration.
Here is what we can expect:
Beacon's of lights on icons at all 4 parks
New fireworks show at Magic Kingdom
New kite show taking place at Animal Kingdom
Remy's Ratatouille Adventure opens
Harmonious is a new night time spectacular at EPCOT
Mickey and Minnie have new EARidescent outfits
Fab 50 gold character statues at all 4 parks. Can you find them all?
Space 220- an innovated restaurant in EPCOT that takes you to...well space!
New food, drinks, deserts
TONS of new Merchandise. I mean can you really have too many Disney coffee mugs? NO!
Cinderella Castle got a glow up.
AND some new technology called Genie+ (buckle your seat belts for this!)
In other news:
Lightening Lanes will replace the Fastpass sytem. These will have to be booked from Disney Genie in your "my Disney experience" app every morning at 7:00 am.
Character meet and greets are slowly coming back.
EPCOT is under construction creating new interactive pavilions.
There is so much more to come as we continue to celebrate this monumental anniversary!
We are living during a pivotal time in Disney's history. CEO Bob Iger stepped down early 2020. We are overcoming a pandemic that has changed everything we know about Walt Disney World. Lots of new things added because of the 50th anniversary and lots of things have changed because of the pandemic.
That is why it is a good idea to always use a Disney Travel Agent. We are trained and updated on all the latest Disney news. Things change everyday and we keep up with it so you will not have too. Our services are always complimentary to you so what do you have to lose?
I am personally so excited to see the next chapter for the most Magical Place on Earth. Like Walt said "We keep moving forward" and "There's a great big beautiful tomorrow" - now that's progress!!