Walt Disney World

The Walt Disney World Resort, also called Walt Disney World and Disney World, is an entertainment complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in the United States, near the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee. Opened on October 1, 1971, the resort is owned and operated by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, a division of The Walt Disney Company. It was first operated by Walt Disney World Company. The property covers nearly 25,000 acres (39 sq mi; 101 km2), of which half has been used. The resort comprises four theme parks (consisting of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom), two water parks, 27 themed resort hotels, nine non-Disney hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the outdoor shopping center Disney Springs.

Designed to supplement Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which had opened in 1955, the complex was developed by Walt Disney in the 1960s. "The Florida Project", as it was known, was intended to present a distinct vision with its own diverse set of attractions. Walt Disney's original plans also called for the inclusion of an "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" (EPCOT), a planned community intended to serve as a test bed for new city-living innovations. Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, during the initial planning of the complex. After his death, the company wrestled with the idea of whether to bring the Disney World project to fruition. However, Walt's older brother, Roy, came out of retirement to make sure Walt's biggest dream was realized. Construction started in 1967, with the company instead building a resort similar to Disneyland, abandoning the experimental concepts for a planned community. Magic Kingdom was the first theme park to open in the complex, in 1971, followed by Epcot (1982), Disney's Hollywood Studios (1989), and Disney's Animal Kingdom (1998). It was Roy who insisted the name of the entire complex be changed from Disney World to Walt Disney World, ensuring that people would remember that the project was Walt's dream.

In 2018, Walt Disney World was the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average annual attendance of more than 58 million. The resort is the flagship destination of Disney's worldwide corporate enterprise and has become a popular staple in American culture. In 2020, Walt Disney World was chosen to host the NBA Bubble for play of the 2019–20 season of the NBA to resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. In 2020, Disney World began laying off 6,500 employees and began operating at 25% capacity after reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic.

History

Planning and construction

Conception

Walt Disney (left) with his brother Roy O. Disney (right) and then Governor of Florida W. Haydon Burns (center) on November 15, 1965, publicly announcing the creation of Disney World

In 1959, Walt Disney Company began looking for land to house a second resort to supplement Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which had opened in 1955. Market surveys at the time revealed that only 5% of Disneyland's visitors came from east of the Mississippi River, where 75% of the population of the United States lived. Additionally, Walt Disney disliked the businesses that had sprung up around Disneyland and wanted more control over a larger area of land in the next project.

Walt Disney flew over a potential site in Orlando, Florida—one of many—in November 1963. After witnessing the well-developed network of roads and taking the planned construction of both Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike into account, with McCoy Air Force Base (later Orlando International Airport) to the east, Disney selected a centrally located site near Bay Lake. The development was referred to in-house as "The Florida Project,". To avoid a burst of land speculation, Walt Disney World Company used various dummy corporations to acquire 30,500 acres (48 sq mi; 123 km2) of land. In May 1965, some of these major land transactions were recorded a few miles southwest of Orlando in Osceola County. In addition, two large tracts totaling $1.5 million were sold, and smaller tracts of flatlands and cattle pastures were purchased by exotically named companies such as the "Ayefour Corporation", "Latin-American Development and Management Corporation" and the "Reedy Creek Ranch Corporation". Some are now memorialized on a window above Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom. The smaller parcels of land acquired were called "outs". They were five-acre (2 ha) lots platted in 1912 by the Munger Land Company and sold to investors. Most of the owners in the 1960s were happy to get rid of the land, which was mostly swamp at the time. Another issue was the mineral rights to the land, which were owned by Tufts University. Without the transfer of these rights, Tufts could come in at any time and demand the removal of buildings to obtain minerals. Eventually, Disney's team negotiated a deal with Tufts to buy the mineral rights for $15,000.

Working strictly in secrecy, real estate agents unaware of their client's identity began making offers to landowners in April 1964 in parts of southwest Orange and northwest Osceola counties. The agents were careful not to reveal the extent of their intentions, and they were able to negotiate numerous land contracts with some including large tracts of land for as little as $100 an acre. With the understanding that the recording of the first deeds would trigger intense public scrutiny, Disney delayed the filing of paperwork until a large portion of the land was under contract.

Early rumors and speculation about the land purchases assumed possible development by NASA in support of the nearby Kennedy Space Center, as well as references to other famous investors such as Ford, the Rockefellers, and Howard Hughes. An Orlando Sentinel news article published weeks later on May 20, 1965, acknowledged a popular rumor that Disney was building an "East Coast" version of Disneyland. However, the publication denied its accuracy based on an earlier interview with Disney at Kennedy Space Center, in which he claimed a $50 million investment was in the works for Disneyland, and that he had no interest in building a new park. In October 1965, editor Emily Bavar from the Sentinel visited Disneyland during the park's 10th-anniversary celebration. In an interview with Disney, she asked him if he was behind recent land purchases in Central Florida. Bavar later described that Disney "looked like I had thrown a bucket of water in his face" before denying the story. His reaction, combined with other research obtained during her Anaheim visit, led Bavar to author a story on October 21, 1965, where she predicted that Disney was building a second theme park in Florida. Three days later after gathering more information from various sources, the Sentinel published another article headlined, "We Say: 'Mystery Industry' Is Disney".

Walt Disney had originally planned to publicly reveal Disney World on November 15, 1965, but in light of the Sentinel story, Disney asked Florida Governor Haydon Burns to confirm the story on October 25. His announcement called the new theme park "the greatest attraction in the history of Florida". The official reveal was kept on the previously planned November 15 date, and Disney joined Burns in Orlando for the event.

Roy Disney's oversight of construction

Roy O. Disney inspecting design plans on-site in Florida

Walt Disney died from circulatory collapse caused by lung cancer on December 15, 1966, before his vision was realized. His brother and business partner, Roy O. Disney, postponed his retirement to oversee construction of the resort's first phase.

On February 2, 1967, Roy O. Disney held a press conference at the Park Theatres in Winter Park, Florida. The role of EPCOT was emphasized in the film that was played. After the film, it was explained that for Disney World, including EPCOT, to succeed, a special district would have to be formed: the Reedy Creek Improvement District with two cities inside it, Bay Lake and Reedy Creek, now Lake Buena Vista. In addition to the standard powers of an incorporated city, which include the issuance of tax-free bonds, the district would have immunity from any current or future county or state land-use laws. The only areas where the district had to submit to the county and state would be property taxes and elevator inspections. The legislation forming the district and the two cities was signed into law by Florida Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. on May 12, 1967. The Supreme Court of Florida then ruled in 1968 that the district was allowed to issue tax-exempt bonds for public projects within the district, despite the sole beneficiary being Walt Disney Productions.

The original logo of Walt Disney World from 1971 to the mid 1990s; this logo is still used as an alternate logo, mainly for retro-themed merchandise.

The district soon began construction of drainage canals, and Disney built the first roads and the Magic Kingdom. The Contemporary Resort Hotel and Polynesian Village were also completed in time for the park's opening on October 1, 1971. The Palm and Magnolia golf courses near Magic Kingdom had opened a few weeks before, while Fort Wilderness opened one month later. Twenty-four days after the park opened, Roy O. Disney dedicated the property and declared that it would be known as "Walt Disney World" in his brother's honor. In his own words: "Everyone has heard of Ford cars. But have they all heard of Henry Ford, who started it all? Walt Disney World is in memory of the man who started it all, so people will know his name as long as Walt Disney World is here." After the dedication, Roy Disney asked Walt's widow, Lillian, what she thought of Walt Disney World. According to biographer Bob Thomas, she responded, "I think Walt would have approved." Roy Disney died at age 78 on December 20, 1971, less than three months after the property opened.

Admission prices in 1971 were $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for juniors under age 18, and one dollar for children under twelve.

1980s–present

Much of Walt Disney's plans for his Progress City were abandoned after his death and after the company board decided that it did not want to be in the business of running a city. The concept evolved into the resort's second theme park, EPCOT Center, which opened in 1982 (renamed EPCOT in 1996). While still emulating Walt Disney's original idea of showcasing new technology, the park is closer to a world's fair than a "community of tomorrow". One of EPCOT's main attractions is their world's showcase which highlights 11 countries across the globe. Some of the urban planning concepts from the original idea of EPCOT would instead be integrated into the community of Celebration much later. The resort's third theme park, Disney-MGM Studios (renamed Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2008), opened in 1989 and is inspired by show business.

In the early 1990s, the resort was seeking permits for expansion. There was considerable environmentalist push-back, and the resort was convinced to engage in mitigation banking. In an agreement with The Nature Conservancy and the state of Florida, Disney purchased 8,500 acres of land adjacent to the park for the purpose of rehabilitating wetland ecosystems. The Disney Wilderness Preserve was established in April 1993, and the land was subsequently transferred to The Nature Conservancy. The Walt Disney Company provided additional funds for landscape restoration and wildlife monitoring.

The resort's fourth theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdom, opened in 1998.

George Kalogridis was named president of the resort in December 2012, replacing Meg Crofton, who had overseen the site since 2006.

On January 21, 2016, the resort's management structure was changed, with general managers within a theme park being in charge of an area or land, instead of on a functional basis as previously. Theme parks have already had a vice-president overseeing them. Disney Springs and Disney Sports were also affected. Now hotel general managers manage a single hotel instead of some managing multiple hotels.

On April 8, 2017, the show Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway was broadcast live to the UK from the park.

On October 18, 2017, it was announced that resort visitors could bring dogs to Disney's Yacht Club Resort, Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney's Art of Animation Resort and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

In 2019, Josh D'Amaro replaced George Kalogridis as President of the resort. He had previously held the position of Vice President of Animal Kingdom. D'Amaro was subsequently promoted to Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products in May 2020, succeeding Bob Chapek who was promoted to CEO of The Walt Disney Company in February 2020. Jeff Vahle, who served as president of Disney Signature Experiences subsequently took over as President of the resort.

In 2020, Walt Disney World was chosen to host the NBA Bubble for play of the 2019–20 season of the NBA to resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Timeline

Some popular Disney characters (from left to right): Goofy, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Minnie Mouse can be found throughout the resort.

Future expansion

The resort has a number of expansion projects planned or ongoing, including:

Location

Map of the resort as of May 2015
One of four arches welcoming guests to the resort

The Florida resort is not within Orlando city limits but is southwest of Downtown Orlando. Much of the resort is in southwestern Orange County, with the remainder in adjacent Osceola County. The property includes the cities of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake which are governed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The site is accessible from Central Florida's Interstate 4 via Exits 62B (World Drive), 64B (US 192 West), 65B (Osceola Parkway West), 67B (SR 536 West), and 68 (SR 535 North), and Exit 8 on SR 429, the Western Expressway. At its founding, the resort occupied approximately 30,500 acres (48 sq mi; 123 km2). Portions of the property have since been sold or de-annexed, including land now occupied by the Disney-built community of Celebration. By 2014, the resort occupied nearly 25,000 acres (39 sq mi; 101 km2). The company acquired nearly 3,000 additional acres, in separate transactions, between December 2018 and April 2020.

Attractions

Theme parks

Water parks

Other attractions

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Typhoon Lagoon, one of two waterparks at the resort
View of Disney Springs

Golf and recreation

Disney's property includes four golf courses. The three 18-hole golf courses are Disney's Palm (4.5 stars), Disney's Magnolia (4 stars), and Disney's Lake Buena Vista (4 stars). There is also a nine-hole walking course (no electric carts allowed) called Oak Trail, designed for young golfers. The Magnolia and Palm courses played home to the PGA Tour's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Arnold Palmer Golf Management manages the Disney golf courses.

Additionally, there are two themed miniature golf complexes, each with two courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. The two courses at Fantasia Gardens are Fantasia Garden and Fantasia Fairways. The Garden course is a traditional miniature-style course based on the "Fantasia" movies with musical holes, water fountains and characters. Fantasia Fairways is a traditional golf course on miniature scale having water hazards and sand traps.

The two courses at Winter Summerland are Summer and Winter, both themed around Santa. Summer is the more challenging of the two 18-hole courses.


Disney's Magnolia
TeeRating/Slope123456789Out101112131415161718InTotal
Classic76.0 / 141428417170542492231422614500381652639916938459220345048549237007516
Blue74.0 / 137424351161535446202410605426356052238216337458820039843045635137073
White71.6 / 130409335140499418168380534393327651335515632053217937339945532826558
Gold69.0 / 121384317125479355115339519327296049630914830851614334938141730676027
Red69.6 / 126285225110370347107306402316246843030014029641712829230135526595127
Par443543454365434534443672
HandicapMen's315171111379581416184101226
HandicapLadies'713171131519518210121614846

Former attractions

  • Discovery Island – an island in Bay Lake that was home to many species of animals and birds. It opened on April 8, 1974, and closed on April 8, 1999.
  • Disney's River Country – the first water park at the Walt Disney World Resort. It opened on June 20, 1976, and closed on November 2, 2001.
  • Walt Disney World Speedway – a racetrack at Walt Disney World and included the Richard Petty Driving Experience. It opened November 28, 1995, and closed on August 9, 2015.
  • DisneyQuest – an indoor interactive theme park that featured many arcade games and virtual attractions. It opened June 19, 1998 as part of an unsuccessful attempt to launch a chain of similar theme parks. It closed on July 2, 2017, to be replaced by the NBA Experience.
  • La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil – opened December 23, 1998, and closed after December 31, 2017.

Resorts

Of the thirty-four resorts and hotels on the Walt Disney World property, 28 are owned and operated by Walt Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products. These are classified into four categories—Deluxe, Moderate, Value, and Disney Vacation Club Villas—and are located in one of five resort areas: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Wide World of Sports, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs resort areas. There is also the Other Select Deluxe Resorts category used to describe two resorts in the Epcot Resorts Area that carry Walt Disney World branding, but are managed by a third-party.

While all of the Deluxe resort hotels have achieved an AAA Four Diamond rating, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is considered the highest-tier flagship luxury resort on the Walt Disney World Resort complex.

On-site Disney resorts

1.^ Future resorts are denoted in italics.

On-site non-Disney hotels

Former resorts

Never-built resorts

Disney's Magical Express

Guests with a Disney Resort reservation (excluding the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin) that arrive at Orlando International Airport can be transported to their resort from the airport using the complimentary Disney's Magical Express service, which is operated by Mears Destination Services. Guests can also have their bags picked up and transported to their resort for them through a contract with BAGS Incorporated on participating airlines. Many resorts feature Airline Check-in counters for guests returning to the airport. Here their bags will be checked all the way through to their final destination and they can also have boarding passes printed for them. Current participating airlines are Delta, United, American, JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska Airlines. It was announced in early January 2021, that Disney would be ending the service on January 1, 2022 citing a shift in consumer demand for more flexibility in transportation options.

Attendance

Magic Kingdom, the world's most visited theme park

In the first year of opening, the park attracted 10,712,991 visitors. In 2018, the resort's four theme parks all ranked in the top 9 on the list of the 25 most visited theme parks in the world: (1st) Magic Kingdom—20,859,000 visitors; (6th) Disney's Animal Kingdom—13,750,000 visitors; (7th) Epcot—12,444,000 visitors; and (9th) Disney's Hollywood Studios—11,258,000 visitors. By October 2020, maximum Disney World attendance was still allowed to only remain at 25% capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Operations

Transportation

The Walt Disney World Monorail System provides free transport across the resort.

The Walt Disney World Resort is serviced by Disney Transport, a complimentary mass transportation system allowing guest access across the property. The fare-free system utilizes buses, monorails, gondola lifts, watercraft, and parking lot trams.

The Walt Disney World Monorail System provides free transportation at Walt Disney World; guests can board the monorail and travel between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, including select on-property resorts such as The Grand Floridian and The Polynesian Village. The system operates on three routes that interconnect at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), adjacent to the Magic Kingdom's parking lot. Disney Transport owns a fleet of Disney-operated buses on property, that is also complimentary for guests.

A gondola lift system, dubbed Disney Skyliner, opened in 2019. The system's three lines connect Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot with four resort hotels.

Disney Transport also operates a fleet of watercraft, ranging in size from water taxis, up to the ferries that connect the Magic Kingdom to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Disney Transport is also responsible for maintaining the fleet of parking lot trams that are used for shuttling visitors between the various theme park parking lots and their respective main entrances.

In addition to its free transportation methods, in conjunction with Lyft, Walt Disney World also offers a vehicle for hire service for a fee. The Minnie Van Service are Chevy Traverses dressed in a Minnie Mouse red-and-white polka dot design that can accommodate up to six people and have two carseats available to anyone that is within the Walt Disney World Resort limits. Cast members can install the car seats. Some of the unique advantages that the Minnie Van Service offers over a normal ride share is the ability to be dropped off in the Magic Kingdom bus loop (instead of at the TTC like the other ride shares) and being able to ride to any point in Fort Wilderness.

Employment

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the site employed about 5,500 "cast members". In 2020, Walt Disney World employs more than 77,000 cast members. The largest single-site employer in the United States, Walt Disney World has more than 3,000 job classifications with a total 2019 payroll of over $3 billion. The resort also sponsors and operates the Walt Disney World College Program, an internship program that offers American college students (CPs) the opportunity to live about 15 miles (24 km) off-site in four Disney-owned apartment complexes and work at the resort, and thereby provides much of the theme park and resort "front line" cast members. There is also the Walt Disney World International College Program, an internship program that offers international college students (ICPs) from all over the world the same opportunity. In September 2020, the Walt Disney Company began laying off 6,500 Walt Disney World employees.

Energy use

Walt Disney World requires an estimated 1 billion kilowatt-hours (3.6 billion megajoules) of electricity annually, costing the company nearly $100 million in annual energy consumption. In addition to relying primarily on fossil fuels and nuclear energy from the state's power grid, Walt Disney World has two solar energy facilities on property; a 22-acre (0.034 sq mi; 0.089 km2) Mickey Mouse-shaped solar panel farm near Epcot, and a 270-acre (0.42 sq mi; 1.1 km2) facility near Disney's Animal Kingdom. The larger facility produces enough solar energy to provide electricity to two of the resort's theme parks. The sites are operated by Duke Energy and the Reedy Creek Improvement District, respectively.

The entire Disney Transport bus fleet uses R50 renewable diesel fuel, obtained from used cooking oil and non-consumable food waste from the resort.

Corporate culture

Walt Disney World's corporate culture uses jargon based on theatrical terminology. For example, park visitors are always "guests", employees are called "cast members", rides are "attractions" or "experiences", cast members costumed as famous Disney characters in a way that does not cover their faces are known as "face characters", jobs are "roles", and public and nonpublic areas are respectively labeled "onstage" and "backstage".

Security

Disney Security Vehicle, picture taken July 2, 2009 in front of Epcot

Disney's security personnel are generally dressed in typical security guard uniforms, though some of the personnel are dressed as tourists in plain clothes. Since September 11, 2001, uniformed security has been stationed outside each Disney park in Florida to search guests' bags as they enter the parks. Starting April 3, 2017, bag checkpoints have been placed at Magic Kingdom's resort monorail entryways and the Transportation and Ticket Center's ferry entry points prior to embarkation as well as the walkway from Disney's Contemporary Resort. Guests arriving the Transportation and Ticket Center by tram or tour bus will be screened at the former tram boarding areas. Guests arriving by Disney Resort hotel bus or Minnie Van have their own bag check just outside the bus stops. Guests arriving via Magic Kingdom Resort boat launch are bag checked on the arrival dock outside Magic Kingdom.

The land where Walt Disney World resides is part of the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), a governing jurisdiction created in 1967 by the State of Florida at the request of Disney. RCID provides 911 services, fire, environmental protection, building code enforcement, utilities and road maintenance, but does not provide law enforcement services. The approximately 800 security staff are instead considered employees of the Walt Disney Company. Arrests and citations are issued by the Florida Highway Patrol along with the Orange County and Osceola County sheriffs deputies who patrol the roads. Disney security does maintain a fleet of security vans equipped with flares, traffic cones, and chalk commonly used by police officers. These security personnel are charged with traffic control by the RCID and may only issue personnel violation notices to Disney and RCID employees, not the general public.

Despite the appearance of the uniformed security personnel, they are not considered a legal law enforcement agency. Disney and the Reedy Creek Improvement District were sued for access to Disney Security records by Bob and Kathy Sipkema following the death of their son at the resort in 1994. The court characterized Disney security as a "night watchman" service, not a law enforcement agency, meaning it is not subject to Florida's open records laws. An appeals court later upheld the lower court's ruling.

In late 2015, Disney confirmed the addition of randomized secondary screenings and dogs trained to detect body-worn explosives within parks, in addition to metal detectors at entrances. It has also increased the number of uniformed security personnel at Walt Disney World and Disneyland properties.

Disney Security personnel in Florida have investigated traffic accidents and issued accident reports. The forms used by Disney Security may be confused with official, government forms by some.

The Orange County Sheriff maintains an office on Disney property, but this is primarily to process guests accused of shoplifting by Disney security personnel.

Although the scattering of ashes on Disney property is illegal, The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2018 that Walt Disney World parks were becoming a popular spot for families to scatter the ashes of loved ones, with the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom being the favorite location. The practice is unlawful and prohibited on Disney property, and anyone spreading cremated remains is escorted from the park.

Closures

Walt Disney World has had nine unscheduled closures:

Like its sister park, parks at the resort may close early to accommodate various special events, such as special press events, tour groups, VIP groups, and private parties. It is common for a corporation to rent entire parks for the evening. In such cases, special passes are issued which are valid for admission to all rides and attractions. At the ticket booths and on published schedules, the guests are notified of the early closures. Then, cast members announce that the parks are closing, sometime before the private event starts, and clear the parks of guests who do not have the special passes.

In October 2020, it was revealed that full capacity attendance was still not permitted, following the COVID-19 closure which occurred earlier in the year.

Climate

See also

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article Walt Disney World, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.