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Walt Disney World Resort is the largest and most visited recreational resort in the world, containing four theme parks; two water parks; 24 themed hotels; and numerous shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation venues. Owned and operated by the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts segment of The Walt Disney Company, it is located southwest of Orlandomarker, Floridamarker. The property is often abbreviated Walt Disney World, Disney World or WDW.

It opened on October 1, 1971, with the Magic Kingdommarker theme park, and has since added Epcotmarker (on October 1, 1982), Disney's Hollywood Studiosmarker (on May 1, 1989), and Disney's Animal Kingdommarker (on April 22, 1998).

History and development

In 1959, Walt Disney Productions, under the leadership of Walt Disney, began looking for land for a second park to supplement Disneylandmarker, which had opened in Anaheim, Californiamarker in 1955. Market surveys revealed that only 2% 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 control of a much larger area of land for the new project.

Walt Disney flew over the Orlandomarker site (one of many) on November 22, 1963marker, the day of the Kennedy assassination. He previously flew over, and appealed to, the Sanford, Floridamarker city council to allow him to build Disney World in Sanford, but his appeal was declined. The citizens of Sanford did not want the crime that was sure to come with tourism. He saw the well-developed network of roads, including the planned Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpikemarker, with McCoy Air Force Basemarker (later Orlando International Airportmarker) to the east, and immediately fell in love with the site. When later asked why he chose it, he said, "the freeway routes, they bisect here." Walt Disney focused most of his attention on the "Florida Project" where he purchased land for Disney World, both before and after his participation at the 1964–1965 New York World's Fair, but he died on December 15, 1966, and never saw his vision complete.

To avoid a burst of land speculation, Disney used various dummy corporations and cooperative individuals to acquire 27,400 acres (110 km², 43 mi²) of land. The first five-acre (20,000 m², 217400 ft²) lot was bought on October 23, 1964, by the Ayefour Corporation (a pun on Interstate 4). Others were also used with second or secret meanings which add to the lore of the Florida Project, including M.T. Lott Real Estate Investments ("empty lot").

In May 1965, major land transactions were recorded a few miles southwest of Orlando in Osceola Countymarker. Two large tracts totaling $1.5 million were sold, and smaller tracts of flatlands and cattle pastures were purchased by exotic-sounding companies such as the Latin-American Development and Management Corporation and the Reedy Creek Ranch Corporation. In addition to three huge parcels of land were many smaller parcels, referred to as "outs."

Much of the land had been platted into five-acre (20,000 m², 217400 ft²) lots in 1912 by the Munger Land Company and sold to investors. In most cases, the owners were happy to get rid of the land, which was mostly swamp. Yet another problem was the mineral rights to the land, owned by Tufts Universitymarker. Without the transfer of these rights, Tufts could come in at any time and demand the removal of buildings to obtain minerals.

After most of the land had been bought, the truth of the property's owner was leaked to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper on October 20, 1965. A press conference soon was organized for November 15. At the presentation, Walt Disney explained the plans for the site, including EPCOTmarker, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was to be a futuristic city (and which was also known as Progress City). Plans for EPCOT would drastically change after Disney's death. EPCOT became EPCOT Center, the resort's second theme park, which opened in 1982. Concepts from the original idea of EPCOT would be integrated into the community of Celebrationmarker much later.

The Reedy Creek Drainage Districtmarker was incorporated on May 13, 1966 under Florida State Statutes Chapter 298, which gives powers including eminent domain to special Drainage Districts. To create the District, only the support of the landowners within was required.

Walt Disney died 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. The Disney Company worked with Robert Hart, a New York architect and founder of Hart Howerton, an architecture firm that specializes in large-scale land use, to develop the initial master plans for the park. Hart had previously worked with John Carl Warnecke & Associates, which designed the John F. Kennedy memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

On February 2, 1967, Roy O. Disney held a press conference at the Park Theatres in Winter Park, Floridamarker. The role of EPCOT was emphasized in the film that was played, the last one recorded by Walt Disney before his death. After the film, it was explained that for Walt Disney World to succeed, a special district would have to be formed: the Reedy Creek Improvement Districtmarker with two cities inside it, the City of Bay Lakemarker and the City of Reedy Creekmarker (now the City of Lake Buena Vistamarker). 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 on May 12, 1967. The Florida Supreme Courtmarker 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 district soon began construction of drainage canals, and Disney built the first roads and the Magic Kingdom. Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Polynesian Resort, and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgroundmarker were also completed in time for the park's opening on October 1, 1971. The Palm and Magnolia golf courses near the Magic Kingdom had opened a few weeks before.

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 O. Disney died on December 20, 1971, barely three months after the property opened.

Disney subsequently opened EPCOT Centermarker in 1982, a theme park adapted from Walt Disney's vision for a "community of tomorrow". The park permanently adopted the name Epcotmarker in 1996. In 1989, the resort added Disney-MGM Studiosmarker, a theme park inspired by show business, whose name was changed to Disney's Hollywood Studiosmarker in 2008. The resort's fourth theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdommarker, opened in 1998.

Meg Crofton was named president of the resort in August 2006, replacing Al Weiss, who had overseen the site since 1994.


Despite marketing claims and popular misconceptions, the Florida resort is not located within the Orlandomarker city limits, but is in its own cities: Lake Buena Vistamarker and Bay Lakemarker, about southwest of Orlando within southwestern Orange Countymarker, with the remainder in adjacent Osceola Countymarker. Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista are controlled by Disney through the Reedy Creek Improvement Districtmarker.

The site is accessible from Central Florida's Interstate 4 via Exits 62B (World Drive), 64B (US 192 West), 65B (Osceola Parkwaymarker West), 67B (SR 536 West), and 68 (SR 535 North), and Exit 8 on State Road 429 , the Western Expressway.

At its peak, the resort occupied approximately or 47 square miles (120 km²), about the size of San Franciscomarker, or twice the size of Manhattanmarker. Portions of the property since have been sold or de-annexed, including land now occupied by the Disney-built community of Celebrationmarker.


Theme Parks

Walt Disney World Resort features four theme parks. Each park is represented by an iconic structure:

Water Parks

Other Attractions

Golf and recreation

Disney's property includes five golf courses. The four 18-hole golf courses are the Magnolia, the Palm, Lake Buena Vista and Osprey Ridge. There is also a nine-hole walking course called Oak Trail, designed for young golfers. Additionally, there are two themed miniature golf complexes, each with two courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland.

Catch-and-release fishing excursions are offered daily on the resort's lakes. A Florida fishing license is not required because it occurs on private property. Cane-pole fishing is offered from the docks at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgroundmarker and Disney's Port Orleans Resortmarker.

Additional recreational activities inlcude watercraft rentals, surrey bike rentals, and firework cruises that launch from several resort marinas.


On-site Disney Resorts

There are 32 resorts and hotels located on the Walt Disney World property. Of those, 23 are owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company. The Disney resorts are classified into five categories: Deluxe, Moderate, Value, Disney Vacation Club Villas, and Campground.

Deluxe Resorts

Moderate Resorts

Value Resorts

Cabins and Campgrounds

Disney Vacation Club Resorts

Disney's Magical Express

Guests with a Disney Resort reservation arriving at Orlando International Airportmarker can be transported to their Disney resort from the airport using the complimentary Disney's Magical Express service, and have their bags picked up and transported for them through a contract with BAGS Incorporated. Guests board custom motor coaches, watch a video about the Walt Disney World Resort, and their luggage is later delivered directly to their rooms.

On-site non-Disney hotels

Future resorts on Disney property

  • Four Seasons: On March 1, 2007 Disney announced plans to convert its Eagle Pines and Osprey Ridge golf courses into a new luxury resort that will include a Four Seasons hotel, an 18-hole championship golf course, and single- and multi-family vacation homes plus fractional ownership vacation homes. Construction delays have pushed the planned opening from 2010 to 2012.

Never-built Disney resorts

Former Disney resorts

Executive Management

  • President, Walt Disney World Resort – Meg Crofton
  • Senior Vice President of Operations, Walt Disney World Resort – Erin Wallace
  • Senior Vice President, Walt Disney World Resort — George Aguel
    • Vice President, Magic Kingdom — Phil Holmes
    • Vice President, Epcot — Dan Cockerell
    • Vice President, Disney's Hollywood Studios – Rilous Carter
    • Vice President, Disney's Animal Kingdom — Kevin Lansberry
    • Vice President, Downtown Disney — Keith Bradford
    • Vice President, Resort Operations — Kevin Myers
      • Resort General Managers
    • Vice President, Disney Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex and Disney Water Parks — Reggie Williams
    • Walt Disney World Transportation, Sports and Golf — Jim Vendur
    • Vice President, Global Promotions, Disney Destinations LLC. – Greg Albrecht
      • Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Walt Disney World Resort — Shannon McAleavey
      • Vice President, Community Relations and Minority Business Development, Walt Disney World Resort — Eugene Campbell
      • Vice President Government Relations, Walt Disney World Resort — Bill Warren
      • Vice President Engineering, Walt Disney World Ressort — Trevor Larsen
      • Vice President, Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives — Dr. Jackie Ogden

Miscellaneous Facts


The May 2008 issue of trade magazine Park World reported the following attendance estimates for 2007 compiled by Economic Research Associates in partnership with TEA (formerly the Themed Entertainment Association):

  • Magic Kingdom, 17 million visits (No. 1 worldwide)
  • Epcot, 10.9 million visits (No. 6)

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios, 9.51 million visits (No. 7)

  • Disney's Animal Kingdom, 9.49 million visits (No. 8)


When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the site employed about 5,500 "cast members". Today it employs more than 66,000, spending more than $1.2 billion on payroll and $474 million on benefits each year. The largest single-site employer in the United States , Walt Disney World Resort has more than 3,700 job classifications.

The resort also sponsors and operates the Walt Disney World College Program, an internship program that has American college students live on site and work for the resort, providing 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 has college students from all over the world.


In a March 30, 2004, article in The Orlando Sentinel, then-Walt Disney World president Al Weiss gave some insight into how the parks are maintained:
  • More than 5,000 cast members are dedicated to maintenance and engineering, including 750 horticulturists and 600 painters.
  • Disney spends more than $100 million every year on maintenance at the Magic Kingdom. In 2003, $6 million was spent on renovating its Crystal Palace restaurant. 90% of guests say that the upkeep and cleanliness of the Magic Kingdom are excellent or very good.
  • The streets in the parks are steam cleaned every night.
  • There are cast members permanently assigned to painting the antique carousel horses; they use genuine gold leaf.
  • There is a tree farm on site so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available to replace it.


A Disney bus, one of several transportation modes within the Walt Disney World Resort

A fleet of Disney-operated buses on property, branded Disney Transport, is available for guests at no charge. In 2007, Disney Transport started a guest services upgrade to the buses. SatellGPS systems controlling new public address systems on the buses give safety information, park tips and other general announcements, with music. They are not to be confused with the Disney Cruise Line and Disney's Magical Express buses which are operated by Mears Transportation. Taxi boats link some locations.

The Walt Disney World Monorail System also provides transportation at Walt Disney World. Previously there were 12 operational monorails although a crash occurring in July 2009 meant that the Pink and Purple monorails were taken out of service. Parts of the Pink and Purple monorails were used to create a new monorail with the colour Teal which was put into operation in November 2009 taking the total amount of monorails to 11. They operate on three routes that interconnect at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) adjacent to the Magic Kingdom's parking lot. One line provides an express non-stop link from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom, whilst a second line provides a link from the TTC to Epcot. The third line links the TTC and the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridianmarker resorts.

Name and logo

During the resort's early planning stages, Walt Disney referred to the project as Project X, The Florida Project, Disney World, and The Disney World. Early visual references used the same medieval font as Disneyland. Walt Disney was very involved in the site selection and project planning in the years before his death. The secretive names were chosen because of the high confidentiality of the project during the initial planning.

After Walt Disney's death, Roy O. Disney added the name Walt to Disney World as a permanent tribute to his brother. The resort's original logo was an oversized "D" with a Mickey Mouse-shaped globe containing latitude and longitude lines, with the property's name presented in a modern, sans-serif font.

Walt Disney World Resort retired its original font and symbol during its 25th anniversary celebration in 1996–97. The old "D" symbol still can be found in many places, however, including the front car of each monorail, manhole covers, select merchandise items and flags flown at several sites across the property.

Development timeline

1965 Walt Disney announces Florida Project
1967 Construction begins
1971 Magic Kingdommarker
Palm and Magnolia Golf Courses
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney's Polynesian Resort
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgroundmarker

1972 Disney's Village Resort
1973 Disney's Golf Resort
1974 Discovery Islandmarker
1975 Disney's Village Resort
Walt Disney Village Marketplacemarker
1976 Disney's River Countrymarker
1980 Walt Disney World Conference Center
Disney's Village Resort — Club Lake Villas
1982 Epcotmarker
1988 Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spamarker
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resortmarker
1989 Disney's Hollywood Studiosmarker
Disney's Typhoon Lagoonmarker
Pleasure Islandmarker

1990 Disney's Yacht Clubmarker and Beach Clubmarker Resorts
Walt Disney World Swanmarker
Walt Disney World Dolphinmarker

1991 Disney's Port Orleans Resortmarker
Disney Vacation Club
Disney's Old Key West Resortmarker

1992 Disney's Dixie Landings Resortmarker
Bonnet Creek Golf Club
1994 Disney's All-Star Sports Resort
Disney's Wilderness Lodgemarker
1995 Disney's All-Star Music Resortmarker
Disney's Blizzard Beachmarker
Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilionmarker
Walt Disney World Speedwaymarker

1996 Disney Institute
Disney's BoardWalk Innmarker and BoardWalk Villasmarker
1997 Disney's Coronado Springs Resortmarker
Disney's Wide World of Sports Complexmarker
Downtown Disney West Sidemarker

1998 Disney's Animal Kingdommarker
1999 Disney's All-Star Movies Resortmarker
2001 Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodgemarker
2002 Disney's Beach Club Villasmarker
2003 Disney's Pop Century Resortmarker
2004 Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spamarker
2007 Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas
2009 Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort

Treehouse Villas

See also


External links

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