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Issue 974

TIDBITS® VISITS

DISNEY WORLD

by Janet Spencer

Come along with Tidbits as we visit Disney World!

A NEW WONDER WORLD

• In 1955, Walt Disney opened Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It was a success, but Walt noticed that fewer than 5% of visitors came from east of the Mississippi River which is where 75% of the population lived. Four years after Disneyland opened, Walt Disney decided that what he really needed was a bigger, better version of Disneyland in the eastern U.S.: Disney World.

• Florida was already known as a vacation hot spot. There was plenty of cheap vacant swamp land located in the middle of the state where it was sheltered from the worst of the hurricanes. There was a good airport in Orlando and the local highway system was well-developed. It was far enough away from the shores to avoid competition with the beaches. The weather was good year-round.

• In 1963 the Disney Company started buying up vacant land in the Orlando area in secret, using dummy corporations such as the M.T. Lott Investment Corp. to avoid price-gouging. Over 43 square miles were purchased for just $5 million dollars. That’s about the size of the city of San Francisco. It’s twice the size of Manhattan. Disney wanted to have plenty of room to expand.

• Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, before construction began. His brother Roy Disney took over the project. The Magic Kingdom opened for business in 1971. That was followed by Epcot Center in 1982, Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1989, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998. Today, Walt Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average annual attendance of over 52 million.

• Roy Disney died at age 78 in 1971, less than three months after the property opened.

AMAZING CONSTRUCTION

• There’s a system of tunnels underneath the Magic Kingdom called Utilidors (for “utility corridors”) where all the secret and unsightly stuff happens: supplies brought in, trash taken out, props are stored, costumes are cleaned, etc. Although the Utilidor appears to be underground, that’s an illusion. The land was too swampy to build underground, so it’s actually the first floor of the compound, and the entire resort is built on top. When visitors are standing in front of Cinderella Castle, they may feel like they are standing at ground level, but they are actually on the 3rd floor of a gigantic building.

 

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