|Industry||Theme Park operator|
|Headquarters||Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA|
|Key people||Meg Crofton, President|
|Parent||Walt Disney Parks and Resorts(a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company)|
|Walt Disney World|
The Walt Disney World Resort, commonly known as Walt Disney World and informally as Disney World, is the world's most-visited entertainment resort, located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Covering 30,080 acres (12,173 ha; 47 sq mi), it is owned and operated byThe Walt Disney Company through its Parks and Resorts division and is home to fourtheme parks, two water parks, twenty-four themed resorts (excluding eight more that are on-site but not owned by The Walt Disney Company), two spas and fitness centers, five golf courses, and other recreational and entertainment venues.
The resort was developed by Walt Disney in the 1960s to supplement Disneyland Park inAnaheim, California. In addition to hotels and a theme park similar to Disneyland, Walt's original plans also included an "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow", aplanned city that would serve as a test bed for new innovations for city living. After extensive lobbying, the Government of Florida created the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special government district that essentially gave the Walt Disney Company the standard powers and autonomy of an incorporated city. Walt died in 1966 before his original plans were fully realized.
The resort opened on October 1, 1971 with the Magic Kingdom as its only theme park, and has since added Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom.
In 1959, Walt Disney Productions began looking for land for a second park to supplementDisneyland, which opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955. Market surveys 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 control of a much larger area of land for the new project.
Walt Disney flew over the Orlando site (one of many) in November 1963. Seeing the well-developed network of roads, including the planned Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike, withMcCoy Air Force Base (later Orlando International Airport) to the east, Disney selected a centrally-located site near Bay Lake.
To avoid a burst of land speculation, Disney used various dummy corporations to acquire 27,443 acres (11,106 ha) of land. In May 1965, some of these major land transactions were recorded a few miles southwest of Orlando in Osceola County. Also, 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 (Some of these names are now memorialized on a window above Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom). In addition to three huge parcels of land were many smaller parcels, referred to as "outs."
Much of the land acquired had been platted into 5-acre (2 ha) lots in 1912 by the Munger Land Company and sold to investors. Most owners were happy to get rid of the land, which was mostly swamp. Another issue was the mineral rights to the land, which were owned byTufts University. Without the transfer of these rights, Tufts could come in at any time and demand the removal of buildings to obtain minerals. Disney's team eventually negotiated a deal with Tufts to buy the mineral rights for $15,000.
After most of the land had been bought, the truth of the property's owner was leaked to theOrlando Sentinel newspaper on October 20, 1965. A press conference was soon organized for November 15, when Walt Disney explained the plans for the site, including EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was to be a futuristic planned city(and which was also known as Progress City). He envisioned a real working city with commercial and residential areas that also continued to showcase and test new ideas and concepts for urban living.
Walt Disney died from 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, the last one recorded by Walt Disney before his death. 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 GovernorClaude R. Kirk, Jr. on May 12, 1967. The Florida Supreme Court 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 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, andDisney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground 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. At the park's opening, 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, less than three months after the property opened.
Much of Walt Disney's plans for his Progress City were abandoned after his death, 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 (renamed Epcot in 1996), which opened in 1982. While still emulating Walt Disney's original idea of showcasing new technology, it is closer to a world's fair than a "community of tomorrow". 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. The resort's fourth theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdom, 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 Orlando city limits and is actually located about 21 miles (34 km) southwest of downtown Orlando within 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 25,000 acres (10,117 ha; 39 sq mi) 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 State Road 429 (Florida), the Western Expressway. At its peak, the resort occupied approximately 30,000 acres (12,141 ha; 47 sq mi), about the size of San Francisco, or twice the size of Manhattan. Portions of the property since have been sold or de-annexed, including land now occupied by the Disney-built community of Celebration.
Golf and recreation
Disney's property includes five golf courses. The four 18-hole golf courses are the Palm (4½ Stars), the Magnolia (4 Stars), Lake Buena Vista (4 Stars) and Osprey Ridge (4½ 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 play home to the PGA Tour's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. 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 & Campground and Disney's Port Orleans Resort.
Additional recreational activities include watercraft rentals, surrey bike rentals, and firework cruises that launch from several resort marinas.
Of the thirty-three resorts and hotels on the Walt Disney World property, twenty-four are owned and operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. These are classified into five categories: Deluxe, Moderate, Value, Disney Vacation Club Villas, and Cabins and Campgrounds, and are located in one of five resort areas: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, orDowntown Disney resort areas.
The Golf Resort — Became The Disney Inn, and later became Shades of Green.Former resorts
Disney's Magical Express
Guests with a Disney Resort reservation arriving at Orlando International Airport can be transported to their resort from the airport using the complimentary Disney Magical Express service, and have their bags picked up and transported for them through a contract with BAGS Incorporate. Guests board custom motor coaches, watch a video about the Walt Disney World Resort, and their luggage is later delivered directly to their rooms.
Former executive management
The June 2011 AECOM Theme Park Attendance report for the year of 2010, included the following information:
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 has more than 3,700 job classifications. The resort also sponsors and operates the Walt Disney World College Program, an internship program that offers American college students (CP's) the opportunity to live about 15 miles (24 km) off site in 4 Disney-owned apartment complexes and work at 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 offers International college students (ICP's), from all over the world, the same opportunity.
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:
A fleet of Disney-operated buses on property, branded Disney Transport, is complimentary for guests. 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. The Walt Disney World Monorail System also provides transportation at Walt Disney World. 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, while 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 Floridian resorts. 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.
The major roads within the resort (World Drive, Osceola Parkway and Epcot Center Drive) have segments that are built as freeways with full grade-separated interchanges. World Drive enters Walt Disney World from U.S. Route 192 and heads north to the Magic Kingdom Resort Area. Osceola Parkway heads east from the Animal Kingdom Resort Area to Interstate 4. Epcot Center Drive is a freeway for most of its route, running east from World Drive, past the Epcot parking lot to Interstate 4. Buena Vista Drive is a major surface street, running east from the Animal Kingdom Resort Area to Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Epcot Resort Area, and Downtown Disney.
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 original logo had an over-sized "D" with a Mickey Mouse-shaped globe containing latitude and longitude lines, with the property's name presented in a modern, sans-serif font. It was retired during its 25th anniversary celebration in 1996–97, but can still be found in many places, including the SpectroMagic title float, the front car of each monorail, manhole covers, survey markers, select merchandise items and flags flown at several sites across the property.
As part of a competition run by Disney for 2010, Walt Disney World has an unofficial twinning (sister city) with Swindon, England, since 2009. Rebecca Warren's submission to the competition granted Swindon to be the twin town of Walt Disney World, which is famous for its intersection with six roundabouts. Warren and the mayor of Swindon were invited to a "twinning" ceremony, where a plaque revealing the connection will be placed.