The History of Disney World

Walt Disney World is the happiest place on earth.  If you have ever been there, you can attest to the magical experience that Disney brings to families.  The Disney company now stands as one of the largest in the world with connections in television, entertainment, sports, and merchandise.  The most notable location of the Disney company is Disney World itself. But as with any giant success, it started out as a dream. And with any dream, there is a lot of work that went into making it a reality.

Walt Disney Himself

Now the history of Disney World starts with Walt Disney himself.  Walt Disney grew up in the small town of Marceline, MO.  His father was a family-oriented person who wanted nothing more than to support his three children.  And Walt himself was no stranger to arduous work. At the age of 8, him and his brother Roy got a paper route to help bring in extra money for the family.  After serving in WWII, Walt moved to California to pursue his dream of becoming a cartoonist. He was a man who believe in dreams and was famous for saying “if you can dream it, you can do it.”  This belief was tested.

You have heard of Walt’s most famous cartoon creation, but his first try at it ended in failure.  Originally, Walt created not a mouse, but a lucky rabbit named Oswald. However, through a loophole in a contract, he lost all the rights to Oswald, which forced him to start again.  On his train ride home, he began sketching a mischievous little mouse, one we would come to know as Mickey.

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse was the spark that lit the fire that would become the Disney company.  After starring in his first smash cartoon, Steamboat Willie, the Disney production company gained a name for itself as a studio who brought sight and sound together.  That little mouse was the gateway to creating the first full length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and many more films to come.  But there were still grander ideas and dreams that Walt was ready to make come true.


Walt settled down with the love of his life, Lillian, and they had two daughters together.  Every Saturday Walt and his girls would go on an outing, which inspired his latest idea. What if there could be a place where children and adults could enjoy their time together?  Something beyond a carnival or a fair, but a true theme park. Thus, the idea for Disneyland was born.

Now this project would be a major undertaking, but Walt decided to do it right.  He continuously aimed for perfection and a way for guests to be 100% immersed in this world while being able to leave the real world behind for a bit.  With the magic of Mickey Mouse as his guide, his brother Roy helping with the accounting and auditing services, and some help financially from ABC, the world’s first theme park was opened in Anaheim, CA on July 17, 1955.  Disneyland featured some of the classic attractions we know and love today such as the spinning teacups, The Jungle Cruise, and a classic carousel.  

“The Florida Project”

While Disneyland proved a remarkable success, Walt could not stop dreaming.  They had limited space to grow in California, so Walt and Roy began exploring new options, one of which was the state of Florida.  The state can already boast many extraordinary places to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast, so what if he moved a little inland?  Central Florida was swampy, hot, had mosquito problems, and a significant risk of lightning strikes, but where many saw problems, Walt saw opportunity.  After buying the land in secret over a course of several months, he bought an area totaling 42 square miles to begin what he called “The Florida Project.”  A space with this much potential could hold all of Walt’s future ideas. Beyond the classic Magic Kingdom, his first endeavor was to create an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT.  An actual living area of the future.

Sadly, Walt would not live to see Disney World open.  After dying from lung cancer, Roy Disney stepped up to complete the excellent work his younger brother started.  The park opened on October 1st, 1971, dedicated to Walt by Roy. At the ceremony, Roy proudly brought Mickey Mouse up to the podium with him, because it was the closest thing he could get to having his brother there.  Walt may not have been there in person, but his never-ending pursuit of impossible dreams has left a legacy of greatness and created magical memories for so many children and families alike.

The Disney Attitude

Since Walt Disney World’s opening in 1971, the park has only grown.  Disney World now consists of four unique theme parks, two water parks, Disney Springs shopping area, over 25 resorts, golf courses, and ESPN’s World of Sports and boasts 70,000 cast members working there every day.  Everyone working on property is a cast member rather than an employee because every person who wears a Disney name tag is helping to create a magical experience for the guests. They all learn the unique traditions and values of Walt Disney and continue his work of making the world a happier place.  

Innovative Ideas Today

Not only is Disney World working to make the world a better place, but their new and innovative ideas are creating a cleaner world as well.  The overall organization recycles by not using garbage bag and exploring laundry wastewater recycling options.  Also, to take care of their mosquito problem, rather than introducing pesticides into the park, there other animals brought that eat mosquitoes to get rid of them.  

Disney also brings in a significant percentage of their cast members through the Disney College Program and the International College Program.  Students at traditional universities or accredited online education programs can spend a semester learning how to make magic for guests in the most magical place on earth.  And they get college credit!

Disney World and the Disney company are now leading the entertainment industry with new and innovative motion capture and animation skills.  They will continue to grow and expand and spread joy and magic. But as Walt Disney would say “it was all started with a mouse” — a mouse and a dream.