Disney Theme Parks
In 1953, visions of a “magical park” for both children and adults come to Walt Disney. He visits fairs, carnivals, circuses and parks to study the attractions and the people. He borrows on his life insurance and starts to assemble a staff to help plan the park. He decides that the name of the park would be called Disneyland. The original plans for the park were on 8 acres next to the Burbank studios where his employees and families could go to relax. Walt creates WED Enterprises to organize the project. He had the Stanford Research Institute conduct a survey for a 100-acre site, outside of Los Angeles. He needed space to build rivers, waterfalls, and mountains; he would have flying elephants and giant teacups; a fairy-tale castle, moon rockets, and a scenic railway. Location was a top priority. The property would have to be within the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and accessible by freeway. The search for the best spot finally ended in the rural Anaheim, California with a purchase of a 160-acre orange grove near the junction of the Santa Ana Freeway and Harbor Boulevard.

Aerial View of Disneyland in the late 1950's
Although, Disneyland was expensive. Walt once said "I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral." Therefore, Walt turned to television, the ABC network, for his financial support. "Walt Disney's Disneyland" television series offered a glimpse of the future project. This brought the idea of Disneyland into reality for Walt and the American people. Construction for Disneyland began on July 21, 1954. Walt designed the park with one entrance gate, reasoning that people, when entering by different gates, become disoriented. The park will have "Main Street" with the idea of it being the hub, stating that it would lead to different areas of interest. The lure of Main Street would be a castle.

On December 17, 1955, Disneyland opens as invitation only, given to studio workers, construction workers, the press and officials of company sponsors. Rides break down and park stands run out of food & drink. Fantasyland is closed due to a gas leak. Walt is unaware of all the opening day problems because he is part of a television show being filmed at all parts of the park. Walt reads about all the problems the next day and refers to it as "Black Sunday." Beside the terrible opening day conditions, the park did eventually pick up. By 1965, ten years after opening day, 50 million visitors had come through the gates.

 Walt and Mickey at Disneyland
In 1958, Walt began planning another Disneyland out East. He commissions Economic Research Associates to find the most favorable location. They gave Walt a place: Florida. It confirms Walt's thinking that Florida has good year-round weather and that it would be a perfect place. Robert Foster, secretary and general counsel of Disneyland, is assigned to acquire the Florida land in a quiet. The Orange County property is acquired and Disney acquires the Osceola City property as insurance in case the Orange County property purchase falls through. By 1965, Walt sets up a Florida Project planning committee at WED. Because his planners feel that the design of the new theme park should mimic that of Disneyland, Walt does not have to focus entirely on the theme park. He feels he should concentrate his thinking on the City of Tomorrow. Walt's focus on the City of Tomorrow becomes a major one. He wants it to include all possible scientific advances. Walt, while at lunch with his WED staff, explains what the model city would be all about: "What we're talking about is an experimental prototype community of tomorrow. What does that spell? E-p-c-o-t. EPCOT. That's what we'll call it: EPCOT!" Eventually the Florida project is now referred to as "Disney World."

Mainstreet USA in Walt Disney World
Walt Disney never saw the opening of Disney World. Walt passes away ten days after his 65th birthday of cancer. Before he passed away, he told Roy the visions of EPCOT he sees in the ceiling tiles. On opening day, October 1, 1971, Roy Disney dedicated the park to Walt. Roy remains the park Walt Disney World. He states that it will include Walt's name so people will always know that this was Walt's dream. Walter Elais Disney 1901-1966


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