Oct. 1, 1971 - Walt Disney World Resort officially opens
As well received as Disneyland Park was, Walt Disney didn’t anticipate the “real world” encroaching upon his dream, and the berm surrounding the park occasionally failed to hide nearby Interstate 5 or the growing number of hotels across Harbor Boulevard. In addition, only a small percentage of the park’s Guests visited from east of the Mississippi River.
Walt flew over a site southwest of Orlando, Fla., for the first time in November 1963, noting the highways under construction and nearby McCoy Air Force Base as a hub for air travel, and knew it was the perfect location for his second park.
Walt and Roy O. Disney survey plans for the Florida property in 1965.
Longing for control of the entire environment, Disney began secretly purchasing thousands of acres under false company names like the Ayefour (“I-4”) Corp.
On Oct. 24, 1965, the Orlando Sentinel correctly guessed the buyer’s true identity in a front-page story; on Nov. 15, Walt and Roy O. Disney held a press conference at the Cherry Plaza Hotel in Orlando to formally announce the project, promising details at a later date. Initial plans called for a Disneyland-style theme park and an “experimental prototype community of tomorrow,” along with two resort hotels and a campground. With 27,400 acres to build upon, the site would be big enough for any idea Walt and his Imagineers could ever dream up.
Joined by Florida Gov. Haydon Burns, Walt and Roy O. Disney announce the project on Nov. 15, 1965.
Walt didn’t live to see his East Coast Kingdom realized, dying in December 1966. Roy, who largely handled the financial side of the company’s affairs, postponed his retirement to assume the role of chairman and oversee construction of the massive project, which ultimately saw EPCOT deferred until 1982 and transformed into a theme park dubbed EPCOT Center.
Cinderella Castle has been the icon of the Walt Disney World Resort since the site opened Oct. 1, 1971.Conscious of the nightmarish “Black Sunday” opening of Disneyland Park, the off-season opening date of Friday, Oct. 1, 1971, was deliberate. Ten thousand Guests were admitted that day to Magic Kingdom Park, with its centerpiece Cinderella Castle. Also opening that day were Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Resort (known then as the Polynesian Village), built in partnership with U.S. Steel and connected to the park via monorail.
Many other events in Walt Disney World lore happened Oct. 1, too — below is a small sampling.
1982 - Epcot opens
1988 - Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort opens
1991 – “SpectroMagic” debuts at Magic Kingdom Park
1992 - Critter Country, including Splash Mountain and the Beaver Bros. Canoes, opens at Tokyo Disneyland Park
1993 - Walt Disney Pictures releases “Cool Runnings”
1994 - Euro Disney Resort is renamed Disneyland Paris
1996 - Disney’s BoardWalk officially opens
1998 - “Fantasmic!” debuts at Disney-MGM Studios
1999 - The Millennium Celebration begins at the Walt Disney World Resort
1999 - The “Leave a Legacy” program begins in the entrance plaza at Epcot
2000 - Conservation Station becomes Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
2005 - Robert A. (Bob) Iger becomes chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company
2009 - The Walt Disney Family Museum opens in San Francisco, Calif.
2010 - Mickey’s Halloween Party is offered for the first time at Disneyland Park
1971 - Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat opens at Magic Kingdom Park
1983 - Epcot leaders hold groundbreaking ceremonies for The Living Seas and Morocco pavilions
1992 - Walt Disney Pictures releases “The Mighty Ducks”
1992 - Splash Mountain opens at Magic Kingdom Park
1996 - World of Disney opens at the Downtown Disney Marketplace within the Walt Disney World Resort
1999 - Disney’s FASTPASS service is offered at Disneyland Paris for the first time on Indiana Jones et le Tempil de Peril
2010 - The inaugural Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon is held at the Walt Disney World Resort
1955 - “Mickey Mouse Club” debuts on ABC
2002 - Le Bat en Rouge opens at Disneyland Park
2004 - “Desperate Housewives” debuts on ABC
1993 - Mission to Mars closes at Magic Kingdom Park
1998 - The Epcot Discovery Center closes at Epcot
1932 - “Touchdown Mickey” (Mickey Mouse cartoon short) debuts
1949 - Walt Disney Pictures releases “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”
1955 - The Disneyland Hotel opens next to Disneyland Park
1996 - The American Film Institute Showcase is dedicated at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
2008 - Miley Cyrus celebrates her 16th birthday during a private event at Disneyland Park
1983 - Walt Disney Pictures releases “Never Cry Wolf”
1989 - An electronic marquee is unveiled outside Disneyland Park along Harbor Boulevard
1994 - Touchstone Pictures releases “Ed Wood”
1995 - Disneyland Paris links a communications line with the Mir space station
1998 - Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin opens at Magic Kingdom Park
2002 – “a bug’s land” opens at Disney California Adventure Park