When did Disney World Open? All You Need to Know About the Opening of Disney

The fall of 1971 was a magical time as the Magic Kingdom, a brand new theme park by The Walt Disney Company, was about to open. 

At that time, there were no other Disney parks such as EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, or MGM Studios (now known as Disney's Hollywood Studios) in Florida. This park would change the company and the state forever. Here are some interesting facts about the early days of Walt Disney World.

When did Disney World open?

Walt Disney World opened its doors for the first time on October 1, 1971, and it was called "The Most Magical Place on Earth." On the opening day, Mickey Mouse led the first guest, William Windsor Jr., down Main Street in a parade. Imagine being him on that day!

The park had its Grand Opening Celebration party on October 23-25, 1971. The celebration was also aired as a musical television special on October 29. Julie Andrews performed classics such as "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah" and "It's A Small World." Bob Hope dedicated the Contemporary Hotel, and there were parades and other musical performances - it was quite an event!

At the time of the first opening, there were only 5000 cast members working at Disney World. In contrast, today there are approximately 77,000 people employed by the park. 

On opening day, there were only 10,000 guests in attendance. However, today the average crowd at the four theme parks is approximately 160,000 people per day, which is about 58 million people per year.

Walt Disney’s Plans For Disney World

Walt Disney opened Disneyland on July 17, 1955, however, one of the major issues faced by Disneyland was the lack of space for expansion. Therefore, Walt Disney decided to build a second theme park on the East side of the United States. He chose Florida as the location due to its year-round pleasant weather and the established tourism industry in the state.

In 1964 and 1965, Walt Disney started looking for the perfect location in Florida, and secretly purchased large amounts of land. On November 15, 1965, Walt Disney finally announced that he was building what would become Walt Disney World. He ended up paying 5 million dollars for 43 square miles of land.

Read More: Tips Before Visiting the Eiffel Tower in France

Did Walt Disney die before Disney World opened?

Walt Disney had plans for Disney World for many years before it opened, but unfortunately, he never got to see it come to fruition as he passed away from lung cancer on December 15, 1966. He never got to see anyone enter the place where he had invested so much of his time, energy and money.

After Walt's passing, his brother Roy came out of retirement and took charge to ensure the completion of the park. However, Roy passed away in December of the same year after the park's opening.

The park was originally going to be called simply Disney World, but Roy insisted that it always be called Walt Disney World, in honor of his brother, and that is its official name.

Opening Day Ticket Price

Ticket prices on the opening day of Disney World were $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for children under 18, and $1.00 for children under 12. In contrast, today's basic ticket price starts at $109.

How much did it cost to build Walt Disney World?

The cost of building Walt Disney World was $400 million, which may seem like a significant amount of money. However, this is relatively small compared to the total cost of all the additions and expansions, which has been $3.5 billion.

Disney World Resort and Hotels

Contemporary and Polynesian

In 1969, Walt Disney announced plans to build at least five themed resorts at Walt Disney World. At the time of its opening, the only hotels available were the Contemporary Hotel and the Polynesian Village Resort, which are now considered two of Disney's most popular deluxe level resorts. Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground also opened in 1971.

You can view some fantastic pictures of the building of the Contemporary and Polynesian Village Hotels here. In the 1970s, these hotels cost $24 for a basic room and $44 for a luxury room. 

However, some of the original "phase one" hotels were never built. 

Now, there are 36 resorts at Walt Disney World, including nine Disney Vacation Club properties. Currently, Walt Disney World has more than 30,000 hotel rooms, 409 wilderness cabins, 799 campsites, and 3,293 DVC units, showing a significant expansion over the years.

One Disney Park – The Magic Kingdom

In 1971, there was only one theme park called Disney's Magic Kingdom. Additionally, there were a few golf courses and some resorts. Since then, three more theme parks have been opened: Epcot in 1982, Disney's Hollywood Studios in 1989, and Disney's Animal Kingdom in 1998.

Opening Day Attractions

At the initial opening of Walt Disney World in the Magic Kingdom, there were nineteen attractions available. They were:

  1. The Haunted Mansion
  2. Country Bear Jamboree
  3. Diamond Horseshoe Revue
  4. Dumbo The Flying Elephant
  5. Frontierland Shooting Gallery
  6. The Hall of Presidents
  7. Cinderella’s Golden Carousel
  8. It’s a Small World
  9. Jungle Cruise
  10. Mad Tea Party
  11. Mickey Mouse Revue
  12. Mike Fink Keel Boats
  13. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  14. Skyway
  15. Snow White's Scary Adventures,
  16. Swiss Family Treehouse
  17. Tropical Serenade
  18. Grand Prix Raceway
  19. Walt Disney World Railroad

The attraction 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea opened to guests two weeks after the opening of Walt Disney World.

The Hall of Presidents attraction had its beginnings as an audio-animatronic exhibit called "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," which was first showcased at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.

The Tropical Serenade attraction, which was sponsored by the Florida Citrus Growers, was an early iteration of the Orange Bird character and eventually became the well-known Tiki Room attraction.

On the opening day of Walt Disney World, the Liberty Square Riverboat, known as the Liberty Belle, began to sail around Tom Sawyer Island and Fort Langhorn. It continues to operate today.

If you're curious about which attractions Disney has phased out over the years, you should check out this resource! It provides interesting information about how Disney's Animal Kingdom came to be.

It's fascinating to look back at the history of Disney World and see how much it has grown and evolved over time. Disney has had a significant impact on the entertainment industry, theme parks, and film. The opening of Walt Disney World was a major milestone for the company.

Did you know that Disney's Mickey Mouse was the first animated character to speak in a movie? You can find 18 more fun facts about Mickey Mouse by visiting this link.

If you're currently visiting Walt Disney World, be sure to take the opportunity to meet some of the characters!

Read More: How to Get to Disney World

Source: https://disneywithdavesdaughters.com

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