Florida Guide > Disney Parks
Disney’s Growth in Florida
Ever wondered how Disney grew and continues to develop? We did too and did some research – we were amazed that some things that seem to have happened only a couple of years ago were actually longer than that. It seemed only a few years ago that Disney Cruises started – but it was 1998 and Everest – now that’s been open for over two years!
1971 saw Magic Kingdom open on 1st October. Ten thousand visitors attended - Disney opened at a quiet time to see how everything ran, whilst the admission was $4. 95. Rides included a jungle cruise, country bear jamboree, Dumbos flying elephants, haunted mansion and grand prix race track. A little later Peter Pan flight was added. By Thanksgiving on 26th November fifty thousand guests came through the entrance.
Pirates of the Caribbean and Tom Sawyer’s Island were added in 1972 followed by Star Jets (now Astro Orbitor) in 1974, Space Mountain and the WEDway People Mover (now Tomorrowland Transit Authority) in 1975. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad arrived in 1980.
Epcot opened on 1st October 1982 – eleven years after the Magic Kingdom. Originally known as the EPCOT Center – by 1996 it was known simply as Epcot with its Spaceship Earth ride becoming its famous icon. It’s said that Disney Imagineers wanted it to represent the cutting edge of technology, whilst others wanted to showcase international cultures and customs – so a theme park with flavours of the World’s Fair was born. As with Magic Kingdom, Epcot continued to evolve, with the Journey into Imagination (now Imagination! ) being added in 1983 and since Morocco and Norway have opened.
Back over in Magic Kingdom Mickey’s Birthdayland – now Mickey’s Toontown Fair opened in 1988.
1989 was a busy year with Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney Hollywood studios) opening on 1st May for business. This park spans 135 acres and unlike other parks it has no defined areas. Body Wars, Cranium Command, Typhoon Lagoon and Pleasure Island all opened in 1989. In 1990 Star Tours was added to Disney Hollywood studios – this ride had originally been based on Disney’s The Black Hole which wasn’t a successful film so it was put on hold and updated to be based on Star Tours. Over in Epcot 1990 saw Honey I Shrank the Kids, based on the famous children’s movie open.
Into the next decade 1991 saw Muppet Vision 3-D, Beauty and the Beast show joining the attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios. Spectro-Magic started the night parades in Magic Kingdom. 1992 Splash Mountain and the Voyage of the Little Mermaid opened whilst in 1994 the Legend of the Lion King Innovations (replaced Communicore), Honey I Shrunk the Audience (a variation on the ‘kids’ version – and not for those who don’t like mice! ! ) and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror all opened!
1995 was a little quieter with the Circle of Life and their second water park, Blizzard Beach opening. Fantasia Gardens (miniature golf) and Boardwalk, designed around a New England theme all came online. 1997 Downtown Disney Westside premiered alongside Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.
1998 was another huge year for Disney with Animal Kingdom opening its gates for the first time on 22nd April becoming the largest single Disney theme park in the world of over 500 acres. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Enchanted Tiki Room – under new management and Fantasmic – the great show at Disney Hollywood Studios first played. DisneyQuest opened its door and the Disney Cruise Line started up.
1999 wasn’t any quieter – more attractions were added - Sounds Dangerous Staring Drew Carey, Kali River Rapids (one to get very wet on if you’re sitting in the wrong place! ), Maharaja Jungle Trek, Test Track, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the famous ‘big top’ of the wonderful Cirque du Soleil show premiered. (Phew another busy year! )
The start of the new Millenium was quieter. In 2003 Mission: SPACE in Epcot started rides whilst Mickey’s PhilharMagic opened in Magic Kingdom (great for fans of the mischievous Donald Duck).
2005 saw Soarin’, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, Stitch’s Great Escape! , and Turtle Talk with Crush whilst 2006 saw Expedition Everest open at Animal Kingdom and Captain Jack Sparrow appearing in Pirates of the Caribbean.
I am sure Disney and their imaginative imagineers are planning yet more attractions for the future – all to keep us wanting to return to the Orlando and the magic of Walt Disney…. an evolving story – one many enjoy!
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