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WALTER ELIAS DISNEY- PART THREE DISNEYWORLD EPCOT AND FLORIDA
“Give the public everything you can give them, keep the place as clean as you can keep it, keep it friendly. ”
Can you imagine a world without the Disney theme parks? Well, Walter Elias Disney, the creator of Mickey Mouse, was a man of vision, and his dream was to provide a unique experience, and so it was that his first theme park, Disneyland in Anaheim, California was born.
' We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together. '
Disney bought 160 acres and began building his first theme park. This fantastic magic kingdom cost $17 million, and over the years it has been visited by more than 515 million guests, with nearly 15 million in 2007 alone. For Walt Disney it was a work of love, and he said that he didn’t go into Disneyland “just with the idea of making money. ” For him it was something that would keep developing:
' It' s something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing. . . and adding to. Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. '
But his dream did not end here. He decided to purchase land in Florida, where he planned a whole new Disney world theme park. It was to include a new amusement theme park, plus a resort vacation centre, golf courses, and of course, his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or as we know it now, EPCOT.
The day John F Kennedy was assassinated was the day Walt Disney first flew over Orlando. He asked Sanford City Council to let him build Disney World there, but they declined, fearing that the boom in tourism would result in an unacceptable increase in crime. However, it was the good transport links which finally made him decide on the site south of Orlando, as it had both the Interstate 4 and the Florida Turnpike, as well as McCoy Air Force Base, which eventually became Orlando International Airport.
Walt knew that if anyone got wind of his plans to purchase land the price would rocket, so he set up various dummy corporations to purchase 27. 400 acres. At the time, much of it was swampland, so he had little trouble obtaining the land he required, and 43 square miles of virgin land were purchased in secret, twice the size of Manhattan island.
The planning and preparation took more than seven years, and the construction took 52 months, but finally, Magic Kingdom opened its doors to the public on October 1st, 1971, followed by EPCOT in 1982. MGM Studios followed on May 1st 1989. Sadly, due to his death, EPCOT never became what Walt originally envisaged. If you ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in Magic Kingdom, and look behind the glass wall, you will see a miniature city based on Disney’s original plans.
He said of EPCOT,
“I don' t believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that is more important to people everywhere than finding the solutions to the problems of our cities. But where do we begin? Well, we' re convinced we must start with the public need. And the need is not just for curing the old ills of old cities. We think the need is for starting from scratch on virgin land and building a community that will become a prototype for the future.
When Disney World opened in 1971, some 5 years after Walt died, his brother, Roy, gave the opening speech. He dedicated the park’s name to his brother, and renamed the park Walt Disney World in his honour. It is the most visited and largest theme park resort in the world, with four theme parks, two water parks, twenty three themed hotels as well as Downtown Disney with shopping and dining.
Walt Disney won 32 Oscars, which is more than anyone else. He is also the only person ever to have won both an Oscar and a Nobel prize, and he was awarded an honorary Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1932, for ‘The Creation of Mickey Mouse. ’ But he was not a man who courted fame and did not attend the ceremony himself, and preferred to stay at home. Charlie Chaplin, the first recipient of this honour was due to present it to him.
Sadly, Disney did not live to see his dream become a reality, and he died on December 15th, 1966. His life had been closely bound up with that little cartoon character that started it all off, Mickey Mouse.
' It is understandable that I should have sentimental attachment for the little personage who played so big a part in the course of Disney Productions and has been so happily accepted as an amusing friend wherever films are shown around the world. He still speaks for me and I still speak for him. '
His wife, Lillian, died on December 16, 1997. His dream lives on, and the wonderful talent which Disney displayed had brought pleasure to millions, and will continue to do so in the future.
One of his most famous saying was, “If you can dream it, you can do it. If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse. ”
The Disney Parks have the following dedication,
' To all who come to this happy place welcome. . . '
But it is Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida which bears the following dedication,
' Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney. . . '
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