Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA
October 1, 1971
The Walt Disney Company
107 acres (43.3 hectares)
Magic Kingdom is the first of Walt Disney World Resort's four amusement parks. The park opened on October 1, 1971, four years after the death of Walt Disney himself. The park was the most visited amusement park of 2010, with approximately 17 million visitors.
Walt Disney World was opened on October 1, 1971. The park had 41 attractions, only 3 of which were not copies of those from Disneyland. The park was split into six themed areas: Main Street U. S. A., Tommorowland, Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Liberty Square. Liberty Square was the only one of these areas that was not copied from Disneyland.
Already an entertainment master, Walt Disney wanted to expand the Disney name further. He accomplished this by opening Disneyland, a one-of-a-kind park in Anaheim, California in 1955. The park was divided into different themed lands to create the theme park environment. The park was a huge success, more so than Walt ever dreamed. It continued to grow but the growth was limited by the small amount of land the park sat on. Walt was determined a way to fix this.
The search for a new resort location began only four years after the opening of Disneyland. Initially a population survey was conducted to see where the best area of the United States would be to build this new resort. Early on, Walt decided that he wanted it to be located on the eastern end of the Mississippi River where the majority of the U.S. population was located. Many sites were flown over, but eventually land just outside Orlando, Florida was chosen. At the time it was mostly swampland but Walt favored the location due to its close proximity to major Florida highways and a nearby airport.
This time around Walt made sure that his new project would have plenty of leg room to avoid the “neon jungle” that had sprung up just outside the borders of Disneyland. Due to the area’s minimal usage the land rates were low, but they would have been jacked up if the owner found out who was buying the property. To avoid this, fake companies were invented to buy the land separately although they were all actually Walt Disney Company employees. The first land was bought in October 1964 by the Ayefour Corporation which is a gag on Interstate 4 which runs just outside of Walt Disney World. Land was bought by these fake companies for the cheap price of about $185 per acre.
This went on for a year before the information was leaked. Fortunately by this time most of the land had been bought. The prices spiked to a whopping $80,000 per acre. Soon after the incident Walt held a press conference to explain the new project. The Magic Kingdom was revealed along with EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Walt’s vision was a futuristic city where people lived and worked, however the plans would dramatically change after Walt’s death. The company had purchased so much land that their own district was formed, entitled Reedy Creek Improvement District. This allowed Disney to have their own “government” and weren’t under the control of anyone but themselves. Later on two new cities would be formed, both within the Walt Disney World property. They were the City of Bay Lake and the City of Lake Buena Vista both named after artificial lakes constructed by Disney on the property.
On December 15, 1966 a wrench was thrown in the project and brought about the end of an era. Walter Elias Disney died of lung cancer at the age of sixty-five, five years before his Florida project would be completed. Roy Disney, his brother, canceled his retirement and went on to lead the project until its opening. In memory of his brother Roy officially gave the resort its name, Walt Disney World. Despite Walt’s death, construction officially began in 1967.
The Magic Kingdom was the complex’s first theme park and the only to open on the resort’s opening day, October 1, 1971. It featured a very similar layout to the original Disneyland, with some unique ideas to call its own. A system of utility corridors, coined utilidors, were made for cast members to get around the park without guests seeing them. Since nothing can be built very far underground in Florida these utilidors were built at ground level. The Magic Kingdom was then constructed on top of these, so the Magic Kingdom is actually built about twenty feet above sea level. When the property was bought, the only body of water on site was Bay Lake. Just next to it the 172 acre Seven Seas Lagoon was constructed by Disney. After it was filled over 70,000 fish were added.
For opening day, the Magic Kingdom would have a total of twenty-three attractions and six themed lands. Of the fairly small number of attractions, twenty were copies of rides at Disneyland and only three were brand new, unique rides. It was a similar situation with the lands; five were from Disneyland and only one was new, Liberty Square.
Along with the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World would open with two golf courses and three resort hotels right on the property. Disney’s Contemporary Resort was one of these hotels. With a futuristic theme this hotel was designed to fit in with Tomorrowland, where the hotel is visible from. Besides the main A-Frame building, the resort hotel would also includes three other freestanding buildings that house guest rooms. The most prominent of the rooms were in the main building of the hotel however. A major feature of the hotel was the fact that the center atrium was home to a monorail station that would connect it to the Magic Kingdom and Polynesian Village the only other hotel on site that was ready for the resort’s opening day.
The resort finally opened, six years after its public announcement and four years after construction first began, on October 1, 1971. Some of the attractions that opened with the Magic Kingdom are still around today such as the Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion. The park was a phenomenal success, and would eventually lead to Orlando becoming the theme park capital of the world. Not only was the park a success, but so were the two hotels. A third place to stay didn’t make opening day, but did open only a few weeks later on November 19, 1971. This was Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground which, as its name suggests, included a campground.
At the center of the Magic Kingdom was its main icon, Cinderella Castle. This construction marvel was nearly twice the size of Sleeping Beauty Castle in the original Disneyland. The entire castle took more than a year to complete and is made entirely of steel and concrete, despite its brick appearance. Cinderella Castle is a massive building with twenty-seven towers, a 3.4 million gallon moat, and a drawbridge. In early planning of the park Walt Disney wanted an apartment somewhere within the park boundaries where he and his family could stay. This secret apartment was constructed inside one of the towers of Cinderella Castle and remains there to this day and has been transformed into a fantasy hotel room which is awarded to one lucky family each day. Another fun fact of Cinderella Castle is that Walt’s family crest is found as part of the decor of the castle.
In 1973 the Magic Kingdom received what would become one of its most beloved attractions. Pirates of the Caribbean opened on December 15, 1973 with over 120 audio-animatronics. This was cutting edge technology at the time of its opening, and it was instant success. This however, was not an original attraction and was a downsized version of the attraction of the same name at Disneyland. Still, the ride clocks in at over eight minutes.
The Magic Kingdom also received a few new attractions in 1974. One of these was Star Jets, now known as the Astro Orbiter. This ride has since become something of an icon for Tomorrowland as it is the first attraction a guest sees when they enter the land of the future.
The year 1975 was especially good for the Magic Kingdom, as this was the year that Space Mountain opened. Space Mountain pioneered the "block break" system now standard on most roller coasters, allowing it to run multiple cars at the same time. Space Mountain featured two mirror image tracks that actually interlaced with each other inside its dark interior. The attraction was a major success and would spawn a series of “Mountain” attractions.
The late seventies was a slower period for the Walt Disney World Resort as most of the financial resources were going to the large construction project on the other side of the property. In 1980, the Magic Kingdom received its second “mountain” attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Frontierland section of the park. The ride of the same name had opened at Disneyland the year earlier. This was the Magic Kingdom’s second roller coaster, and like Space Mountain was an instant success, going on to be duplicated at many other Disney parks. The mine train style ride is nearly 2800 feet long and has three lift hills. The ride lasts for three minutes and twenty-five seconds, about ten seconds longer than its Disneyland counterpart.
The slow development of the late seventies was due to the planning and construction of EPCOT Center, Walt Disney World’s second theme park. However, Walt Disney himself had not intended for EPCOT to be a theme park. It was originally designed as an Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow (EPCOT). It would be an actual functioning city and was supposed to be the headline attraction of the entire Walt Disney World Resort. From the beginning Walt had a hard time convincing everyone else the idea would work. When Walt died, the original idea for EPCOT went to the grave with him.
Originally Walt Disney Imagineers were designing two separate theme park models, one of which focused on different nations of the world. The other was like a permanent World’s Fair, and explored all the ideas of the future. One day someone pushed the two models together, and EPCOT as we know it was created. When EPCOT Center was built it was the largest Disney theme park on Earth and would remain so until Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998. The plans for EPCOT Center were revealed to the public in 1978, four years before the park would open. At the time, the construction of EPCOT Center was the largest construction project on Earth. When the park opened, it was divided into two main sections, Future World and World Showcase. The first showcased the technology of today and tomorrow while the second explored different nations from around the globe.
The Magic Kingdom received one of its first major additions in nearly a decade with Mickey’s Birthdayland opening in 1988. This completely new land was built in honor of the mouse himself, celebrating his sixtieth birthday. With this new land were many new character meet-and-greets along with several walkthrough attractions which explored the town where Mickey Mouse lived. A new place for young children to beat the heat was called Donald’s Boat. This interactive water area quickly became popular because at the time, the Magic Kingdom didn't have any other wet attractions.
The first new Disney hotels to be built at Walt Disney World in seventeen years opened in 1988. One of these, the Grand Floridian Beach Resort would become Disney’s flagship hotel. This deluxe hotel carries an early twentieth century Victorian theme. The resort featured over eight hundred guestrooms encompassed six buildings. The Grand Floridian Beach Resort was also host to central Florida’s only five star restaurant, Victoria & Albert’s. The resort hotel was built on the shore of Seven Seas Lagoon, which allowed for many recreational water activities and a beach. Another major convenience of staying at the resort was that it had a monorail station. This gave all hotel guests instant access to the two theme parks and the other two Disney hotels connected to the system.
Amidst all of the changes being undergone at the Walt Disney World Resort, a new man had stepped into the CEO position of the Walt Disney Company in 1984. When Michael Eisner first took control of the company, the parks progressed the same way as they had previously, with no noticeable difference from the change in management. However, this would drastically change beginning in the late 80s and continuing until his resignation. EPCOT Center was continually growing, and Disney executives order for two new pavilions to be drawn up for the park. One of these was the Wonders of Life which would go on to open in 1989. The second, called the Great Movie Ride pavilion was to explore the history and magic of the movies. Eventually, this idea would grow to become a third Walt Disney World theme park, the Disney MGM Studios, a park dedicated entirely to the entertainment industry, including everything from the movies to television and even the stage.
The 1990s were announced by CEO Michael Eisner to be known as the “Disney Decade.” The plan for this was to feature multiple new Disney parks across the world and greatly expand all of the existing properties. While some of these ideas never came through, such as a upcoming Shanghai version of EPCOT Center, the Walt Disney World Resort greatly benefited from these ten years. In fact they were among the most expansive in the resort’s history. One of the reasons for this was due to the Disney hotel boom. With Universal Studios Florida opening its gates, and SeaWorld Orlando not far behind, Disney knew there was a problem. Guests would stay at an Orlando-area hotel and split up their vacation time between the three entertainment venues. Star Tours also opened in late 1989, and became an instant fan favorite. This motion simulator ride was based on of the ride of the same name located in Disneyland, having opened two years prior to the Florida ride. Disney wanted guests to be able to spend their whole time at Walt Disney World without leaving. The answer to their problem was to build hotels, and an in-resort transportation system, as well as giving Disney hotel guests benefits they wouldn’t enjoy anywhere else.
After an lengthy absence of new major attractions in the spur of adding new hotels, 1992 was a great year for the Magic Kingdom. This was the year one of its most popular attractions would be built; Splash Mountain. This log flume on thematic steroids was based on the 1946 Disney film Song of the South. Brer Rabbit is the protagonist of this ride, which also includes his enemies, Brer Bear and Brer Fox. Unlike a typical log flume, the logs on Disney’s attraction sit eight people each, with park guests sitting in four rows of two. Nearly seventy audio-animatronics are spread throughout the ten minute ride that travels over nearly a half mile of track. When the ride was built it was one of the most expensive attractions ever built by Disney, costing an astounding $75 million. The grand finale of Splash Mountain is a fifty foot into the brier patch.
1993 was a slow year for the Walt Disney World Resort. Yes new attractions were added or hotels built. However, three rides went under major renovations: the Hall of Presidents, the Carousel of Progress and Dumbo. To make up for the seemingly lackluster year in what was supposed to be the Disney Decade, 1994 was a stampede of improvements, additions and celebrations for the Walt Disney World Resort. Tomrrowland received a facelift, and the theme was changed to a “retro future” that would never become outdated. As part of this refurbishment, new rides were opened in the area. The old Star Jets attraction was transformed into the, Astro Orbiter after twenty years of service. The Timekeeper and Galaxy Palace Theater also opened during the same time period. The Legend of the Lion King was the only attraction to open in the Magic Kingdom outside of Tomorrowland that year. However, all of these additions meant that some rides had reached the end of their time. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage closed down, along with Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes.
In 1995 Walt Disney World announced their fourth theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park was set to open sometime before 2000. As work began on the new park, the rest of the resort continued to grow. In 1996, Mickey’s Birthdayland was transformed into Mickey’s Toontown Fair, as part of a complete overhaul of the area. Along with the name change came a new roller coaster for the little ones, The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm. In order for this new attractions to be added, the course of the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway had to be slightly altered.
1996 was a landmark year for Walt Disney World, because it had now reached the ripe age of twenty-five. To celebrate this Cinderella’s Castle was transformed into a giant birthday cake. This was a massive undertaking and took more than 400 gallons of pink paint, sixteen five-foot gummy bears, twenty-six candles ranging in height from twenty to forty feet, more than 1000 feet of blue and pink inflatable icing and much more. The castle remained in this state until January 31, 1998.
In the Magic Kingdom, Tropical Serenade, more commonly known as The Enchanted Tiki Room, closed its doors in 1997 for an extensive renovation. The ride would reopen a year later as The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management. The only major difference was the addition of Zazu and Iago in the show, from The Lion King and Aladdin respectively. Another new venue opened at Walt Disney World that year, but this is one that is still one of the resort’s best kept secrets. The Richard Petty Driving Experience opened in the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom. It is a full-size NASCAR race track which, after some training, allows any guest to ride around the track with a pro driver.
After the previous year’s multiple additions, it would seem as if Walt Disney World was bursting at the seams. Clearly, no Disney executives saw this as in issue, because 1998 became yet another landmark year for the Florida resort. The Magic Kingdom received its first entirely new ride in some time, with Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland, replacing the old Dream Flight attraction. This interactive dark ride has guests shooting at targets in a neon, glow-in-the-dark atmosphere, competing for whoever can get the highest score. At the same time, a classic attraction in the Magic Kingdom met its demise the same year. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Fantasyland closed after entertaining guests for almost thirty years.
But the major news that year came from across the resort as Disney’s Animal Kingdom officially became Walt Disney World’s fourth theme park. At the dedication Michal Eisner proclaimed, “Welcome to a kingdom of animals . . . real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama and learn.” Something along the lines of Disney’s Animal Kingdom had been something Walt himself envisioned in the distant future. He was very interested in animals and felt that humans could learn a lot from them as can be seen in one of his favorite attractions, the Jungle Cruise.
Just before the new millennium, Disney announced a breakthrough feature that would soon spread to many other parks around the world. Disney’s FASTPASS, which premiered in 1999, would allow guests to skip the line for some of the most popular attractions in each park. The system is free, and easy to use. Guests simply insert their admission ticket at the respective FASTPASS station for the attraction they desire. After a moment or two, a new ticket comes out at the bottom with the attraction’s name on it, and a one-hour time span, such as 1:00-2:00. After taking back their admission ticket, guests simply return during the given time to that attraction, present their ticket to a cast member, and cut a large portion of the line, drastically reducing the wait. This was one of the most successful ideas implanted by Walt Disney World, and continues to be one of the most popular services available at Disney theme parks worldwide.
And with that, the Disney Decade was over. Some of the highlights of the successful decade were Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest, a plethora of hotels, dozens of new attractions and the innovative FASTPASS system. It was arguably the most expansive period in the resort’s history, and changed the map of Walt Disney World forever. The first year of the new millennium however, saw relatively few changes to the overall resort.
After only one year off from the Disney Decade celebration, Disney officials decided that Walt Disney World Resort was a place for celebrations. In 2001, the 100 Years of Magic Celebration was launched, celebrating what would have been Walt Disney’s 100th birthday. One of the highlights of this celebration was the start of a brand new parade at the Magic Kingdom called the Share a Dream Come True Parade. This parade still runs, although now under the name of the Disney Dreams Come True Parade. A new show premiered right in front of Cinderella Castle, appropriately named Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration. Adventureland received its first completely new attraction in almost thirty years: The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. This ride runs almost exactly like Dumbo the Flying Elephant, save for its separate theme and the fact that the carpets can tilt slightly forward and backward as well as going up and down.
The Magic Kingdom had a busy year in 2003. Arguably Disney’s scariest attraction, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, closed. The Fantasyland Theater which had previously hosted Legend of the Lion King was replaced with Mickey’s PhilharMagic, the Magic Kingdom’s first 3-D show. The attraction would later be duplicated at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. The first new fireworks show in the park’s history, excluding holidays and other special events, premiered in 2003 and was called Wishes. It has since garnered critical acclaim and is one of the most popular fireworks shows at any Disney theme park worldwide.
In 2004, Stitch’s Great Escape opened in Tomorrowland, taking the place of the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Stitch’s Great Escape uses a similar ride mechanic and the same seats and restraints as its predecessor. Unlike the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter however, it does not use the effects to scare guests.
2005 brought another celebration to Disney parks worldwide. The Happiest Celebration on Earth was initiated to spread the festivities over Disneyland’s fiftieth anniversary. At Walt Disney World, each of the four theme parks received a new attraction from Disney parks around the world, along with updates and improvements to various existing rides. At the Magic Kingdom It’s a Small World was completely refurbished featuring a brand new sound system and a remodeled loading station similar to the original at Disneyland. Cinderellabration premiered as a new show staged in front of Cinderella Castle, which also received a temporary makeover.
As the Happiest Celebration on Earth concluded, a new one started. The Year of a Million Dreams would award guests with various prizes simply for coming to the parks. These prizes ranged anywhere from Fastpasses to an overnight stay in Cinderella Castle. As many Disney enthusiasts know, an apartment with elevator access was designed in Cinderella Castle so that Walt Disney himself could stay overnight in his masterpiece. Since he died before the opening, it was never used. However, the apartment was totally remodeled into a six-person apartment fit for a prince or princess. This prize would be awarded randomly each day.
To coincide with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the sequel to the 2003 blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, the ride of the same name at the Magic Kingdom was closed in 2005 for renovations. The resulting additions, which were first seen when the ride reopened in 2006, included new elements from the movies, while keeping most of the original ride intact. Several Jack Sparrow audio-animatronics were added to the attraction. These new figurines are visibly more modern and move far more fluidly than their older counterparts. The opening scene of the eight and a half minute boat ride was also redone, including new visual effects.
2007 brought relatively few changes to Walt Disney World. The Year of a Million Dreams promotion was extended for another year, through 2008. At the Magic Kingdom, the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor replaced the decade-old attraction The Timekeeper. The attraction is similar to Turtle Talk with Crush at The Seas with Nemo & Friends, only it stars characters from its namesake Pixar film, particularly Mike Wazowski and Roz.
The Walt Disney World Resort has surpassed anything Walt Disney himself could ever have dreamed of. Encompassing four theme parks, two water parks, an entertainment complex, multiple golf courses, a massive sports arena, more than twenty hotels, and more, Walt Disney World is the largest theme park resort on Earth. With many announced additions and many more secretive additions waiting to be unveiled, the resort will only continue to grow, and make dreams come true.
Mainstreet USA is the first area entered upon walking through the park's entrance. This area is designed to combine the architectual styles from all over America into one condensed location. Mainstreet USA does not feature any rides, but contains many gift shops and confectionaries, and is the area through which daily parades travel through. Some points of intrest are a barber who will cut hair for a fee; Guests Relations; and The Emporium, a giant gift shop contianing a plethora of Disney merchandise. In the distance from Mainstreet USA lies Cinderella's Castle, the centerpiece of Magic Kingdom. The castle was designed as a living space for Disney himself before his untimely death, and is now rented out as a hotel room for very high prices. The castle lights up in different colors throughout the night and often features fireworks.
Adventureland is located at a far edge of the park. This section is designed to resemble jungles of many different countries, such as Africa and South America. One section is themed as a Caribbean town square. Some of the notable attractions in this area are the Jungle Cruise and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Frontierland is located on the borders of the park and is designed to resemble the Old West. The area lets its guest explore the Old West, from cowboys to indians. This section contains Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain.In the words of Walt Disney: "Fantasyland is dedicated to the young at heart and to those who believe that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true." Fantasyland is aimed towards a younger audience and features the appearances of many disney characters from Snow White to Cinderella. This area is undergoing major renovations for the 2013 season, including the addition of a new roller coaster. An area similar to this, Storybook Circus is expected to open by 2012. Storybook Circus revolves around the Mickey Mouse related characters and is a renovated version of the previously closed Mickey's Toontown Fair. This area will feature the refurbrished roller coaster The Great Goofini (previously The Barnstormer). Tommorowland is located on the far right side of the park. With a futuristic theme, Tommorowland contains the most amount of attractions compared to other areas of the park. This area is themed to show a view of the future from the eyes of people living in the 1950's. It is heavy in appearances of UFOs, rockets, and robots. Some notable attractions include Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
Present Roller Coasters (4)Edit
|Big Thunder Mountain Railroad||Arrow Dynamics||Mine Train||1980||Operating|
|Seven Dwarfs Mine Train||Unknown||Sit-Down||2014||Operating|
|Space Mountain||Arrow Dynamics||Indoor||1975||Operating|