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Walt Disney World History

Walt Disney World history only goes back five decades, but in that short time, it has become one of the best-known attractions in the world. Inspired by the popularity of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Walt Disney Productions began looking for land for a second theme park. The goal was to create a destination resort with plenty of room for expansion. Disney considered many locations, but Florida provided year-round good weather and easy access to a wealth of visitors along the east coast. The Orlando area was selected in 1963, and Disney used a number of dummy companies to buy land southwest of the city. Speculation about who was buying these huge tracts was intense until the news finally leaked out when the Orlando Sentinel newspaper published a story in November of 1965 identifying Disney as the buyer. At a press event that month, Walt Disney detailed his goals, including his vision for a new kind of theme park called Epcot. Sadly, Disney died of lung cancer in 1966 before his dream could be realized. It was Roy Disney, Walt's brother, who took over the reins and the vision for the park. Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971 with the Magic Kingdom and three resorts (Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Polynesian Resort and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground). Roy Disney died less than three months after the park opened, but the Disney brothers' dream lives on. Epcot opened in 1982, and Disney-MGM (since renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios) opened in 1989. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the most recent addition, opening in 1998. Today Walt Disney World is the world's largest and most visited resort—ever changing and improving—yet remaining true to its founders’ vision.