Hear this here!
EXIT 94 onramp I-4s from Heathrow nr East Williamson Road, To Orlando Florida
In the early 1960’s, Walt Disney and his brother Roy Disney embarked on a super-secret endeavor, known simply as “Project X”. They scoured the nation for a new location for a follow on theme park to their Anaheim based DisneyLand. First and foremost, they were looking for cheap land. Second, they wanted it to be an all season location with great highway access. Reportedly, when Walt’s plane crossed over the intersection of Interstate 4 to land in Orlando Florida, he knew he found his spot.
Orlando was a sleepy citrus and cattle town. But soon that was to change.
To keep secret and not to drive up land prices, the Disneys set up many “dummy” corporations to purchase swampland, orchards and cow pastures. By May of 1965, there had been major land purchases, although no one suspected that Disney had anything to do with it. In late June of that same year, the Orlando Sentinel reported that over 27,000 acres had recently changed hands.
Speculation was that it was aerospace related as Kennedy Space Center is located nearby. Large aerospace corporations such as Hughes Aircraft and Boeing were the likely culprits. In October, though, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Walt Disney was behind it all. Of course, once it was revealed, the price of land jumped more than one thousand percent! By comparison, Walt bought his first acre of land in Florida for $80 dollars and his last for $80,000!
With the governor of Florida between them, Brothers Walt and Roy Disney described the $400,000,000 project that would become Walt Disney World.
In exchange for boosting the area’s economy, the Disneys negotiated their own, autonomous government, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. This gave Walt the ability to do his own zoning and create his own residential community. In total, Disney purchased 47 square miles. That’s equal to the city of San Francisco or about 30,000 acres. However, Only about 1,100 acres is devoted to the 4 theme parks. In fact, with only 7,000 acres developed, there’s still quite a lot of room for expansion.
This raises the question: why did Disney buy up all that extra land? The answer lies in Anaheim California. When DisneyLand was developed in the early 1950’s it was surrounded by beautiful orange orchards. But with the theme park’s success, cheapo motels, fast food restaurants and tourist traps moved in. Walt did not want that to happen in Orlando. He would be sure that they could control the surroundings, which would include first-class facilities for recreation and accommodation. On top of that there are acres of open space.
Today, Orlando has become one of the top tourism destinations not just in Florida but in the world. So, as much as it has impacted the local economy, it certainly has fulfilled if not exceeded Walt’s vision. Sadly the original Imagineer never saw the fruits of his dreams. Walt Disney was a heavy smoker all his life. He died of Lung Cancer in 1966, 5 years before Disney World ever even opened.
#WaltDisney #DisneyLand #DisneyWorld #Orlando #ReedyCreek #RoyDisney #Citrus #Anaheim #ThemeParks #Florida