Walt Disney World

Last updated

Walt Disney World
Industry
FoundedOctober 1, 1971;50 years ago (1971-10-01)
Founders
Headquarters Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake, Florida, U.S.
Key people
Jeff Vahle (President) [2]
Number of employees
77,000+ [3]
Parent Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
(The Walt Disney Company)
Website disneyworld.disney.go.com OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Coordinates: 28°22′20″N81°32′58″W / 28.37222°N 81.54944°W / 28.37222; -81.54944 [4]

Contents

The Walt Disney World Resort, also called Walt Disney World or Disney World, is an entertainment resort complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, United States, near the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee. Opened on October 1, 1971, the resort is operated by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, a division of The Walt Disney Company. The property covers nearly 25,000 acres (39 sq mi; 101 km2), of which half has been used. [5] The resort comprises four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom), two water parks (Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon), 31 themed resort hotels, nine non-Disney hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the outdoor shopping center Disney Springs.

Designed to supplement Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which had opened in 1955, the complex was developed by Walt Disney in the 1960s. "The Florida Project", as it was known, was intended to present a distinct vision with its own diverse set of attractions. Walt Disney's original plans also called for the inclusion of an "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" (EPCOT), a planned community intended to serve as a testbed for new city-living innovations. Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, during the initial planning of the complex. After his death, the company wrestled with the idea of whether to bring the Disney World project to fruition; however, Walt's older brother, Roy O. Disney, came out of retirement to make sure Walt's biggest dream was realized. Construction started in 1967, with the company instead building a resort similar to Disneyland, abandoning the experimental concepts for a planned community. The Magic Kingdom was the first theme park to open in the complex, in 1971, followed by Epcot (1982), Disney's Hollywood Studios (1989), and Disney's Animal Kingdom (1998). It was Roy who insisted the name of the entire complex be changed from Disney World to Walt Disney World, ensuring that people would remember that the project was Walt's dream.

In 2018, Walt Disney World was the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average annual attendance of more than 58 million. [6] The resort is the flagship destination of Disney's worldwide corporate enterprise and has become a popular staple in American culture. In 2020, Walt Disney World was chosen to host the NBA Bubble for play of the 2019–20 season of the National Basketball Association to resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Walt Disney World is also covered by an FAA prohibited airspace zone that restricts all airspace activities without approval from the Federal government of the United States, including usage of drones; this level of protection is otherwise only offered to American critical infrastructure (like the Pantex nuclear weapons plant), military bases, the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area Special Flight Rules Area, official presidential travels, and Camp David. [7]

In 2020, Disney World laid off 6,500 employees and only operated at 25% capacity after reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. [8] [9]

On April 22, 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law which officially stripped the Walt Disney Company of its longtime self-governing status in the area around Walt Disney World by June 2023. [10] [11]

History

Planning and construction

Conception

Walt Disney (left) with his brother Roy O. Disney (right) and then Governor of Florida W. Haydon Burns (center) on November 15, 1965, publicly announcing the creation of Disney World Walt Disney with Company at Press Conference.jpg
Walt Disney (left) with his brother Roy O. Disney (right) and then Governor of Florida W. Haydon Burns (center) on November 15, 1965, publicly announcing the creation of Disney World

In 1959, Walt Disney Productions began looking for land to house a second resort to supplement Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which had opened in 1955. Market surveys at the time revealed that only 5% of Disneyland's visitors came from east of the Mississippi River, where 75% of the population of the United States lived. Additionally, Walt Disney disliked the businesses that had sprung up around Disneyland and wanted more control over a larger area of land in the next project. [12]

Walt Disney took a flight over a potential site in Orlando, Florida—one of many—in November 1963. After witnessing the well-developed network of roads and taking the planned construction of both Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike into account, with McCoy Air Force Base (later Orlando International Airport) to the east, Disney selected a centrally located site near Bay Lake. [13] The development was referred to in-house as "The Florida Project". [14] To avoid a burst of land speculation, Walt Disney Productions used various dummy corporations to acquire 27,443 acres (43 sq mi; 111 km2) of land. [13] In May 1965, some of these major land transactions were recorded a few miles southwest of Orlando in Osceola County. In addition, two large tracts totaling $1.5 million were sold, and smaller tracts of flatlands and cattle pastures were purchased by exotically named companies, such as the "Ayefour Corporation", "Latin-American Development and Management Corporation", and the "Reedy Creek Ranch Corporation". Some are now memorialized on a window above Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. The smaller parcels of land acquired were called "outs". They were five-acre (2 ha) lots platted in 1912 by the Munger Land Company and sold to investors. Most of the owners in the 1960s were happy to get rid of the land, which was mostly swamp at the time. Another issue was the mineral rights to the land, which were owned by Tufts University. Without the transfer of these rights, Tufts could come in at any time and demand the removal of buildings to obtain minerals. Eventually, Disney's team negotiated a deal with Tufts to buy the mineral rights for $15,000. [15]

Working strictly in secrecy, real estate agents unaware of their client's identity began making offers to landowners in April 1964, in parts of southwest Orange and northwest Osceola counties. The agents were careful not to reveal the extent of their intentions, and they were able to negotiate numerous land contracts with some landowners, including large tracts of land for as little as $100 an acre. [16] With the understanding that the recording of the first deeds would trigger intense public scrutiny, Disney delayed the filing of paperwork until a large portion of the land was under contract. [17]

Early rumors and speculation about the land purchases assumed possible development by NASA in support of the nearby Kennedy Space Center, as well as references to other famous investors, such as Ford, the Rockefellers, and Howard Hughes. [17] An Orlando Sentinel news article published weeks later, on May 20, 1965, acknowledged a popular rumor that Disney was building an "East Coast" version of Disneyland. However, the publication denied its accuracy based on an earlier interview with Disney at Kennedy Space Center, in which he claimed a $50 million investment was in the works for Disneyland, and that he had no interest in building a new park. [17] In October 1965, editor Emily Bavar from the Sentinel visited Disneyland during the park's 10th-anniversary celebration. In an interview with Disney, she asked him if he was behind recent land purchases in Central Florida. Bavar later described that Disney "looked like I had thrown a bucket of water in his face", before denying the story. [17] His reaction, combined with other research obtained during her Anaheim visit, led Bavar to author a story on October 21, 1965, where she predicted that Disney was building a second theme park in Florida. [17] Three days later, after gathering more information from various sources, the Sentinel published another article headlined, "We Say: 'Mystery Industry' Is Disney". [17]

Walt Disney had originally planned to publicly reveal Disney World on November 15, 1965, but in light of the Sentinel story, Disney asked Florida Governor Haydon Burns to confirm the story on October 25. His announcement called the new theme park "the greatest attraction in the history of Florida". [17] The official reveal was kept on the previously planned November 15 date, and Disney joined Burns in Orlando for the event. [17]

Roy Disney's oversight of construction

Roy O. Disney inspecting design plans on-site in Florida Roy Disney inspecting property in Florida.jpg
Roy O. Disney inspecting design plans on-site in Florida

Walt Disney died from circulatory collapse caused by smoking related lung cancer on December 15, 1966, before his vision was realized. [18] His brother and business partner, Roy O. Disney, postponed his retirement to oversee construction of the resort's first phase.

On February 2, 1967, Roy O. Disney held a press conference at the Park Theatres in Winter Park, Florida. The role of EPCOT was emphasized in the film that was played. After the film, it was explained that for Disney World, including EPCOT, to succeed, a special district would have to be formed: the Reedy Creek Improvement District with two cities inside it, Bay Lake and Reedy Creek, now Lake Buena Vista. In addition to the standard powers of an incorporated city, which include issuance of tax-free bonds, the district would have immunity from any current or future county or state land-use laws. The only areas where the district had to submit to the county and state would be property taxes and elevator inspections. [12] The legislation forming the district and the two cities, one of which was the Reedy Creek Improvement Act, was signed into law by Florida Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. on May 12, 1967. [19] The Supreme Court of Florida then ruled in 1968 that the district was allowed to issue tax-exempt bonds for public projects within the district, despite the sole beneficiary being Walt Disney Productions.

The original logo of Walt Disney World from 1971 to the mid 1990s; this logo is still used as an alternate logo, mainly for retro-themed merchandise. Walt Disney World 1971.svg
The original logo of Walt Disney World from 1971 to the mid 1990s; this logo is still used as an alternate logo, mainly for retro-themed merchandise.

The district soon began construction of drainage canals, and Disney built the first roads and the Magic Kingdom. The Contemporary Resort Hotel and the Polynesian Village Resort were also completed in time for the park's opening on October 1, 1971. [20] [21] The Palm and Magnolia golf courses near the Magic Kingdom had opened a few weeks before, while Fort Wilderness opened one month later. Twenty-four days after the park opened, Roy O. Disney dedicated the property and declared that it would be known as "Walt Disney World", in his brother's honor. In his own words: "Everyone has heard of Ford cars. But have they all heard of Henry Ford, who started it all? Walt Disney World is in memory of the man who started it all, so people will know his name as long as Walt Disney World is here." After the dedication, Roy Disney asked Walt's widow, Lillian, what she thought of Walt Disney World. According to biographer Bob Thomas, she responded, "I think Walt would have approved." Roy Disney died at age 78 on December 20, 1971, less than three months after the property opened. [22]

Admission prices in 1971 were $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for juniors under age 18, and one dollar for children under twelve. [20]

1980s–2020

An aerial shot of Walt Disney World in 1982 MagicKingdomPostcard1982.jpg
An aerial shot of Walt Disney World in 1982

Much of Walt Disney's plans for his Progress City concept were abandoned after his death and after the company board decided that it did not want to be in the business of running a city. The concept evolved into the resort's second theme park, EPCOT Center, which opened in 1982 (renamed EPCOT in 1996). While still emulating Walt Disney's original idea of showcasing new technology, the park is closer to a world's fair than a "community of tomorrow". One of EPCOT's main attractions is the "World Showcase", which highlights 11 countries across the globe. Some of the urban planning concepts from the original idea of EPCOT would instead be integrated into the community of Celebration, Florida, much later. The resort's third theme park, Disney-MGM Studios (renamed Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2008), opened in 1989 and is inspired by show business.

In the early 1990s, the resort was seeking permits for expansion. There was considerable environmentalist push-back, and the resort was convinced to engage in mitigation banking. In an agreement with The Nature Conservancy and the state of Florida, Disney purchased 8,500 acres (3,400 ha) of land, adjacent to the park for the purpose of rehabilitating wetland ecosystems. The Disney Wilderness Preserve was established in April 1993, and the land was subsequently transferred to The Nature Conservancy. [23] The Walt Disney Company provided additional funds for landscape restoration and wildlife monitoring. [24]

The resort's fourth theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdom, opened in 1998.

In October 2009, Disney World announced a competition to find a town to become twinned with. In December 2009, after Rebecca Warren won the competition with a poem, they announced the resort will be twinned with the English town of Swindon. [25]

George Kalogridis was named president of the resort in December 2012, replacing Meg Crofton, who had overseen the site since 2006.

On January 21, 2016, the resort's management structure was changed, with general managers within a theme park being in charge of an area or land, instead of on a functional basis, as previously configured. Theme parks have already had a vice-president overseeing them. Disney Springs and Disney Sports were also affected. Now hotel general managers manage a single hotel instead of some managing multiple hotels. [26]

On October 18, 2017, it was announced that resort visitors could bring pet dogs to Disney's Yacht Club Resort, Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney's Art of Animation Resort, and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. [27]

The 2018 version of The Walt Disney World logo. Walt Disney World Logo 2018.svg
The 2018 version of The Walt Disney World logo.

In 2019, Josh D'Amaro replaced George Kalogridis as president of the resort. He had previously held the position of vice president of Animal Kingdom. [28] D'Amaro was subsequently promoted to chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products in May 2020, succeeding Bob Chapek, who was promoted to CEO of The Walt Disney Company in February 2020. Jeff Vahle, who served as president of Disney Signature Experiences subsequently took over as president of the resort. [29]

March 2020–present

On March 12, 2020, a Disney spokesperson announced that Disney World and Disneyland Paris would close business, beginning March 15, 2020. [30]

In June 2020, Walt Disney World was chosen to host the NBA Bubble for play of the 2019–20 season of the National Basketball Association to resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. [31] It was also the site for the MLS is Back Tournament, also held at the Sports Complex.

On July 11, 2020, Disney World officially reopened, beginning operations at 25% capacity at the Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida. [32] Four days later, Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios for operation at 25% capacity to the public. [33] Masks were required at all times (including outdoors, on attractions, and while taking photos), all guests were required to have their temperature taken upon entry, plexiglass was installed on various attractions and transportation offerings, and shows that drew large crowds, such as parades and nighttime shows including Fantasmic! and Happily Ever After were not offered. [34]

In November 2020, the resort increased the guest capacity to 35% at all four theme parks, and on May 13, 2021, CEO Bob Chapek announced a further increase of capacity, effective immediately; however, he did not say to what capacity level it would be raised. [35] By mid-June 2021, temperature checks and mask mandates (except while on Disney transportation) had been lifted. [36] In late July 2021, mask mandates were reinstated for all attractions and indoor areas in light of new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control as the delta variant drove a significant increase in local cases. These reinstated mandates were lifted in February 2022. [37] In April 2022, following a court decision ending the federal mask mandate for public transportation, the mask mandates on Disney transportation were lifted. [38]

Starting on October 1, 2021, the resort is honoring its 50th anniversary with "The World's Most Magical Celebration". [39]

Disney's Magical Express, a complimentary transportation and luggage service offered to Walt Disney Resort guests that began in 2005, ended in January 2022. [40] In August 2021, the Walt Disney Company announced that FastPass+, which had been free since its introduction in 1999, would be retired and replaced with Genie+, a system costing guests $15 per day with the option of adding "Lightning Lane," which will be used for top-tier attractions, for an additional charge. [41]

On April 22, 2022, the self-governing status which the Walt Disney Company had in the area around Disney World for more than 50 years came to an end after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation requiring the area to come under the legal jurisdiction of the state of Florida. [42] The new law would also officially abolish The Reedy Creek Improvement District which the Walt Disney Company has used to run the area since May 1967, when former Florida Governor Claude Kirk signed into law legislation which granted the company special status. [42] The law goes into effect in June of 2023. [11] [43]

Timeline


YearEvent
1965 Walt Disney announces the Florida Project
1966Walt Disney dies of lung cancer at age 65
1967Construction of Walt Disney World Resort begins
1971
1972
  • Disney's Village Resort opens
  • Lake Buena Vista Golf Course opens
  • The first three hotels open in the Hotel Plaza Boulevard area, an area designated for non-Disney hotels
1973
1974 Discovery Island opens
1975
1976 Disney's River Country opens
1980
1982 EPCOT Center opens
1983 Horizons opens at Epcot on October 1.
1986The Golf Resort is expanded and renamed The Disney Inn
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993 Mission to Mars closes at Magic Kingdom on October 4.
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000 The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge opens
2001
2002
2003
2004
2006 Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain opens at Animal Kingdom on April 7.
2007
2008Disney-MGM Studios is renamed Disney's Hollywood Studios
2009
2011
2012
2013 The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa opens
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
2022
2023

Future expansion

The resort has a number of expansion projects planned or ongoing, including:

Location

Map of the resort as of May 2015 Disneyworld overview map.svg
Map of the resort as of May 2015
One of four arches welcoming guests to the resort Walt Disney World Resort entrance.jpg
One of four arches welcoming guests to the resort

The Florida resort is not within Orlando city limits but is southwest of Downtown Orlando. Much of the resort is in southwestern Orange County, with the remainder in adjacent Osceola County. The property includes the cities of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake which are governed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The site is accessible from Central Florida's Interstate 4 via Exits 62B (World Drive), 64B (US 192 West), 65B (Osceola Parkway West), 67B (SR 536 West), and 68 (SR 535 North), Exit 6 on SR 417 South, the Central Florida GreeneWay and Exit 8 on SR 429, the Western Beltway. At its founding, the resort occupied approximately 27,443 acres (43 sq mi; 111 km2). [13] Portions of the property have since been sold or de-annexed, including land now occupied by the Disney-built community of Celebration. By 2014, the resort occupied nearly 25,000 acres (39 sq mi; 101 km2). [5] The company acquired nearly 3,000 additional acres, in separate transactions, between December 2018 and April 2020. [46] [47] [48]

Attractions

Theme parks

Water parks

Other attractions

View of Disney Springs Downtown Disney - Characters in Flight panorama - retouched.jpg
View of Disney Springs
Wedding Pavilion at the Seven Seas Lagoon WEdding Pavelion from Mono Rail - panoramio (cropped).jpg
Wedding Pavilion at the Seven Seas Lagoon

Golf and recreation

Disney's property includes four golf courses. The three 18-hole golf courses are Disney's Palm (4.5 stars), Disney's Magnolia (4 stars), and Disney's Lake Buena Vista (4 stars). There is also a nine-hole walking course (no electric carts allowed) called Oak Trail, designed for young golfers. The Magnolia and Palm courses played home to the PGA Tour's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Arnold Palmer Golf Management manages the Disney golf courses. [51]

Additionally, there are two themed miniature golf complexes, each with two courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. [52] The two courses at Fantasia Gardens are Fantasia Garden and Fantasia Fairways. The Garden course is a traditional miniature-style course based on the "Fantasia" movies with musical holes, water fountains and characters. Fantasia Fairways is a traditional golf course on miniature scale having water hazards and sand traps. [53]

The two courses at Winter Summerland are Summer and Winter, both themed around Santa. Summer is the more challenging of the two 18-hole courses. [53]

Disney's Magnolia [54]
Tee Rating/Slope 123456789Out101112131415161718InTotal
Classic76.0 / 141428417170542492231422614500381652639916938459220345048549237007516
Blue74.0 / 137424351161535446202410605426356052238216337458820039843045635137073
White71.6 / 130409335140499418168380534393327651335515632053217937339945532826558
Gold69.0 / 121384317125479355115339519327296049630914830851614334938141730676027
Red69.6 / 126285225110370347107306402316246843030014029641712829230135526595127
Par443543454365434534443672
SI Men's315171111379581416184101226
SI Ladies'713171131519518210121614846

Former attractions

Resorts

Of the thirty-four resorts and hotels on the Walt Disney World property, 28 are owned and operated by Walt Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products. These are classified into four categories—Deluxe, Moderate, Value, and Disney Vacation Club Villas—and are located in one of five resort areas: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Wide World of Sports, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs resort areas. There is also the Other Select Deluxe Resorts category used to describe two resorts in the Epcot Resorts Area that carry Walt Disney World branding but are managed by a third party.

While all of the Deluxe resort hotels have achieved an AAA Four Diamond rating, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is considered the highest-tier flagship luxury resort on the Walt Disney World Resort complex. [58]

On-site Disney resorts

NameImageOpening dateThemeNumber of roomsResort area
Deluxe resorts
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby.jpg April 16, 2001African Wildlife preserve1,307 Animal Kingdom
Disney's Beach Club Resort DisneyBeachClub1.jpg November 19, 1990Newport Beach cottage576 Epcot
Disney's BoardWalk Inn BoardwalkInn.JPG July 1, 1996Early-20th-century Atlantic and Ocean City378
Disney's Yacht Club Resort DisneyYacht1.jpg November 5, 1990Martha's Vineyard Resort621
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser March 1, 2022 [59] Star Wars starship100
Disney's Contemporary Resort Contemporary tower monorail.jpg October 1, 1971Modern655 Magic Kingdom
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Disney Resort courtyard pool.jpg June 28, 1988Early-20th-century Florida867
Disney's Polynesian Village Resort POLY Tahiti-beach.jpg October 1, 1971South Pacific492
Disney's Wilderness Lodge Disney World - Wilderness Lodge with rocks.jpg May 28, 1994Pacific Northwest, National Park Service rustic729
Moderate resorts
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort Disney's Caribbean Beach Martinique.jpg October 1, 1988Caribbean Islands1,536Epcot
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort Coronado Springs pool view - panoramio.jpg August 1, 1997Mexico, American Southwest1,915Animal Kingdom
Disney's Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter Orlando - Disney World - Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter - Guest Room Building (17033142029).jpg May 17, 1991New Orleans French Quarter1,008 Disney Springs
Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside Orlando - Disney World - Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside - Food Court Building (16596877514).jpg February 2, 1992Deep South2,048
Value resorts
Disney's All-Star Movies Resort Disney's All-Star Movie Resort 09.jpg January 15, 1999Disney films1,920Animal Kingdom
Disney's All-Star Music Resort Disney's All Star Music Resort - panoramio.jpg November 22, 1994Music1,604
Disney's All-Star Sports Resort Disney's All-Star Sports Resort 09.jpg April 24, 1994Sports1,920
Disney's Art of Animation Resort Art of Animation Resort (42346698895).jpg May 31, 2012Disney and Pixar animated films1,984 Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Pop Century Resort Disney Resort 50s pool.jpg December 14, 200320th Century American pop culture2,880
Disney Vacation Club
Bay Lake Tower Walt Disney World - Disney's Contemporary Resort - Bay Lake Tower (7630508064).jpg August 4, 2009Modern428Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas August 15, 2007African safari lodge708Animal Kingdom
Disney's Beach Club Villas July 1, 2002Newport resort282Epcot
Disney's Boardwalk Villas July 1, 1996Early-20th-century Atlantic City530
Disney's Old Key West Resort Old key west panoramic.jpg December 20, 1991Early-20th-century Key West761Disney Springs
Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows April 1, 2015South Seas380Magic Kingdom
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa Saratoga Springs Resort.jpg May 17, 20041880s Upstate New York resort1,320Disney Springs
The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa October 23, 2013Early-20th-century Florida147Magic Kingdom
Boulder Ridge Villas Boulder Ridge Villas - CPRR Room 1.jpg November 15, 2000Pacific Northwest181
Copper Creek Villas & Cabins July 17, 2017Pacific Northwest184
Disney's Riviera Resort Riviera at Night (49560224208) (cropped).jpg December 16, 2019European Riviera300Epcot
Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge TBDNature900Magic Kingdom [60]
Cabins and campgrounds
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground Fort Wilderness cabin.jpg November 19, 1971Rustic Woods Camping800 campsites
409 cabins
Magic Kingdom
Residential areas
Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort Fall 2011Varies450 homesMagic Kingdom

On-site non-Disney resorts

Hotel nameImageOpening dateThemeNumber of roomsOwnerArea
Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel November 21, 1972None325 Drury Hotels Hotel Plaza Boulevard, close to Disney Springs
DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Disney Springs AreaMarch 15, 1987229 Hilton Hotels Corporation
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista October 15, 1972626 Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Hilton Night 11 x 14 300 dpi.jpg November 23, 1983787 Hilton Hotels Corporation
Holiday Inn Orlando - Disney Springs Area February 8, 1973323 InterContinental Hotels Group
B Resort & Spa October 1, 1972394B Hotels & Resorts
Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace BuenaVistaPalace.PNG March 10, 19831,014 Hilton Hotels Corporation
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World ResortAugust 3, 2014450 Four Seasons Magic Kingdom
Bonnet Creek Resort VariousVarious, 3,000 total Hilton Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide Epcot
Shades of Green DisneyShadesOfGreen.jpg December 1973Upscale Country Club586 United States Department of Defense Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney World Dolphin Walt-Disney-World-Dolphin.jpg June 1, 1990Seaside Floridian Resort & Under the Sea1509Marriott InternationalEpcot
Walt Disney World Swan At Disney's Boardwalk 04.JPG January 13, 1990Seaside Floridian Resort & Under the Sea758Marriott InternationalEpcot
Walt Disney World Swan ReserveNovember 4, 2021Upscale Boutique Hotel349Marriott InternationalEpcot

Former resorts

Never-built resorts

Disney's Magical Express

Guests with a Disney Resort reservation (excluding the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin) that arrive at Orlando International Airport can be transported to their resort from the airport using the complimentary Disney's Magical Express service, which is operated by Mears Destination Services. Guests can also have their bags picked up and transported to their resort for them through a contract with BAGS Incorporated on participating airlines. Many resorts feature Airline Check-in counters for guests returning to the airport. Here their bags will be checked all the way through to their final destination and they can also have boarding passes printed for them. Current participating airlines are Delta, United, American, JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska Airlines. It was announced in early January 2021, that Disney would be ending the service on January 1, 2022, citing a shift in consumer demand for more flexibility in transportation options. [62]

Attendance

Magic Kingdom, the world's most visited theme park Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom - 6483694035.jpg
Magic Kingdom, the world's most visited theme park

In the first year of opening, the park attracted 10,712,991 visitors. [63] In 2018, the resort's four theme parks all ranked in the top 9 on the list of the 25 most visited theme parks in the world: (1st) Magic Kingdom—20,859,000 visitors; (6th) Disney's Animal Kingdom—13,750,000 visitors; (7th) Epcot—12,444,000 visitors; and (9th) Disney's Hollywood Studios—11,258,000 visitors. [6] By October 2020, maximum Disney World attendance was still allowed to only remain at 25% capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [9] A recent study found that reducing Magic Kingdom park capacity to 25% would result in a 54.1% reduction in annual attendance. This capacity limit causes less annual revenue, and may lower the number of visitors to the Orlando region. [64]

Year Magic Kingdom Epcot Disney's Hollywood Studios Disney's Animal Kingdom OverallRef.
200817,063,00010,935,0009,608,0009,540,00047,146,000 [65]
200917,233,00010,990,0009,700,0009,590,00047,513,000 [66]
201016,972,00010,825,0009,603,0009,686,00047,086,000 [67]
201117,142,00010,826,0009,699,0009,783,00047,450,000 [68]
201217,536,00011,063,0009,912,0009,998,00048,509,000 [69]
201318,588,00011,229,00010,110,00010,198,00050,125,000 [70]
201419,332,00011,454,00010,312,00010,402,00051,500,000 [71]
201520,492,00011,798,00010,828,00010,922,00054,040,000 [72]
201620,395,00011,712,00010,776,00010,844,00053,727,000 [73]
201720,450,00012,200,00010,722,00012,500,00055,872,000 [74]
201820,859,00012,444,00011,258,00013,750,00058,311,000 [6]
201920,963,00012,444,00011,483,00013,888,00058,778,000 [75]
20206,941,0004,044,0003,675,0004,166,00018,826,000 [76]

Operations

Transportation

The Walt Disney World Monorail System provides free transport across the resort. WDW Monorail.jpg
The Walt Disney World Monorail System provides free transport across the resort.

The Walt Disney World Resort is serviced by Disney Transport, a complimentary mass transportation system allowing guest access across the property. The fare-free system utilizes buses, monorails, gondola lifts, watercraft, and parking lot trams.

The Walt Disney World Monorail System provides free transportation at Walt Disney World; guests can board the monorail and travel between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, including select on-property resorts such as The Grand Floridian and The Polynesian Village. The system operates on three routes that interconnect at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), adjacent to the Magic Kingdom's parking lot. Disney Transport owns a fleet of Disney-operated buses on the property, that is also complimentary for guests.

A gondola lift system, dubbed Disney Skyliner, opened in 2019. The system's three lines connect Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot with four resort hotels. [77]

Disney Transport also operates a fleet of watercraft, ranging in size from water taxis, up to the ferries that connect the Magic Kingdom to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Disney Transport is also responsible for maintaining the fleet of parking lot trams that are used for shuttling visitors between the various theme park parking lots and their respective main entrances.

In addition to its free transportation methods, in conjunction with Lyft, Walt Disney World also offers a vehicle for hire service for a fee. The Minnie Van Service are Chevy Traverses dressed in a Minnie Mouse red-and-white polka dot design that can accommodate up to six people and have two carseats available to anyone that is within the Walt Disney World Resort limits. Cast members can install the car seats. [78] [79] Some of the unique advantages that the Minnie Van Service offers over a normal ride share is the ability to be dropped off in the Magic Kingdom bus loop (instead of at the TTC like the other ride shares) and being able to ride to any point in Fort Wilderness.

Parking

Upon arriving at the park, there are several lots that can be used to park vehicles. At the theme parks, which include Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, there is a single lot used. Guests are able to access each of these four parks when their vehicle is left in one of these lot. Guests have the choice to buy a pass for either standard parking or preferred parking. Preferred parking can be purchased for a higher cost, however, it allows guests to park their vehicle closer to the park entrance. Trams are available to guests at no cost. They provide transportation from the parking lot to the main entrance. Parking areas are also available to those with disabilities. These designated parking lots allow for guests with disabilities to park a shorter distance from the park entrances to minimize any traveling that is necessary. Additionally, guests are given the option of valet parking at an extra cost.

Employment

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the site employed about 5,500 "cast members". [80] In 2020, Walt Disney World employs more than 77,000 cast members. [3] The largest single-site employer in the United States, [81] [82] Walt Disney World has more than 3,000 job classifications with a total 2019 payroll of over $3 billion. [3] The resort also sponsors and operates the Walt Disney World College Program, an internship program that offers American college students (CPs) the opportunity to live in Flamingo Crossings Village, a Disney-owned apartment complex, and work at the resort, and thereby provides much of the theme park and resort "front line" cast members. There is also the Walt Disney World International College Program, an internship program that offers international college students (ICPs) from all over the world the same opportunity. In September 2020, the Walt Disney Company began laying off 6,500 Walt Disney World employees. [8]

Energy use

Walt Disney World requires an estimated 1 billion kilowatt-hours (3.6 billion megajoules) of electricity annually, costing the company nearly $100 million in annual energy consumption. [83] In addition to relying primarily on fossil fuels and nuclear energy from the state's power grid, Walt Disney World has two solar energy facilities on property; a 22-acre (0.034 sq mi; 0.089 km2) Mickey Mouse-shaped solar panel farm near Epcot, and a 270-acre (0.42 sq mi; 1.1 km2) facility near Disney's Animal Kingdom. [84] The larger facility produces enough solar energy to provide electricity to two of the resort's theme parks. The sites are operated by Duke Energy and the Reedy Creek Improvement District, respectively. [84]

The entire Disney Transport bus fleet uses R50 renewable diesel fuel, obtained from used cooking oil and non-consumable food waste from the resort. [84]

Corporate culture

Walt Disney World's corporate culture uses jargon based on theatrical terminology. [85] [86] For example, park visitors are always "guests", employees are called "cast members", rides are "attractions" or "experiences", cast members costumed as famous Disney characters in a way that does not cover their faces are known as "face characters", jobs are "roles", and public and nonpublic areas are respectively labeled "onstage" and "backstage". [85] [86]

Self-Government and Security

Disney Security Vehicle, picture taken July 2, 2009 in front of Epcot Walt Disney World Security Vehicle.jpg
Disney Security Vehicle, picture taken July 2, 2009 in front of Epcot

Disney's security personnel are generally dressed in typical security guard uniforms, though some of the personnel are dressed as tourists in plain clothes. Since September 11, 2001, uniformed security has been stationed outside each Disney park in Florida to search guests' bags as they enter the parks. Starting April 3, 2017, bag checkpoints have been placed at Magic Kingdom's resort monorail entryways and the Transportation and Ticket Center's ferry entry points prior to embarkation as well as the walkway from Disney's Contemporary Resort. Guests arriving at the Transportation and Ticket Center by tram or tour bus will be screened at the former tram boarding areas. Guests arriving by Disney Resort hotel bus or Minnie Van have their own bag check just outside the bus stops. Guests arriving via Magic Kingdom Resort boat launch are bag checked on the arrival dock outside Magic Kingdom. [87]

The land where Walt Disney World resides is part of the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), a governing jurisdiction created on May 1967 by the State of Florida at the request of Disney. [88] [42] RCID provides 911 services, fire, environmental protection, building code enforcement, utilities and road maintenance, but does not provide law enforcement services. The approximately 800 security staff are instead considered employees of the Walt Disney Company. Arrests and citations are issued by the Florida Highway Patrol along with the Orange County and Osceola County sheriffs deputies who patrol the roads. Disney security does maintain a fleet of security vans equipped with flares, traffic cones, and chalk commonly used by police officers. These security personnel are charged with traffic control by the RCID and may only issue personnel violation notices to Disney and RCID employees, not the general public. [89] [90]

Despite the appearance of the uniformed security personnel, they are not considered a legal law enforcement agency. Disney and the Reedy Creek Improvement District were sued for access to Disney Security records by Bob and Kathy Sipkema following the death of their son at the resort in 1994. The court characterized Disney security as a "night watchman" service, not a law enforcement agency, meaning it is not subject to Florida's open records laws. An appeals court later upheld the lower court's ruling. [91]

In late 2015, Disney confirmed the addition of randomized secondary screenings and dogs trained to detect body-worn explosives within parks, in addition to metal detectors at entrances. It has also increased the number of uniformed security personnel at Walt Disney World and Disneyland properties. [92]

Disney Security personnel in Florida have investigated traffic accidents and issued accident reports. The forms used by Disney Security may be confused with official, government forms by some.[ citation needed ]

The Orange County Sheriff maintains an office on Disney property, but this is primarily to process guests accused of shoplifting by Disney security personnel. [93]

Although the scattering of ashes on Disney property is illegal, The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2018 that Walt Disney World parks were becoming a popular spot for families to scatter the ashes of loved ones, with the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom being the favorite location. The practice is unlawful and prohibited on Disney property, and anyone spreading cremated remains is escorted from the park. [94]

On April 22, 2022, the Walt Disney Company's self-governing authority of all the area surrounding Walt Disney World came to an end after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation requiring Walt Disney World's Reedy Creek Improvement District to come under the legal jurisdiction of the state of Florida in June 2023. [42] [11]

Closures

Walt Disney World has had nine unscheduled closures: [95]

Like its sister resort, parks at the resort may close early to accommodate various special events, such as special press events, tour groups, VIP groups, and private parties. It is common for a corporation to rent entire parks for the evening. In such cases, special passes are issued which are valid for admission to all rides and attractions. At the ticket booths and on published schedules, the guests are notified of the early closures. Then, cast members announce that the parks are closing, sometime before the private event starts, and clear the parks of guests who do not have the special passes.

In October 2020, it was revealed that full capacity attendance was still not permitted, following the COVID-19 closure which occurred earlier in the year. [9] In July 2021, Disney World announced that all its staff workers in the US would have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to work. It also announced that those who are unvaccinated would have a period of time to get their shots and aimed to return to full capacity for people who are immunized. [100]

Climate

Walt Disney World Airport
Climate chart (explanation)
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
 
 
41
 
 
19
10
 
 
52
 
 
22
12
 
 
70
 
 
25
15
 
 
91
 
 
28
17
 
 
140
 
 
30
20
 
 
314
 
 
29
21
 
 
226
 
 
30
22
 
 
219
 
 
29
21
 
 
254
 
 
27
22
 
 
58
 
 
27
19
 
 
66
 
 
24
14
 
 
41
 
 
20
11
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: [101]

Management

Walt Disney World's Operations division is undergoing changes to management. This is the reason for there being two senior vice presidents of operations listed, as well as the vice-presidents below them possibly being outdated.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Reedy Creek Improvement District Improvement district in Florida, United States

The Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) is the governing jurisdiction and special taxing district for the land of Walt Disney World Resort. It includes 39.06 sq mi (101.2 km2) within the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties in Florida. It acts with the same authority and responsibility as a county government. It includes the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, and unincorporated RCID land.

Epcot Theme park at Walt Disney World

Epcot, stylized in all uppercase as EPCOT, is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division. Inspired by an unrealized concept developed by Walt Disney, the park opened on October 1, 1982, as EPCOT Center, and was the second of four theme parks built at Walt Disney World, after Magic Kingdom Park. Spanning 305 acres (1.23 km2), more than twice the size of Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely technological innovation and international culture, and is often referred to as a "permanent world's fair".

EPCOT (concept) Unfinished concept for a planned community

The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT, was an unfinished concept for a planned community developed by Walt Disney and designed by WED Enterprises in the 1960s. Its purpose was to be a "real city that would 'never cease to be a living blueprint of the future'", drawing on the latest technology and innovation from American industry. The community was intended to be a major component of Disney's "Florida Project", a massive property of undeveloped land located near Orlando, Florida during the 1960s.

Disney California Adventure Theme park in California

Disney California Adventure Park, commonly referred to as California Adventure or by its acronym DCA, is a theme park located at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division. The 72-acre (29 ha) park is themed after the history and culture of California, which celebrates the adventure of the state through the use of various Disney, Pixar and Marvel Studios properties. The park opened on February 8, 2001 as Disney's California Adventure Park and is the second of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort complex, after Disneyland Park.

Disneyland Resort Entertainment complex in Anaheim, California, United States

The Disneyland Resort, commonly known as Disneyland, is an entertainment resort in Anaheim, California. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division and is home to two theme parks, three hotels, and a shopping, dining, and entertainment district known as Downtown Disney.

Hong Kong Disneyland Theme park on Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland is a theme park located on reclaimed land in Penny's Bay, Lantau Island. It is located inside the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and it is owned and managed by Hong Kong International Theme Parks. It is the largest theme park in Hong Kong, followed by Ocean Park Hong Kong. Hong Kong Disneyland was opened to visitors on Monday, 12 September 2005 at 13:00 HKT. Disney attempted to avoid problems of cultural backlash by incorporating Chinese culture, customs and traditions when designing and building the resort, including adherence to the rules of feng shui. Notably, a bend was put in a walkway near the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort entrance so good qi energy would not flow into the South China Sea.

Disneys Animal Kingdom Theme park at Walt Disney World

Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park is a zoological theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando. Owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division, it is the largest theme park in the world, covering 580 acres (230 ha). The park opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998, and was the fourth theme park built at the resort. The park is dedicated and themed around natural environment and animal conservation, a philosophy once pioneered by Walt Disney himself.

Magic Kingdom Theme park at Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom Park is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando, Florida. Owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division, the park opened on October 1, 1971, as the first of four theme parks at the resort. The park was initialized by Walt Disney and designed by WED Enterprises. Its layout and attractions are based on Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, and are dedicated to fairy tales and Disney characters.

Disneys Hollywood Studios Theme park at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida

Disney's Hollywood Studios is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division. Based on a concept by Marty Sklar, Randy Bright, and Michael Eisner, the park opened on May 1, 1989, as the Disney-MGM Studios (Theme) Park, and was the third of four theme parks built at Walt Disney World. Spanning 135 acres (55 ha), the park is dedicated to the imagined worlds from film, television, music, and theatre, drawing inspiration from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Tokyo Disneyland Theme park in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Disneyland is a 115-acre (47 ha) theme park at the Tokyo Disney Resort in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, near Tokyo. Its main gate is directly adjacent to both Maihama Station and Tokyo Disneyland Station. It was the first Disney park to be built outside the United States and it opened on April 15, 1983. The park was constructed by WED Enterprises in the same style as Magic Kingdom in Florida and Disneyland in California. It is owned by The Oriental Land Company, which licenses the theme from The Walt Disney Company. Tokyo Disneyland and its companion park, Tokyo DisneySea, are the only Disney parks not wholly or partly owned by The Walt Disney Company.

Disneyland Park (Paris) Theme park within Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée, France

Disneyland Park, originally Euro Disneyland Park, is a theme park found at Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée, France. The park opened on 12 April 1992 as the first of the two parks built at the resort. Designed and built by Walt Disney Imagineering, its layout is similar to Disneyland Park in California and Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World in Florida. Spanning 56.656 ha —the second largest Disney park based on the original, after Shanghai Disneyland Park—it is dedicated to fairy tales and Disney characters.

Walt Disney Studios Park Theme park at Disneyland Paris

Walt Disney Studios Park is the second of two theme parks built at Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée, France, which opened on 16 March 2002. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division. It is dedicated to show business, movie themes, production, and behind-the-scenes. Though this was the original vision, in the 2010s, in a similar manner to its sister park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida, the park began to distance itself from the original studio backlot intention and entered a new direction of immersive theming and attraction development inspired by iconic Disney stories. In 2019, the park hosted approximately 5.2 million guests. The park is represented by the Earffel Tower, a water tower similar to one that was installed at the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California.

Walt Disney Imagineering Research and development unit of The Walt Disney Company

Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development, Inc., commonly referred to as Imagineering, is the research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company, responsible for the creation, design, and construction of Disney theme parks and attractions worldwide. The company also manages The Walt Disney Company's properties, from Walt Disney Studios in Burbank to New Amsterdam Theatre and Times Square Studios Ltd. in New York City. Founded by Walt Disney to oversee the production of Disneyland, it was originally known as Walt Disney, Inc. then WED Enterprises, from the initials meaning "Walter Elias Disney", the company co-founder's full name. Headquartered in Glendale, California, Imagineering is composed of "Imagineers", who are illustrators, architects, engineers, lighting designers, show writers and graphic designers.

Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Theme park and travel division of The Walt Disney Company

Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc., formerly Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and informally known as Disney Parks, is one of The Walt Disney Company's five major business segments and a subsidiary. It was founded on April 1, 1971, exactly six months before the opening of Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, just outside of Orlando.

Walt Disney World Monorail System Public transit monorail system in operation at the Walt Disney World Resort

The Walt Disney World Monorail System is a public transit monorail system in operation at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando. The Walt Disney World Resort currently operates twelve Mark VI monorail trains on three lines of service. The monorail system opened in 1971 with two routes and with Mark IV monorail trains. It was expanded to three lines in 1982, and the rolling stock was updated to Mark VI trains in 1989.

Universals Islands of Adventure Theme park in the United States

Universal's Islands of Adventure, originally called Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, is a theme park located in Orlando, Florida. It opened on May 28, 1999, along with CityWalk, as part of an expansion that converted Universal Studios Florida into the Universal Orlando Resort. The resort's slogan Vacation Like You Mean It was introduced in 2013.

Disneyland Amusement park in Anaheim, California

Disneyland is an amusement park in Anaheim, California, which opened in 1955. It is the only one designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney.

Shanghai Disneyland Theme park

Shanghai Disneyland is a theme park located in Chuansha New Town, Pudong, Shanghai, China, that is part of the Shanghai Disney Resort. The park is operated by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products and Shanghai Shendi Group, through a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and Shendi. Construction began on April 8, 2011. The park opened on June 16, 2016. The park operated in its first half-year with a visitor attendance of 5.60 million guests.

Tokyo DisneySea Theme park

Tokyo DisneySea is a theme park at the Tokyo Disney Resort located in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, just next to Tokyo. It opened on 4 September 2001, at a cost of 335 billion yen. The Oriental Land Company owns the park, and licenses Disney characters and themes from The Walt Disney Company. With a size of 176-acre (71.22 ha), Tokyo DisneySea attracted nearly fifteen million visitors in 2018, making it the fourth-most-visited theme park in the world.

Disney Skyliner Gondola lift system opened in 2019 at Walt Disney World

The Disney Skyliner is a gondola lift system at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida. It opened on September 29, 2019, with five stations located at resorts and theme parks. Each gondola cabin can hold up to ten guests, or up to six if there is a wheelchair or electric scooter. Guests sit on twin, inward-facing, wooden benches. Strollers 30" x 48" and smaller are able to roll directly into the gondola and do not have to be folded.

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