Important Milestones In Disney World’s 50 Year History
Walt Disney World will be kicking off their 50th Anniversary celebration on October 1st and there is so much to celebrate Disney friends.
50 years ago thanks to Walt’s vision, Central Florida swamp lands were transformed into “The Most Magical Place on Earth.” At the official dedication on October 25, 1971 Roy Disney said, “May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place … a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together.”
Here’s a look back at some of the many milestones Disney World has experienced in its 50 year history!
Though Walt Disney World wouldn’t open until 6 years later, in 1965 Walt and his broth Roy officially announced plans for Disney World. This was done in a press conference held in downtown Orlando.
Walt Disney himself records a film where he discusses plans for “The Florida Project” which included details for both Disney World and EPCOT!
Disney officially breaks ground on construction of Walt Disney World. The project was officially named by “Walt Disney World” by Roy O Disney to celebrate the man behind the legacy.
A Preview Center opened in Lake Buena Vista. Guests could go and check out the plans for Disney World which features scale models, artist renderings and more!
October 1st: Walt Disney World officially opened to the public on October 1, 1971. The first phase of development included Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. T
Oct. 25: The Electric Water Pageant first made its debut with twinkling lights, spectacular floats and an awesome synthesizer soundtrack. You can check it out to this day along Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake!
Nov 19: Disney’s beloved Fort Wilderness Campground officially opened among the acres of scenic pine and Cyprus forests!
Dec. 15: Pirates of the Caribbean officially opens in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom along with Shades of Green, a resort created specifically for members and veterans of the US Military.
June 30: Visitors to Fort Wilderness were treated for the first time to a new dinner show – the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. Today it holds the distinction of being one of the longest-running dinner shows in US history.
Jan. 15 – Disney looks to the future with Space Mountain and the Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.
March 22- Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village (which would one day become Disney Springs officially opens!
June 7: In celebration of America’s bicentennial Disney launched America on Parade. This Magic Kingdom parade included 50 floats, 200 performers and so much more. To this day it has the distinction of being the largest daily parade EVER at a Disney Park!
July 1: Paging Mr. Morrow. The PoepleMover first opened to guests in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. To this day it provides views of the theme park from its “highway in the sky.”
July 14: Disney announces plans for Walt Disney World’s second theme park – EPCOT!
June 20: Disney’s River Country, the property’s first water park opens just next to Fort Wilderness. Though not open today it inspired both Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.
June 11: The Main Street Electrical Parade makes its debut at the Magic Kingdom. The parade first made its debut at Disneyland back in 1972.
Oct. 1: Construction officially starts on EPCOT!
Sept 23. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opens in Frontier and at the Magic Kingdom.
October 1: Disney launches its Tencennial Celebration with new. The festivities would last for a year including a EPCOT Preview Center on Main Street U.S.A
October 1: EPCOT officially opens with five Future World Pavilions (Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, World of Motion, The Land and Journey Into Imagination. The World Showcase had 9 original pavilions: Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, France, United Kingdom and Canada.
Also on October 1st, Disney granted the first Make-A-Wish granted at Walt Disney World. Since then, more than 176,000 life-changing wishes have been granted to children facing critical illnesses.
Dec 16- The first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party opens at the Magic Kingdom beginning the tradition of separate ticketed Disney After Hours events.
Dec 25: The first Walt Disney World Christmas Parade made its debut. The event was broadcast LIVE on ABC. It would go on to become a holiday tradition at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Sept 7: The Morocco Pavilion officially opens in EPCOT’s World Showcase.
Jan 15- EPCOT continues to expand with the opening of The Living Seas Pavilion. It is home to more than 200 species of sea life and features a 5.7 million-gallon ocean of saltwater.
Jan 25.: The first “I’m Going to Disney World!” commercial makes its debut with Giants quarterback Phil Simms being the first to shout out this iconic phrase!
June 3: Norway Pavilion officially opens at EPCOT’s World Showcase!
June 28: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa opens as the “flagship” of Disney World hotels.
Oct. 1st: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort officially opens!
May 1: Disney’s Hollywood Studios officially opens to the public and featured entertainment, attractions and a working studio!
Also on May 1st, Pleasure Island officially made its debut with restaurants and themed nightclubs. It would officially close in 2008.
June 1: Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park first opens. The highlight of the park is a 95 foot high mountain and the park also boasts 8 water slides and a 2.5 acre wave pool.
November – EPCOT Resort Area officially opens with Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (opened on November 5th) and Disney’s Beach Club Resort (Nov 19.)
Walt Disney World Swan (January 13th) and Walt Disney World Dolphin (June 4) officially open to the public. Within walking distance of the theme parks these properties also offer convention facilities.
Dec. 20: Disney’s Old Key West Resort opens as the very first Disney Vacation Club property.
Jan 16. The inaugural Walt Disney World Marathon takes off. This original marathon would eventually branch off into other runDisney races throughout the year.
April 29: The very first All Star resort opens to the public – All Star Sports.
April 29 – The very first EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival makes its debut. This would eventually give way to three other festivals that run annually at EPCOT.
May 29: Disney gets another deluxe resort with the opening of Wilderness Lodge.
June 12: The Sunset Boulevard area of Disney’s Hollywood studios opens to the public. The new street offers shops, dining and entertainment.
June 22: Disney World gets a brand new landmark with the opening of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Nov 1. All Star Music welcomes guests for the first time.
April 1: Disney get’s its second water park with the opening of Blizzard Beach. The park features a winter-themed water park setting and a 12-story high speed waterslide- Summit Plummet.
April 22.: The Disney Conservation Fund officially opens to support respected conservative organizations that are dedicated to saving wildlife and protecting the magic of nature. To this day the fun has raised over $100 million.
July 15 – Disney’s Wedding Pavilion officially opens on Seven Seas Lagoon! Today Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons offers a wide range of nuptial and honeymoon planning resources.
Feb. 9: The Disney Institute opens with more than 60 interactive programs for guests seeking some self-enrichment with their Disney getaway. Over the years the Institute would evolve into a renowned training and professional development program.
July 1: Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas opens up along with the bustling Disney Boardwalk with new restaurants, nightspots and more!
Oct 1: In a move that divides fans to this day, Disney World unveiled a 25th Anniversary Cinderella Castle makeover decorating this landmark as a giant birthday cake.
March 28: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex officially opens. This 220 acre complex features multiple outdoor playing fields, baseball and softball diamonds, a track and field complex, a fieldhouse and a 9,500 seat ballpark. Over the years it has served as the official training site for professional teams.
Aug. 1: Disney’s Coronado Springs officially opens featuring 1,900 guest rooms along with a 220,000 square foot convention center.
April 22: Disney World’s fourth park officially opens to the public – Animal Kingdom. Its only fitting that a park dedicated to nature and wildlife open on Earth Day. The park spans 500 acres making it the largest Disney Park. It is also home to over 1,800 animals. The tree of Life which stands proudly in the center of the park is a tribute to nature and features more than 300 intricately carved images.
Oct 15 – Fantasmic! premieres at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the brand new Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. The show was an instant classic with its 50 live performers, massive sets, lights, lasers, fireworks and water animation all set to rousing music. .
March 18: Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park gets its first expansion – Asia including Kali River Rapids and the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Oct 1: Disney World officially kicks of the Millennium Celebration. This event marks the debut of the popular nighttime spectacular IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. The show would go on to run for 20 years. The Millennium Village also celebrated the cultural achievements of 25 countries as well as the Tapestry of Nation parade.
April 16 – Disney’s Animal Kingdoms Lodge welcomes guests for the first time offering lush savannas and serving as the home for more than 200 animals as well as one of the largest collection of African art in the United States.
Oct 1 – The 100 Years of Magic officially kicks off celebrating what would’ve been Walt Disney’s 100th birthday. This event consisted of new parades at all four parks, a 122 foot tall Sorcerer Mickey hat at Hollywood studios and One Man’s Dream opened up at Hollywood Studios.
December – Disney launches PhotoPass offering guests an innovative way to capture all of those Disney memories.
May 5 – Disney kicks off the “Happiest Celebration on Earth as parks around the world salute the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland Resort. As part of this event Soarin’ at EPCOT along with the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
April 7: Expedition Everest officially opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
Oct. 1 – “The Year of a Million Dreams” begins at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. A new “Dream Squad,” randomly selects guests to win an array of prizes. These include priceless, “dream come true” experiences like a night’s stay in the new Cinderella Castle Suite.
Jan. 17 – The first Disney Dreamers Academy event brings 100 exceptional African American high school students from around the U.S. to a four-day, immersive, transformational mentoring experience at Walt Disney World Resort. Becoming an annual event, the free program has since encouraged more than 1,000 participants to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the lives of others.
September – The luxury residential resort community Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort welcomes its first residents. Designed by Disney Imagineers, the community offers distinctive neighborhoods, expansive nature preserves and concierge-style resident services.
May 31 – Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opens with a new style of accommodations – Family Suites for parties of up to six people.
Dec. 6 – New Fantasyland opens at Magic Kingdom Park. The 26-acre expansion of the original land initially includes three new attractions and Be Our Guest Restaurant. Other phases of the new land include Seven Dwarfs Mine Train that opens May 28, 2014.
MagicBands and the My Disney Experience mobile app launch for all guests, bringing innovative new enhancements to help guests plan and experience Walt Disney World Resort.
Sept. 29 – Culminating a three-year reimagining of what was previously Downtown Disney, Disney Springscomes to life. The retail, dining and entertainment district will continue to grow, encompassing four “neighborhoods” all themed to Florida towns of the early 20th century.
April 12 – A 48,000-panel, five-megawatt Mickey-shaped solar array debuts near EPCOT. The facility is able to produce enough power equal to 1,000 residential rooftop systems.
May 27 – Pandora – The World of Avatar opens as an entirely new themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, featuring two attractions, dining, retail and instantly iconic floating mountains.
June 30 – Toy Story Land opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, allowing guests to play with their favorite toys in Andy’s backyard in three attractions.
July 9 – Gran Destino Tower opens with 500-plus new guest rooms along with new dining and convention spaces, completing a multiyear transformation of Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
Aug. 29 – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The 14-acre land invites guests to experience their own Star Wars stories like never before. One of the most ambitious and technologically advanced attractions created for a Disney park, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens Dec. 5 inside the land.
Sept. 29 – Disney Skyliner takes flight. This grand, state-of-the-art gondola system connects EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to four Disney Resort hotels.
Dec. 16 – Disney’s Riviera Resort opens, a Disney Vacation Club property inspired by Europe and imagined by Disney.
December – A new 270-acre, 57-megawatt solar facility goes online, generating enough renewable clean energy to operate two of Walt Disney World Resort’s four theme parks annually.
March 4 – Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the first ride-through attraction in a Disney park dedicated to Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.
Oct. 1 – “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” will begin, saluting the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort. The 18-month event will feature new experiences at all four theme parks and beyond, with shimmering EARidescent décor.
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