What Would Walt Disney Love at Walt Disney World?
Sometimes, I walk around Walt Disney World and try to imagine it as its founder would have.
Walt Disney spent the final years of his life purchasing the land that would turn into the Most Magical Place on Earth.
Tragically, he died before construction started on the place that would bear his name. And this knowledge often makes me wonder.
What would Walt Disney love if he visited Walt Disney World today?
I suspect the answer is almost all of it, but I picked 12 amenities I believe would stand out.
Disney’s Riviera Resort
The Central Florida campus overflows with touching tributes to the Disney family.
If Walt Disney visited Orlando today, how could he feel anything but flattered by the Riviera Resort?
This entire hotel pays tribute to Disney’s European vacations with his family. His wife, Lillian, and brother, Roy, factor heavily into the mementos.
Imagineers took Disney vacation photos and designed an entire hotel around the premise. He’d adore it.
As we’ve discussed many times, Disney dreamt of live animals at the Jungle Cruise attraction.
Imagineers talked him down from the grand idea, something that frustrated him.
For this reason, I’m confident the creator would feel validation as he rode on Kilimanjaro Safaris. He’d known it was possible, but he was too early with the idea.
Later, Disney cast members ultimately proved him right. He’d take glee in that knowledge that he had the right idea at the wrong time.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
“Never forget it all started with a mouse.”
I’ve never understood why Uncle Walt chose not to create a Mickey Mouse attraction. Maybe he thought it would come with unreasonable expectations from guests.
Then again, Disney possibly might have believed the character worked better for interactions than as a ride fixture.
Whatever the explanation, I feel strongly that the man would change his mind after a single ride on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
A lifelong cartoonist would be especially receptive to the idea of entering a fictional animated story and becoming a part of the action.
Pandora – The World of Avatar
When Walt Disney designed attractions, he employed a filmmaker’s perspective. So, theming and immersion proved paramount to his stories.
Imagine how Walt Disney would react the first time he experienced Pandora at night! He would probably giggle like a small child at the first sight of bioluminescence.
Then, he’d experience the immersive attractions, Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage, causing him to marvel at the advances in theme park design.
Artist Blaine Gibson will always have a place at Disney theme parks due to this 1990s creation.
Gibson worked on a tribute to Walt Disney and his relationship with his creation, Mickey Mouse.
This statue entitled Partners resides near Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland and Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.
At this point, every Disney theme park except Shanghai Disneyland includes a unique version of Partners. I suspect that would delight Uncle Walt.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
No story matters more in the history of Disney than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The first full-length animated movie proved significant to the entirety of pop culture. However, for Walt Disney, it demonstrated that his team could do the impossible.
People went from saying that animation was a fad that would go away to turning most future Disney animated features into blockbuster hits.
For this reason, Uncle Walt would take satisfaction in seeing the characters from the story happily dancing and playing during the final scene at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
I suspect he’d get a kick out of the swaying mine carts, too.
Nobody loved outer space more than Walt Disney. Many of his stories celebrated humanity’s attempts to conquer the skies.
Disney worked with NASA at a time before anyone had set foot on the moon.
You can imagine the wonder and amazement the man would feel when he watched the Stellarvator for the first time.
Honestly, I doubt he’d do much eating at Space 220. He’d be far too busy obsessing over the outer space scenery displayed on the digital monitors.
Walt Disney appreciated the value and importance of a wienie. He’d coined the phrase because of his dog, who would obsess on packs of hot dogs.
Disney viewed them as a way to gain his puppy’s full attention. Later, he used landmarks to do the same with tourists.
Sleeping Beauty Castle exists as a way to draw attention the instant guests enter Disneyland.
The Matterhorn anchored the park’s first expansion to highlight what Imagineers could do, even building an entire mountain!
Given this information, think about how Walt Disney would feel the first time he laid eyes on Spaceship Earth, a larger-than-life geodesic sphere.
Now, consider Uncle Walt’s reactions as he rode Spaceship Earth for the first time.
He’d recognize virtually everything until the moon landing, which would possibly make him tear up with joy since he loved NASA so much.
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue!
I picked Pandora over Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge because the nighttime illumination elevates the former.
Meanwhile, Disney wouldn’t know anything about Star Wars stories. So, I’m dubious they would impress him as much, at least initially.
However, the one attraction he would adore is Star Tours due to its clever design.
The filmmaker in him would recognize the brilliance of hosting an entire thrill ride in a small theater. He may even wonder why he never thought of it!
I mean, director William Castle used similar tricks in the 1960s to heighten the moviegoing experience.
Disney could have come up with some sort of film matched to vibrating chairs as well.
So, I suspect he’d vacillate between admiration and jealousy, knowing that Star Tours is something he should have invented first!
Toy Story Land
In a way, Walt Disney was just a big kid with Peter Pan Syndrome, someone who stubbornly refused to grow up.
His theme park proved so timeless because its creator could evaluate all the attractions through the lens of a child visiting for the first time.
Disney possessed unerring instincts about what children would love. For this reason, I’m convinced that he would giggle uncontrollably at Toy Story Land.
The man would happily wander the entire area, marveling at how Imagineers have messed with scale by shrinking guests down to the size of toys.
On a related note, I’m pretty sure that the Toy Story franchise would be his favorite animated story for similar reasons.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Fun fact: Walt Disney was alive during the entire run of The Twilight Zone! It’s true, as the series ran from 1959 through 1964.
Given the nature of network television at the time, Disney must have watched at least some episodes.
For this reason, he’d delight in knowing that later Imagineers designed an entire attraction around the concept.
In fact, out of all the attractions that Walt Disney never had a hand in building, the Tower of Terror is the one he’d understand the most.
The World Showcase at EPCOT
As you know, Walt Disney adored the World’s Fair as a concept because it allowed people from different cultures to interact and share ideas.
Disney dreamt of a permanent World’s Fair site at the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
After his death, this idea appeared wildly unlikely. However, park officials eventually honored his vision more than 15 years later.
The World Showcase is functionally a constant World’s Fair, including pavilions from some of the most influential cultures in the world.
I can close my eyes and imagine Uncle Walt happily exploring the grounds of every pavilion, learning all that he could about each place.
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Feature Photo: Disney