Tuesday, January 12, 2010

As it Once Was: A look into WDW’s past Project X

By  Tyler Enboden

     If you look back into past of the Disney Company you can often find the most interesting stories of what once was, compared to what it is now. The biggest of these changes is 27,000 acres of farm and swap land that in the late 60’s became property of the Disney Company. This area today is now a thriving world with 4 themed lands, 2 water parks, 32 resorts, and plenty of land to expand on. The most interesting story to tell about Disney world is how all this land was acquired without anyone knowing.

    In 1955 Disneyland opened its doors and started a successful legacy of Disney theme parks. All together Disneyland was only on 300 acres of land, with little to no room to expand. When Disney first purchased the land in Anaheim, it was nothing more than various orange groves and Lemon trees (which I might add explains why in the fall and early winter you see lemons growing in the park). By the time Disneyland was complete all the surrounding land was bought up by various companies to place hotel, restaurants, and souvenir shops in. While Disney’s original idea for a park was complete he was upset that he would not have the ability to control the surrounding area.
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      In the midst of an ever going expansion to the Disneyland Park, Walt set out on a secret project referred to as Project X (known now as Project Florida). During the early 60’s Walt and his team started scouting out land all over the nation. The goal was to find enough land to expand on Walt’s original vision and be able to in a way govern the surrounding area. Many of these trips were taken in Walt’s private jet (jet N234MM), which is on display in the Back lot tour behind the lights, motor, action show.

     After looking at potential locations such as St. Louis and the Great Smokey Mountains, Walt’s team stumbled upon a large plot of land in central Florida. The land was chosen due to its close connection to the I4 interstate. After deciding on this location the team slowly and secretly purchased 27,000 acres, about 43 square miles, of farm and swamp property. To give you an idea of how much land was actually purchased think about this: The property is twice the size of Manhattan Island and the same size of San Francisco. Knowing that the land would drastically increase in price if anyone knew Disney was buying the property, Walt bought the land using various aliases. Some of these “companies” included Retlaw Enterprises (Walter spelled backwords), Ayefour Corporation (a pun for Interstate 4) and M. T. Lot (get it? Empty lot). The largest plots of land were purchased using the name Latin American Development and Management Corporation, and Reedy Creek Ranch Corporation (which by the way is a great Disney radio talk and music stream online). The average cost per acre was $180 making the total purchase just over 5 million. Working with the state of Florida’s government Walt was able to establish an agreement of self governing power over the land (including being tax Exempt!).

     By 1965 Rumors were flying about a secret project in the work in central Florida that got the medias attention. Many reporters guessed that companies such as Ford were planning on building a major factory. On October 20, 1965 the truth was finally out. The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported that the Company buying all the land was in fact the Walt Disney Company. The article written by Emily Bavar, 'We Say: "Mystery" Industry Is Disney" mentions that the reports were unofficial but she comments that Walt was not a very good liar when it came to her asking him directly. Due to this unexpected press leak, the price per acre skyrocketed up over 1000%. Walt bought his first acre of land for $80 and his last for$ 80,000. On November 15, 1965 Disney held a press conference to officially announce the plans for a vacation retreat that would include theme parks, resort hotels, Golf Courses and his city of the future. Walt promised that 7,000 acres of this land would always remain in its natural state. To this day over 9,000 acres are still in their natural state.

      A very interesting fact about this massive development and expansion was that Disney did not go a single dollar into debt. With such a diverse ownership of companies and the constant rise of great Disney animation, Walt Disney was able to lay the foundation for what we all know and love today. On October 1, 1971 Roy O. Disney dedicated Walt Disney world by saying this:

     “Walt Disney world is a tribute to the Philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney…and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. 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 laugh, and play, and learn-together”

     I don’t know about you but that’s exactly how I feel every time I walk down main street to leave the land of today and enter the lands of adventure, fantasy, and a great big beautiful tomorrow.

 Make sure you follow the author of this article at  http://twitter.com/TheCurrentMouse

1 comments: until now.

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