Walt Disney World opened 50 years ago today – see historic photos and how WDW famous

(CNN) – It has changed acres and acres of orange groves. It changed Orlando. It changed Florida. It changed an already legendary company. And it changed the whole theme park industry.

Walt Disney World Resort opened on October 1, 1971. And on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, it continues to be a major driver in the travel world, resisting the big changes in tourism trends, the notorious hurricanes of Florida and a pandemic.

In ’71 there was only one theme park, Magic Kingdom, along with a few adjacent golf courses and resorts.

Since then, three other large parks have been added: Epcot in 1982, Hollywood Studios in 1989 and Animal Kingdom in 1998. Additionally, Typhoon Lagoon (1989 and temporarily closed) and Blizzard Beach (1995) water parks have been added to the resort. . .

And Disney now has 12 parks in six different resorts on three different continents.

Florida Park was actually the Disney group’s second baby. It came 16 years after Disneyland in Southern California, which opened on July 17, 1955.

But brother # 2 did not remain in the shadows.

The influence of Walt Disney World

“Clearly, WDW has grown into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world over its short 50-year history,” said Martin Lewison, associate professor of business management at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, New York, in an email interview. .

Known in theme park circles as the “Professor Roller Coaster,” he has said that Walt Disney World is a dominant force in the global attractions industry.

“Just as the opening of Disneyland in California in 1955 convinced other entrepreneurs that theme parks were a good investment …

Lewison noted some of the major theme parks that followed soon after: Kings Island in Ohio in 1972, Carowinds on the North Carolina-South Carolina border in 1973, Six Flags Great Adventure in the New Jersey in 1974 and Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens in Virginia in 1975.

“WDW has dominated the industry in many areas: ride design and technology, entertainment, resort development, transportation systems, special events, dining experiences, ticket pricing, queue products, merchandising [and] conservation, ”Lewison said.

Professor Roller Coaster plans to visit the park for the first time since 2019 in November for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attraction Expo.

His favorite rides include classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion and some of the more recent rides such as Avatar Flight of Passage.

He said he was looking forward to his first ride on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad, among others.

Changes and traditions at the park

Much has changed in the Florida park since 1971. Notable additions have arrived years and decades later: Space Mountain (opened in 1975), Splash Mountain (1992) and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (2014).

Despite all the changes and advancements 50 years brought, some of the original rides and attractions from 1971 are still here.

They include beloved favorites such as the Country Bear Jamboree, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Haunted Mansion, and the Tomorrowland Speedway. Jungle Cruise was recently updated at Disneyland and Disney World to tackle race-insensitive stereotypes.

And of course, the park’s signature structure, Cinderella’s Castle, has been there from the start, although it has undergone a few transformations over the years.

How Disney will celebrate the anniversary

Disney’s 50th birthday party kicks off Friday, but it will hardly be a one-day affair.

It will be an 18 month party. And the celebrations will take place not only in the Magic Kingdom, but in the resort’s three other theme parks.

A “Beacons of Magic” show begins Friday, where iconic structures in each park will be specially illuminated: Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, Hollywood Tower Hotel at Hollywood Studios and the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.

Right at the Magic Kingdom, a nighttime show titled “Disney Enchantment” will feature music, enhanced lighting, fireworks and immersive projection effects from Cinderella’s Castle on Main Street, USA.

This being Disney, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Click here to learn more about the resort’s celebration.

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