Featured Attractions

Monday, May 13, 2024

it’s a small world Part Three: The Impossible Project

When we last left the story of the happiest cruise that ever sailed, Joan Crawford had been given control of Pepsi’s 1964 World’s Fair project, an attraction whose proceeds would benefit UNICEF. After a lengthy internal battle, the company had no firm plans and a potential disaster on its hands. Joan was certain that her Hollywood friend Walt Disney could put something amazing together quickly.

Joan flew out to Los Angeles and scheduled a meeting with Walt Disney and his imagineers. Those who were present at the meeting were curious about what exactly Joan wanted and why she was meeting with them at WED in Glendale, rather than with the studio executives in Burbank. Needless to say, they were extremely busy at the time, and while getting a visit from a glamorous Hollywood legend might have normally been an exciting prospect, on that day everyone was extremely busy with projects for Disneyland and the World’s Fair.

Joan, glamorously dressed and carefully coiffed, dramatically entered the room. Addressing her friend Walt Disney, she apologized for her intrusion and carefully explained that Pepsi needed an attraction for the 1964 World’s Fair that would benefit UNICEF. The Imagineers who were present found her to be very theatrical and were certain that Walt Disney would send her on her way, apologizing for the fact that he could not help her due to everything else they were working on. Walt Disney’s response would surprise everyone present.

Walt Disney told Ms. Crawford that they were working on just the sort of attraction that she and Pepsi were looking for- “Children of the World.” Guests would board brightly colored boats and take a ride around the world. Adorable dolls, dressed in their native clothing would dance and perform their various national anthems. Bright backgrounds and set pieces would feature stylized versions of the landmarks around the world. Joan loved the idea and was certain it would be exactly what UNICEF and Pepsi were looking for. Walt escorted an excited Joan, who most likely was reveling in the win. Her next contact with the rest of the Pepsi board would probably feature some classy gloating. After she left the room, the puzzled imagineers had one question- what attraction was Walt talking about?

Monday, May 6, 2024

it’s a small world Part Two: Joanie Dearest

Before we move forward to tell the story of the happiest cruise that ever sailed, we must go back to the year of Disneyland’s birth- 1955- to learn about the relationship between a Hollywood legend and a soft drink company chairman.

They were quite an odd couple; Joan Crawford was known to millions around the world through her many MGM motion pictures. Alfred Steele was less known, though the company he ran- PepsiCo- made one of the biggest selling colas in the world. Despite their differences, those who knew them felt they were madly in love with each other. That’s why it was shocking and heartbreaking when he passed away just four years later.

Most widows would have been satisfied with the dividends she might receive from her shares- or possibly might have sold them all- but Joan Crawford was not like most widows. She insisted on taking a seat on the Pepsi board so that she could directly influence company policy. While her husband’s hand picked successor installed her on the Pepsi board, her very presence started a rift within the company with two warring factions; those who were loyal to Joan and those who felt she had no business sitting on the board. This remained an issue into the 1960’s.

The split on the board would greatly affect the company’s operations and even had an impact on the company’s charitable pursuits. Pepsi had very publicly announced that it would sponsor a World’s Fair attraction and donate all of its proceeds to UNICEF. The company’s publicity arm felt this would generate a ton of positive press for the company. While the board fully supported the project, it strongly disagreed with what to do. Of course, the board was split along the usual lines- those who supported Joan and those who did not. Meanwhile, the World’s Fair’s opening drew closer with no solid plans for what Pepsi would actually build there.

So what does this have to do with it’s a small world? Well, at some point the company’s public relations team held a special board meeting where they explained that not having something at the World’s Fair would be a colossal PR nightmare, especially since the proceeds were supposed to go to needy children. This finally made the board see the seriousness of the situation and they reluctantly agreed to let Joan Crawford take the reins to jumpstart the project. Why would Joan be a good choice to take on the project? As it turned out, one of her Hollywood friends was Walt Disney. The board felt that if anyone could move mountains to get something designed and quickly built it would be him. But as you might know if you read part one, Walt Disney and his imagineers had their hands full. Would he take on such a large project on short notice?

Monday, April 29, 2024

it’s a small world Part One: Disneyland Goes To The World’s Fair

The mid-1960’s were hopping at Walt Disney Productions. The studio was producing future classics such as “Mary Poppins” and “One Hundred and One Dalmatians”, Imagineering was busy growing Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom and the company was ramping up to design EPCOT the city. With all this work happening at the same time, Walt Disney would have been excused if he had chosen to concentrate on just these projects. Instead, he embraced the upcoming 1964 World’s Fair, taking on several huge projects for the dazzling showcase that was springing up in Flushing Meadows, NYC.

Walt Disney saw the World’s Fair as an opportunity to prove that the magic of Disneyland would work on the east coast. That he could also do it with other people’s money was icing on the cake. Major companies lined up to work with Walt Disney Productions.

One of the first companies that signed on to work with Walt Disney was General Electric, who would sponsor Progressland, an entertaining look at progress through the years and, more importantly, the future. Featuring advanced animatronics and a unique circular theater that would seat hundreds of people every few minutes, the attraction proved to be a popular one. More importantly for Walt, he would also get access to General Electric’s technology. Technology that he might be able to use at EPCOT.

Another attraction that would greet World’s Fair guests would be Magic Skyway, presented by Ford. The attraction would use actual Ford vehicles to take guests into the past. Guests would encounter fierce dinosaurs, bumbling cave men and more in this traditional dark ride attraction. Other than requiring the use of Ford vehicles in the attraction, the Ford Motor Company had little involvement in the planning and construction of the ride.

Perhaps the attraction that had the most importance to Walt Disney was Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was Walt Disney’s favorite president, so the attraction had great importance for him. It would also prove to be the most complex of all the attractions planned for the World’s Fair. The attraction’s grand finale would feature a hyper-realistic Abraham Lincoln animatronic that would present snippets of some of Lincoln’s greatest speeches.

These attractions would have been enough to keep anyone busy. Walt Disney’s team certainly thought they already had their hands full. But the biggest, most beloved attraction that came out of the World’s Fair would be the one that seemingly came out of nowhere, commissioned by the last person you’d imagine. Join us over the next few weeks as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the happiest cruise that ever sailed- it’s a small world!


Monday, April 22, 2024

Disney Company Believe It Or Not! - Forgotten Theme Parks

While Disney’s theme parks are the gold standard for themed entertainment, there are, obviously, other companies that have owned and operated theme parks. In a bizarre coincidence, two companies that were eventually purchased by The Walt Disney Company owned theme parks in California that had the word ‘Marine’ in their name.

After Disneyland’s initial success, various companies sought to enter the theme park industry. As an original investor in Disneyland, ABC was initially uninterested in owning part of a theme park. It just wanted a television show from Walt Disney. It only invested in the park when Walt Disney insisted that they wouldn’t get a show unless they became a partner in Disneyland. Even though the park was successful, ABC was desperate to cash out. Ten years later, however, it saw what a mistake it made as Disneyland became fully established and its investment would have been worth much more. This inspired the network to try out its own theme park. Not willing to invest the sort of capital that a ride based theme park would require, ABC decided that an animal theme park centered around the ocean would suffice. Thus ABC’s Marine World was born.

Located just south of San Francisco next to the San Francisco Bay, the park opened in 1968 and featured animal acts that claimed to teach its guests about conservation and preservation of the animals on display. While initially successful, the park fell victim to the one thing that most every theme park operator finds out- that guests require new attractions to keep coming out to the park. ABC had hoped that it could ride the park’s original success for at least a few years before it needed to invest in new attractions. It quickly lost interest in the park and sold it off to another area theme park- Africa U.S.A.- and left the theme park industry for good. It would only get involved with theme parks again after The Walt Disney Company acquired the network in 1995. Marine World Africa USA would eventually move to nearby Vallejo, CA and go through a succession of different owners until it became part of the Six Flags chain and renamed Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. It remains open today.

Marineland actually opened a year before Disneyland did- in 1954- but it would quickly become one of the many Southern California attractions that would take advantage of the millions of tourists attracted by Disneyland to carve out a place for itself. Coincidentally designed by the architect who worked on the Disneyland Hotel, the park saw ten years of increasing attendance in its Rancho Palos Verde location. After San Diego’s Sea World opened, however, it found a more challenging business environment. By the mid-1970’s, it eagerly accepted an offer from Twentieth Century Fox who would hand over design and event responsibilities to movie producer Irwin Allen, who was the “master of disaster” in the 1970’s.

Irwin Allen was responsible for the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea franchise which was the primary reason for the bizarre decision to put him in charge of a theme park. However he had also become a mega producer when Twentieth Century Fox handed the park’s reins over to him. The gigantic success of “The Poseidon Adventure” had given him an aura of infallibility and by the mid-1970’s, he was seen as someone who could help the faltering theme park stay afloat. Unfortunately, this was also around the same time that the disaster film bubble began to burst.

Allen’s inexperience with theme parks doomed the experiment. He overpromised and under delivered during the 1974 Christmas season, which led to an embarrassing class action lawsuit against the park. Twentieth Century Fox ended up unloading the park to Hanna Barbera. The park would eventually get sold to the owners of Sea World who originally claimed that they planned to keep both locations open. In the end, they reneged on that promise and closed the park in a manner that prevented anyone else from reopening it as an oceanarium. It was a distant memory by 2020 when Twentieth Century became a part of The Walt Disney Company.

Monday, April 15, 2024

EPCOT Part Twelve: In Conclusion

EPCOT never became the real life city that Walt Disney envisioned, nor did it remain the educational showcase that it was when it eventually opened as a theme park in 1982. When The Walt Disney Family Museum opened in 2009, EPCOT was featured, for the very first time in a high profile setting, as Walt Disney’s final, unrealized dream. The Magic Kingdom park for the very first time acknowledged that the futuristic model city displayed alongside the Peoplemover tracks was not, as the narrator previously insinuated, a generic model of a futuristic city, but was actually what EPCOT might have looked like if Walt Disney had lived to build it. It was a huge change from the company’s confusing insinuation that EPCOT as built was exactly what Walt Disney had envisioned.

While it seemed that the company was going to be more open about EPCOT’s development, a recent major construction project added a statue of Walt Disney sitting down and staring out at EPCOT as though he was enjoying the sights of the theme park he had designed. So it appears that going forward the company will still rely on the public’s murky belief that the EPCOT that Walt Disney spoke about in 1965 is similar to the EPCOT that opened in 1982 and remains open today. While the difference between EPCOT the city and EPCOT the theme park might not be something that the average guest even thinks about, the company’s continued insistence that the EPCOT of today has any ties to the EPCOT of Walt’s dreams is infuriating to Disney historians.

But the biggest question that comes to mind when thinking about EPCOT- would Walt Disney’s original vision of EPCOT have been successful? Would the public have embraced a town built and designed by American industry and Walt Disney Productions? The public’s view of large corporations and industrial development has dramatically changed since the mid 20th century. Historically, the titans of industry were seen as benevolent entities who could be trustworthy stewards. That had definitely changed by the late 1960’s. By 1982, when EPCOT Center opened as a theme park, the idea of a company town planned and operated by a private business had become an entirely foreign concept. While Disneyland had been an untested concept back when it opened in 1955, Walt Disney was only asking people to spend a few days in his Magic Kingdom. At EPCOT, he would have been asking people to spend their lives in his planned community- a much bigger feat than just asking them to spend their vacation time. 

While Walt Disney was always determined to see his dreams come true- he was also a practical person. Had he lived to build his version of the Florida project, he very well might have downsized his plans if he determined them to no longer be practical. Even if he had canceled EPCOT completely, however, he probably wouldn’t have used the same name for a lesser project. While the EPCOT we got was not the EPCOT of Walt’s dreams, it is a nice place to spend a day or two. If Disney fans want to see Walt Disney’s last fully realized dream come true they would still need to head to Anaheim- the home of Walt Disney’s One and Only Magic Kingdom.

Monday, April 8, 2024

EPCOT Part Eleven: Celebration

As the company expanded the Florida resort, it made several adjustments to EPCOT that were geared towards silencing the early complaints and filling the park. More traditional attractions replaced some of the exhibits and special events were planned to attract guests to EPCOT from Magic Kingdom. New hotel projects were announced in an effort to capture more of the money being spent by Disney’s guests. The company saw unprecedented revenue increases in Florida as it was not only convincing guests to stay on property but to also extend their stays. This led to the resort’s most successful theme park launch on a small parcel of land behind EPCOT- Disney MGM Studios.

Unlike the grand openings of both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, the opening of Disney MGM Studios was huge. Thousands of guests flocked to the park from day one, making it the most successful grand opening in the resort’s history. The park had been severely under built, sparking a massive construction boom as the company sought to improve capacity and offer more attractions. Star Tours, which had opened in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and was supposed to be located in the same location at Magic Kingdom was hurriedly shoehorned into the park. As the park’s closest neighbor, EPCOT became the beneficiary of its popularity; guests who arrived at an at capacity Disney MGM Studios were steered to EPCOT.

With this building boom going on, company executives sought to make better use of the company’s vast landholdings. New hotels were springing up from the swamp just about every year. The company was only constrained by its ability to finance these projects. Disney CEO Michael Eisner sought a project that would be easier to finance and wouldn’t eat up too much of the company’s revenue or credit lines. In the early 1990’s, he settled on a project that could be billed as a realization of Walt Disney’s original vision of EPCOT- the master planned community of Celebration, Florida.

Celebration, Florida would be an all new town built on land de-annexed from the Walt Disney World Resort. The master planned community was to be financed by the sale of houses and property within its borders. The company would be able to show Wall Street that it was making use of its surplus land without spending its own money. While the company was still suggesting to guests that EPCOT the theme park was the same EPCOT that Walt Disney spoke about on his show, it would now also suggest that Celebration would be a realization of Walt’s dream of a planned city. In actuality, neither of these suggestions were true.

While Celebration would be a nice subdivision, it was actually the antithesis of Walt Disney’s EPCOT. The EPCOT of Walt Disney’s dreams would have featured mixed use development where people would live near where they worked and played. A reliable, efficient transit system would eliminate the need for a car. Celebration, on the other hand, would be just like any other subdivision where people have to own several cars and commute long distances to go to work or shop. In the end, Celebration would look more like the subdivisions that surrounded Disneyland in Anaheim than the futuristic city of tomorrow that Walt Disney had envisioned.

Monday, April 1, 2024

EPCOT Part Ten: What If Nobody Showed Up?

In 1982, EPCOT neared completion and the company prepared to open its biggest, most ambitious theme park ever. Despite opening during a recession, the company was confident that EPCOT Center would fully establish Walt Disney World as the Vacation Kingdom that Roy Disney had envisioned. That it wasn’t the EPCOT that Walt Disney had envisioned was glossed over and ignored. While the company didn’t specifically say that this park had anything to do with Walt Disney’s original plans, it didn’t discourage anyone from thinking that it did.

The EPCOT that greeted guests on opening day was massively larger than even the Magic Kingdom, but despite its size it had fewer traditional attractions. The park featured mostly exhibits, shops and dining. The decision was also made to ban Disney characters from the park. Instead, guests found bizarre park specific characters that were supposed to represent the World Showcase countries. On October 1, 1982 the Walt Disney World resort finally opened something called EPCOT- the theme park that it hoped would stop the questions about where EPCOT was and turn the complex into the vacation kingdom that Roy Disney wanted.

The heavily hyped park was met with a yawn. While the park opened to larger crowds than the Magic Kingdom did, it still massively underperformed. The company panicked and quickly injected Disney characters into the park. The huge cost involved to build the park sent the company into a tailspin that attracted corporate raiders. Disney CEO Card Walker, who approved EPCOT, had retired at an opportune time right before the park opened its doors. His successor, Walt Disney’s son-in-law Ron Miller, would unfortunately get all the blame for the company’s financial problems. The lackluster reception received by EPCOT threatened to do what naysayers had believed would happen in 1955- take down Walt Disney Productions.

Two years after EPCOT’s disastrous opening, the company cleared the decks, installing a new management team championed by Roy E. Disney. At first the new team led by Michael Eisner had planned to sell off the theme parks and resorts, licensing the Disney trademarks to the new owners. After realizing that the theme parks (other than EPCOT) stabilized the company as a whole, the new team decided to invest heavily in fixing EPCOT and extending the company’s theme park holdings. As part of this new push to bolster the theme parks, the new regime decided to double down on pretending that EPCOT as built was exactly what Walt Disney wanted. Promotional materials often referred to EPCOT as Walt Disney’s final dream come true.

As part of its efforts to bolster the Florida property, The Walt Disney Company began an unprecedented era of construction at Walt Disney World. In Anaheim, the majority of the revenue generated by Disneyland went to non-Disney owned businesses. This bothered Walt Disney because if he had owned more of the enterprises that sprang up around Disneyland, he could use the revenue to improve his park. This was one of the reasons why he wanted to own more land in Florida. Unfortunately, Roy Disney underbuilt hotel rooms, so the same tawdry, low rent leeches still sprang up in Orlando, though farther away. The Walt Disney Compamy sought to fix this with a new building boom in the 1980’s and 90’s. Would the company ever build anything resembling Walt’s original dream? While the Disney company would claim they had- in actuality, they would not.

Monday, March 25, 2024

EPCOT Part Nine: Guest Complaints

After its initial attendance problems went away, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park faced new capacity problems.
Roy had under built the park and it had less than half the number of attractions as Disneyland did at the time. While the park was larger in size than Disneyland, it had far fewer things to do. To resolve this issue, the park quickly began fast tracking new attractions. Roy felt that since the Magic Kingdom in Florida was so close to the actual Caribbean, the park could do without Pirates of the Caribbean. Guests felt otherwise, so a cut down version of the ride was shoehorned into Adventureland. 

Due to Florida’s less hospitable weather, it was determined that the Matterhorn would not work if built at the Magic Kingdom. Park management remembered that when Walt Disney originally came up with the idea for Space Mountain it was not technologically possible. Imagineering had floated an idea to just build the Matterhorn indoors and call it Space Mountain. Walt rejected this idea, but Florida management was desperate to add capacity so it was quickly approved. (Disneyland would later get the Space Mountain of Walt’s dreams in 1977.)

As the years wore on, it became apparent that Roy Disney’s conservatively built resort was not fully taking advantage of the resort’s allure and the same type of tawdry motels that sprung up around Disneyland opened up around Walt Disney World, just further away from the main gate. To fix this problem, Roy’s handpicked successor- Disney CEO Card Walker- asked Imagineering to come up with new ideas for a second theme park and new resorts to provide more on property activities for Disney World guests. There were two competing theme park ideas at the time- a theme park themed to other countries called World Showcase and another that was like a larger Tomorrowland called Future World. Neither idea seemed to get much traction with Disney leadership and plans for larger expansion projects at the resort had stalled.

Expansion plans would soon get on the fast track due to a misunderstanding about what EPCOT was supposed to be.
Guests remembered seeing Walt Disney speak about some sort of ‘EPCOT’, but they seemed to think it was supposed to be a theme park. Guest Relations was still getting questions and complaints from guests inquiring about EPCOT and wondering where it was. With the second theme park planning going nowhere, Card Walker gave Imagineering a new mandate- come up with a new project that the company could slap the EPCOT name on to satisfy guests. 

For anyone who has been to the place eventually called EPCOT, you’ve probably already figured out what Imagineering did to create “EPCOT” the theme park- they put their plans for “Future World” and “World Showcase” together. EPCOT Center would not be the futuristic, real city that Walt envisioned; it would be a massive theme park Frankenstein instead. While this compromise would resolve several problems for the resort, it would create new ones- the biggest one being its high price tag. Since each part of EPCOT Center was originally intended to be a theme park unto itself, building them together at the same time would be very expensive. While the company planned to extensively rely on outside sponsors, it was still making a sizable investment that would eventually cost more than the rest of the company was worth at the time. While the Magic Kingdom theme park had eventually become self sufficient, this huge new investment would place the company’s financial solvency at risk again. Would guests flock to this massively scaled down version of EPCOT? Only time would tell.

Monday, March 18, 2024

EPCOT Part Eight: Roy’s Folly

As the October 1st grand opening of Walt Disney World grew near, Roy Disney was riding high. He had canceled his brother’s plans for the experimental prototype community of tomorrow and was eager to open his vision of the Florida project, which consisted of just the parts that he deemed as being profitable- the Magic Kingdom theme park and three resorts. Eager to avoid the madness of Disneyland’s chaotic and overcrowded opening day, Roy strictly limited the number of tickets available for opening day and prepared for the onslaught that was sure to await the park on day two- when the real guests would finally experience his idea of a “Magic Kingdom.”

In an effort to get good press, Roy planned an opening day that would only host half the number of guests who visited Disneyland on an average day at the time. This would allow the media to comfortably experience the park and declare it to be more polished than Disneyland. Imagine his shock when less than a third of the expected crowd showed up. Magic Kingdom park set a dubious record that it continues to hold to this day- as the Disney theme park with the lowest opening day attendance. Initially, Roy blamed the lack of attendance on guests remembering Disneyland’s disastrous and overcrowded opening day. Truly day two would be better.

Except it wasn’t. The newly built theme park’s second day attendance was worse than the first day and a fraction of what Disneyland was attracting. As opening week continued, Roy reeled from the daily attendance reports. Magic Kingdom park was not attracting enough guests to justify the expense of building it. Weekend attendance wasn’t much better than weekday attendance. To the outside world, the company was confident that things would improve. Inside the company, however, was a different story. While Walt’s Imagineers smugly observed the disastrous attendance as Walt’s revenge for Roy disregarding his original plans, they also worried about their jobs. What would the rapidly growing Florida problem do to their job security and pensions?

Days of poor attendance became weeks of poor attendance. Magic Kingdom’s abysmal attendance was quickly becoming a crisis. While Disneyland had been forced to step aside to let its newer sibling take the limelight, it was now propping up the looming disaster in Florida. If Disneyland’s attendance had mirrored that of Florida’s Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney Productions would have gone bankrupt as many had predicted before the original park opened in 1955. Lucky for Roy, Disneyland’s profits would keep the company solvent- for now. As October switched to November with no improvement, everyone knew that Roy would soon have to make some tough decisions- and things didn’t look good for the company’s Florida property. Layoffs and cutbacks were on the horizon.

This period of time was said to be stressful for Roy Disney. He was beginning to fear that he had doomed Walt Disney Productions to bankruptcy. Was the Florida project DOA regardless of what was built or would building EPCOT as his brother had originally planned have improved its fortunes? As a second month of poor attendance lurched forward, Roy decided that despite the bad optics of doing layoffs during the Christmas season, he would have no choice if he wanted to stave off bankruptcy. He decided to wait until after the Thanksgiving weekend to begin cutbacks, layoffs and closures, but was sadly certain that he would have to actually do them.

If this situation doesn’t sound familiar to you, it was due to the miracle that awaited park staff on the day after Thanksgiving. As the resort prepared to open that morning, staff encountered a welcome sight- backed up traffic at the parking lot toll booths. The crowds had finally showed up. Florida’s Magic Kingdom finally had its first full capacity day. The crowds continued to show up in the days and weeks ahead. If Walt had cursed the park because of the cancellation of EPCOT, he must have felt that his point had been made after two months of poor attendance. Roy could finally rest easy and Walt Disney Productions would pretend that Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was always hugely successful.

Sadly, Roy wouldn’t get to enjoy the success of his version of the Florida project for too long; he would pass away a few weeks later on December 20, 1971. While he had been afraid that he had doomed the company a month earlier, he would enter his eternal rest knowing that the company he built with his brother would be on firm ground.

Monday, March 11, 2024

EPCOT Part Seven: The Dream Is Over

After Walt Disney’s shocking death, Roy Disney quickly took full control of the company. Dismissing talk of a sale, Roy insisted that the company would remain independent, Disneyland would stay open and he would personally see to it that his brother’s last dream- “Disney World” in Florida- would be built and open in five years. In fact, he officially started calling the Florida Project “Walt Disney World” to show the world that it was the fully realized dream of a real person- Walt Disney. Except- it wasn’t.

While Roy claimed he was making his brother’s final dream come true, his very first action as the sole leader of Walt Disney Productions was to permanently cancel Walt Disney’s plans for an experimental prototype community of tomorrow. EPCOT, as designed and dreamed up by Walt Disney would NEVER see the light of day. Even though Walt’s imagineers hadn’t been too enthusiastic about EPCOT when he first started the development and design process, they had grown to accept and embrace it. They weren’t happy when Roy pulled the plug on the project and ordered them to start working on the theme park. They became even more disenchanted with Roy’s vision for the park itself.

By 1971, Disneyland had 16 years to “grow up” into the fully developed theme park that it had become. Walt Disney had planned to build out “Disneyland East” to be a mostly carbon copy of Disneyland with the same number of attractions. Roy, on the other hand, figured that the newer park could open with much fewer attractions than Disneyland had and build itself up over time. His most controversial decision was to build a bigger castle with a taller Main Street. In his mind, this would show everyone that the company now had more money to spend and could afford to build a bigger castle than the one at Disneyland. Except, the castle at Disneyland was not built the way it was because of money issues- it was built the way it was because Walt Disney wanted a friendly, accessible castle. He felt that only tyrants built large castles to intimidate the peasants and purposely had his castle designed to be kid-friendly.

Even worse, Roy Disney chose to not fix the part of the park that Walt Disney was always self conscious about- Fantasyland. Walt had originally wanted Fantasyland to look like a European village. Budget cuts forced him to compromise and design what was referred to as a “Medieval Fair” look that featured brightly painted, flat decor. While Roy’s tyrannically sized castle loomed large, it concealed a Fantasyland that wasn’t all it could be. (Disneyland eventually fixed this issue in 1982. Florida’s Magic Kingdom has never bothered to fix it at all.) Rolly Crump, whose whimsical artwork inspired the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland left the company after he became disenchanted with the design of the Disney World project.

In 1971, Walt Disney World, which was more of Roy’s dream than Walt’s by this point, lurched towards its opening. Severely under-built, the resort only had two hotels and a campground in addition to its theme park with an underwhelming lineup of attractions. Would Roy’s EPCOT-less resort prove to be a successful draw? Only time would tell.