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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Florida Project: Roy's Folly

Roy Disney opened his vacation kingdom to the world in October 1971. Remembering the disastrous crowds that set upon DISNEYLAND back in 1955, Roy decided to carefully control things in Florida, inviting just 16,000 people to the grand opening. Everything appeared to go well until he saw that only around 8,000 people showed up. Could this be a problem? Keep in mind, these people all had free tickets and half of them chose not to even use them. Roy's team chalked it up to people being afraid that the park would be overcrowded and figured that once the public was able to visit, they'd be turning them away. Day two came and went and attendance was miserable. The park was practically empty:

Walt's creative team was secretly happy at this disaster. They jokingly asserted that it was Walt himself who had cursed this project because it displeased him. 

Days turned to weeks with the park seeing low and dwindling crowds. Park managers began reducing park hours and cutting back on services to deal with the fiscal crisis. Luckily for the company, DISNEYLAND was chugging along out west, earning profits that were being sent out to Florida to keep the place afloat. Roy began worrying that he had ruined the company. Many of Walt's crazy schemes had brought the company to the brink, but none had put the company in the dire straits it was in during October and November of 1971. Roy was going to have to figure out a way to fix this latest problem. He made plans to start doing just that after the Thanksgiving weekend.

But then the day after Thanksgiving a miracle occurred. There were traffic backups into the parking lot. Hours had to be extended, more employees brought in. It had taken two months, but finally, the people had showed up. Perhaps it was one of Walt's little pranks?

Roy Disney passed away just weeks later, right before Christmas, a full five years and five days after his brother had died. He was able to see that he hadn't doomed the company after all.