With the world at war, many American boys became eager to enlist to fight for freedom. None were more eager than Walt Disney. The problem was that he was far too young to enlist as a soldier. He was also too young to be an ambulance driver, but that didn't stop Walt. He falsified his birth certificate to make himself one year older- barely eligible to drive ambulances for the Red Cross.
When Walt made it to Europe, however, the war had ended and he and his fellow drivers were driving generals around, not ambulances. The end of the war meant that the guys had plenty of free time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Europe.
Amazingly, one of Walt Disney's fellow drivers became famous as well; he was Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonald's into a billion dollar worldwide business. He recalled their time together in Europe. While the other guys chased skirts and boozed it up in the local bars, Ray recalled that Walt spent his time alone, drawing in his sketchbooks and touring the sights.
This small town American boy was dazzled by the fairy tale castles and cobblestoned villages he encountered. Europe became an inspiration that would provide him with countless stories to tell in his films- and an even bigger inspiration for his Magic Kingdom.
For a young Walt Disney, Europe was one huge Adventure- with storybook castles and old world charm. The memories would stay with him forever, inspiring the grand castle that still welcomes his guests to this very day.
And it inspired him to dream of his own cobblestoned fairytale village that would re-tell the stories of his greatest films, delighting children of all ages. Mr. Disney wouldn't live to see his fully realized Fantasyland, but his experiences shaped what it became and how it still remains today- just like Walt dreamed it.