Before Walt Disney opened DISNEYLAND in 1955, few tourists ever ventured to Anaheim, California. Southern California as a whole, however, was already a major tourist destination. In the beginning, this was undoubtedly a blessing, since Mr. Disney wasn’t necessarily asking his guests to visit an area that they would have never visited on their own. Tourists had already flocked to Southern California’s beaches and Hollywood studios for decades. DISNEYLAND was just another stop.
DISNEYLAND would soon supplant all other tourist sites in Southern California, becoming the first stop for most visitors. Others took notice and a new tourism ecosystem sprang up to entice DISNEYLAND guests to spend their time and money elsewhere after they had experienced the Magic Kingdom. This began to grate on Mr. Disney. What if he had more control over the surrounding area? What if more of the tourism revenue he was generating stayed at DISNEYLAND? He was uninterested in making money for money’s sake; he wanted to make more money so that he could build ever bigger attractions. These outside enterprises were siphoning funds away that could have been used to expand DISNEYLAND.
So while Mr. Disney’s decision to build what he was calling “Disneyland East” in Florida was mainly made so that he could build his futuristic city, he also wanted to establish more Disney owned businesses that could generate more profits he could use for expansion. After he passed away, his brother Roy canceled plans for the futuristic city of EPCOT and scaled back plans for multiple hotels and amusement enterprises.
Roy Disney based his decision to scale back on hotels and attractions on the fact that Orlando Florida was not a tourism hotspot prior to Disney World. It was where people stopped to fill up on the way to other more interesting places. Unlike Anaheim, which was already surrounded by attractions and beaches, Disney would be asking its east coast guests to trust that it would show them a good time because there was little else around to entertain them. After a lackluster start, Florida’s Magic Kingdom found its footing, but Roy’s conservative, cut down master plan still resulted in the sort of leech development that happened in Anaheim, except the vast acreage owned by Disney in Florida pushed it further away.
It would take over ten years for the resort to build another theme park. The massive project would forever shape the future of Disney in Florida as well as the theme park that would come after it.