Following the success of Disneyland in California, Walt Disney became interested in creating a theme park on the East Coast. In 1958, Disney hired a company called Economics Research Associates to conduct a survey to find a suitable location. After considering many different locations, including St. Louis, Disney decided it would choose Central Florida for the project.
Walt & # 39; s brother Roy, the financial wizard behind Disney's success, started the process of buying land. Walt was always concerned about how many low-quality hotels, restaurants and shops were closing in on Disneyland. This time, he would take advantage of the space so he could fully control the environment.
Walt visited central Florida and made the final decision to select the location just south of sleepy Orlando for his park.
Attorney Robert Foster began the process of purchasing land, eventually acquiring more than 12,000 acres at basement prices between $ 100 – $ 150 per. Acre. Then he was able to expand and buy more and eventually put together nearly 30,000 acres of land for a total cost of about $ 5 million. All this work was done very quietly by shell companies so that the price of land would not skyrocket when everyone realized that Disney was making the purchases.
The locals gradually realized that someone was collecting an enormous amount of land. In June 1965, the Orlando Evening Star, the forerunner of the current Orlando Sentinel, ran a history of land acquisition. Speculation swirled around and Disney knew he would be forced to announce his intentions.
On November 15, 1965, Disney held a press conference with its brother Roy and the governor of Florida to announce the project.
The Disney Company worked with the Florida Legislature to enact special laws that give Disney broad powers for zoning and land use. Initially, Walt would build not only an amusement park, but also a vibrant, working city in Florida. Disney stated that his business essentially needs the controls that would typically be given to the government so he could build a new city – the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, or Epcot. And all these special legal and government powers are something that the Walt Disney Company still enjoys today.
Unfortunately, Walt died on December 15, 1966, before work began in earnest in Florida. It was up to Walt & # 39; s brother Roy to see the project through to completion. There were many concerns that the project might never come off the ground without the vision, leadership and final decision making authority of Walt. But Roy did his job well. He also renamed the project from Disney World to Walt Disney World in honor of his brother.
On October 1, 1971, after the $ 400 million construction project was completed, Magic Kingdom held its grand opening for the tens of thousands of fans.
Completing his life's final project, Roy Disney died on December 20, 1971 – less than three months after the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World opened.