Monday, 7 October 2013

Disney World Anniversary

On Friday October 1, 1971, after seven years of planning about 10,000 visitors gathered near Orlando, Florida, to witness the grand opening of Walt Disney World. The theme park was 107 acres big and employed about 5,500 cast members.

Resort planners scheduled the opening in October in the hopes that crowds would be small - and they were. The turnout was much smaller than the 300,000 expected. Fortunately the small crowd of 10,000 on October 1, 1971 allowed any problems that sprang up to be fixed with minimal inconvenience, unlike Disneyland's chaotic grand opening day. Even official dedications and other media events were held off until later in the month so as to make sure everything ran smoothly. (The park's actual dedication didn't take place until October 25.  Some visitors even slept in their car overnight at a nearby roadside rest area.

When Disney World first opened (and for many years thereafter), guests purchased a book of ride tickets (similar to what you would get at a carnival or fair). The book consisted of A through E tickets, with the E tickets being the best rides. General Admission was just $3.50 for an adult, $2.50 for a junior, and children were only $1.00 (this included unlimited use for one day of transportation system, admission to MK and all free shows, exhibits and entertainment). Parking was only 50 cents per vehicle.

Walt Disney World held a three-day grand opening celebration starting on October 23. At the end of October 1971, the total attendance was around 400,000. The day after Thanksgiving November 26, 1971 a new peak of 50,000 entered the theme park.

A network of warehouse-sized rooms, hallways, and office spaces were built under Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. The park that guests see are actually the second and third stories. When Disney World opened in 1971, it was the first theme park to have continuously playing ambient music on pathways between attractions. You could fit the original Disneyland Park in the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom and still have room to park some 300 cars.