Walt Disney World
Walt Disney--The Man
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The Walt Disney Company began construction on the Magic Kingdom in 1967 shortly after the death of Walt Disney. Walt had been highly involved in planning The Florida Project in the years prior to his death. (To read more about Walt's Florida Project click here.)
The park itself was built similar to the existing Disneyland in California, however Magic Kingdom was built in a larger area allowing for some improvement over Disneyland's design.
One of the most intriguing park improvements are the Utilidors. According to a story, Walt Disney once saw a Frontierland cowboy walking through Tomorrowland at Disneyland. Walt found this to be an intrusion on the futuristic setting, and wanted to avoid situations like this in the new park. Therefore, Magic Kingdom was built over a series of tunnels called Utilidors, a combination of the words utility and corridor. These tunnels allow cast members to move through the park, out of sight from guests thereby preserving 'the show'.
(Pic: Base of Castle with Utilidor in foreground.)
Because of Florida's high water table the tunnels could not be put underground, so they were built at the existing grade. Which means the Utilidors reside at ground level and Magic Kingdom Park is actually built on the second story. The tunnels are only found in areas built in the initial construction and were not extended with additions to the park.
(Pic: Castle with Utilidor tunnel openings.)
The area around the Utilitdors was filled in with dirt removed from the Seven Seas Lagoon which was being constructed at the same time. Yes, constructed. Seven Seas Lagoon is a man made lake that connects to Bay Lake via a man made waterway/bridge—a bridge that WDW buses and Contemporary guests cross under as they travel toward Magic Kingdom. (Seven Seas Lagoon fun fact—At it's opening in October 1971 the Lagoon featured a wave machine capable of making waves large enough to surf as part of the Polynesian, but waves were discontinued shortly after because they were washing away the shoreline.)
(Pic: Land clearing for Magic Kingdom with Bay Lake in the background [looking from present-day Frontierland toward Tomorrowland]; note the Seven Seas Lagoon has not yet been dug.)
Although it was intended that tunnels be built all through Walt Disney World, only two other areas have similar Utilidors: Future World in EPCOT and Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney; this is most likely because of financial constraints.
Video: Utilidors (watch 7:02-7:39 for sure) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SdQXWkDP5Q&feature=related
Magic Kingdom opened as the first part of Walt Disney's planned Florida Project on October 1, 1971, with 10,000 visitors. It was the only theme park on the resort at the time and opened concurrently with two hotels on the property: Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. However the park was not officially dedicated until October 25, 1971, allowing time for any problems to be worked out prior to official opening (this was a precaution taken to avoid any of the problems encountered on Disneyland's opening day.)
Magic Kingdom opened with 6 themed lands: Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Tomorrowland. Each land was similar to its counterpart at Disneyland except Liberty Square—of course—which celebrated America's Independence and was unique to Magic Kingdom.
The park opened with 23 attractions, three unique to the park--The Hall of Presidents, Mickey Mouse Revue,and Country Bear Jamboree. The other 20 were copies of attractions at Disneyland. Disney promised to increase this number with more attractions similar to Disneyland as well as unique ones.
Since opening day, Magic Kingdom has only been closed for five incidents: Hurricane Floyd, the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Frances, Hurricane Charley, & Hurricane Wilma.
Magic Kingdom was dedicated on October 25, 1971 by Roy O. Disney. The dedication reads:
“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney... and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place... a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together.”
Next: Main Street U.S.A