Walt Disney World
Walt Disney--The Man
Trip Planning Tips
The Florida Project--the Beginnings of Walt Disney World
Plans for an East Coast Disneyland began quietly. After the West Coast success of Disneyland (most of Disneyland's guests came from West of the Mississippi) Walt felt there should be an expanded East Coast version that allowed for much more than just a theme park but had room for scientific development, residential communities, as well as space to implement new technologies.
Video: Walt explaining a little about the Florida project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-bYnDalnsA&NR=1
Walt did fly overs of properties scouted out by his colleagues; eventually choosing a location along I-4 just south of Orlando, Florida in Osceola County. The Walt Disney Company used multiple shell companies to buy up swamp land at low prices from unknowing landowners in the area and then created the Reedy Creek Drainage District.
The names of some these companies are listed on the upper story windows of a Main Street U.S.A. building in Walt Disney World:
Latin-American Development and Management Corporation Compass East Corporation
Ayefour Corporation Tomahawk Properties, Incorporated
Reedy Creek Ranch, Incorporated Bay Lake Properties, Incorporated
Map: Land purchased by each company: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DisneyLandByCompany.png
Videos: Brief history of Disneyland's opening day and the development of the Florida Project:
March 11, 1966, these landowners, all fully-owned subsidiaries of what is now The Walt Disney Company, petitioned the Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, for the creation of the Reedy Creek Drainage District. After a period during which some minor landowners within the boundaries opted out, the Drainage District was incorporated on May 13, 1966, as a public corporation. Among the powers of a Drainage District were the power to condemn and acquire property outside its boundaries "for the public use". It used this power at least once to obtain land for Canal C-1 (Bonnet Creek).
However, Disney knew that their plans for the land would be easier to carry out with more independence, and they petitioned the Florida State Legislature for the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which would have almost total autonomy within its borders. Chapter 67-764 of the Laws of Florida was signed into law by Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. on May 12, 1967, creating the District. On the same day, Governor Kirk also signed the incorporation acts for two cities inside the District: Bay Lake (Chapter 67-1104) and Reedy Creek (Chapter 67-1965). (The City of Reedy Creek was renamed to the City of Lake Buena Vista around 1970.)
According to a press conference held in Winter Park, Florida, on February 2, 1967, by Disney Vice President Donn Tatum, the Improvement District and Cities were created to serve "the needs of those residing there", and the company needed its own government to "clarify the District's authority to [provide services] within the District's limits" and because of the public nature of the planned development. The original city boundaries did not cover the whole Improvement District; they may have been intended as the areas where communities would be built for people to live. (More to come on this idea of communities when we talk about EPCOT.)