History of Walt Disney World Part 1: Magic Kingdom


In 1971, in Bay Lake Florida, near Orlando, the Walt Disney World Resort opened to the public. Originally conceived by Walt Disney as “The Florida Project”, Walt noticed that only about 5% of guests to Disneyland in Anaheim California were from East of the Mississippi River, and wanted to create a supplementary park in Florida.

Sadly Walt never got to see the park open due to his passing in 1966.  Instead his brother Roy Disney saw to its completion.

Magic Kingdom was the first park planned by Walt, it was meant to be a Disneyland for the East, but not meant to be an exact copy. Which is why it had a different layout and unique attractions compared to its Californian Counterpart.

One of the main differences was the castle. In Disneyland the castle is officially called “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” as a reference to Aurora from the 1959 animated classic “Sleeping Beauty”. But in Disney World they made it “Cinderella’ Castle” after the 1950 Disney Classic “Cinderella”, who also happened to be Walt Disney’s Favorite Princess.

When the park opened it included classic attractions such as: Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, The Mad Tea Party, Small World, Jungle Cruise, Dumbo, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Now replaced with Ariel’s Grotto), Snow White’s SCARY Adventures (Now replaced with a Meet & Greet and many more.

Pirates of the Caribbean was not there however as they originally wanted it to be a Disneyland Exclusive ride, but due to the demand a heavily rushed and watered down version was added in 1973, and many people to this day claim that the Original is Disneyland is superior.

(Editor’s note.  The Disneyland version is superior)

When the park first opened there was a lot of excitement. A Disney Park was opening on the East side of the country. 

A few complained about the size not being quite as large as Disneyland at the time, but they knew that in the future more attractions would be added.

When Walt Disney bought the property in Florida he knew to buy LOTS of land. That way all the local businesses wouldn’t bother or get in the way of expansion like how it is in California.

So whenever a new concept for a new ride or expansion would be approved they didn’t necessarily need to tear down an old ride or demolish a parking lot.

Over the years the park would grow to add more classic rides such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but also a strange set of Mickey Mouse themed areas that were constantly renamed or rebranded.

Opening in 1988 as Mickey’s Birthdayland, and later becoming Mickey’s Starland in 1990, then Mickey’s Toyland in 1995 the character area was closed in 1996. It was then that it was refurbished and reopened as Mickey’s ToonTown Fair to resemble the ToonTown in California.

That too was changed in 2012 when it was refurbished again and renamed to Mickey’s Storybook Circus to go along with the New Fantasyland initiative. 

What a bizarre history of renaming and re-theming.

We have more to tell you about Disney World’s History, but that will have to wait till Part 2….

Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.

Mr. Milo
Independent Film Writer, Independent Film Maker and Film Historian. Hardcore Disney Admirer and Greatly Respects the Legacy of Walt Disney, George Lucas, J. R. Tolkien and many others. Has written a number of articles for smaller websites and is currently in the process of launching my own production company. I have a great Passion for storytelling and believes that with a paper and pencil you can many any work of art, no matter where you come from, be it in the written word or in drawing.