The world became a happier place when the Disney World opened. Full of dreams and ambitions, Walt and Roy Disney lit up our lives with imaginary characters, magic and fantasy. Their creative spirit and long range plans for entertainment and amusement has delighted millions around the world for decades. Today in history, marks the anniversary of the Disney dedication that became a reality with the grand opening of The Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom in central Florida.
After founding Disney Brothers Studios in Burbank,California during the 1920s, Walt and Roy embarked on an adventure that continued to grow. Walt was the creative genius, the idea master and dreamer. Roy shied away from the spotlight, but quickly became Walt’s right hand man with his financial wizardry. Even through Walt bought out Roy’s shares in the company, he relied on his brother’s expertise enough to keep him as ongoing CEO. Their company expanded and moved on to bigger and better locations and possibilities. Their success was a sure thing with the release of the full feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, and by 1940, the studio was well recognized and thriving.
Imagination became a reality with the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California in the summer of 1955. Tinkerbell and Cinderella were the usual mascots along with Mickey Mouse and Pluto. Walt was always the publicist, but Roy never faded in the shadows. The two brothers made a great team and accomplished way beyond the usual expectations in reputation and business. They never stopped as dreams took place and were fulfilled.
In the late 1960s, Walt Disney had a huge dream for expansion of the company in central Florida. He bought land, developed strategies and invited visitors to embark on the journey of the future dreamland. Disney World was created and the dream was on its way. Sadly, Walt died of lung cancer unexpectedly at age 65, with his work unfinished and still on the drawing board. True to form, his brother Roy took up the slack and continued the project until completion.
Orlando, Florida was chosen as the perfect tourist destination, easily accessed by automobile and air. Disney World and the Magic Kingdom would soon become a dream come true for the Disney brothers and millions of visitors. The enchanted castle of Cinderella and her prince would be the centerpiece of all the themed areas of the park. The possibilities were endless, but seemed hopeless for a time with Walt’s absence. Roy endeavored to work hard for the next five years and honored his brother’s dream while the company expanded. He oversaw it all to fruition and reality.
With Roy’s mastermind of details, he continued his brothers dreams and opened the new park in the fall of 1971. The Walt Disney World officially opened on October 1, 1971, but since Roy was ailing, his dedication speech was not made until October 25. Eight years Walt’s senior, Roy had emerged out of retirement to complete the project. After five years of dedicated work and $400 million dollars later, the new park was opened free of debt and full of hopes and dreams. A 1,076 piece marching band welcomed visitors to the Magic Kingdom, back in the day, and currently the band on Main St. USA plays a tribute to the Disney brothers with their A Dream Come True parade nightly.
Roy passed away from a stroke two months after the grand opening. He had served his brother well and was satisfied in life. The contributions of the Disney Brothers will live on forever in the hearts of those that remember and still imagine. Even after all these years, with the addition of EPCOT and new events hosted daily, the intrigue and happiness is a dedication to fantasy, dreams and perseverance.
Written by: Roanne H. FitzGibbon