Something about WDW makes you want to learn everything there is to know about it. And there is plenty to know. Here are some interesting, yet little known Disney World facts.
Its a Big World After All
Walt Disney World is huge. It covers 43 square miles. To put that into perspective, its about the size of the City of San Francisco. Or for those on the East Coast, its about the size of Manhattan – times two.
Walt wanted all that land so that he would have plenty of room to expand and not be hemmed in like he was in California. In fact all of Disneyland can fit in the Magic Kingdom parking lot!
There are over 60,000 employees at Disney World, making it the largest single site employer in the USA.
The 4 theme parks at Disney World draw over 50 million in attendance each year. They take up 4 of the 5 spots for the most visited parks in America. (Disneyland is #2).
All those guests take up over 30,000 hotel rooms – and that’s just the ones on Disney property.
Surely you’ve driven on a bridge to cross a body of water. But have you ever sailed a boat over a water bridge to cross a roadway?
A water bridge is just that, a bridge that allows water to flow over a barrier. They are generally used for waterways or canals to cross over low areas.
Water bridges are rare. But Disney World is home to three of them.
The most visible one connects the Seven Seas Lagoon to Bay Lake. If you want to check it out, take the ferry boat from Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness. As you cross the water bridge, watch as cars pass below your boat.
Disney World almost never closes. Since its debut in 1971, Disney World has been open over 16,000 days, and has only closed 6 times.
Four of the closings were for hurricanes: Floyd in 1999, Frances in 2004, Jeanne again in 2004 then Matthew in 2016. The park was closed a fifth time for a power outage in 2002.
The sixth time it closed was on Sept 11, 2001. The parks were completely evacuated in under 30 minutes.
After the September 11th attacks, a no fly zone was instituted over Disney World. It extends out in a 3 mile radius from Cinderella Castle.
The original plans for Epcot placed the American Pavilion at the front of World Showcase, not the rear where it sits today. It was moved so nothing would block the view of the lagoon when guests first enter. That’s why Mexico and Canada are the first two Pavilions, sitting on either side of where America was supposed to be.
Captain EO was produced by George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It returned to Epcot in 2010.
The Epcot Ball is made up of 11,324 triangles, which is coincidentally similar to the 11,391 parking spaces in the Epcot parking lot.
There are over half a million photos etched on the Leave a Legacy displays at the front of the park. If you’re really bored, you can search them for celebrities such as Neil Patrick Harris, N’Sync and characters like Tinkerbell and Figment.
Original Purpose of EPCOT
Walt Disney had a saying: ‘keep moving forward’. He started out making cartoon shorts that would show before movies. He wanted to do more, so he made the first full length cartoon movie, Snow White. While many wanted him to just keep making sequels, he pushed onward with new formats like Fantasia and then live action movies.
With a vast media empire assembled, no one could understand why he would take such a risk and get into the amusement park business. But he had a vision and that’s what Disneyland became. When Disney World was planned, he wasn’t content to simply replicate his amusement park success, he wanted to keep moving forward.
Walt’s concept for EPCOT went well beyond an amusement park. He wanted to redesign the way people lived, worked and commuted. EPCOT stands for Experiential Prototype City of Tomorrow. And that’s what Walt wanted it to be, a new type of city, designed from the ground up to be something special, like everything else Walt did.
Unfortunately, with Walt’s death, the vision for EPCOT died too. It was scaled back into a park that shared the vision for a better tomorrow, but not a new city in and of itself.
Part of the original model for EPCOT can be seen on the PeopleMover in Tomorrowland
In the 1990’s Walt’s vision was resuscitated, albeit to a much lower scale. The Disney company founded
Celebration Florida, a master planned community designed by famous architects, featuring a small town feel blended with cutting edge technology.
Its easy to find, just follow World Drive, one of the main streets in Disney Word, south for a few miles. You’re welcome to visit, shop and walk around. Celebration is home to over 7,000 people and several hundred businesses.
More Disney World Facts
Gum isn’t sold anywhere on Disney World property. This saves Disney employees countless hours scraping it off of pathways, railings and tables.
In any of the parks, you should only be about 30 steps from a trashcan. Legend has it that Walt sat in Disneyland and counted how far guests would walk before tossing their trash on the ground, and 30 steps seemed to be the limit.
The original name was going to be Disneyworld, following after Disneyland. But after Walt died, his brother Roy decided it needed to be named after his brother. Its been Walt Disney World ever since.
Seven Seas Lagoon
In the heart of Disney World lies the Seven Seas Lagoon. Its the large body of water the monorail circles and the ferryboat crosses. Magic Kingdom, the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary and the Polynesian all call it home. It is placid and iconic, but did you know it is man made?
The fact is that land was too swampy to be developed. So Disney opted to dig it out and turn it into a recreational area. Original plans called for swimming areas and a giant wave machine to simulate real ocean waves. Surfing was encouraged on it.
However the waves from the machine caused too much erosion on the beaches and made it more difficult for boats to navigate the water. And swimming was discontinued for liability reasons.
Today guests can rent boats and take guided fishing tours on the Seven Seas Lagoon. That wave machine turned into a nice reef for fishing.
The Seven Seas Lagoon is essentially a pretty big hole, so what did they do with all that dirt? You’re standing on it when you’re in Magic Kingdom. The soil was used to cover the giant Utilidor structure that most of Magic Kingdom sits on top of.
The Disney Company wanted to build on the other side of the country. Only 2% of Disneyland’s visitors came from east of the Mississippi.
Some thought was given towards a location in the north, such as Niagra Falls. But when it was determined Disney World had to be open year round to make money, the search shifted south.
St.Louis was considered, but since plans for Magic Kingdom called for no alcohol sales, there was a cultural riff with the city of Budweiser Beer.
They had started plans for a location near New Orleans, however the greedy demands of the local politicians made Disney look elsewhere.
Next, Walt turned to Florida, where the weather was warm and people were used to vacationing. They were looking for a location off the coast to avoid the brunt of hurricanes and competition from the beaches.
Near where I-4 crossed the Florida Turnpike, there was a lot of vacant, nearly worthless swampland. Additionally, there was a large airport in nearby Orlando. It was an easy location to get to, with plenty of cheap land, so the decision was made. That is where Disney World would be.
To avoid price gouging, The Disney Company successfully bought up lots under front companies. One of the companies was cleverly named M.T. Lott Real Estate Investments, which can today be found on one of the windows of the offices above Main Street in Magic Kingdom.
All 43 square miles were purchased for just $5 million dollars.
For an in depth look at the creation of Disney World, check out the very detailed Project Future.