Since visitors first graced Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, it has left an indelible mark on the American psyche. However, the success of the resort — which opened in 1971 – is not surprising. It made an impact because it prioritized the visitor’s experience, and it combined that with a touch of magic. Whether you live and breathe Disney culture, or are just starting to learn about it, this park is an intriguing place. Here are 71 interesting facts about Walt Disney World Resort that might surprise you:
1. Contrary to popular belief, most of Disney World Resort lies in Bay Lake city, rather than Orlando. Orlando is just a bigger, more well known neighboring city. Bay Lake city is a good place to visit and well worth exploring.
2. All Disney World structures are under 200 feet tall. The Expedition Everest in the Animal Kingdom, and The Terror Tower in the Hollywood Studios, are both 199 feet tall. The reason for this is that buildings higher than 200 feet are legally obliged to display aviation lights. Needless to say, this would destroy some of the resort’s atmosphere.
3. To reduce litter, Disney World resort is designed so that nobody has to walk more than thirty steps to find a rubbish bin. Consequently, it ranks among America’s cleanest amusement parks.
4. Since its initial opening, Disney World has closed on four occasions. In 1999, the resort shut due to Hurricane Floyd. Then, the 2001 New York terrorist attacks and 2002 power outage closed the resort on two subsequent occasions. When the resort shut in 2001, it took under half an hour to evacuate everyone from the premises. In 2020, Disney World closed for a fourth time after the coronavirus pandemic started.
5. On the first day that Disney World Resort opened, more than 10,000 visitors turned up. Back then, the price of a ticket was just $3.50. Today, tickets can cost about thirty times that price, depending on which park you visit. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the resort had roughly 50,000 visitors each day.
6. Disney World Resort has tunnels, known as ‘Utilidors’, spanning nine acres located fourteen feet below ground that service the Magic Kingdom. These tunnels contain break rooms for cast members, costume departments and rubbish chutes, etc. Also, they allow cast members to reach different areas of the park without being seen.
7. The Hollywood Studios at Disney World were real movie studios, when they opened in 1989. Well known films and shows were shot there until the early noughties, when the facilities closed down. These studios produced movies like Lilo and Stitch, Mulan and Brother Bear.
8. To fully appreciate the amount of ground covered by Disney World Resort, it is worth noting that it has 4000 acres of landscapes and gardens. Football stadiums cover less than 1.5 acres. Therefore, Disney World has the equivalent of over 3000 football stadiums of landscapes and gardens.
9. A lot of work went into creating the Animal Kingdom in Disney World, which spans 500 acres. A seven strong team of ‘Imagineers’ (i.e. designers/builders), directed by Joe Rohde — the Creative Portfolio Executive — searched the planet to capture the look of wildlife authentically. In total, they traveled over half a million miles, which is the same distance as circling the planet twenty times.
10. The first ride to be added to Disney World’s Adventureland in two decades was The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Adventureland has many legendary attractions, such as The Enchanted Tiki Room, the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. However, overall, this part of the resort had experienced few changes between 1973 and 2001, before the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride was added.
11. It is believed that the amount of money Disney World spends on fireworks exceeds that of any other private business. Only the American military spends a comparable amount. Although Disney doesn’t reveal precise figures, experts think that the amusement park spends about $50 million on firework displays each year.
12. Although The Beatles were nearing the end in 1970, after the release of Let It Be, they officially called it a day at Disney World in 1974. John Lennon received the paperwork that legally disbanded the Beatles during the Christmas holidays, while he was staying at the Polynesian Village Resort.
13. In 1970, Lake Buena Vista STOLport, or Lake Buena Vista Airport, was built at Disney World to function as a transport hub for staff and guests. The aim was to offer direct flights to Disney World, so that people didn’t have to fly into Orlando Airport. Nonetheless, the airfield didn’t last long and only operated for a couple of years before closing.
14. President Richard Nixon made his notorious “I am not a crook” speech on Disney World premises, at the Contemporary Resort. In November 1973, the conference where this speech was made was hosted in one of the resort’s conference rooms.
15. Some rooms at Disney World have wildlife views. The Animal Kingdom Lodge has a forty-six acre savanna, where over 200 birds and mammals live. These include giraffe, marabou stork and zebra. The natural world is literally right on your doorstep.
16. The Disney Harvest scheme makes food waste donations to Central Florida’s Second Harvest Food Bank. This helps to combat hunger in this area. In addition, Disney donates more than 9000 kilos of fresh food to this food bank each year.
17. Disney World has an incredible theme park called the ‘Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow’ (EPCOT). This consists of a couple of sections, namely the World Showcase and Future World, and the centerpiece of this park is Spaceship Earth. Visitors experience everything through Imagination, Energy, Innoventions, and Land, Sea and Space.
18. The Spaceship Earth at EPCOT is designed to prevent water pouring off it when it rains. Rain water passes through a space in the sixteen million ton ball, and this is directed into the World Showcase Lagoon. Truly a miracle of recycling.
19. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World has six trains with memorable names. They are called I.M. Brave, I.B. Hearty, U.B. Bold, I.M. Fearless, U.R. Courageous and U.R. Daring.
20. Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World has an opulent exterior, however looks can be deceiving. Inside the castle, there is just a Cinderella’s Table, boutique and restaurant. Also, there is a hotel room that is almost impossible to book. Originally, this room was meant to be Walt Disney’s personal quarters.
21. The EPCOT Land Pavilion grows more than thirty tons of fruit and vegetables each year. This produce is served in all of Disney World’s restaurants, such as the Garden Grill.
22. Every World Showcase pavilion at Disney World features history, details, architecture and culture specific to the countries it pays homage to. Visitors can appreciate the Canadian Pavilion’s Victoria Gardens, marvel at the Moroccan Pavilion’s artwork, and wander Parisian streets in the French Pavilion.
23. It is common knowledge that Walt Disney passed away half a decade before the opening of Disney World. However, less people are aware that his older brother, Roy Disney – who supervised the park’s construction — passed away a few months after its opening.
24. At Disney World, you can purchase almost anything imaginable with a Mickey Mouse design. However, the one thing that is not for sale is the precise color of his trousers. This information is classified and will not be revealed to the public.
25. The monorail trains at Disney World have traveled the equivalent of thirty return journeys to the moon since 1971. In 1990, twelve new vehicles were introduced along the fourteen mile beamway, to replace the previous fleet.
26. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Disney World cast members washed over 129,000 kilos of laundry on an average day. Therefore, if you washed a single laundry load each day for fifty-two years, you would wash the same amount that cast members wash in one day. In addition, up to 32,000 items of clothing were dry cleaned each day.
27. The Magic Kingdom at Disney World used to have a Seventh Land, known as Mickey’s Toontown Fair. However, when the resort expanded in 2012, this was incorporated into New Fantasyland.
28. Aerosmith were not the first choice for the Rock ‘n’ Rolla Coaster at Disney World. Originally, the company wanted the ride’s music to be played by The Rolling Stones. However, the band’s fee was too high. The gig was turned by down other bands as well, such as U2.
29. Liberty Square in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has no bathrooms. This is done to make that area of the resort authentic to its time period.
30. On a daily basis at 17:00, an army veteran performs a flag lowering ceremony on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom.
31. The Contemporary Resort and Polynesian Village both opened at the same time as Disney World, in 1971. Back then, the plan was to open a resort subsequently with an Asian theme. However, the Grand Floridian ended up being built on this site, and this opened in June 1988.
32. While walking down the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, you might notice the aroma of a bakery. This is not real food though. Instead, Smellitzer machines have been concealed in vents across the park to emit pleasant scents.
33. EPCOT has a firework display each night, featuring over 2000 fireworks with light, torch and laser effects. Each display costs $25,000.
34. The Magic Kingdom’s train station contains items left by famous ‘visitors’, including Disney film characters like Mary Poppins.
35. The car park at the Magic Kingdom can hold over 12,000 vehicles. This area covers 125 acres and exceeds the size of the theme park.
36. At Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, no straws or lids are provided with Coke drinks. This is done to protect the animals, so try to avoid spilling your beverage.
37. When visiting the Magic Kingdom, many people have their photo taken on the Disney World Railroad. The trains that run on this railroad are powered by steam and fully operational. They served 1.5 million passengers every year before the coronavirus pandemic. There are four trains in use that were constructed from 1916 to 1928.
38. The Costume Department at Disney World has more than 1.2 million garments, making it the world’s biggest wardrobe department. All Cast Members have three costumes.
39. Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom has a brown meandering path, to depict sewage flowing down Colonial American streets. In those days, indoor plumbing did not exist.
40. All Disney World parks have lightning rods scattered across them. Look closely and you might notice one. The Hollywood Studios’ Crossroads replica is the most visible one. The right ear of Mickey serves this purpose, because it is built from copper.
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