About 38 years ago, on October 1st, 1971, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Orlando first opened its gates to the public. At the time, the resort featured only the one theme park and two hotels, The Polynesian Village Resort and the Contemporary resort.
Roy O. Disney dedicated the property and declared that it would be known as “Walt Disney World” in his brother’s honor. In his own words:
“Everyone has heard of Ford cars. But have they all heard of Henry Ford, who started it all? Walt Disney World is in memory of the man who started it all, so people will know his name as long as Walt Disney World is here.”
After the dedication, Roy Disney asked Walt’s widow, Lillian, what she thought of Walt Disney World. According to biographer Bob Thomas, she responded, “I think Walt would have approved.”
Roy O. Disney died on December 20, 1971, barely three months after the property opened.
Disney subsequently opened EPCOT Center in 1982, a theme park adapted from Walt Disney’s vision for a “community of tomorrow”. The park permanently adopted the name Epcot in 1996. In 1989, the resort added Disney-MGM Studios, a theme park inspired by show business, whose name was changed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2008. The resort’s fourth theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, opened in 1998.
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“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place… a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together. Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971.” ~ Roy O. Disney