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How the "Disney World" project was described to Florida legislators back in February of 1967

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How the "Disney World" project was described to Florida legislators back in February of 1967

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If you've visited Walt Disney World recently, I bet that you got to see some of the fun 40th anniversary items that the Resort's shops currently have in stock. And as we get closer to October 1st (i.e. WDW's official opening date), I'd imagine that we'll see even more 40th anniversary merchandise popping up on store shelves.

But if I had my druthers ... Well, the Disney World souvenir that I'd dearly love to own wouldn't be some t-shirt or pin emblazoned with that 40th anniversary logo. But rather, what I'd like to have is a recording of that invitation-only presentation which Walt Disney Productions officials gave to members of the Florida legislature 44 years ago this week. Where Company officials - for the first time ever in a public forum - went into great detail about their ambitious plans for the Florida Project.

What must it have been like to attend that session and then hear people like Roy O. Disney talk about Walt's dreams for EPCOT? Well, luckily for you, I have a copy of the press release that Walt Disney Productions issued on February 2, 1967. It goes into great detail about what happened that afternoon inside of the Park East Theatre in Winter Park.

Florida legislators enter the Park East Theatre to attend Walt Disney Productions'
presentation about the "Disney World" project

It reads as follows:


At a meeting attended by legislative, civic and industrial leaders representing all of Florida, Walt Disney Productions today announced plans for a whole new "Disney World" to be constructed on a 43-square mile parcel of land sixteen miles southwest of Orlando, Florida.

Basic elements for the proposed development include a new amusement theme park similar to the world-famous Disneyland in California; a series of theme motels surrounding and compatible to the theme park development; outdoor sports centers for golf, tennis, boating, camping, and other recreational activities which will take advantage of and preserve the natural beauty of the area; an Industrial Park covering about 1000 acres, planned as "showplace to the world of American industry"; a Jet Airport of the Future offering service to private and executive planes, commercial charters and freight carriers; an Entrance Complex to receive and service the millions of visitors expected annually; and an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, planned for 20,000 permanent residents.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The land development is expected to cost at least $600 million. Land clearance, drainage and other construction activities will commence on the 27,400-acre Disney property as soon as the corporation'ss legislative proposals are passed by the Florida State Legislature.

The invitational presentation, which began at 2 p.m. in the Park East Theatre, Winter Park, Florida was held under the auspices of the Orange and Osceola County delegations to the Florida State Legislature.

The meeting was opened by Mr. Paul Helliwell, senior partner in the firm of Helliwell, Melrose and De Wolf, Florida counsel for the Disney organization. After introducing the Disney executives and special guests, Helliwell turned the meeting over to General William E. Potter, Disney's vice president in charge of administration-Florida project.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Potter, who described the meeting as "one of great significance to central Florida and to vacation-minded families throughout the world," introduced a 25-minute color motion picture, the last film to be completed by Walt Disney.

In the film, Disney presented details of the many attractions planned for Disney World, but gave special emphasis to his hopes and dreams for "EPCOT," the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which will be a central attraction in the proposed new, total environment.

Designed to serve an initial population of 20,000, EPCOT will be a living showcase for the creativity of American industry. In its endless task of depicting urban life 25 years into the future, EPCOT will be completed but will always be introducing, testing and demonstrating new ideas and new technologies.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Our Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow will always be in a state of becoming," said Disney in the film. "It will never cease to be a blueprint of the future, where people actually live a life they can't find anywhere else today."

Thus, the goal of this balanced working community will be to establish new standards of design, never borrowing from patented modes of living.

"I don't believe there's a challenge anywhere in the world that's more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities," continued Disney. "But where do we begin? Well, we're convinced that we must start with the public need. And the need is not just curing the old ills of old cities. We think the need is for starting from scratch on virgin land like this, and building a community that will be a prototype of the future."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Concluding his film presentation Walt Disney said, "With the technical know-how of American industry and the creative imagination of the Disney organization, I'm confident we can build a living showcase that more people will talk about and come to look at than any other area in the world."

Following the motion picture presentation, General Potter introduced Roy O. Disney, President and Chairman of the Board of Walt Disney Productions.

Roy O. Disney emphasized that although the film dwelt upon the city of EPCOT, the new amusement theme park and its surrounding motels, will also be a highlight of the development.

Roy O. Disney and Mickey Mouse at the grand opening of WDW's Magic Kingdom
in October of 1971.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Our theme park will be similar in many ways to Disneyland in California, and will build upon the experience we had there as hosts to more than 60 million people," said the corporation's President.

"Of course, a project of this size and scope will take several years to bring to completion," said Disney. "In fact, we are currently planning its construction in phases."

"However, our corporation is dedicated to making Walt Disney's dream a reality, but it cannot be done without the help of you people here in Florida," continued Mr. Disney.

Disney officials observe WDW's still-under-construction Magic Kingdom in the
Spring of 1971.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We must have a solid legal foundation before we proceed with Disney World. This foundation can be assured by the legislative proposals we are presenting at the next session of the Florida legislature," he concluded. "If these requests are granted, I believe that we can make the new theme park a reality by 1971."

Disney then introduced Mr. Donn B. Tatum, vice president and administrative assistant to the President of Walt Disney Productions, who gave specific details regarding these legislative proposals.

Tatum then introduced Florida's Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr., who offered his wholehearted support to this new project, and then detailed the economic growth Disney World will bring to Florida.

Claude Kirk (center) with (L to R) Card Walker, Hayden Burns,
Reuben Asken and Bob Graham at the 1979 ground-
breaking ceremony for EPCOT Center. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"During its initial construction phase and first ten years of operation, Disney World will directly generate $6.6 billion in measurable economic benefit for the State of Florida as a whole," said Kirk, summarizing an independent study of the project conducted by the firm of Economic Research Associates.

"Of this $6.6 billion estimate, $3.978 billion will result in expenditures by new tourists attracted to the state by Disney World. Another $2.261 billion of this total represents payrolls of new jobs created, and approximately $414 million represents monies to be spent for construction materials and equipment," said Governor Kirk during his presentation.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Following a brief question and answer period, Governor Kirk and Roy Disney flew to Jacksonville to tape a half-hour televised report to the people of Florida, scheduled for statewide broadcast in color from 7 - 7:30 p.m. that evening. The program was scheduled to feature Walt Disney's Florida Film, which had been shown publicly for the first time during the invitational presentation in Winter Park.

Okay, I know. It's not realistic to expect that a recording of what was said & shown in the Park East Theatre 44 years ago that week will ever turn up. But that said ... According to the paragraph above, there was a half-hour TV special shown to the people of Florida on the night of February 2, 1967. During which Roy O. Disney and Florida Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. then went into some detail about what "Project Florida" would entail as well as showing Walt's EPCOT film.

Wouldn't it stand to reason - either in Disney's own archives and/or buried away in the tape vault of a Jacksonville TV station - that there would be a recording of this half-hour televised report? And if so ... Well, wouldn't it be fascinating to watch that show now and then compare the "Disney World" that was described back in 1967 (back when the Company was pressuring the Florida legislature big-time so that they'd then grant the Mouse considerable concessions when it came to the governance & zoning of this 27,400-acre parcel) and the Walt Disney World Resort that we eventually wound up with?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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  • The Imagineering the Magic: Magic Kingdom DVD sold at Walt Disney World has a brief clip of the Park East Theatre presentation.

  • How can this be a picture from the ground-

    breaking ceremony for EPCOT Center if they already building spaceship earth in the background? isnĀ“t "ground-breaking" the official start of a construction?

  • Master Elwood --

    Take a closer look at that picture of Card Walker and those past & present Governors of Florida. That Spaceship Earth in the background isn't the real thing. It's something that Disney had built out of 2 by 4s & tin foil to use a backdrop for this photo ops. The crane that's off to the left is actually holding the whole thing up. As soon as this ceremony was completed (and the first ceremonial dump-truck-full-of-earth was emptied), that temporary structure was then lowered to the ground & busted up.

    Still don't believe me? Again, take another look at the photo. Please notice that this version of Spaceship Earth seems to be resting right on the ground (check out that white pick-up truck & those two construction workers on the left on the other side of this structure this structure) and lacks those massive support beams which hold the actual multi-ton show building aloft as it straddles at the entrance of Future World. That's because this isn't the real show building. It's just a temporary structure that Disney created with the hope of creating a compelling photo. Which the wire services would then grab and send to newspapers & magazines around the world, letting people that Disney World's oft-delayed EPCOT project had finally really begun construction.


  • The Florida film is an extra on the Disney Treasures "Tomorrowland" DVD set.

  • The film Walt made also appears to be posted on Google Video: video.google.com/videoplay

  • What TV station in Jacksonville?  I happen to work at a TV station in Jax and have access to our archives.

  • Great Article - The photo is flipped with man wearing the orange overalls and hard hat.

  • Teh footage is not as hidden in the vault as you might think, Jim. As mentioned above, "Walt's Epcot Film" is on the Walt Disney Treasures "Tomorrowland" DVD. There are disappointingly short segments on the "Magic Kingdom: Imagineering The Magic" DVD that feature the 1965 announcement press conference  and the Project Florida press conference (which is listed on the DVD as being held in 1968).

    I'm with you, though - the Disney geek in me wants to see the full footage from these press conferences as well as Walt's Epcot Film as part of a DVD set, maybe with other TV shows that featured the World. I realize that the Walkt Disney Treasures Collection is probably dead and buried as far as WDSHE is concerned, but couldn't they put together one last Treasures DVD devoted to Walt Disney World?

  • A very nice story about how Disneyland was developed, I'll have to read it once more to understand all in detail,

    but there is something very peculiar I want to tell you how strong I feel connected with Walt Disney and his creations! In 1962 my father (H.J.Vreeling s.r) worked as a sculptor to restore the in worldwar II badly damaged Gothic Eusebius Church in Arnhem. (the Netherlands) Then there were plans for 28 gargoyles to surround the tower at 70 meters high, those would be placed between the columns, just above the clocks. My father was an

    enthusiastic addicted reader of Donald Duck magazine (Dutch version).The Architect T.Verlaan and my Father

    were looking for inspiration for those gargoyles and both came to a sublime idea: let's use the nice and attractive characters created by W.Disney! So the job was done and several months later Donald Duck,Mickey Mouse,

    Snowwhite and the 7 dwarfs,Pluto,Goofy,Dagobert Duck and more were installed between the columns of the tower! When the press reported about the innovations, some Christian Associations awoke and protested against

    the appealing artwork, particularly the Rev.G.C.Foeken was furious and said "A sculptor who lets himself be

    inspired by the pityfull figure of Donald Duck is to be pitied himself ". Which is I think a rather stupid insult for

    the work of Walt Disney and my father, Henk Vreeling! A few weeks later the Rev. Foeken saw a face between the dwarfs of Snowwhite that looked very like himself! This very funny story was publiced in many newspapers in Holland and also in magazines like Paris-Match and Time (on july 27, 1962)! If you like to see the sculptured Walt

    Disney characters, so well "translated" in stone ( for "eternity") I am pleased to send you photo's of them!

    Very truly yours,

    Henny  Vreeling........*

  • Corporate Video and Film was launched in 1979 with one goal in mind, <a href="http://CvfStudios.com">film production orange county</a>to provide Southern California with exceptional high quality video production to help companies creatively tell their story through the power of video.

  • I worked as a crane operator for Disney during construction of the Magic Kingdom are there any construction Photos

    available? I seem to remember Look doing photo work while I was there.

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