This Week in Disney History: September 27 - October 3, 2020

There’s always a great, big, beautiful tomorrow at The Walt Disney Company, because every day is tied to a milestone in the heritage and rich history of a company that has been entertaining millions of people every year. Published every week, this interesting series features highlights from all the divisions of The Walt Disney Company. Let's see what happened this week:

October 1, 1971 - Walt Disney World Resort officially opens
As well received as Disneyland Park was, Walt Disney had not planned for the encroachment of the real world upon his original Magic Kingdom, and the berm that surrounded the park didn't always hide nearby Interstate 5 or the growing number of hotels just across Harbor Boulevard. In addition, only a small percentage of the park's guests visited from east of the Mississippi River, leaving a broad market waiting to be tapped into. Walt flew over a site southwest of Orlando for the first time in November 1963, noting the freeways under construction and nearby McCoy Air Force Base as a hub for air travel, and knew it was the perfect location for his second park.

Longing for control of the entire environment surrounding this venture, Disney began secretly purchasing thousands of acres under false company names like the Ayefour ("I-4") Corporation. On October 20, 1965, the true identity of these false companies was leaked to the Orlando Sentinel; on November 15, Walt Disney held a press conference at the Cherry Plaza Hotel in Orlando, announcing the Disney World project. It would encompass a Disneyland-style theme park and an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, along with two resort hotels and a campground. With 27,400 acres to build upon, the site would be big enough for any idea Walt and his Imagineers could ever dream up.

Of course, Walt didn't live to see this dream realized, passing away in 1966. His older brother Roy, who largely handled the financial side of the company's affairs, postponed his retirement to assume the role of chairman and oversee construction of the massive project, which ultimately saw "EPCOT" deferred until 1982. Conscious of Disneyland Park's nightmarish "Black Sunday" opening in mid-summer, the off-season opening date of Friday, October 1, 1971 was deliberate. William Windsor, Jr. and his family slept in their car overnight to be the first of approximately 10,000 guests admitted that day to the Magic Kingdom, with its centerpiece 189-foot Cinderella Castle. Also opening that day were Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Polynesian Village Resort (nee Polynesian Village), built in partnership with U.S. Steel and connected to the Magic Kingdom via monorail, along with Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground.

Also this week in Disney history:

September 27    
1947  -  Walt Disney Pictures releases Fun and Fancy Free
1998  -  SuperStar Television closes at the Disney-MGM Studios 
2008  -  The first runDisney Expedition Everest Challenge is held at Disney's Animal Kingdom
2008  -  The Adventurers Club officially closes in Downtown Disney; private performances continued into 2009 
September 28    
1997  -  "The Wonderful World of Disney" premieres on ABC
2001  -  The expanded Emporium opens at the Magic Kingdom Park, putting the entire west side of Main Street, U.S.A. under one roof
2009  -  The Disney Parks Blog debuts 
September 29    
1994  -  Innoventions officially opens at Epcot
2000  -  Walt Disney Pictures releases "Remember the Titans"
2009  -  Disney announces the "Give a Day, Get A Disney Day." volunteer program
September 30    
1983  -  The American Egg House restaurant is open for the last day at Disneyland Park 
1999  -  Millennium Village opens at Epcot
1999  -  Tangierine Café, a quick-service restaurant in Morocco at Epcot, opens.
2001  -  "Alias" debuts on ABC
2003  -  Mickey's PhilharMagic soft-opens at Magic Kingdom Park
2005  -  Michael Eisner officially retires from The Walt Disney Company
2006  -  The Happiest Celebration on Earth (commemorating Disneyland Park's 50th anniversary) ends
October 1    
1971  -  The Walt Disney World Resort officially opens, including Magic Kingdom Park, Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Polynesian Resort and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground 
1982  -  EPCOT Center officially opens
1988  -  Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort officially opens
1991  -  SpectroMagic debuts at Magic Kingdom Park
1992  -  Critter Country, including Splash Mountain and the Beaver Bros. Canoes, opens at Tokyo Disneyland Park
1993  -  Walt Disney Pictures releases Cool Runnings
1994  -  Euro Disneyland Paris becomes Disneyland Paris
1996  -  Disney's BoardWalk officially opens   
1998  -  Fantasmic! debuts at the Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios)
1999  -  The Millennium Celebration officially begins at the Walt Disney World Resort
1999  -  The "Leave a Legacy" program begins in the entrance plaza at Epcot
2000  -  Conservation Station becomes Rafiki's Planet Watch at Disney's Animal Kingdom
2005  -  Robert Iger becomes Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company
2009  -  The Walt Disney Family Museum opens in San Francisco, CA 
October 2
1971  -  Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat opens at Magic Kingdom Park
1983  -  Epcot leaders host groundbreaking ceremonies for The Living Seas and Morocco
1992  -  Walt Disney Pictures releases The Mighty Ducks
1992  -  Splash Mountain officially opens at Magic Kingdom Park 
1996  -  World of Disney opens at the Downtown Disney Marketplace in Walt Disney World
1999  -  The first Disney's FASTPASS is offered at Disneyland Paris on Indiana Jones et le Tempil de Peril
2011  -  The inaugural Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon takes place at the Walt Disney World Resort
October 3
1955  -  "Mickey Mouse Club" debuts on ABC
2002  -  Le Bat en Rouge opens at Disneyland Park 
2004  -  "Desperate Housewives" debuts on ABC
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