40 fun facts for Disney World's 40th anniversary
Published: 11:52 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011
It's been 40 years since Disney World opened and turned Orlando into one of the world's most visited destinations. Sure, the long lines are a punch line. And all Disney magic comes with a price tag. But all 17.2 million people who pass annually through the Magic Kingdom can't be wrong.
So we tip our mouse ears to Disney with one fact for each year of its existence.
1. Walt Disney bought the 43 square miles of Central Florida swampland for Disney World for $5 million, or about $185 an acre.
2. Walt Disney died of complications of lung cancer on Dec. 15, 1966, before the first shovel of dirt was moved on construction of Disney World.
3. 10,000. That was the number of people in attendance for Disney World's soft opening on Oct. 1, 1971. But the grand opening later that month — which included performances by Julie Andrews, Bob Hope and Glen Campbell — was televised nationally. Today, the Magic Kingdom alone averages about 47,000 visitors a day.
4. Disney World has closed three times, all in anticipation of hurricanes: Sept. 15, 1999, for Floyd; Sept. 4-5, 2004, for Frances; and Sept. 26 of that same year for Jeanne.
5. It took less than 30 minutes to evacuate thousands of guests from the theme parks on Sept. 11, 2001.
6. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration put a flight restriction over the Disney World resort. It extends out in a three-mile radius from Cinderella's Castle and up to 3,000 feet.
7. An estimated 1.65 million pairs of eyeglasses have made their way to Disney World's lost-and-found bins since 1971. Every year, the park finds an average of 6,000 cellphones, 3,500 digital cameras and 18,000 hats.
8. Wondering about the weirdest things ever found? How about a glass eye, a prosthetic leg and a potty trainer — all of which were claimed.
9. A married couple from Boynton Beach, Fla., Alex and Donna Voutsinas, realized years later that they were coincidentally photographed together at Disney as children.
10. The Walt Disney World resort is about the size of San Francisco, and only about 35 percent of its more than 27,000 acres has been developed.
11. Mickey has more than 290 outfits, from a scuba suit to a lighted tuxedo. Minnie? She has more than 200, from cheerleading attire to evening gowns.
12. Stretched end-to-end, the hats with Mickey ears sold at Disney World would span about 175 miles.
13. Cinderella's Castle is made out of fiberglass, and it stands 189 feet tall.
14. Disney World's biggest theme park, Animal Kingdom, encompasses 403 acres.
15. The latest creatures at the Animal Kingdom are the blue people of "Avatar." A new section, with interactive 3-D rides, is planned to open between 2015 and 2016 at a cost of about $400 million.
16. The Animal Kingdom features more than 3,000 species in its 4 million trees and plants.
17. Inside the upper levels of Cinderella's Castle is an apartment that Walt Disney intended to use when he and his family were in Florida. It was left unfinished when he died, until Disney announced in 2006 that it would be turned into a deluxe suite, which is awarded randomly to a family every day. It comes complete with 24-karat gold tile floors and a "magic mirror" that turns into a television.
18. The Land ride at Epcot isn't just for entertainment. More than 30 tons of fruit and vegetables are grown there every year for Disney restaurants.
19. If you were to stay in a different room every night at the Disney World resorts, to sleep in them all would take you 68 years.
20. More than 500 of the young trees around Disney World properties started out as acorns from the "Liberty Oak," the focal point in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom.
21. Disney World employs more than 62,000 as part of its "cast," making Walt Disney World the largest single-site employer in the United States.
22. What does Epcot mean? Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
23. How did Epcot work out? As envisioned, it would be a working community of about 20,000 people, who would live with futuristic "push-button" technology in their daily lives. But after Walt Disney's death in 1966, brother Roy O. Disney scaled back the social experiment into a world's fair with a vision into "tomorrow."
24. The original idea for Epcot did come to fruition, in a way. Disney built the town of Celebration, which at the 2010 census housed about 7,500 people. The town, which was constructed beginning in 1996, used to be operated by Disney but is now mostly autonomous.
25. It's the late voice actor Jack Wagner you hear telling you to stand clear of the doors on the Disney World monorail. You can also hear his recording aboard the tram at the Orlando International Airport.
26. Disney's infrastructure has more than 270 buses, making it the third-largest bus system in the state, behind Jacksonville and Miami.
27. The newest roller coaster at any of the Disney World parks, Expedition Everest at the Animal Kingdom (aka the Yeti ride) is the tallest of any of the parks' at just a shade under 200 feet. Space Mountain at 180 feet is puny by comparison.
28. Ever notice the water tower wearing the giant Mickey ears at Disney's Hollywood Studios? If you made actual Mickey ears for it, the "Earffel Tower" would wear a size 342¾.
29. There's only one harpist at the Disney World Parks. You can hear him nightly, over dinner at Victoria & Albert's, the restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
30. If you look closely at the mosaic mural on the fourth-floor lobby of Disney's Contemporary Resort, you can see a five-legged goat facing the monorail track.
31. Disney World decorates more than 1,500 Christmas trees at holiday time.
32. There are more than 81 holes of golf on five courses on the property.
33. If you dress up folks in all the shirts sold at Disney World in one year, you'd have enough for every resident of the state of Montana (pop. 974,989.)
34. When Disney World opened, adult admission to the Magic Kingdom cost $3.50. Today it costs $85.
35. In 1976, 50 replicas of the Liberty Bell were made out of the original's cast, and one was donated to each state. Since Philadelphia had the original, it agreed to give its replica to Disney, making Florida the only state with two replica bells. (The other Florida replica is in Melbourne.)
36. Before it became strictly a theme park, Disney's Hollywood Studios (originally called Disney-MGM studios before a legal falling out) was designed to be a working studio.
37. The first film made at Disney's Hollywood Studios was "Ernest Saves Christmas."
38. Television shows were filmed at Disney's Hollywood Studios, too. "The Mickey Mouse Club" featured soon-to-be stars Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling and Christina Aguilera. No shows are filmed there today.
39. Jane Eisner, wife of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, came up with the "I'm going to Disney World!" campaign, Michael Eisner wrote in his 1998 memoir.
40. Disney World flew its flags at half-staff on the day Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died. Jobs was Disney's largest single shareholder (7 percent), and he was on the board of directors.