The anniversary of the Kennedy assassination has captured America’s attention today, as it has the last several weeks. What is somewhat lost to history is that today is also the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney’s decision to build a new theme park in Central Florida. As one Disney history site tells it:
Walt and his entourage of top executives are at the end of a tour of the eastern United States in search of an ideal location for a new theme park. The aerial view confirms Walt’s doubts about building a theme park by the ocean. They fly inland over Orlando, circling the forests and swamps for the very first time. From the air they see the good road network below (which includes Interstate 4, Florida’s Turnpike and McCoy Air Force Base – soon to be Orlando International Airport). Walt has a good feeling about this site. This is followed with a stop in New Orleans to refuel for the trip back to Burbank, California.
And from the Disney Parks Blog:
“Well, that’s the place – Florida,” Walt Disney reportedly decided on a flight from New Orleans to Burbank, Calif. on November 22, 1963 – 50 years ago today. Walt and a group of company executives had just toured east coast sites in an effort to find the best location for a “Disneyland East.” But those words confirmed Walt’s choice for his “whole new Disney World.”
At the refueling stop, Walt and his party learned of Kennedy’s assassination, and the flight back to California became a somber one. Disney closed Disneyland the next day in memory of the slain president.
Within months of Walt’s decision, the company began acquiring the land for what would become Walt Disney World. And the rest is entertainment history.