Monday, April 11, 2016

23 MUST SEE Photos Showing the Preparation of the Walt Disney World Site

By Keith Mahne

When you are given the opportunity to take a step back and see what the Walt Disney World site looked like prior to becoming what it is today, it's easy to see just how much work and imagination went into creating the vacation kingdom of the world. You will have that opportunity today as we present you with 23 breathtaking photos showcasing the preparation of Walt's final dream...

Before preparing the Walt Disney World site, Walt Disney had to get a sense of the land just as he did with Disneyland. In November of 1965, it was time for Walt and the Florida Project team to see the land for themselves...

Walt about to board the plane that would take him to see the land in Florida

Walt's plane that he used to find the site of WDW. It was on this plane that he said, “Well, that’s the place" as he looked from his window over the land.

Walt aboard the plane that would take him to the WDW site

The Project Florida team on their way down to Florida for an early site inspection

This is the same view Walt saw as he flew over the area and decided to build WDW

Walt walks the site with Joe Fowler

Walt visited the site with Joe Fowler, Card Walker, Joe Potter, Roy Disney, Irlo Bronson, lawyer Bob Foster and others.

Walt and Card Walker look over a map with Roy O. Disney in background

Now that Walt approved of the location and after years of planning, it was time to prepare the land...

WDW site as Walt saw it in 1964

Bay Lake, which was choked with swamp muck, was drained and dredged, revealing tons of white sand used to line the four and a half miles of beach along the lake shore in 1968

The pine barrens and swampland that would soon become WDW. Here we see a helicopter view of the canals being created for the property.

Fifty-five miles of canals where created around WDW - 1968

The creation of Walt Disney World was a tremendous task especially with the Walt Disney Company's creative leader gone. The fate of the company, and Walt Disney World for that matter, rested on one man's shoulders, Roy O. Disney. Roy being the financial genius that he was, made Walt's dreams possible his whole life and he certainly wasn't about to stop now. Roy had been planning a much needed retirement and intended to spend this time of his life relaxing away from the office in the company of his friends and family. After Walt had passed and the question to proceed with the Florida Project loomed, Roy demanded that everyone continue to do exactly as they would if Walt were alive, postponed his retirement, and saw to it that WDW become a reality. “We are going to finish this park, and we’re going to do it just the way Walt wanted it,” Roy firmly stated. “Don’t you ever forget it. I want every one of you to do just exactly what you were going to do when Walt was alive.”

Roy O. Disney looking over the site that will soon become WDW - 1968

As Roy O. Disney stood on the swampland soon to become Walt Disney World, all that he could see was black water swamps and dunes of white sand. There were a handful of tethered gas balloons of different colors that also dotted the landscape to indicate the height and location of things to come like Cinderella Castle. Roy knew he was not as charismatic as his younger brother, nor as creative. He surrounded himself with a talented group of men to make Walt’s dream come to life...

Conceptual giants John Hench, George McGinnis, Joe Kramer, and Bob Sewell examine an early model of the Magic Kingdom - 1969

Before the gates opened, Disney had made its mark "literally" on the WDW land - 1970

Marty Sklar walks over an "X" marking the spot where Cinderella Castle will go

The land is starting to take shape along with the Contemporary Resort

Roy O. Disney paused in front of a scaffold-veiled Cinderella Castle with opening day near - 1970

The thing I appreciate most when I see the construction of Walt Disney World is witnessing Walt's dream being carried on out of love. Love from his brother Roy Disney to see his baby brother's dream made into a reality. When you watch the construction footage of the Magic Kingdom below and when you see Roy, remember why he was there. Remember the love he had for his baby brother. Remember how he postponed his life to make sure Walt's final dream came true...

Because of Roy's love for his brother and his perseverance, Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971. At the dedication, Roy was asked by reporters why a grandfather had felt the obligation to tackle this impossible project at this point in his life. Roy smiled, “I didn’t want to have to explain to Walt when I saw him again why the dream didn’t come true." Later, Roy spent time in a boat on the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom and when asked why he wasn’t in the park to handle all the media attention, Roy quietly remarked, “Today is my brother’s day. I want them to remember my brother today." When the television special, The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World aired on NBC on Friday October 29, 1971, Roy sat next to his wife Edna in their Bay Hill house and began weeping.

 Roy was a special man, just as special as Walt, and Roy, wherever you are.....we thank you.

Editor's Note: I'd like to thank Disney historian Jim Korkis, author of the amazingly informative Vault of Walt books, for his help with dates and names for the photos of Walt Disney walking the WDW property. Grab a copy of Jim's amazing books and fill your mind with more wonderful Disney history and fun stories by clicking here.


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.


  1. This is the kind of stuff I really enjoy seeing.

  2. These are all great!

  3. Wow, the video takes my breath away. It's like seeing MK for the first time even though I've been there 30+ times!

  4. This is a very powerful and touching article and is exactly what I love about this website. You always post the best things and I appreciate your hard work. Thank you Keith