What were you doing forty-five years ago? Somewhere on former swamp land in Florida a significant event was happening which would affect mine and a lot of your lives in a way which nobody could have predicted.
A quiet, proud man stood next to a five foot tall mouse and declared the Magic Kingdom open for business to delight, entertain and enchant visitors from all over the world. At about the same time I was probably only concerned with where my next meal was coming from and soiling myself on a regular basis. In both cases, not much has changed.
Many words have been written I’m sure to commemorate the 45th birthday of what is now Walt Disney World Resort, so I’m not sure I have much to add other than my personal thoughts and reflections. The place holds a large part of my heart and a significant chunk of my earnings and I suspect that will always be the case. Looking at the crowds there yesterday, as much as I love it, I’m not sure I would have liked to have been there to be honest, but I celebrate the event in my own way nonetheless.
I have documented many times that my love affair with the place started way back in 1980 when hair was long, shorts were short and we had no idea what we are doing.
The fact that I am holding a park map demonstrates our rookie status during that first visit. It’s crazy now to think that the place had only been open for nine years then. My memory may be playing tricks on me but I think at that time Epcot Center was under construction, but we didn’t know what that meant at the time.
Since that first time I have been more times than I can remember and loved every single visit. I’ve tried and failed on many occasions to try to capture my feelings about the place and what it means to me and my family so I’m not going to try again now. Nostalgia, outstanding service, the weather, the food and down right great family entertainment with endless experiences are some of the words I might use if I were trying, but I’m not so I won’t.
Having not been on it’s hallowed ground for over twelve months now the pain and longing is real and something doesn’t feel quite right if I’m honest. It’s like not seeing one of your family for a long time I suppose. A few years ago we were lucky enough to do the Keys to the Kingdom Tour, which I would recommend to anyone with an interest in and/or a love for the place. I won’t do any spoilers about the content, other than to say that it gave me an absolute respect and admiration for a chap called Disney, and it wasn’t Walt.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Walt was a visionary, an inspiration and the absolute driving force behind what is now a mammoth empire. I can watch the film about his life in One Man’s Dream endlessly, but the person that came out of that tour with my ever lasting admiration was Roy Disney, his brother. Not only did he look after Walt in their early years but he was the chap who made Walt’s dreams and plans into a reality. He was the money man, somehow raising the funds needed for Walt’s visions time and time again. He was the steady Eddie who did the boring practical stuff that Walt did not have the time or skills to do.
When Walt passed away, sadly before the Florida project was complete, it was Roy, who despite his grief and own poor health took on the whole project, called the place Walt Disney World, and stood next to Walt’s creation on the 1st of October 1971 and declared it open. He did not like that limelight and it took an enormous effort to do that. It wasn’t that long after the Florida project was complete in December of that year that Roy passed away. It was as if he kept himself going just long enough to see his brother’s ultimate dream come true.
If it were half as catchy, in my view it should be called Walt and Roy Disney’s Resort, or the Disney Brother’s Resort, but it isn’t and I think it says a lot about Roy that he ensured it carried his brother’s name as it does.
So today I tip my hat to Roy as without him, this thing which takes up far too much of my money and thoughts would not be what it is. It may not exist at all. I hope he and his brother are looking down and loving the legacy of joy and happiness their combined efforts continue to give to millions of people.
Till the next time….