No doubt about it, Disney Vacations are tops around the world. There is practically no one in the United States that doesn’t know what Disneyland or Walt Disney World is, even if they don’t know all the technical details. They almost all know there is a castle, with rides and a mouse. All of the details still elude them, many people are unaware that Walt Disney World has four theme parks, California Adventure is not the first theme park to be added to a resort property, and many other such things. Disney not only has 11 theme parks with an additional one under construction, two water parks, four shopping complexes, golf courses, on two continents, monorail systems, 34 hotels with an additional four under construction, four cruise lines, a private island, two campgrounds and three sets of vacation villas. Truly it is overwhelming, many options and choices. Not to mention that Disney also offers guided tours that the whole family can take to some of the most requested world destinations that weren’t built by Disney, but they are probably not to keen to take you to Universal Studios. Joking aside, it is truly an empire that Walt Disney built. Had Walt Disney never built the theme parks, who knows what would’ve happened to his little studio. I don’t think it would’ve blinked out of existence and gotten bought. Perhaps it would’ve joined with another studio, but one thing is for certain, of all the producers and directors of the last century from the originals of Frank Capra, Warner Brothers, Cecil B DeMills, Alfred Hitchcock, to brats of George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Richard Dutcher, to the moderns of Jerry Bruckheimer, Ron Howard, JJ Abrams, M Knight Shymalan (I am certain I mispelled his name), to Joss Whedon, Walt Disney has been immortalized with the creation of Disneyland. Since the opening of Disneyland on July 17th 1955, Disney Parks and Vacations has grown. They have seen many characters come and go, many rides and lands as well, but this article will focus on the five pivotal moments in Disney Parks and Vacations History.
The most important and number 1 is the opening of Disneyland on July 17th 1955.
This park has proven to be a classic, it was unqualified success. It however, showed us how amusement parks, then a dying industry, could be revolutionized into something absolutely fun. This park is what inspired the movement that went on with number 2.
On October 1st 1971 Walt Disney World opened in Florida.
This second park, had to be better at its opening than its counterpart in California. Imagineers talked to managers and logistics operators of Disneyland to see what they wanted to help them better keep the park operating. This time the Magic Kingdom was built with the Utilidors, tunnels that serviced cast members, food delivery, waste disposal and other important functions of the park, without destroying the hard created magic above.
What this did to Disney was prove that Disneyland wasn’t a fluke or a one trick wonder, that people around the world wanted to see Disneyland. Many people on the east coast would never be able to go to Disneyland more than once in a lifetime or never at all. Where now with a Florida location, Disney could easily cater to all those East of the Mississippi, while Disneyland took those west of that mighty river.
This second location proved to be the beginning of Disney’s new Vacation empire.
Number 3 would be the opening of EPCOT Center on October 1st 1982.
Though this is the second theme park located at Walt Disney World, unlike the resort’s first park, this wasn’t a copy. With all due respect, Magic Kingdom was basically an improved version of Opening Day Disneyland. The rides that worked, such as Snow White, Peter Pan, The Jungle Cruise, along with successful additions, like Enchanted Tiki Room, It’s a Small World were duplicated in this park. While concepts that weren’t nearly as successful or popular such as, Casey Jones, Painted Desert and Mickey Mouse Club Theater weren’t. However, EPCOT Center that changed names to Epcot in 1994, was radically different. It wasn’t the Magic Kingdom 2, with additional Fantasyland, more Frontierland, plussing Tomorrowland, and revenge of Adventureland. It was different, instead of wonderfully created worlds that were to invoke different time periods and make guests feel like they weren’t in Central Florida, Epcot, was all about a real world approach, with artistic looking buildings and pavilions modeled after famous architecture from around the World. Epcot, the cast members don’t pretend you are in a far off fantasy, they merely service you. That’s right, Epcot, showed that Disney didn’t have to be traditionally Disney, they could talk about the history of communication, what inspires imagination, how plants grow, why energy is important, transportation and our various cultures. That this could still sell a theme park, though Epcot has struggled over the years, it is still one of the more recognizable locations on earth, and it’s icon Spaceship Earth has earned its place as a recognizable landmark.
Epcot showed also that you could have two theme parks in one location, doubling the size of the vacation without doubling the size of the theme parks. It also helped Disney extend your vacations from two to three days to eventually over a week.
Moving onto number 4, the opening of Tokyo Disneyland on April 15th 1983.
Let’s face it, Walt Disney World when it opened only knew it had to prove one thing, that it was financially feasible to have two theme park destinations in one country, Tokyo was the first international location for a Disney Theme Park. American audiences Disney knew, but would the same venues hold up in modern Asian. Yes it did, this would open the floodgates for Disneyland Paris in 1992, Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005 and Shanghai Disneyland in 2015. Not to mention for additional theme parks such as Tokyo DisneySea in 2001 and Walt Disney Studios Paris in 2002. Yes, Disney was acceptable to an international audience.
Finally the fifth and last goes to the inaugural cruise of the Disney Magic, thus launching the Disney Cruise Lines on July 30th 1998.
Disney had for years proven to be a top vacation destination, but that was because people wanted to go to the theme parks. Yes Disney had built shopping centers, golf courses, water parks and other unique additional venues, but those were still supporting the initial success of the theme parks. The demand to solely go to Typhoon Lagoon on a vacation wasn’t popular. However with Disney Cruise Lines, Disney knew that they would have to step up the game. You couldn’t build rides on a boat, people wanted to go to world class destinations, in essence people had to want to sail with Disney. Would this prove successful, the answer was a resounding yes. Disney not only was a theme park destination, it was a vacation destination and a vacation companion. The Magic and Wonder originally went on three or four night cruises that stopped at the Bahamas and Castaway Cay. This was done so that Disney could tack it onto a Walt Disney World Vacation, this is what built their success, with the addition of two newer boats, the Dream and Fantasy, they would have to expand their itinerary. So Disney did just that, they started going to Europe, then places like Mexico, Alaska and will more than likely continue to expand.
These are just the five, there are many more, such as the opening of the other various theme parks, the opening of Aulani, Vero Beach, Hilton Head Island, Adventures by Disney. Yet these five were chosen by me, because this is a whole, when I do specific lists for each individual location we will get more and more technical.