Disney Parks Blog

7 Rare, Vintage Images to Celebrate Walt Disney World Groundbreaking

By , Editorial Content Director, Disney Experiences

This week in 1967, we officially broke ground in Florida for what would become Walt Disney World! And today, to mark the occasion, we’re digging into the archives and sharing a few rare images (some never shared here before) as well as a fun, quick look at an amazing summer ahead at Disney World.

Construction on Cinderella Castle

As you can see in this fascinating image that we’ve never shared before from the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library, the iconic Cinderella Castle was one of the first structures to be built on the site. It was spectacular from the beginning – created with nearly 280 tons of steel and other materials.

To the left of the photo is the future location of “it’s a small world” and in the top right, the early structure for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea among other future attractions.

Construction on Cinderella Castle

Disney artists created and sculpted the Castle’s features, like the turrets, gargoyles and stonework, during early work on the property. Many of the fascinating ornamental additions to Cinderella Castle were created offsite and then delivered to the site and added by cranes.

An aerial view of Magic Kingdom construction

After work began on Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom Park began to come together as you can see in another rare image above. The park opened with experiences similar to those found at Disneyland, as well as its own unique attractions, including The Country Bear Jamboree.

Mickey Mouse inspecting a blueprint of Magic Kingdom

As it all started to come together and blueprints were worked on, a press event in 1969 gave visitors a first look at what Disney World would actually be.

Visitors explore scale models and artwork for the creation of Disney World

At the Ramada Inn Tower in Ocoee, Florida, visitors were among the first to explore scale models and artwork for the creation of Disney World – and Audio-Animatronics figures!

Disney leaders signing autographs

Disney leaders who spoke and signed autographs included Roy O. Disney, Charlie Ridgway, John Hench, Donn Tatum and Card Walker. And during the event, leaders also announced Oct. 1, 1971 as Walt Disney World Resort’s opening date.

Aerial view artwork of Walt Disney World

During the event, Roy O. Disney told a crowd how happy he was to oversee Walt’s dream of a new Disney theme park saying, “Everything you will see here today is something Walt worked on and began in some way. And today, the Walt Disney organization is dedicated to carrying out these wonderful plans in Walt Disney World.”

Since the historic opening in 1971, Walt Disney World has continued to grow with the opening of EPCOT in 1982, Disney-MGM Studios (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in 1989 and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in 1998 – along with other major openings over the years that have inspired generations of guests who have made Walt Disney World the most visited theme park destination in the world.

Disney’s impact on Florida continues today, fueling Florida’s economy, supporting small businesses, and giving back to nonprofit organizations doing amazing work in the community. To read more about these efforts, visit DisneyFlorida.com.

We hope you enjoyed this look back at this special Disney World anniversary. Now, looking ahead, this summer will be extra magical across the Resort. Here are a few of the many things to get excited about:

  • This summer, you can enjoy “Disney Dreams that Soar presented by AT&T” at Disney Springs featuring state-of-the-art drones choreographed to create designs in the sky with an amazing musical score.
  • Get ready to knee slap and toe-tap to a little country twang as the Country Bear Musical Jamboree returns to  Frontierland in Magic Kingdom this summer
  • At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Pixar’s Joy is headed to Pixar Plaza on June 10, where she’ll join other Pixar stars.  She’ll be in her new home just in time for Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” premiering in theaters on June 14.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Disney Animation’s “The Lion King” throughout the park from June 10 through Sept. 6.
  • And at EPCOT,  everyone will be talking about Bruno beginning on June 10 with a new summer sing-along featuring the beloved songs and story of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto.” This new limited-time show “¡Celebración Encanto!” will run several times throughout the day on the newly unveiled CommuniCore Plaza Stage.

And there’s much more to come at Walt Disney World. Check out our earlier Disney World 2024 experiences story for more details and continue to follow along for more stories like today’s in the future.

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