Walt Disney World Celebrates 50 Years

Cinderella's castle at Walt Disney World lit in rainbow colors at night with fireworks in the sky above

Walt Disney World, long known as “The Most Magical Place on Earth”, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 

Recognized all over the world as a vacation destination, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida was opened in 1971 as a companion to Disney’s first theme park built 16 years earlier, Disneyland, in Anaheim, California. Today Walt Disney World contains four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom — two water parks, 27 resort hotels, golf courses, camping, and numerous other entertainment venues.

The excitement is palpable at Walt Disney World as they start their 18-month celebration of magic, Mickey, and memories on October 1, 2021. Across all 4 parks, golden statues of 50 Disney characters are scattered, waiting to be discovered by visitors. 50th-anniversary food and drink specials, such as meals inspired by the early days of Walt Disney World, are available throughout Disney restaurants. In addition, special 50th-anniversary merchandise can be purchased in all parks.

Nighttime anniversary attractions include new additions to Walt Disney World’s entertainment. At the Magic Kingdom, the new show “Disney Enchantment” begins, which brings projection effects to Main Street USA and creates an immersive experience. At EPCOT, Harmonious premiers as one of the largest shows that Disney has ever produced. The performance includes pyrotechnics, fountains, and lighting, and includes 240 artists from around the globe.

If you aren’t able to visit Walt Disney World during their celebration, Disney Institute learning offers an on-demand digital course titled “50 Years of Magical Learnings from Walt Disney World Resort”. The course includes access to individual lessons covering teamwork concepts from past and current Disney leaders, digital downloads, and access to future lessons as they are added.

If you’re interested in learning more about Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, check out this 40-minute video presented by Disney Parks. Hear from Julie Andrews, park employees, and the people behind iconic Disney experiences about five decades of magic:

The Disney brand began with The Walt Disney Company, founded in 1923, as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. They changed their name to The Walt Disney Studio in 1926 and introduced Mickey Mouse in 1928 with his first cartoon, “Steamboat Willie”. After becoming Walt Disney Productions in 1929, the company released its first full-length movie, “Alice in Wonderland”, which took three years to complete. 

In 1954, ABC launched Disney’s first regular TV series called “Disneyland”. Walt Disney used the series to introduce Disneyland, his theme park project where children and adults could both have fun. In 1955, Disneyland was officially opened and 10 years later, Disney created the concept for Walt Disney World as a supplement to Disneyland. Walt Disney, however, died before he could see his project come to life. After his death in 1966, Walt Disney Productions considered scrapping Walt Disney World, but Walt’s brother, Roy O. Disney stepped in to keep the project going.

If you’ve never been to Disney World and have the opportunity to visit within the next 18 months, it will be a trip you’ll never forget—not only because it is magical any time of year—but because being a major 50-year anniversary party the experience will certainly impress!