04 October 2009

Ready, capable, and anxious

This week Walt Disney World celebrated its 38th anniversary. The story of its creation, from land purchases, to the EPCOT project, to the Vacation Kingdom that opened on October 1, 1971, is filled with innovative ideas, follies, and compromises from the original vision. While most of us have seen, in one form or another, the EPCOT film which showcased Marty Sklar’s words and Walt Disney’s feelings toward the project, many of us have never explored Roy O. Disney’s feelings on the Walt Disney World project. Today, the Gazette ventures back to April 30, 1969 and explores Roy’s remarks at the Walt Disney World Press Conference.
“For many years we thought there should be only one Disneyland. But as time passed, experience told us that there were about 100 million people in the east and Midwest and south who would never get out west, and therefore would never have the opportunity to see Disneyland. And so, after the great success of the Walt Disney shows at the New York World’s Fair, we finally decided to bring some kind of Disney entertainment approach to the East on a permanent basis. And eventually it grew and grew and became not just a Disneyland, but a whole new world of Disney entertainment and recreation.

“Many potential sites for this project were studied before we finally decided Florida was the place to build our new concept. Here we can operate all year ‘round, just as we do in California. And here in Florida, you already have a great appeal to vacationers. In fact, Florida had three times as many visitors last year as Southern California had.

“Before we purchased the land for Walt Disney World, we studied how we might prepare this kind of land for development.

“Walt was with us at the time. We traveled all around Florida looking at what other people have accomplished with similar land conditions. And Walt especially became enthusiastic about what you could do with water in an entertainment complex. He was very enthusiastic abut how we could turn water into a tremendous attraction and asset in our business.

“So we have taken this project one step at a time. First, we decided to build a new kind of entertainment attraction… then we chose the state of Florida… and then we studied and selected this particular site.

“Now for the past three and one-half years, our Company has concentrated on achieving the major building blocks for our Florida project. We were anxious to establish a solid foundation in the areas of financial planning, legislation, labor relations, preparation of the site for construction, and finally, the creative master planning of Walt Disney World.

“Three of these major building blocks deserve special comment.

“First, there were areas of legislation. Very important changes were necessary in certain Florida laws pertaining to our type of business, so that we could protect our names and characters. And the nature of our land here made it highly desirable to have an Improvement District formed, as a necessary first step toward accomplishing our over goals.

“In the legislative program our Company has enjoyed wonderful cooperation from officials of the state of Florida, from the Governor on down. I’m pleased to say that the required programs have been developed and passed by the Florida Legislature.

“Second, there was the area of labor relations… and this very well could be the most important building block of all. It would have been folly to undertake a project of this size and scope without a project labor agreement. And so our representatives spent many months… long, difficult months… bargaining with the presidents of the national building trades in Washington, and with representatives of local building trades.

“Today, I am most pleased to say that we have a strong, no-strike agreement through June 1972, that will make possible the orderly progress of construction in Walt Disney World.

The third building block has been the financing of Walt Disney World. Our Company is relatively small, but Walt Disney Productions has been successful and has enjoyed orderly and considerable growth over the years. We have a cash flow of about $20 million per year, and our credit is good. But because we needed more funds for this project, we went into the ‘money market.’ Over the past 15 months, we have sold two issues of convertible bonds totaling $90 million. When converted, these bonds will represent close to 20 percent equity in our Company.

“To this solid foundation, one more building block should be added. I’m proud to tell you that the organization Walt Disney built is ready, capable, and anxious to carry out his plans for this exciting project.

“You should know that the dedication of our staff to Walt’s goals is tremendous. And, I know Walt would like what his creative team is doing, because these are the ideas and plans he began. 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.”

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