Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World [Complete - Oct. 29, 1971]

Aired on October 29, 1971. This Tv special is a celebrity-filled look at the opening festivities for Walt Disney World in Florida.

On Friday October 1, 1971 - after seven years of planning - about 10,000 visitors converged near Orlando, Florida, to witness the grand opening of Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom (the only theme park at the time on Disney property) featured Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Tomorrowland, a Main Street USA, and about 5,500 Cast Members. The price of admission was $4.95!

The early morning found guests driving around the toll plaza over and over, trying to steer their way in to be the first visitors to the park. William Windsor, Jr. and his family were the first guests at the new park - they had slept in their car overnight!

Walt Disney World also debuted 2 property hotels, the 15-story Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian Village Resort - both built by U.S. Steel and both connected by a monorail system. The hotels were conceived by WED enterprises and the Los Angeles architectural firm of Welton Becket & Associates. U.S. Steel was to originally own the hotels, but just before opening, Roy Disney decided to buy out their interests and let Disney run the hotels themselves.

The Contemporary (originally to be called the Tempo Bay Hotel) featured something probably never seen before by vacationers ... a monorail running directly through the middle of the A-frame structure's 10-story atrium!

The Polynesian Village Resort (originally planned to be to be a 12- story high-rise hotel & at one time referred to as the "South Seas" resort) opened on the south shore of Seven Seas Lagoon.

The official grand opening celebrations of Disney's Contemporary and Polynesian Village Resorts took place on October 24. The Electrical Water Pageant and Fantasy in the Sky Spectacular also debuted that evening.

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