Five Decades of Magic at Walt Disney World - A look at some rare construction photos from 1971 - 1979

Jun 28, 2021 in "Walt Disney World Resort 50th Anniversary Celebration - The World’s Most Magical Celebration"

Posted: Monday June 28, 2021 11:02am ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary on October 1 2021, and as the countdown to the anniversary continues, Disney is today sharing some rare photographs of the resort construction and milestones from the early years.

In this first set of images, we look at 1971 - 1979. All photos Copyright The Walt Disney Company.


Nov. 15 – Walt Disney and his brother Roy publicly announce plans for Disney World in a press conference held in downtown Orlando, Florida.


Oct. 27 – Walt Disney records a film outlining plans for the Florida Project – including details for Disney World and the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT).


May 30 – Groundbreaking officially kicks off construction of Walt Disney World Resort. Walt Disney’s brother, Roy O. Disney officially named the project “Walt Disney World” to ensure the world will always remember the man behind this historic dream.


Jan. 16 – The Walt Disney World Preview Center opens in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., becoming the first location to welcome guests on Walt Disney World property. It features scale models and artist renderings for many of the diverse experiences being created for the “Vacation Kingdom of the World.”


Oct. 1 – Walt Disney World officially opens to the public. Phase one includes Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The resort is a showplace of innovation, featuring a transportation system of monorails, watercraft, trams and motor coaches, as well as a centralized computer network and other groundbreaking systems supporting the many guest offerings and attractions.

“May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place … a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together.” – Official Dedication, Oct. 25, 1971

Oct. 25 – The Electrical Water Pageant debuts, bringing twinkling lights and a colorful synthesizer soundtrack to become a guest favorite along the waters of Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.

Nov. 19 – Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground opens, nestled among acres of scenic pine and cypress forest and evoking the timeless beauty of the American frontier.


Dec. 15 – Walt Disney World Resort expands with a new hotel, now known as Shades of Green, and a new attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean, in Adventureland.


June 30 – The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue premieres at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Today, it is one of the longest-running dinner shows in American history.


Jan. 15 – Tomorrowland expands with Space Mountain and GE Carousel of Progress opens, further enhancing Tomorrowland with the latter currently holding the record for longest-running stage show in the history of American theater.

March 22 – Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village opens with 28 shops and four restaurants. It will evolve over the decades and become The Marketplace at Disney Springs.

June 7 – Walt Disney World Resort honors America’s bicentennial with America On Parade. With 50 floats and more than 200 performers paying tribute to America’s history, people and traditions, it stands as the largest daily parade ever staged in a Disney park.

July 1 – The WEDway PeopleMover (now known as Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover) is added to Tomorrowland, providing new views along its highway in the sky.

July 14 – Preliminary plans for EPCOT are announced.


June 20 – Disney’s River Country water park opens next to Fort Wilderness. The popularity of River Country eventually inspires Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach water parks.


June 11 – The Magic Kingdom is aglow as The Main Street Electrical Parade makes its first Florida appearance, which followed its 1972 debut at Disneyland park in California.


Oct. 1 – After years of planning, construction begins on EPCOT.

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MisterPenguin7 hours ago

Down, boy! Down!!

dreday39 hours ago

A cat!!! Yes! :D

Parker in NYC9 hours ago

Disgusting. And no, I’m not going to FL for a long time. More room for others.

trainplane39 hours ago

Wonder if they're going to show off the whole collection or save surprises for 10/1 in park guests only...

DCBaker9 hours ago

dreday310 hours ago


MagicHappens197110 hours ago

Looks like they’ll be dropping pics of the merchandise for the 50th this Friday

Brian2 days ago

It's actually state law now.

Giss Neric2 days ago

Since social distancing is useless anyways, if the worst case scenario happens, I would rather they make people wear masks indoors AND outdoors instead of canceling fireworks again. Having to show vaccination proof upon park opening can't be done anyways since the governor prohibits it.

doctornick3 days ago

Agreed. Outdoor spread is extremely minimal but if they felt they had to do something, then outdoor masks would be way more acceptable than canceling fireworks. At least it would be at night when it’s (a little) cooler.

jrhwdw3 days ago

RIGHT!!!!! If HEA/EF is indeed canceled again....What's next??? Parks Close again????? This time for like 5 years, until every spcec of COVID is off the Earth??? I'm overdoing it, yes but that's prob my luck/worry. I rather wear a max indoors/outdoors than be lockdown/Fireworks canceled again!! And I'm Vaxed!!!

Bocabear3 days ago

I think it will be "Fire" from Bambi... One of the gargoyle's from Hunchback KoKoUm from Pocohontas Nina Hyena from Who Framed Roger Rabbit The Huntsman from Snow White Jody Foster in Candleshoe...

dreday33 days ago

They decided to go a little scarier for the next one, being October and all - it's one of the donkeys from Pinocchio. Lampwick, cigar and all. :eek:

DisneyDodo3 days ago

They're certainly keeping us on our toes with these selections, I'll give them that much. Who's next? One of the unnamed Dalmatian puppies? Maggie from Home on the Range? Man from Bambi?