When Walt Disney couldn't expand Disneyland in California, he started buying up land in the Orlando area using dummy corporations. For a while, no one took notice, but eventually the creator of Mickey Mouse had 27,000 acres under his control. A reporter uncovered the story and the resort's history began.
Construction began in 1969, led by Roy Disney after Walt passed away in 1966, with a targeted opening date of Oct. 1, 1971. The first phase included the Magic Kingdom and its six lands, two golf courses, two hotels and the Seven Seas Lagoon, a 200-acre lake.
Fort Wilderness Campground opened a month later. By 1982, Epcot Center, Walt Disney World Village and six resort hotels were up and running. Later in that decade, the posh Grand Floridian Beach Resort, Pleasure Island and the Typhoon Lagoon water park opened.
The 1990s brought Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney Vacation Club, a timeshare opportunity, Blizzard Beach water park and attractions based on Disney-backed movies. The opening of Downtown Disney, a shopping and entertainment area, and the inauguration of the Disney Cruise Line, were also achieved in this decade.
In 2001, the entire park threw a year-long party to celebrate Walt Disney's birth in 1901. Included was the “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream” exhibit at Disney-MGM Studios. There are still over 20,000 undeveloped acres left, so the dream isn't over yet.