Tuesday, October 25, 2011

76. O.T.D. - 10/25/71 - Dedication of Walt Disney World

Although Walt Disney World opened on October 1st, 1971, the official opening ceremony and dedication wasn't until almost a month later on October 25th. It was a monumental day in Disney history and very memorable for several reasons. There were huge performing groups including a 1,076 member marching band that paraded down Main St. USA, and a 1,500 voice choir that sang "When You Wish Upon A Star" and other Disney favorites. The most significant part of the day, however, was the dedication speech given by Roy Disney.

When Walt Disney died five years earlier, Roy put off his own retirement to see his brother's dream of Disney World become a reality. As the story goes, it was Roy who decided to change the original Disney World name to "Walt" Disney World in honor of his brother. On this dedication day, Roy was certainly missing Walt. As told by John Hench in his book Designing Disney, Roy Disney stood facing the microphone before a crowd of guests ready to deliver the dedication speech at the opening ceremony. He suddenly turned and looked around and said quietly, "Somebody go find Mickey for me. We don't have Walt any more, and Mickey is the nearest thing to Walt that we have left." Mickey appeared and Roy promptly began his speech, with Mickey proudly at his side.

Roy briefly talked about Walt and his dreams, and about being in business together. He then read the dedication plaque for Walt Disney World:

     WALT DISNEY WORLD is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney.... and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. 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. Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971.

Roy saw his brother's dream realized and was finally ready to retire at the age of 78. Unfortunately, less than two months after the dedication,    Roy died unexpectedly of a massive brain hemorrhage, on December 20th, 1971.
Roy, Minnie, and Dave
In 1999, in almost the exact spot where Roy dedicated the park, a statue entitled "Sharing the Magic" was installed. This tribute features Roy sitting on a park bench holding Minnie's hand. It was created by an 81 year old Blaine Gibson, the acclaimed sculptor responsible for creating an untold number of figures for the Disney parks, including the "Partners" statue of Walt and Mickey. Blaine purposely had Roy support Minnie's hand from underneath in acknowledgement of how Roy supported his brother in their new business venture. The plaque that Roy dedicated on this day in 1971 sits right next to the sculpture. This is certainly a fitting tribute to the man who was responsible for carrying out the enormous task of fulfilling Walt's dream.

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward.  See ya real soon!

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