Magic Kingdom

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Magic Kingdom
Cinderella Castle, the icon of the Magic Kingdom
Theme Fantasy
Website Magic Kingdom Homepage
Opened October 1st, 1971
Icon Cinderella Castle

The Magic Kingdom is a theme park located in Walt Disney World.



 Walt Disney, Florida, Announcement, Haydon Burns
Walt Disney, Roy Disney and Gov. Haydon Burns announcing Disney's Florida Project to the public.

This history of the Magic Kingdom began in 1959, when Walt Disney began to look for a place to build a second theme park [1]. Coming off the success of Disneyland (which had opened in 1955), Walt wanted to bring his next theme park to the East Coast. According to research done by the Disney Company, although 75% of the American population was located east of the Mississippi River, only 5% of Disneyland's visitors came from that region [2]. The success of the Disney attractions at the 1964 World's Fair in New York, showed Walt that Disney could be a huge success in the East Coast market [3]. Also adding to Walt's frustration, was the fact that the area around Disneyland had become rundown by local businesses hoping to capitalize on Disneyland's success. To solve this problem, Walt wanted to have control over much more land than he could in Disneyland. With this goal in mind, Walt began to scout for a new location where he could build a "Disneyland East". One of the original locations Walt considered was St. Louis, where Disney had plans to build "Riverfront Square," a five-story, fully enclosed theme park which would have a St. Louis and New Orleans theme [4]. Despite the fact that Disney developed significant plans for the theme park, negotiations with St. Louis eventually fell through. Although the exact reasons for this falling out are not clear, it is commonly accepted that among the reasons was the fact that Busch family wanted Disney to sell beer in the park, which he refused to do [4].

By 1963 WED Enterprises set their sites of Florida as the location for their "Project X" (later renamed the "Florida Project"). Florida was already the top state in terms of tourism, and the Florida climate would allow the new theme park to be open year round. In November, Walt Disney himself flew over one of the potential sites in Florida, Orlando. Disney decided Orlando was the perfect location for his new park. The well-developed road system including the already planned Interstate 4 and the Florida Turnpike further added to the appeal of the area [5]. After much research WED Enterprises and Walt eventually selected a centrally-located site near Bay Lake for construction of their new park. Lawyer Paul Helliwell and Florida realtor Roy Hawkins were responsible for coordinating the companies' purchases of the Florida land [6]. In order to keep the public from knowing that Disney was buying the land (as this would greatly increase the cost), Disney set up dummy corporations including: Latin American Development and Management, Bay Lake Properties, Tomahawk Properties, Retlaw, M.T. Lott Real Estate, Ayefour Corporation [7] and others to buy the land. All in all, Disney bought 27,443 acres of land from more than 100 property owners. The total coast of the land was nearly 5.5 million (about 200 dollars per acre). After being outed by a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel [8], Walt Disney announced his plans for The Florida Project to the public on November 16, 1965 [9].


 Joe Fowler Walt Disney Magic Kingdom
From left to right: Joe Fowler, Card Walker, Walt Disney and Roy Disney surveying the future location of the Magic Kingdom.

On May 30, 1967, [10] construction began on the Florida Project. Due to the fact that Walt had died in 1966, his brother Roy took charge of the project. Although Walt had died before construction had even started, his influence on the park was apparent. For instance, one of the major problems that Walt had with Disneyland was that guests were exposed to the day to day operations of the parks. Walt told the story that one day in Tomorrowland he saw a cowboy from Frontierland walking by, heading to the costume room. Walt felt that this ruined the magic of the futuristic Tomorrowland and wanted to do better with the Florida Project [11]. A second problem that Walt had hoped to avoid was that guests in Disneyland were exposed to the world outside the park. Walt said he once saw a family leave because they could see that traffic was getting congested, while riding on the Skyway [12]. Because of these issues, it was decided that the first floor of what was now called the “Magic Kingdom” would be a series of tunnels, called utilidoors. Due of Florida's water table, the utilidoors could not be built underground. Instead, Disney Engineers decided to make the utilidoors the first story of the park, with the actual Magic Kingdom the second (meaning that the park itself is actually 14 feet above ground) [13]. The utilidoors allow cast members to move freely throughout the park without being seen by the guests above. With the utilidoors, it only takes cast members about 10 minutes to walk from one side of the park to the other. The utilidoors also allowed the everyday functions of the park to be hidden from guests. Food, garbage and costumes could all be transferred around while keeping the illusion of the lands intact [14]. Besides everyday operations the utilidoors also house the operating systems for the park, as well as offices and cafeterias for the Cast Members [15]. Another upgrade to the Magic Kingdom was the Avac Systems, which were devolved in Sweden. This trash collecting system allows garbage to be suctioned away through a series tubes, to a centralized dumping point. This allows cast members to keep the trash under control and out of the view of the guests [16].

Construction of the Magic Kingdom was overseen by Admiral Joe Fowler, who previously had overseen the construction of Disneyland [17]. The design of the park was principally done by Imagineers Marvin Davis and Dick Irvine, who took their inspiration from Walt's original park [18]. In order to make the park unique however, Disney decided to use Cinderella Castle as the park's icon as opposed to Sleeping Beauty Castle (which Disneyland had) [18]. Imagineer Bill Evans was charged with landscaping the Magic Kingdom [19]. At the time the park was being built, construction of Walt Disney World (as it was now called) became the largest private construction project in the world [18]. With construction lagging behind schedule, in 1971 Disney put Dick Nunis in charge of completing the project. Under his leadership, Disney employees made a final push to the Magic Kingdom completed on time. With hourly workers and even upper management working around the clock [18], eventually the park was ready for opening day- October 1, 1971.


 Roy Disney Mickey Mouse Magic Kingdom Grand Opening
Roy O. Disney giving the dedication speech on the Magic Kingdom's opening day.

The Magic Kingdom had soft openings starting on Labor Day 1971, with Disney employees, construction workers and local leaders being invited to the park until September 31. On October 1, 1971, The Magic Kingdom opened its gates and welcomed its first guests. 10,000 people showed up that day to visit Disney’s newest park [20]. Unlike Disneyland which had been overwhelmed on its opening day, Walt Disney World’s opening ran smoothly, and any issues were quickly resolved. Before the opening of Disney World, Florida State Troopers issued a warning saying that a potential 300,000 people could show up on opening day [18]. This possibility created a fear that the park was going to be overwhelmed by the number of guests and may have led to the lower than expected attendance . Some pundits began to predict that Disney World would be a failure; however by the end of October 1971, 400,000 people had attended the park [21]. The climax of the grand opening happened between October 23 and October 25, 1971 when the Magic Kingdom was officially dedicated [22]. Roy O Disney, with Mickey Mouse by his side, gave the dedication speech on the 25th:

"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."

Dedication this 25th day of October, 1971, Roy O. Disney

Also on hand for the event was the 60-nation World Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Arthur Fiedler. NBC taped a program called “The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World,” which aired October 29th [23]. Taking part in the televised opening were Julie Andrews, Glen Campbell, Buddy Hackett, Jonathan Winters, Bob Hope, Rock Hudson, Annette Funicello and Fred MacMurray. Other prominent figures in business, government and industry were also on hand [24].

When the Magic Kingdom opened it consisted of seven lands and a central hub. The lands and attractions that were operational on the park's opening day are listed below.

Main Street Vehicles

Penny Arcade

Walt Disney World Railroad

Main Street Cinema

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Mad Tea Party

Cinderella's Golden Carrousel

Snow White's Adventures

it's a small world

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Mickey Mouse Revue

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Jungle Cruise

Tropical Serenade

Swiss Family Treehouse

Country Bear Jamboree

Frontierland Shooting Gallery

Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes

Haunted Mansion

The Hall of Presidents

Mike Fink Keel Boats

Grand Prix Raceway

Skyway to Fantasyland

After the Grand Opening

The first major expansion to the Magic Kingdom came in 1973 when the Caribbean Plaza expansion of Adventureland took place. Due to high guest demand, Disney decided to construct a version of Disneyland's popular Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in the Magic Kingdom [25]. To do this, Imagineers decided to expanded Adventureland to create a new area to house the attraction. The next major change to the park came in 1975 when four new attractions opened in Tomorrowland. In 1971, Tomorrowland only featured Flight to the Moon, the Circle-Vision 360 Theater, and The Grand Prix Raceway. In order to finish out the land, Disney added the Star Jets, Carousel of Progress, WEDway PeopleMover, and Space Mountain [26].

 Mickey's Birthdayland Starland
Although originally envisioned as a temporary land, Mickey's Birthdayland would later evolve into Mickey's Starland and then Mickey's Toontown Fair

Although new attractions continued to change the landscape of the park (such as the addition of Big Thunder Mountain in 1982), it was not until 1988 when Mickey's Birthdayland was built, that the Magic Kingdom got a new land. Mickey's Birthdayland was built in celebration of Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday. The new land consisted of the fictional town of Duckburg, and allowed guests to tour Mickey's House, Pluto's Doghouse, and Donald's Boat [27]. The land also featured Grandma Duck's Farm (a petting zoo) and Minnie's Surprise Party, which was a show dedicated to Mickey's birthday [27]. At this time, a train station was built in Mickey's Birthdayland so that the Walt Disney World Railroad would be able to drop guests off in the new area [28]. Although originally intended to be temporary, Mickey’s Birthdayland was so popular with guests that Disney decided to make the land permanent [29], eventually renaming it Mickey's Starland on May 26, 1990 [30]. Minnie's Surprise Party was rethemed, and it became Mickey's Magical TV World. The new show featured characters from the popular Disney Afternoon cartoon shows [31].

In 1996, the once temporary land was once again rethemed. Now called Mickey's Toontown Fair, the new land took place in the fictional Toontown. Toontown was larger than Mickey's Birthdayland, although it did carry over the Mickey's house attraction. Added to Toontown were a new version of Donald's Boat, The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm, Minnie's Country House, and the Judges Tent where guests could meet various Disney characters [32]. In 2011 Mickey's Toontown Fair was closed to make way for the Fantasyland Expansion [33].

In 2012 Storybook Circus (a part of the Fantasyland Expansion) opened in the former location of Mickey's Toontown Fair [34]. Included in the new area was the attractions: The Barnstormer Featuring Goofy as the Great Goofini, a relocated Dumbo the Flying Elephant (now featuring a second set of Dumbos), the Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station and Pete's Silly Sideshow [35].

In December of 2012 the rest of the Fantasyland Expansion (sans the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) opened to guests. This phase of the expansion included the attractions: Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Ariel's Grotto [36]. Lastly, on May 28, 2014 the final attraction in New Fantasyland, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train officially opened to guests [37]

At the 2022 D23 Expo, Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, Josh D'Amaro. revealed a Blue Sky concept for a land "Beyond Big Thunder Mountain" [38]. This potential new expansion of the Magic Kingdom would feature a new land inspired by Disney's Encanto and Disney-Pixar's Coco, as well as separate area dedicated to Disney villains. Because of the hypothetical nature of this expansion, details, or even a timeline, were not provided.


To see the current Magic Kingdom map Click Here.

The 2023 Magic Kingdom map (click to enlarge)

Main Street USA

Main Article: Main Street USA

Main Street USA is the first land that guests see upon entering the Magic Kingdom. Located at the front of the park, Main Street is modeled after a small, turn of the century, American town. Main Street gets its architecture from different regions in the United States including Boston and Missouri. The change in architecture is easiest to see when at the four corners of the land. Main Street begins when guests emerge from under the Walt Disney World Railroad, and ends when they reach the base of Cinderella Castle. Although Main Street does not have “rides” like the rest of the lands, it does have its own unique attractions including the aforementioned Walt Disney World Railroad and the Main Street Vehicles. Also on Main Street are individual shops and restaurants which add to its small town appeal.


Main Article: Frontierland

Located in the Northwest Corner of the park, Frontierland allows guests to visit the Wild West. The land features many Old West styled buildings, including the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade, Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn and Café, and the Frontierland Trading Post. Frontierland also hosts some of the Magic Kingdom's biggest thrill rides – Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Further included in Frontierland is the Country Bear Jamboree and the Walt Disney World Railroad, as well as rafts that guests can board to cross the Rivers of America and explore Tom Sawyer Island.

 Main Street USA panorama
A panorama of Main Street USA by Rhys A (click to enlarge).


Main Article: Adventureland

Located in the Southwest corner of the Magic Kingdom, Adventureland represents the 1950's view of exotic locales. Taking its inspiration from jungles of Asia, Africa, and South America, Adventureland is full of lush plants and exotic scenery. Parts of Adventureland also take guests to tropical Polynesia and the great deserts of Arabia, where they can ride on a flying carpet. Finally, Adventureland is also home to classic Disney attractions such as, the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Swiss Family Treehouse.


Main Article: Fantasyland

Fantasyland is a land dedicated, “to the young and those young at heart.” Located at the base of Cinderella Castle, Fantasyland takes its inspiration from the Disney movies themselves, allowing guests to “ride through” different classic films. Attractions such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan's Flight and, it's a small world can all be found in Fantasyland. Fantasyland's newest attraction, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, can also be found in the "New Fantasyland" area. Following its 2012 refurbishment, Fantasyland became the largest land in the Magic Kingdom.


Main Article: Tomorrowland

Billed as the future that never was, Tomorrowland lets guests visit the tomorrow of Julius Verne and H.G. Wells. Tomorrowland also serves as an intergalactic convention center, where aliens and humans alike can come, meet, and see the promise of tomorrow. Originally built to give guests a view of what the future would be like, it quickly became evident to the Disney that they would not be able to continuously update the land as technology changed. Instead, in 1994 they decided to give the park a retro-futuristic feel. Fan favorite attractions such as Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin can be found in Tomorrowland.

Liberty Square

Main Article: Liberty Square

Themed after colonial America, Liberty Square gives guest the opportunity to go back and see America as it grew. Starting at the Haunted Mansion in the 1670s and ending at the entrance to Frontierland (1880s), Liberty Square gives guests the feeling that they are watching America expand and unite. At the central hub of the land, the flags of the 13 original colonies fly along with the American flag. Liberty Square is home to the The Hall of Presidents, Haunted Mansion and the Liberty Square Riverboat.

Former Lands

Mickey's Birthdayland/Mickey's Starland

Main Article: Mickey's Starland

 Mickey's Toontown Fair
Mickey's Toontown Fair was a land in the Magic Kingdom from 1996-2011. Photo by HarshLight

Mickey's Birthdayland opened as a temporary land in 1988, in celebration of Mickey Mouses' 60th Birthday. The land was set in the fictional town of Duckburg, and a new train station was built so that the Walt Disney World Railroad could drop off guests there. Mickey’s Birthdayland featured the attraction Minnie's Surprise Party (which was a show about Mickey's birthday) and guests could also tour Mickey's House or visit Grandmas Duck’s farm (which was a petting zoo). The star of Grandma Duck’s farm was Minnie Moo, a cow who had what appeared to be a Mickey head on the side of her body.

Although originally intended as a temporary land, Mickey's Birthdayland was very popular. Due to this popularity, the land was renamed Mickey's Starland and it was upgraded to permanent status in 1990. Due to the change in theme, Minnie's Surprise Party was closed. When the attraction reopened it was titled Mickey's Magical TV World Show and it now featured characters from the popular Disney Afternoon cartoons including: Darkwing Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad McQuack, Baloo, Louie, and Chip and Dale. Mickey's Starland closed in 1996 and was given buildings that look more permanent. When the land reopened it was named Mickey's Toontown Fair.

Mickey's Toontown Fair

Main Article: Mickey's Toontown Fair

Mickey's Toontown Fair opened in 1996, and closed in 2011. The land was set in Toontown- the place where Disney's most famous cartoon characters lived. Toontown Fair, which replaced Mickey's Starland, took its inspiration from the 1989 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and featured a more permanent look. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale could all be found in the Judges Tent, as well as other surprise characters who would pop in from time to time. Other attractions in Toontown Fair included Mickey's Country House and Minnie's Country House (where guests could see how Mickey and Minnie lived) and Donald’s Boat (a water play area). Although Mickey's Toontown Fair was full of areas for kids to play, the only real “ride” in the land was The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm, a tame roller coaster aimed at younger kids. Mickey's Toontown Fair was closed in 2011 to make room for the new Fantasyland expansion.


Festival of Fantasy- The Magic Kingdom's afternoon parade, Festival of Fantasy celebrates the tales of Fantasyland. The parade begins in Frontierland and ends on Main Street USA.

Happily Ever After- The Magic Kingdom's nighttime spectacular, Happily Ever After combines fireworks, castle projections and lasers to take guests on a journey through some of Disney's most popular films. The show is held nightly and is approximately 18 minutes long.

Once Upon a Time- This castle projection show is hosted by Mrs. Potts who retells classic Disney movie moments. The show is held nightly and is approximately 14 minutes long.

Disney Genie +

The Magic Kingdom features 17 attractions included in Disney Genie +. They are:

Fun Facts and Trivia

  • Cinderella Castle is not made of a single brick - it is made of steel and fiberglass [39].
  • There are 1100 Audio-Animatronic figures in the Magic Kingdom [40].
  • The Magic Kingdom is about 107 acres [41].
  • There were about 5,000 performers on opening day of the Magic Kingdom, not including the 5,000 doves that were released [40].
  • The Magic Kingdom can hold up to 100,000 people [40].
  • When The Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971, adult admission cost just $3.50, a seven-ride attraction ticket book cost $4.75 and an 11-ride attraction ticket book cost only $5.75 [42].
  • When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, it was the first theme park to have continuously playing ambient music on pathways between attractions [43].
  • William Windsor, Jr. and his family were officially the first guests to visit the Magic Kingdom [44].
  • According to a sign near the entrance to Main Street USA, the population of the Magic Kingdom is 600,000,000. The sign was added in 1998, when the Magic Kingdom welcomed its 600 millionth guest [45]. The sign was removed in 2017 [46].


  1. Walt Disney: the triumph of the American imagination By: Gabler, Neal. Knopf 2006
  4. 4.0 4.1
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Koenig, David. Realityland: True-life Adventures at Walt Disney World. Irvine, CA: Bonaventure, 2007. Print.
  27. 27.0 27.1
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2