Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

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Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
Whole owned subisidiary of The Walt Disney Company
Industry Travel
Founded 1971
Headquarters Burbank, California, US
Key people
Bob Chapek (Chairman)[1]
  • Theme parks
  • Hotel lodging
  • Cruises
  • Timeshares
  • Guided tours
  • Travel packages
  • Attraction design
Number of employees
130,000 (2015)[2]
Parent The Walt Disney Company
Divisions Disneyland Resort
Website disneyparks.disney.go.com

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., also known informally as Walt Disney Parks and Resorts or Disney Parks, is one of The Walt Disney Company's four major business segments and a subsidiary. Originally known as Walt Disney Attractions, it is responsible for the conception, building, and managing of the company's theme parks and vacation resorts, as well as a variety of additional family-oriented leisure enterprises. It was founded in 1971, after the opening of Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, joining the original Disneyland in California. In 2014, the company's theme parks hosted approximately 134 million guests, making Disney Parks the world's most visited theme park company,[3] ahead of the second-most visited rival Merlin Entertainments. It is by far the largest Disney business segment by employee headcount, with about 130,000[2] of Disney's total number of 180,000[4] employees as of 2015.

The chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is Bob Chapek, formerly president of Disney Consumer Products. Chapek reports to Disney CEO Bob Iger and COO Tom Staggs.


Main article: Disneyland, Inc.

Starting in 1949, Ice Capades started adding Disney's segment to their performances. Costumes from those shows were used at the opening of Disneyland in 1955 with some performers hired away for Disney.[5]

Originally entry into the theme park and travel business was a side project of Walt Disney himself. As the Disneylandia project started to become a reality, Walt Disney Productions at Walt's request set up Disneyland, Inc. (DLI) in 1951 and agreed to a design deal in March 1953 with WED Enterprises (WED), which then included what would now be called Disney Imagineering and Walt's personal corporation.[6][CDL 1] With the WED concept designs and prospectus for Disneylandia, Roy Disney in September 1953 met with TV networks in a deal for Disney-produced TV show and Disneyland investment. American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres (AB-PT) agreed to the Disneyland, Inc. investment.[6] Joining AB-PT as Disneyland investors were Walt Disney Productions (WDP), Western Publishing and Walt Disney.[CDL 2] Walt Disney Productions had the option to repurchase the Walt Disney, WED and Western Publishing shares (31%) by May 1, 1959 for $562,500.[7]

With a need for the Disneyland Hotel nearby and no funding available for Disney to build it, Walt Disney approached Jack Wrather to build the hotel who agreed.[8]

Disneyland, changed from Disneylandia, was announced that in April 1954 by Walt to be opened in July 1955.[CDL 3][CDL 4] On July 17, 1955, the Disneyland park with five themed "lands" containing eighteen attractions with double the expected guests.[CDL 5] WED owned Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad opened, too.[9]

On June 29, 1957, Disney Production exercised its options to purchase all but AB-PT's common stock outstanding. This allowed WDP to consolidate DLI into its 1957 annual accounting statements adding four months worth of net profits, $511K.[10] In June 1960, Walt Disney Productions completed the purchase of AB-PT's share of the company for nearly $7.5 million and its TV contract, and the theme park became a fully owned subsidiary of Walt Disney Productions.[CDL 6] The first Audio-Animatronic attraction, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, opens at Disneyland in 1963.[11]


Beginning in 1958 with the contracting of Economics Research Associates (ERA) to find a location for another Disney resort, Disney Productions moves beyond a single park. ERA recommended Florida with another study in 1961 named either Ocala or Orlando in Florida as possible locations. Walt Disney in November 1963 made a trip to Florida for final site selection.[CDW 1]:333, 334 Disney Productions purchased Celebrity Sports Center, opened on September 17, 1960 in Denver, Colorado, in 1962 from its owners including Walt Disney, Art Linkletter, and John Payne to use as a staff training center for its second resort.[12] In 1963 Roy makes plans to buy from 5,000 to 10,000 acres, which is carried out in 1964 and by October 1965 amassing 27,443 acres.[CDW 2][CDW 3] Plans for the Florida project (what would become Walt Disney World) are announced to the public in November 1965.[CDW 3] Legislation forming Reedy Creek Improvement District was signed into law by Florida Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. on May 12, 1967 allowing Disney to build the infrastructure for the second park.[CDW 4] Ground breaking followed for the future Reedy Creek park on May 30.[CDW 5] In Roy O. Disney's last act as CEO in 1968, he officially named the second park Walt Disney World.[CDW 1]:357

Disneyland International was incorporated on November 20, 1961.[13] The next year, The Oriental Land Company contacted Disney about building a theme park.[14]

In 1959, the WED owned Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System was is installed at Disneyland.[9][15] Disneyland's first new theme land, New Orleans Square, opened in 1966. While Tommorrowland was revamped in 1967 with seven new attractions.[15] The design and architectural group and the WED Enterprise name was purchased from Walt's corporation renamed as Retlaw Enterprise.[9]

Disney did expand with attractions at the 1964 New York World's Fair with It's a Small World[16] and costumed characters. With the characters a hit at the 1964 World's Fair, Walt wanted another outlet for "live" characters thus Disneyland put on Disney on Parade a self produced live arena show starting in 1969.[5][17] While Small World and its famous song lasted two years at the fair then it was moved to Disneyland as an expanded major attraction in 1966 and latter duplicated in the other Disneyland theme parks.[16]

In 1965, Walt Disney had won a bid with the US Forest Service on developing Mineral King as a ski resort. Sierra Club in June 1969 sued to stop the development which was granted by the federal district judge. The Forest Service appealed and won at the appeal and Supreme Courts. The Supreme Court ruling left open to the Club an ability to refile. In the next round of lawsuits, the same district judge block the redevelopment. The injunction and the passage of National Environmental Policy Act led to Disney backing out.[18]

$40 million worth of Walt Disney Productions Convertible Debentures were sold in January 1968 to fund Disney World (WDW). The next year in February, an agreement was made with multiple labor unions in which the exchanged the right to strike for regular pay increases during the first building phase.[CDW 6] By 1971, chairman of the Park Operations Committee and vice president of park operations Dick Nunis was appointed executive vice president of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.[19]

Walt Disney World begins operation on October 1, 1971 with the Magic Kingdom park at a cost of $400 million. The Magic Kingdom had seven theme lands were Main Street, Adventureland, Bear Country, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Tomorrowland.[CDW 7] Additional, the Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort campground and two hotels, Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, opened.[CDW 8]

Disneyland expanded in 1972 with a seventh theme land, Bear Country, replacing the Indian Village of Frontierland and later renamed Critter Country. In 1979, the Disneyland crafts and maintenance union workers were on strike for 15 days after originally rejected the park's contract then accepting the contract.[15] [Space Mountain (Disneyland)|Space Mountain]] opens at Disneyland in 1975.[15]

Two more hotels are opened in 1973 at Disney World, The Golf Resort[20] and The Gold Resort[CDW 9] with Disney's Village Resort hotel opening in 1974.[citation needed] Disney opened the Buena Vista Club golf club in Lake Buena Vista on November 22, 1974.[CDW0 1]:71 Lake Buena Vista Village, the shopping area, opened on March 22, 1975[CDW0 1] then renamed Walt Disney World Village in 1977.[21] :280 Celebrity Sports Center, Disney World's training center, was sold in on March 29, 1979.[12]

At Walt Disney World opened Treasure Island nature preserve pens on April 8, 1974[CDW0 2]:569 and renamed Discovery Island in 1977.[CDW0 1]:126 On July 1, 1975, the WEDway PeopleMover opened in the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland.[CDW0 3] The first water park, River Country, opened on June 20, 1976 at Disney World.[CDW0 4]:22

In 1979, Oriental Land and Disney agreed to build a Japanese theme park.[14] Tokyo Disneyland opened on April 15, 1983 on 200 acres in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan.[22]

EPCOT Center's groundbreaking occurred at Walt Disney World in May 1979.[CDW0 5] On June 1, 1982, the Disney World monorail line is extended to EPCOT Center from the Ticket and Transportation Center.[CDW0 1]:338 EPCOT Center theme park opened on October 1, 1982 at a building cost of US$1.2 billion and two areas, Future World and World Showcase.[CDW0 6]:272

The steam railroad and monorail at Disneyland were purchased from Retlaw Enterprises, formerly WED Enterprises, in 1982.[15] Disneyland started on May 5, 1987,[CDL4 1] while Disney World parks started with Epcot on October 2.[CDW1 1]

Tishman Company plans for two Walt Disney World hotels were rejected new CEO Michael Eisner on September 30, 1984 marking a change in Disney architecture. New plans for the Dolphin and Swan hotels were submitted by Michael Graves in July 1986[CDW1 2] with ground breaking on January 28, 1988.[CDW1 3] The first non-Disney owned hotel, Pickett Suite Resort, opened in Disney World Village on March 15, 1987.[CDW1 4]

Plans for a Hollywood-style theme park was announced in April 1985 for the World resort at a project cost of US$300 million.[CDW1 5]In April 1985, Disney signed a licensing agreement with MGM, giving Disney the right to use the MGM name, logo and movie library for this third park.[23] Disney-MGM Studios theme park construction began in 1986.[CDW1 6] Disney-MGM Studios, opened on May 1, 1989[CDW1 7] and its second water park, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, opens on June 1.[CDW1 8]

In 1987, Disney and Ron Brierley's Industrial Equity (Pacific) Ltd., already a 28% owner of the Wrather Corporation, agreed to purchase the remaining Wrather Corporation stock with 50% share each.[1][24] Wrather Corporation owned the Disneyland Hotel and operated Queen Mary and Spruce Goose tourist attractions.[1] In March 1988, Disney purchased Industrial Equity's half of Wrather Corporation.[24]

Construction on Euro Disney Resort begins in August 1988.[CDC 1] Euro Disney SCA licensed in February 1989 The Walt Disney Company's intellectual property for the French theme park.[CDC 2] Euro Disney went public by trading on the Paris Stock Exchange on October 8 at US$14 a share with 42.9 million shares sold.[CDC 3]


Walt Disney Imagineering created Disney Fair, a U.S. traveling attraction. With poor attendance, the fair was pulled after a few stops. Disney Entertainment Projects (Asia Pacific) Inc., a new Disney Asian Pacific subsidiary, selected a renamed fair called DisneyFest as its first projecttaking it to Singapore[25]


Disney Parks and Resorts reorganized in early 2009 which included lay offs in all units due to recession induced falling attendance. 600 U.S. managers in January were offered buy out packages. Worldwide Operations was formed under President Al Weiss in 2009. Worldwide Operations would take over various back office functions current preformed by both Disney World and Disneyland including training, procurement, menu planning and merchandise development. While, its Walt Disney Imagineering subsidiary combined its three development units.[27]


On February 5, 2015, it was announced that Tom Staggs had been promoted to Disney Company COO but would continue as chairman of Parks and Resorts until his successor was named.[28] On February 23, 2015, Robert Chapek was named chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts effective that day.[1]

Disney resorts[edit]

Disneyland Resort[edit]

Main article: Disneyland Resort

Disneyland was founded as a single park by Walt Disney and opened on July 17, 1955 in Anaheim, California. Disneyland Hotel opened to the public on October 5, 1955. In 2001, the site expanded significantly and was renamed the Disneyland Resort with the opening of Disney California Adventure Park on February 8, 2001, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa on January 2, 2001, Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel on December 15, 2000, and Downtown Disney on January 12, 2001. Disneyland was rebranded Disneyland Park to distinguish it from the larger resort complex. The resort focuses on Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters and occupies 500 acres (2.0 km2).


Shopping, dining and entertainment complex:

Resort hotels:

Walt Disney World Resort[edit]

Main article: Walt Disney World

The Walt Disney World Resort opened October 1, 1971 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, with the Magic Kingdom theme park and three resort hotels. It expanded with the opening of Epcot in 1982, Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon in 1989, Disney's Blizzard Beach in 1995, Disney's Animal Kingdom in 1998, Disney Springs retail, dining, and entertainment complex, eight golf courses, and 18 new resort hotels. The resort is the largest (by area) and most-visited vacation resort in the world, with four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex, 21 resort hotels, eight golf courses and several additional recreational activities, and covers 30,080 acres of land.


Water parks:

Other venues:

Shopping, dining and entertainment complex:

Resort hotels:

Tokyo Disney Resort[edit]

Main article: Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort, located in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan, opened April 15, 1983. On September 4, 2001, the resort expanded with Tokyo DisneySea. There are several resort hotels on site, but only three are actually owned by the resort, which boasts the largest parking structure in the world. Tokyo Disney Resort is fully owned and operated by The Oriental Land Company and is licensed by The Walt Disney Company. The resort was built by Walt Disney Imagineering, and Disney maintains a degree of control; Nick Franklin leads the Walt Disney Attractions Japan team at The Walt Disney Company, which communicates with the Oriental Land Company over all aspects of the Resort, and assigns Imagineers to the Resort. Its properties, listed below, are divided into parks, shopping centers, and lodging.


Shopping, dining and entertainment complex:

Resort hotels:

Disneyland Paris[edit]

Main article: Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris, Disney's second resort complex outside the United States, opened on April 12, 1992, as the Euro Disney Resort. Located in Marne-la-Vallée in the suburbs of Paris, France, it features two theme parks, a golf course, an entertainment complex and seven Disney resort hotels. It is maintained and managed by Euro Disney S.C.A., a company partially owned by The Walt Disney Company whose stock is traded on Euronext. Its properties sit on 4,940 acres (20.0 km2), listed below, and are divided into parks, shopping centers, and lodging:


Other parks:

Shopping, dining and entertainment complex:

Resort hotels:

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort[edit]

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, Disney's fifth resort and its second in Asia, opened September 12, 2005. The resort is located in Penny's Bay, Lantau Island, Hong Kong. The resort consists of one theme park and two hotels, with land reserved for future expansion. It is owned and operated by Hong Kong International Theme Parks, an incorporated company jointly owned by The Walt Disney Company and the Government of Hong Kong. The first phase of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort occupies 320 acres (1.3 km2).


Other venues:

Resort hotels:

Shanghai Disney Resort[edit]

In November 2009, Disney received approval from the central government of China to build a Disney theme park in Shanghai's Pudong district. "China is one of the most dynamic, exciting and important countries in the world and this approval marks a very significant milestone for Walt Disney Co in mainland China," said Robert Iger, president and CEO of Disney.[29] The resort is expected to open in 2016. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on April 7, 2011.[30]


Shopping, dining and entertainment complex:

Resort hotels:

  • Shanghai Disneyland Hotel
  • Toy Story Hotel

Disney Cruise Line[edit]

Main article: Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line was formed in 1995. Its fleet comprises four ships: Disney Magic (launched 1998)(re-imagined 2013), Disney Wonder (1999), Disney Dream (2011), and Disney Fantasy (2012). Each ship was designed and built in collaboration with Walt Disney Imagineering.

Disney Cruise Line offers three, four and five-night cruises in the Bahamas; seven-night Alaskan cruises; seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises; and seven-night Caribbean cruises. The Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries include a stop at Disney's private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. In 2012, Disney Cruises would depart from Port Canaveral, Los Angeles, Seattle, Galveston and New York.



Disney Regional Entertainment[edit]

Disney Regional Entertainment was the division of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts which developed and operated unique concepts. It previously operated the Club Disney, DisneyQuest and ESPN Zone concepts. The only remaining DisneyQuest, in Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort, is now operated directly by the resort. The only two remaining ESPN Zone restaurants in Los Angeles and Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort are operated by third parties.


  • ESPN Zone, a chain of sports-themed restaurants.
  • Club Disney, a now-closed chain of children's entertainment centers.
  • DisneyQuest, an indoor arcade with traditional and virtual reality experiences.

Other ventures[edit]

Abandoned and misreported concepts[edit]

Disney had plans to build Walt Disney's Riverfront Square in St. Louis. In July 1965, Disney cancelled the project.

In the 1960s, Disney initiated a plan for a ski resort at Mineral King in California. Opposition from environmental groups led by the Sierra Club led to a temporary court injunction in 1969 and legal battles through the 1970s. The project's planning and scale changed multiple times, and in 1978 Mineral King was annexed into Sequoia National Park, ending any possibility of developing a ski resort.[31]

Disney reportedly had plans to build a park named Disney's America. The park was to have been located in Haymarket, Virginia, but local opposition to the idea persuaded Disney to abandon the idea in 1994. On September 28, 1994, Michael Eisner announced that Disney was cancelling its plans to build Disney's America after a bruising national media fight with Protect Historic America and aggressive local opposition in Virginia from Protect Prince William and other citizen groups.

Prior to building Disney's California Adventure, Disney proposed Westcot Center for an expansion of Disneyland. When Anaheim and local leaders balked at the ambitious expansion, Disney briefly looked to nearby Long Beach, California with a concept called Port Disney. Eventually, Anaheim lured Disney back and Disney's California Adventure was built from 1998 to 2001. Many of the Port Disney concepts went on to be part of Tokyo DisneySea.

Disney had plans to build a Disneyland in Sydney, Australia between 2007 and 2008 with the proposed name "Disney Wharf at Sydney Harbour", but the concept was abandoned due to mixed responses in the New South Wales Government.[32]

In early January 2011, conflicting reports emerged regarding Disney's involvement in a proposed entertainment complex in Haifa, Israel, whose plans include a small (30,000 square meter) amusement park scheduled to open in 2013. The project will be partially funded by Shamrock Holdings, a Disney-affiliated investment firm. In the wake of reports from Israeli business newspaper Globes and industry newswire Amusement Management that Disney itself would be involved in the project's development, a spokesperson for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts clarified to Fast Company that Disney did not have any plans to involve itself in the building of the park.[33]

Past projects[edit]

In October 2007, Disney announced plans to build a resort at Ko Olina Resort & Marina in Kapolei, Hawaii, featuring both a hotel and Disney Vacation Club timeshare units. The 800-unit property, named Aulani, opened in 2011 and joins the other resorts not associated with a theme park, such as Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina.[34]

Rita Lau, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development for Hong Kong, announced that the expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland had been approved by the Executive Council on June 30, 2009, and also approved by the Legislative Council of Hong Kong on July 10, 2009. The park has received three new lands: Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point and Toy Story Land. Construction began in late 2009 and took 5 years to complete. The park features a total of seven themed lands after the completion of all the new additions.[35]

Future projects[edit]

Announced future projects[edit]

In November 2009, Disney received approval from the Chinese government to build a Disneyland resort in Shanghai's Pudong district.[36] The resort is expected to open in Spring 2016.[37]

It was reported in March 2013 that Disney will transform Downtown Disney, at Walt Disney World, into a re-imagined shopping district called Disney Springs. This project will open in phases and is expected to be completed by 2016.[38]

It was reported in August 2014 that beginning in 2015, Disney plans to expand the presence of Star Wars throughout their theme parks (also it is unclear which ones) and it could also include an entire theme park area dedicated to the film franchise. Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger indicated that plans were to match what Universal Studios Florida did when they expanded and added a Harry Potter themed section to their park. In 2012, Disney acquired Lucasfilm, which includes the rights to the Star Wars franchise and Indiana Jones franchise (which is also expected to see an increase in presence at the theme parks) and in December 2015 Disney will release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first of a new trilogy of films.[39]

In September 2011, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts announced plans to partner with filmmaker James Cameron and his Lightstorm Entertainment production company, along with 20th Century Fox, to develop theme park attractions based on Cameron's Avatar film franchise, with the first installation planned for Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, in the form of a themed land. While no specific plans or attractions were announced, construction on the new area is expected to begin by 2013.[40] Disney also secured exclusive global theme parks rights to the Avatar franchise.[41] The expansion is planned to open in 2017.[42]

Potential future projects[edit]

Both Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris have room for future expansion.[43] Disney has made no announcements regarding plans for another American theme park and CEO Robert Iger frequently has cited international expansion as one of the company's three strategic priorities.[44]

Properties outside Disney parks[edit]

Due to its acquisitions of Marvel Entertainment in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012, some Disney-owned franchises are represented in its competitors' parks. Marvel Super Hero Island, a themed land featuring characters and settings from Marvel Comics, has operated at Universal Orlando Resort's Islands of Adventure park since 1999. A Star Wars-themed section of Legoland California's Miniland USA opened in 2011, with a similar version set to open at Legoland Florida in November 2012, just weeks after Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise.


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  4. ^ Disney A to Z - The Official Encyclopedia, by Dave Smith, 1996. Page 387.
  5. ^ Prince of the Magic Kingdom, by Joe Flower, 1991.
  6. ^ Walt Disney World - 20 Magical Years, by the Walt Disney Company, 1991/2?.
  7. ^ Page D5. The New York Times, May 1, 1989, Volume 138, Number 47857.
  8. ^ Orlando Attractions, Summer 2009. Page 33.

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