How Walt Kept Disney World a Secret

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 50 years since Disney World originally opened back in 1971. But did you know that the planning for the parks actually started YEARS before that?

Magic Kingdom

After the great success of Disneyland, Walt set his eyes on his next project which later became what we know today as Disney World. But Walt was a smart businessman and managed to keep his new project under wraps for many years — here’s how!

Here’s How Walt Kept Disney World a Secret For YEARS!

Why Walt Chose Florida

It wasn’t long after Disneyland opened that Walt started dreaming up his next big thing — an even bigger theme park east of the Mississippi.

Disneyland Opening Day ©Disney

He didn’t know exactly where he wanted this bigger, more secluded, theme park to be built, but he did know that if he didn’t keep it a secret the price of land would skyrocket wherever he was looking. So to keep the idea from the world, he titled it Project X and started the search for the perfect location.


The search for land spanned over a total of five years, and most people within the Disney Company didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes.


Eventually, Walt landed on Florida as the location of Project X thanks to the location, good weather, easy transportation, and reliable infrastructure. But it wasn’t just any location in Florida — it was Central Florida because he wanted to be sure that his park didn’t need to compete with the beaches.

Purchasing Land in Secret

By 1963 and 1964, Walt had his eyes set on land in Central Florida, so plans started to form for how he would be able to purchase the Florida land without anyone knowing (because, again, he wanted prices to remain low).


Working with one of the company’s lawyers, Robert Price Foster, they set up a large number of “dummy” corporations with names like M.T. Lott Real Estate, Bay Lake Properties,  Ayefour, and Reedy Creek Ranch Lands.


By 1965, Walt had purchased more than 27,000 acres of land. And while no one knew who exactly was buying up the HUGE amount of land, rumors started flying about who it could be and what could be coming to the area. Of course, Walt continued to deny any sort of involvement publicly.

The “Florida Project”

In 1965 however, the secret couldn’t be kept any longer. In October, The Orlando Sentinel ran a newspaper article written by reporter Emily Bavar where she shared that she believed it was Walt Disney who purchased the land and that this would be the location for the next park.


Walt had already made plans to make his own announcement in November of 1965 so the deadline was pushed up and Governor Haydon Burns announced that Walt would be building the next Disney park in the state just one day after the article ran. From then on Walt referred to the new park as the “Florida Project.”

From left to right, Walt Disney, then-Florida Gov. Hayden Burns and Roy O. Disney at a press conference in 1965 announcing Disney’s plans to come to central Florida. [The Orlando Sentinel]
To put into perspective why Walt was so set on keeping this project a secret due to pricing on land, he purchased his first acre of land for around $80, and after the secret was out, he purchased his last for about $80,000. On average, the 27,440 acres (which is twice the size of Manhattan) cost only about $180 per acre or $5 million. All the secret-keeping seemingly paid off (literally!).


Sadly, Walt passed away only a year later in 1966 before construction had even begun on Disney World. But he was still able to share many of his dreams for what became known as the “Disney World Project” including plans for the Magic Kingdom and a new prototype community called EPCOT.


Five years later, the Magic Kingdom that we know today had its grand opening.

Now, Walt Disney World spans four theme parks, two water parks, and more than 25 hotels It continues to change and evolve and has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, all thanks to Walt and his dream of creating another vacation spot for families on the east coast.

Check out The History Behind Walt Disney World’s Original Resort Hotels

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2 Replies to “How Walt Kept Disney World a Secret”

    1. I agree with Bev but it will be a challenge to obtain pictures from the past. Corporate should have been in archives. I am sure would not mind at all.If anyone can make the contacts and put it together Molly can.