Walt Disney World and Beyond

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Apr 04, 2009

"If you can dream it, you can do it." 
Walt Disney

About 30 years ago Evie and I took our two sons, Darin and Kevin, to Walt Disney World for the first time. I can still remember their excitement as they posed in front of Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom. A few weeks ago they stood at the very same spot with Noah, our only grandchild. 

Walt Disney World is almost impossible to comprehend. Two visits 30 years apart can never do it justice. Friends encouraged us to purchase the 849 page "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2009" to prepare for our experience. And though we found it helpful, the details were often overwhelming. 

Did you know that Walt Disney World "comprises 43 square miles of area twice as large as Manhattan or roughly the size of Boston?" Situated strategically in this vast expanse are the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom theme parks; two swimming theme parks; two nighttime-entertainment areas; a sports complex; five golf courses; 34 hotels; a campground; more than 100 restaurants; four interconnected lakes; a shopping complex; three convention venues; a nature preserve; and a transportation system consisting of four-lane highways, elevated monorails, and a network of canals. 

Here are a few amazing statistics of Walt Disney World: 

  • WDW has 63,000 employees or "cast members" making it the largest single-site employer in the U.S.
  • Keeping cast members' costumes clean requires 16,000 loads of laundry and the dry-cleaning of 30,000 garments each day.
  • Mickey Mouse has 175 different sets of duds ranging from a scuba wet suit to a tux. Minnie tops him with more than 200 outfits.
  • Each year, Disney restaurants serve 10 million burgers, 7 million hot dogs, 50 million Cokes, 9 million pounds of French Fries, and 150 tons of popcorn.
But Walt Disney World is known not only for its huge size; it is also known for its personal touch and attention to minute detail. On the day we went to Magic Kingdom, Noah celebrated his sixth birthday. All day he proudly wore his large "Happy Birthday, Noah" button. And all day cast members kept saying to him, "Happy Birthday, Noah!" Each time they said it, the look on his face was priceless. 

Although he was born in Chicago, Walt Disney grew up in Missouri. He had early interests in art, photography, wildlife, family and community. After serving with the Red Cross in France, he returned to pursue a career in commercial art. He started a small company called Laugh-O-Grams which eventually fell bankrupt. With his suitcase and twenty dollars, Walt headed to Hollywood to start over. 

He once said, "I believe in being an innovator." And his belief took him to the pinnacle of influence. From his first major production of "Flowers and Trees," the first color cartoon, Walt went on to receive 59 Academy Award nominations. He actually won 26 Oscars, including a record four in one year as well as seven Emmy Awards. 

Noah will probably never forget his first visit to Walt Disney World. Our pictures of him at Animal World, Magic Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios will make sure we never forget it either. 

As we walked and walked and walked within the world of Walt Disney, I thought of something Albert Einstein once said, "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination." Walt Disney certainly had a lot of imagination. 

Were we amazed at how clean everything was and how friendly everyone treated us? Yes! Would we ever want to go back? Who wouldn't? 

But in spite of the larger-than-life scale of it all, we must always remember Walt Disney's summation, "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse." 

Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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