BACKSTORY (Oct. 1, 1971–Present): Largest recreational resort in the world with four theme parks. Located in Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake, Florida, outside Orlando city limits. Walt Disney focused most of his attention on the “Florida Project” both before and after his participation at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, but he died on December 15, 1966, almost five years before his vision was realized. To avoid land speculation, Disney created dummy corporations to acquire 27,400 acres of land. The first five-acre lot was bought on October 23, 1964, by the Ayefour Corporation (a pun on Interstate 4). Another dummy corporation was RETLAW (WALTER backwards). A press conference was organized for November 15, 1965. At the presentation, Walt Disney explained the plans for the site, including EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), which was to be a futuristic city. Plans for EPCOT would drastically change after Disney’s death. EPCOT became EPCOT Center, the resort’s second theme park, opening in 1982. Concepts from the original idea of EPCOT would be integrated into the community of Celebration much later.
Walt died December 15, 1966 before his vision was realized. His brother Roy Disney postponed his retirement to oversee construction of the resort, passing away in December 1971, barely two months after it opened. Construction began in 1967 and the park opened on October 1, 1971, as the Magic Kingdom, and since has added Epcot (Oct. 1, 1982), Disney-MGM Studios (May 1, 1989), and Disney’s Animal Kingdom (April 22, 1998). The resort contains two water parks, six golf courses, a sports complex, an auto race track, twenty resort hotels and numerous shopping, dining, and entertainment. It even has its own fire department and a massive public transit system of buses and monorails. The 20,000 acre property is the largest theme park resort in the world, although over the past decade significant land has been sold off for housing and other developments, including land now occupied by the Disney-built (but not owned) community of Celebration.
BACKSTORY (May 1, 1977–April 22, 1975): Named in honor of Walt Disney's wife, Lillian, The Empress Lilly served some of the finest cuisine in the area. Christened by Lillian herself, the Empress Lilly was 220 by 62', more than twice the size of The Twain and Richard F. Irvine riverboats at WDW. However, the Lilly was not an actual ship as it was permanentlydocked on a block of concrete. Three restaurants could be found inside: Steerman's Quarters, Fisherman's Deck, and the most luxurious, The Empress Room. The Baton Rouge Lounge featured live Dixieland music. When the Lilly closed, it was replaced by Fulton's Crab House.