Money makes the world go round--especially if it's Disney World in Orlando. From its conception in 1964 to opening day on October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World has been an expensive proposition. Walt Disney World has changed Central Florida from a hot, swampy middle class town to a mega moneymaking entertainment destination. How much Disney World is worth can only be roughly estimated by breaking down the land deal and the cost of visiting Walt's East Coast Metropolis.
There's no question that Walt Disney was not only an artistic visionary--but also a very savvy businessman. When he decided to open his second theme park, he decided not to compete with his first theme park, Disneyland in California. He looked at properties on the East Coast; and Orlando, Florida was just the sunny spot for his next mega venture. He began with an experiment by featuring four attractions at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. When it seemed that easterners loved his attractions as well as Californians did, he went looking for some land. Florida had everything he could hope for--a sunny year round climate and tons of beach going tourists.
He tried to keep his park site shopping under wraps as long as he could; however a 27,000 acres land deal in central Florida was hard to miss, even though he bought it under the name of a fake corporation. A reporter from the Orlando Sentinel sniffed out the story, and soon the value of the land surrounding the purchased property skyrocketed. Before his death, Walt Disney set aside 7,500 acres to be kept as a natural preserve--now 8,300 acres remain undeveloped, according to Love To Know.
It is said that in exchange for this massive purchase, the State of Florida and Orange Count let Walt and his company do what they liked with the land--including making decisions about zoning. This worked out well for the Disney Corporation, who proceeded to break ground on the park with no one to answer to but themselves. As a self contained entity, it devised its own laundry services, food distribution centers, and energy plants. No one need step out from Disney's borders during the construction phase.
The park attractions, including Cinderella's castle which used six hundred tons of steel to construct, cost 400 million dollars. Over 9,000 workers made Walt's Orlando dream happen although Walt died right as construction began.
Current Property Value
The Orange County Appraisers office, which includes all of Orlando, has appraised the Disney World property to be worth over 1.3 billion dollars in their 2011 estimate, as listed on Reference.com. Disney has significantly made money on the land alone and nearby hotels sprang up at an astounding rate to handle the swarms of Disney World park patrons.
On any given day Disney World does a brisk business. In 2015, the average number of visitors to the park was estimated at 56,000, a 6% increase from 2014, says Temporary Tourist.com. This statistic only includes The Magic Kingdom part of the enormous Orlando Disney park franchise! The Magic Kingdom is the most popular park of Disney World as well as the most popular theme park in the entire world. Epcot comes in second with an healthy number of 32,323 visitors per day.
Universal Studios in Orlando is Disney World's only real competition, and they are number 10 on the list of the world's most popular parks. Adding Harry Potter attractions to Universal wasn't enough to steal the magical theme park throne from Disney World.
How Much is Too Much?
Disney does not release figures on how much the park makes each day; however, some say that it's too much, and the average family can never hope to visit the "happiest place on earth". Tickets soared past the $100 per adult mark, according to a Washington Post Article, How Theme Parks like Disney World left the Middle Class Behind. For entrance to The Magical Kingdom, Disney has raised the gate price over 41 times in the past decade. With over 100 for entrance alone, the overpriced food, like a $115 steak, deserts costing as much as a family dinner, and a night on the property hotel costing over $2,000, it's way out of the budget for today's middle class family. Still it doesn't seem to make a dent in part attendance of 19 million visitors to the Magic Kingdom in 2014. The demographics have changed, where instead of just families, the park is an expensive retreat for mega rich tourists. A professor of hospitality, Scott Smith, notes that Universal and Six Flag parks in the Orlando area are hiking their prices, following Disney World's lead. He feels that Walt would not be pleased with this price gouging that has left the park out of reach to today's middle class. Many folks who live and work in Orlando have never been inside the theme park's gates.
What is Disney Worth To Those Who Work There?
It take a lot of workers, or "Cast Members" as they are called, to make the park accommodate so many daily visitors. From figures taken from Glassdoor.com, a cast member salary is a mere $8.84 per hour. Interns that work behind the scenes seem to make more; however, those lovely princesses and young men sweating in mouse costumes aren't getting rich anytime soon. There is also some odd quirks that the Disney corporation insists be adhered to, according to Movie Pilot.com. For instance, if two people working the reservation desk at the same time have the same name, Disney will simply change one worker's name as to not confuse the guests? It seems extreme but Disney World has not made billions by catering to its workers. Both parks have been dubbed with unflattering names like "Mousewitz" by former employees, for the strict rules and worker unfriendly atmosphere. Still, there is competition to get one of those coveted "cast member" jobs.
No matter how bad the recession or hopeless the job market, Disney World in Orlando will continue to meet thrilled park goers at the gate each day to let them in on the magic inside. Through Walt's strategic ideas and investment deal, Disney World has put Orlando on the map as the #1 theme park in the world for for tourists to visit.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker