Millions of Guests enjoy a Disney vacation every single year, and there are now Disney Parks and vacation destinations in nearly every corner of the world. While each destination obviously carries the name, it can become easy to forget about the man who started it all. Walt Disney was a legendary and innovative thinker who built an empire from his imagination, resulting in the amazing films, Disney Parks, and more that Guests can enjoy today.
Disneyland is truly where Guests can feel closest to Walt, as he actually walked the streets and experienced things just like Guests do there. Unfortunately, Walt passed away in December 1966 years before any of the other Disney Parks opened. This can make it hard to feel connected to the man who literally started it all, but there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort that pay tribute to the legend.
Let’s check out some ways to not only honor Walt, but experience things that he was directly involved in along with his famous Imagineers.
How to Pay Tribute to Walt
The most iconic tribute to Walt Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort can be found on the end of Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, just in front of Cinderella Castle. The famous Partners Statue depicts Walt and Mickey, hand in hand, looking out across the wonderful world that he created. Walt has his hand outstretched as if to showcase all that he built, and Guests love to pause, thank Walt, and snap a photo in front of this incredible tribute.
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Main Street Windows
Also found on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom are dozens of windows above that pay tribute to various Imagineers and employers of the Walt Disney Company and honor their time and contributions. It’s fitting that the only person to have two tribute windows on Main Street is Walt Disney himself, and they are both in prime locations, giving his memory some of the best views of the Disney Park.
The first window is located above the Walt Disney World Railroad Station facing the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon and reads “Walt Disney World Railroad Office, Keeping Dreams on Track, Walter E. Disney, Chief Engineer.” The second window can be found above The Plaza Restaurant facing Cinderella Castle and reads “Walter E. Disney, Graduate School of Design & Master Planning” with the names of key Imagineers listed below.
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Disney Family Crest
The final tribute to Walt Disney in the Magic Kingdom is one that many Guests tend to overlook while enjoying the Park. On the backside of Cinderella Castle, just above the large entrance to the breezeway, Guests can spot an ornate crest that belongs to the Disney family. The crest features three lions, a knight’s helmet, and ornate flourishes and pays tribute to Walt himself, as well as his family members who have been integral in the continuation of his vision.
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Experiences that Walt Had a Hand In
In addition to obvious tributes in the Disney Parks, there are also several experiences which Walt was directly involved in before his death, either from Disneyland or the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Let’s check out which attractions Guests can enjoy today at the Walt Disney World Resort to feel closest to Walt.
“it’s a small world”
One of the most quintessential experiences in any Disney Park is enjoying a ride on “it’s a small world” which was originally conceptualized for the 1964 New York World’s Fair and funded by UNICEF. The attraction celebrates the unity of children across all nations, and Walt was heavily involved in the project from start to finish as well as the host of the dedication ceremony once the attraction was moved to Disneyland. While Walt was never able to see any other variation of “it’s a small world,” Guests who ride the attraction at the Walt Disney World Resort can still enjoy the same message of hope and unity.
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Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
The second attraction at the Walt Disney World Resort that was created specifically for the 1964 New York World’s Fair is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. The attraction was first created for the General Electric Pavilion and was originally titled The Carousel Theater of Progress. Walt was involved in developing the innovative theater and storyline of how a typical American family could enjoy the fruits of progress throughout the years, and Guests who enjoy the attraction today can watch a clip of Walt and the Sherman Brothers on overhead televisions before heading into the theater.
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Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
It’s no secret that Walt was always a kid at heart, and one of his earliest joys in regard to the development of Disneyland was the use of new technologies like audio-animatronics. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room was born from Walt’s discovery of a mechanical bird on one of his travels, and he tasked Imagineer Wathel Rogers with figuring out how to recreate the technology and turn it into a dinner show. While Tropical Serenade, a dinner show where Guests could enjoy the tiki birds entertaining them from above, never came to be, the idea eventually became the classic Walt Disney’s Tiki Room that Guests can enjoy in the Magic Kingdom today.
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Walt Disney World Railroad
Walt was also a massive train enthusiast, even going so far as to install the Carolwood Pacific, a miniature railroad that friends and family could actually ride on, in his own backyard. One of the very first concepts that was developed for Disneyland was the idea of a railroad, and given Walt’s enthusiasm in the form of transportation, it is no surprise that the rails entirely wrapped around Disneyland, offering a scenic tour. The railroad system continued its legacy with the Walt Disney World Railroad, which offers Guests a scenic tour around the Magic Kingdom with stops at three different stations. Guests who take a few moments to explore the station on Main Street can also spot several photos and tributes to Walt and his love of trains.
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One of the most popular television series from Walt Disney’s career was True-Life Adventures, which were created from 1948 through 1960 and showcased exotic and unique locations across the globe. From this documentary-style adventure series came the idea for the world-famous Jungle Cruise, which Walt originally envisioned as featuring real-life animals. While live animals were too unpredictable to be used in the original Disneyland version of the attraction, Walt still managed to help create an iconic attraction that is now considered to be timeless. Walt’s vision of live animals in the Disney Parks was also finally realized with the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998.
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Pirates of the Caribbean
One of the last attractions that Walt Disney was involved in was Pirates of the Caribbean, which debuted in Disneyland just months after his death. Walt featured the attraction on his television show Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color and shared with Guests how they would be able to take to the high seas on their own swashbuckling adventure. While Walt never got to see the finished attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean went on to become a beloved favorite of many Guests and eventually opened in Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom in 1973.
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