The Folklore of Disney Coming to Palm Beach! 

If you're a Disney enthusiast, you're likely familiar with the magical world of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. But did you know that this iconic theme park could have been located in Palm Beach County? It's a fascinating and lesser-known chapter in the history of both Disney and South Florida.

The "Florida Project" Takes Shape

In the 1950s, Walt Disney Productions envisioned expanding its theme park empire by establishing a second park east of the Mississippi River. They wanted to ensure that this new park was far enough away from Disneyland in California to avoid direct competition.

In a vintage filmstrip presentation to stakeholders, Walt Disney himself expressed, "I want to say just a word about the site of our Florida Project. Welcome to a little bit of Florida here in California." This "Florida Project" was the working title for what would eventually become Walt Disney World.

The Meeting with John D. MacArthur

Enter John D. MacArthur, the visionary billionaire philanthropist who had recently founded Palm Beach Gardens. Accompanied by his brother Roy Disney, Disney explored the possibilities of bringing their dream to life on Florida soil.

Disney and MacArthur had a pivotal meeting, during which they shook hands on a deal to build the theme park on 320 acres along PGA Boulevard. Part of the areas that would have been the future Disney park is PGA National and Mirasol neighborhoods.

The Handshake That Almost Sealed the Deal

The agreement they crafted was straightforward: Disney would be responsible for the entertainment aspect of the park, while MacArthur would provide the land and the financing. It seemed like a match made in heaven, and the two visionaries clicked instantly.

However, as is often the case with such ambitious projects, the devil was in the details. Roy Disney, the man responsible for handling the company's business side, had concerns about other businesses potentially profiting from the park's success, similar to what had happened with Disneyland in Anaheim.

The Deal Falls Through

To address these concerns, Roy Disney sought to negotiate for additional land. Unfortunately, this attempt to secure more acreage infuriated John D. MacArthur, leading to the ultimate unraveling of the handshake agreement. The dream of Disney World in Palm Beach County was no more, as the Palm Beach Post reported.

Walt and Roy Disney's New Frontier

Undeterred by this setback, Walt and Roy Disney turned their attention to Orlando, where they found cheap swampland priced at just over $80 an acre. Orlando also offered a climate less prone to hurricanes, making it an ideal location for their grand vision.

And so, the magic of Walt Disney World found its home in Orlando, where it continues to captivate the hearts and imaginations of millions of visitors from around the world.

While Palm Beach County may have missed out on being the home to the "Happiest Place on Earth," it's important to note that much of this tale can't be substantiated with concrete evidence. Nevertheless, this is how the story goes, a testament to the ambitious dreams and visions that have shaped the world of entertainment. Who knows what other enchanting stories might still be waiting to unfold in the Sunshine State?

Work Cited:

Staff, Palm Beach Post. “How Walt Disney’s Brother Prevented Disney World from Being Built in Palm Beach Gardens.” The Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach Post, 18 Oct. 2021, www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/2021/10/15/disney-world-could-have-been-built-palm-beach-gardens/8467770002/. 

Walker, T.A. “Walt Disney World Almost Set up Shop in Palm Beach Gardens.” Https://Www.Wflx.Com, 30 Sept. 2021, www.wflx.com/2021/09/30/walt-disney-world-almost-set-up-shop-palm-beach-gardens/. 

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Posted by Amy Simmonds on

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