50 years ago today, Walt Disney World Resort opened near Orlando, Florida. Covering 39 square mies (101 km2), “The Florida Project”, as it was known inside the company, was developed by Walt Disney himself in the 1960s. After he died during the initial planning, the company, which already operated Disneyland in California, wrestled with whether to bring the project to fruition. However, Walt’s older brother, Roy, came out of retirement to make sure Walt’s biggest dream was realized.

It now consists of four theme parks: the original was the Magic Kingdom, then came Epcot, a ‘world of tomorrow’, then Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It also added two water parks, 27 themed resort hotels, a camping resort, and several golf courses—all to service its average annual attendance of more than 58 million visitors.

It was Roy who insisted the name of the entire complex be changed from Disney World to Walt Disney World, ensuring that people would remember that the project was Walt’s dream.

WATCH a video of the new fireworks display extravaganza that just premiered as celebrations get underway—and CHECK OUT a little known fact about how the most-visited vacation resort in the world has a government protection that no other specific private enterprise can claim… (1971)

– PHOTO CREDITS: (top) Jrobertiko – Denis Adriana Macias, CC license (above) Walt Disney World celebration by David Roark

Walt Disney World (as well as Disneyland) is covered by an FAA prohibited airspace zone that restricts all airspace activities without approval from the Federal government of the United States, including usage of drones. This level of protection is otherwise only offered to American critical infrastructure like military bases, the Washington, portions of the DC Metropolitan Area, official presidential travels, and Camp David.

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • John Philip Sousa, who later, invented the sousaphone, became leader of the United States Marine Corps Band (1880)
  • Everything-Happens-For-a-Reason: Wiley Post had an accident that cost his left eye–but the settlement money bought him his first aircraft and he became the first pilot to fly solo around the world (1926)
  • Jackie Gleason’s sitcom The Honeymooners debuted on CBS television (1955)
  • Cyprus and Nigeria gained their independence from the UK in 1960; Ghana, in 1957
  • Roger Maris hit his 61st home run of the season for the New York Yankees, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 60 set in 1927 (1961)
  • Following the announcement of “Heeeeere’s Johnny,” Johnny Carson took the stage to host his first Tonight Show, interviewing guests Rudy Vallée, Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks, and Joan Crawford (1962)
  • The Japanese Shinkansen ‘bullet’ trains began the first high-speed rail service (1964)
  • The Free Speech Movement was launched on the UC Berkeley campus–info (1964)
  • Happy 51st Birthday to comedian, writer, and actor Zach Galifianakis, known for his role as the awkward brother-in-law in The Hangover (1969)
  • The United States returned sovereignty of the Panama canal to Panama (1979)
  • The first CD player was released by Sony for consumer use of compact discs (1982)

32 years ago today, thousands of East Germans received a triumphant welcome from fellow Germans after communist leaders agreed to let them flee to the West. West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher made the dramatic announcement the day before in Prague, telling 4,000 refugees encamped at the embassy that they were being allowed to emigrate by train to the West.

Photo raising the German flag, Bundesarchiv, CC license

In the aftermath of World War II, Germany had been split in two, with the eastern side forced to live under the heavy-handed authoritarian occupation of the Soviet Union. Germany celebrates Unity Day on Thursday, remembering the events three decades ago that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, and the reunification of the nation the following year. (1989)

Also on this day, 131 years ago, Yosemite National Park in California became the third U.S. National Park.

Julie_Andrews_Australia-CC-Eva-Rinaldi-crpdPresident Lincoln had set aside the majestic valley, years earlier, marking the first time in human history a huge tract of land had been dedicated to public use and preservation. The more than one million square-miles of Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are host to giant sequoia trees, towering waterfalls, and the largest granite monolith in the world, El Capitan. (1890)

Also, Happy Birthday to former President Jimmy Carter who turns 97 years old today. The 39th president of the United States from 1977–1981, is one of the few American presidents to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (for his Camp David Accords).jimmy-carter-white-house-photo

The author of ‘A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety,’ last month he helped build another home for Habitat for Humanity with his wife Rosalynn, once again showing that his age, and even beating cancer, hasn’t slowed him down. The couple has volunteered for the housing organization for more than 30 years, during which time, they have helped build more than 4,000 homes. (1924)

And, Happy 86th Birthday to actress, singer and author, Julie Andrews. At age 21, she rose to prominence starring in Broadway musicals such as My Fair Lady and Camelot, but it was her film debut in Mary Poppins that won her the Academy Award for Best Actress—and her role as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music that won our hearts.

Julie_Andrews_Australia-CC-Eva-Rinaldi-crpd
Eva Rinaldi, CC license

(That 55-year-old musical co-starring Christopher Plummer is still the 6th highest-grossing movie of all time when adjusted for inflation, after remaining in theaters for over a year.)

She was to be honored last year with the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award, but the gala was postponed due to the pandemic. She is also a best-selling author publishing over 30 children’s books with her daughter. Her 2019 memoir, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, describes a tough life of perfectionism and being on the road a lot, even as a young girl.

In 20020, she produced 18 episodes of a podcast called Julie’s Library in which she and her daughter, children’s author Emma Walton Hamilton, host story times, reading their favorite children’s books from the library. A second film sequel to The Princess Diaries is also reportedly in the works. WATCH a 2019 interview, as she looks back on her career… (1935)

RELATED: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Julie Andrews on Her 80th Birthday

 

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