Happy Birthday, Walt: Walt’s Disney in the 21st Century
If Walt Disney really was cryogenically frozen, then today he turns 110 years old. While I’m pretty sure the whole frozen Walt thing is an urban myth, that doesn’t change the fact that today is still his birthday. And, sadly, Google chose to go doodle-less today. Really Google? Is Walt’s 110th birthday not as big of a deal as, say, Hideyo Noguchi’s 135th birthday?
But I digress…
Walt was born on December 5th, 1901. He created Mickey Mouse sometime in 1927 and opened Disneyland in 1955; he didn’t live to see the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971. But even if he had seen WDW back in the early 70’s, he still would barely recognize the Walt Disney World of today. Even with Walt’s amazing imagination, I doubt he could have pictured the things that are possible in 2011 or the things that are happening right now in the park that bears his name.
This makes me wonder–what would Walt love? If he could walk down Main Street USA right now, what would he be thinking? Would he like all of the new attractions? The changes to the old attractions? What would he think of Epcot, which was Walt’s original plan for the park. Would he enjoy the two newest parks, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom? Would he be impressed with the resort hotels and the cruise line? And, most importantly, how would Walt feel about the Walt Disney World family vacation experience as a whole?
Sadly, we can’t ever ask Walt these questions…unless he is actually cryogenically frozen and some day they manage to reanimate him, though if that’s all true, I suppose there’d be very little left on earth that one could be impressed with! But thinking about it myself, if I’d created Walt Disney World (which would then obviously be called Tracy Antonioli World) I’d be pretty pleased with many aspects of 21st century Disney World–though I’d be a little bummed about some, too (Stitch’s Great Escape, I’m looking at you!)
Obviously, Walt would love the great technological innovations that have been incorporated into the parks. Rides like Soarin’ and Toy Story Midway Mania would knock his socks off (though I’m not sure how he’d feel about the whole Pixar partnership that’s involved with Toy Story–but he’d certainly love the ride!) But I also think he’d be pleased to see so many of the ‘old standbys’ still being enjoyed by millions. He’d certainly feel right at home on Carousel of Progress, and the Dumbo expansion project would likely warm his heart.
Walt would definitely be impressed by the community he’s created, aided in a great part by the advent of the internet. There are more Disney fans online than I care to count, and hundreds of sites, forums, and blogs devoted to Walt Disney World. In addition, dozens upon dozens of books have been written on subjects ranging from trip planning to hidden Mickey finding to Disney dining. The wealth of information available is enough to make anyone’s ears spin.
Finally, I think Walt would be happy that the world he set out to create has truly become the greatest family vacation destination on earth. A Disney vacation is a right of passage for many (dare I say most?) families around the world. Walt set out to create a place that adults and children could enjoy together. And, to this day, Walt Disney World is that place. Just ask any mother who watched her daughter meet Cinderella for the first time. Ask the father with the little boy on his shoulders, enjoying the opening ceremonies at Animal Kingdom. Ask the grown woman who’s finally taken her elderly mother on her first family trip, grandchildren included. They’ll all tell you–Walt would approve of this.