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You walk through the gate and you are suddenly taking part in a movie. Pluto is shaking your hand and Goofy is tap-dancing at your feet. Mickey Mouse is wandering nearby, as tall as an 11-year-old boy. Not realizing that these are actors inside costumes, a swarm of children ask for autographs, as thrilled to be greeted by the Walt Disney characters as older boys would be to meet Johnny Bench or Vida Blue. Laughing, you begin your day in the most famous part of Walt Disney World – the Magic Kingdom.

Pushing past Goofy, you begin to explore. Straight ahead, high in the sky, is the castle. You are on Main Street, the first of the six "lands" that make up the Magic Kingdom. Designed to look like an American town at the turn of the century, Main Street has horse-drawn streetcars, a penny arcade, and an old-fashioned movie house where you can watch silent films.

At the end of Main Street you turn left and walk into Adventureland. Suddenly, surrounded by bamboo huts and tropical foliage, you are in a jungle village. Here you decide to enter your first attraction – the Jungle Cruise, a tour by boat along streams where elephants drink and hippos charge, between banks lined with gorillas and other fearsome inhabitants.

The Jungle Cruise, like all the attractions in Disney World, has been designed so carefully that the life-size people-puppets, the animals, the setting and, indeed, the danger often seem real. "Uh-oh, are those cannibals?" a woman said one day. Lee David, a Disney employee, reassured her: "Now, now, ma'am," he said, "don't get in a stew."

Before coming to Orlando, Fla., to work at Disney World, Lee piloted jungle cruises at the older and smaller Disneyland in California. On one voyage there, he began to talk about the "very special" tropical plants and trees the boat was passing. "They're amazing," he said. "They get their energy right from the air. They don't need any soil or water."

His passengers began to ponder Lee's startling claim. Finally, one man broke the silence. "Of course they don't need soil." he said, laughing. "They're plastic."

The passenger was correct. And if anyone should have known the difference between the many natural wonders at the Disney parks and the man-made ones, it was he. The man was Walt Disney, who created not only the cartoon characters and movies, but Disneyland and Disney World as well.