THE FINANCIAL STORY behind Walt Disney World is almost as fantastic as the physical development itself. In spite of runaway inflation in the construction trade, Walt Disney Productions will end up building and owning nearly all of a $320-million piece of property, without having incurred a penny of long-term debt in the process.
Walt Disney World—as by now nearly every American knows—is a formidable amusement park-resort-realty development near Orlando, Fla. Roy O. Disney, Walts canny older brother and chairman of the company, sometimes calls it Disneyland East. Thats because its 40 major attractions in such theme areas as Main Street, Frontierland and Fantasyland are similar to those in Disneyland West. The first Disneyland transformed the sleepy city of Anaheim, Calif.—and the dying amusement park business for that matter—when Walt hocked his life insurance to make it a reality in 1955.
Disney World is different in its financing and in another important respect from Disneyland. Whereas Disneyland straddles only 289 acres in Anaheim, Disney World has 27,400 acres of central Florida ranch and swampland. Californias Disneyland is surrounded by non-Disney hotels, motels and pizza, hamburger and _ taco parlors. Not so Floridas Disney World: Disneys own construction firm is putting the Florida project together four miles within the boundaries of Disney country, where the company owns everything. It in effect runs its own governmental units and even controls the local telephone company.