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It was 50 years ago this week that Walt Disney chose Orlando, Fl as the site for his biggest and boldest project ever. In this week’s show, we’ll talk about what went into choosing central Florida over other proposed locations as well as the problems and challenges faced by Walt’s Imagineers as they carried Walt’s dreams forward even after his death and managed to transform a Florida swamp into the #1 vacation destination in the entire world. We’ll also spend a few minutes talking about the Disney community’s great loss this week with the death of Walt’s only surviving child, Diane Disney Miller, at the age of 79. So now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the show; you’re among friends!
November 22, 1963 is a date that almost everyone associates with JFK and the assassination. But 50 years ago today is also the day Walt Disney flew over Central Florida, and saw the beautiful land around Bay Lake. It was the day he decided that this was where he would build Walt Disney World.
At the time Orlando was little more than a small town surrounded by cattle ranches and citrus groves. But Walt, being a man of vision, could see so much more. His ideas for the theme park that would be bigger and greater than anything he had done at Disneyland were only part of the picture. He also envisioned a grand community; a working community where he would be able to use the ideas and methods he and his Imagineers had crafted to create a unique American environment and a city of tomorrow. As his private plane circled the area over Bay Lake, he and some of his most trusted advisers looked down from the windows of “Ear Force One”. Some who were with him in the plane that day have said that when Walt looked down at Bay Lake, and saw the pristine blue waters and a beautiful island sitting right in the middle, is when he said simply “this is it.” They had already been to sites near Niagara Falls, Washington DC, and St. Louis, Missouri. But Central Florida was the one that caught Walt’s imagination. It was only later, when they stopped to refuel, that Walt and his advisers heard the news that far away in Dallas, TX, Pres. Kennedy had been shot. And while many remember that day as a very dark and sad day; a day that in many ways changed the mood and direction of an entire country, it also is the day that a dream took hold and Walt Disney transformed Florida into the place we know today.
Tony Barson Archive/WireImage
NOVEMBER 19, 2013 | 02:58PM PT
Philanthropist Diane Disney Miller, who was the daughter of Walt Disney, died Tuesday at her home in Napa, Calif. She had suffered a fall in September from which she never recovered.
Disney Miller, the eldest and only biological daughter of Lillian and Walt Disney, helped shepherd the development of Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was designed by architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2004. When Gehry tried to walk off the project in 1997, Disney Miller persuaded him to stay, saying that the remaining funds from her mother’s gift could not be used unless he remained as architect.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Diane Disney Miller and our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time,” said Disney prexy and CEO Robert Iger. “As the beloved daughter of Walt Disney and one of his inspirations for creating Disneyland, she holds a special place in the history of the Walt Disney Company and in the hearts of fans everywhere. She will be remembered for her grace and generosity and tireless work to preserve her father’s legacy, and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her.”
At age 20, Diane Disney was introduced to USC student Ron Miller; they married in 1954, and he survives her. Walt Disney helped Miller get jobs on various Disney shows, and by 1978 he was president and then CEO of Walt Disney Productions until being ousted in 1984. Since 1981, the Miller family has operated Napa’s Silverado Vineyards Winery.
After Disney Hall was completed, she moved on to nurturing her father’s legacy through the creation of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened in San Francisco in 2009.
Her adopted sister, Sharon Mae Disney, died in 1993. In addition to her husband, she is survived by seven children.