Lillian Disney, Walt’s wife, could sense something big brewing in early 1952. It was one of those times, she would say, when “Walt’s imagination was going to take off and go into the wild blue yonder and everything will explode.” Walt Disney began liquidating long-held family assets, borrowing against his life insurance policy, selling properties and even selling the rights to his own name. Disney was planning something new—to kick down the walls dividing his movies and real life.
When Disney’s children were very young, he’d tried to take them to places where their imaginations could run wild. But every carnival or fair seemed to be dirty, poorly run and filled with vice. Walt wanted to create a place where people could take their family and forget the concerns of the everyday world—a place beautiful, safe and filled with endless wonder. So at about the same time that he had started selling assets and conserving his capital, he pulled aside one of his art directors and had him begin working on concept sketches for a new kind of amusement park. The sketches started to illustrate the vision he had in his head, a utopian world where guests would enter a fairytale world.
The WED team—now known as the Imagineers—had combined their moviemaking acumen with hard work and ingenuity to prove firsthand what the watchers of their films had always believed—if you dream something, it can come true. They had transformed an orange grove into the Magic Kingdom by combining Walt’s purpose with a wealth of experienced creativity and flawless execution. The Imagineers had made the magic real.