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American Inventions - Game 13, UCF

You've certainly visited today's invention. You probably don't know how it all got started.

When you wish upon a star... and buy up 27,000 acres of land on the sly... anything your heart desires will come to you.
When you wish upon a star... and buy up 27,000 acres of land on the sly... anything your heart desires will come to you.
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

There's not much we can tell you about today's invention that you don't already know. But getting it off the ground took some careful planning and yes, deception:


After Disneyland opened in 1955, Disney did some research and found that only around 5% of visitors to the Anaheim theme park were from east of the Mississippi, even though three-quarters of the population of the United States lived there. There was clearly a market for a second Disney theme park. This time Walt Disney wanted lots of land around it, so that other businesses couldn't interfere with the experience he wanted guests to have... for better or worse.

In 1963, Disney started scouting sites in Florida for his new theme park. (Niagara Falls was considered early on, but quickly discarded because it would be too cold to stay open in the winter.) He chose a spot outside of Orlando, near the future junction of Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike and not far from the eventual McCoy International Airport. (We're not sure if the gas station next to MCO with the crazy jacked-up prices existed then.) Disney would need tens of thousands of acres, but he knew he couldn't just go in and buy up the land himself. Sellers would price gouge him and his company, while prospectors who caught wind of the plan would speculate on the land and try to squat on it for profit.

Next time you're at the Magic Kingdom, look for the M.T. Lott Real Estate Investments window on Main Street USA, with president Donn Tatum. There are also some other company names in the window:

- Latin-American Development and Management Corporation
- Compass East Corporation
- Ayefour Corporation
- Tomahawk Properties
- Reedy Creek Ranch, Incorporated
- Bay Lake Properties, Incorporated

These are the names of the dummy companies that Disney incorporated to hide the fact that he was buying up tons of swampland on the cheap to use for Disney World. Donn Tatum was the point man for these companies. And really, it's surprising that it took so long for anyone to figure out that these may not have been real companies. I mean, "M.T. Lott"? "Ayefour"? C'mon, son.

Still, there's some dispute whether anyone really did figure it out. An article finally appeared in the Orlando Sentinel in October 1965, identifying Disney as the man behind all those huge real estate transactions happening in the Osceola County swamplands. Some sources indicate that the Sentinel sniffed it out themselves. Others say that Disney leaked the news to them. Either way, Disney was right about the prices of the real estate. They spiked as high as $80,000 an acre. But by then, Disney had most of the land he needed. (In another wise move, he had also bought the mineral rights to the land for a mere $15,000.) A few weeks later, Disney held a press conference to announce the creation of Disney World on all the land he had purchased.

Here's a video of Disney's original plan for "The Florida Project." Obviously not all of these ideas came to fruition, but it's fun to watch if you have 25 minutes to spare.

So now Disney had the land, but he needed to make it easier to build what he wanted to build. Walt Disney didn't live long enough to carry out the next stage, but his brother Roy got involved in the project and helped petition the Florida Legislature to set up the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The district had two cities incorporated inside it: Bay Lake and Reedy Creek, which is now Lake Buena Vista. It would give Disney the power to do almost anything it wanted to do on their land, and by setting up "cities" they could issue tax-free bonds to raise money for construction and development. The Legislature signed off in 1967, and the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that the district could issue the bonds even though they were not being used for public projects.

After that, everything was in place. Disney immediately went to work installing drainage canals and constructing the Magic Kingdom and surrounding resorts. The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, and nothing else of note happened there until Mr. Toad's Wild Ride closed down, which was some bullshit.