Five Decades of Magic at Walt Disney World Resort – the 1990s


I’ve been enjoying taking a look at the historical timeline of the Walt Disney World Resort one decade at a time and I hope you all have as well! We’ve already covered the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s so let’s dig into the 1990s today!

1990

November – The first phase of the EPCOT Resort Area opens with the debut of Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (November 5) and Disney’s Beach Club Resort (November 19). The following year brings Walt Disney World Swan Hotel (January 13) and the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel (June 4). All within walking distance of the theme park, the collection of resorts significantly expands lodging and convention options.

1991

November – The Disney Harvest program launches. Today this program annually collects more than 823,000 pounds of prepared, unserved food from throughout Walt Disney World Resort for distribution to more than 40 Orlando-area nonprofits served by Second Harvest Food Bank.

December 20 – Disney Vacation Club launches with the opening of its first resort, now called Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

1993

April 23– The Walt Disney Company dedicates 8,500 acres of land purchased at the Osceola-Polk County line to The Nature Conservancy to preserve for future generations as the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

1994

January 16 – The inaugural Walt Disney World Marathon steps off, eventually growing into the popular runDisney races today.

April 29 – The inaugural EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival debuts. In the years to follow, festivals dedicated to food & wine, the arts, and holidays join the lineup.

June 12 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios expands with the opening of its first new themed area, Sunset Boulevard, bringing more shops, dining, and entertainment to the park…along with the haunted thrills of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (July 22).

Walt Disney World Resort continues to expand lodging options with the openings of: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (May 28), Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort (April 29), and Disney’s All-Star Music Resort (November 1).

The African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida is established with Walt Disney World Resort as a founding trustee. Walt Disney World’s support and sponsorship of the Chamber includes hosting its crowning celebration for Central Florida’s most dynamic businesses and entrepreneurs, the Eagle Awards.

1995

April 1 – Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park debuts, offering winter-themed fun in a water park setting, including a 12-story drop down the high-speed waterslide Summit Plummet.

April 22 – The Disney Conservation Fund forms to provide support for respected conservation organizations saving wildlife and protecting the magic of nature. To date, the fund has directed $100 million to support nonprofit organizations working with communities to save wildlife, inspire action and protect the planet.

July 15 – Disney’s Wedding Pavilion opens on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon, part of a vast expansion of options for weddings and vowel renewals. Today, Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons offers a wide range of nuptial and honeymoon planning around the globe.

1996

February 9 – Disney Institute opens, bringing more than 60 interactive programs to guests seeking fun and self-enrichment in customized vacation experiences. In the years to follow, Disney Institute evolves into a renowned training and professional-development organization that helps organizations be more successful using business insights and best practices of Disney parks and resorts.

July 1 – Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas open along with their lively namesake boardwalk that brings new restaurants and nightspots to the EPCOT Resort Area.

October 1 – Walt Disney World Resort celebrates its 25th anniversary with a year-long celebration, new entertainment, and Cinderella Castle decorated as a giant birthday cake.

1997

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
Entrance Plaza of ESPN Wide World of Sports Resort

March 28 – ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex opens. The 220-acre complex includes multiple outdoor playing fields, baseball/softball diamonds, a track & field complex, a fieldhouse and a 9,500-seat ballpark. Over the years it will grow to encompass two additional fieldhouses, an ESPN broadcast center and even more outdoor playing fields. It will also serve as an official training site for various American and international professional teams, as well as host of several major sporting events such as the Invictus Games, the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament and the 2020 NBA restart of the regular season.

August 1 – Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort opens. With 1,900 guest rooms and a 220,000-square-foot convention center, it is the largest of the Disney resort hotels that cater to meetings and events.

1998

April 22 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park opens on Earth Day. At 500 acres, it is Disney’s largest park and home to approximately 1,800 animals representing 200 species. The park’s icon, the Tree of Life, is a tribute to nature, featuring more than 300 intricately carved animal images.

October 15 – “Fantasmic!” premieres at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the newly-constructed Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. The larger-than-life show features more than 50 live performers, massive sets, a brilliant display of lights, lasers, fireworks, and water animation all set to rousing music.

1999

March 18 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park expands with Asia, a new themed area featuring Kali River Rapids and the Maharajah Jungle Trek that introduces tigers and other animal species to the park.

October 1 – The Millennium Celebration begins at EPCOT. The 15-month event marks the debut of the popular nighttime spectacular, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, which will run for 20 years (side note: they knew way back then that this beloved show would run for exactly 20 years?!!?? The last presentation of IllumiNations was September 30, 2019). Also new is Millennium Village, celebrating the cultural achievements of 25 countries, and the Tapestry of Nations parade. The celebration also brings pin trading to the forefront for Disney collectors everywhere.

Stay tuned tomorrow as we look at the 2000s!


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