Married to the Mouse

Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando

Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Married to the Mouse
    Book Description:

    Joined together in an "economic development marriage," Walt Disney World and Orlando, Florida, have become the world's most popular tourist destination. This intriguing book traces the evolution of the relationship between the Disney Co. and the surrounding community since it began in the 1960s. Like most close relationships, the Disney-Orlando union has involved conflict and compromise. Richard Foglesong shows that this evolving relationship validates the adage: whom you marry affects what you may become.Foglesong explains how Orlando leaders seduced the Disney Co. with big road projects, how the Disney Co. shielded its property from government regulation, and how the company has used the governmental powers it acquired. In short, Disney World has become a "Vatican with Mouse ears," the author declares.In a balanced and thorough analysis of the Disney-Orlando story, Foglesong offers a critical account of how Disney has used--and also abused--its governmental immunities from the beginning of Disney World to the present under chairman Michael Eisner. Orlando's experience with its biggest local employer raises broad questions about urban development policy. Can local leaders resist the demands of global corporations? Do privatization and deregulation offer a viable strategy for economic development? And is it possible to escape the weight of previous economic development decisions that seem to lock in, for example, more tourism and low wages, while locking out other opportunities?

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13338-7
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps and Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiv-xviii)
  7. ONE Serendipity
    (pp. 1-13)

    Walt Disney didn’t say anything. He merely raised his right eyebrow in response to the offending remark. His staff, seated around him at the dinner party, knew what that meant. There he was—a self-made man, renowned as the world’s greatest showman, his corporation pursued by a host of European nations, as well as Egypt, to build a Disneyland in their countries. And he was being insulted by the local business titan, the scion of inherited wealth, a bit tipsy, in the city where the cartoonist-showman proposed building a major tourist attraction. Walt was fuming.

    The remark concerned an old...

  8. TWO Seduction
    (pp. 14-33)

    On November 22, 1963, Walt Disney and an entourage of his top executives flew in a borrowed plane from Tampa, Florida, to Orlando, fifty miles to the east. The night before they had checked into a Tampa hotel under assumed names to avoid alerting the press and stirring up land speculation. They were going to Orlando so Walt could see it from the air once more before making a tentative commitment to the area. The many consultant reports that Walt had read on “Project X,” as the stealth project was known to a handful of company officials, could take him...

  9. THREE Secrecy
    (pp. 34-54)

    It was November 27, 1963, and Walt Disney was presiding at a roundtable discussion in the conference room of the company headquarters in Burbank, soon after the project team returned from their Florida flyover. Seated around the long conference table, in addition to Walt and his brother Roy, the company’s financial genius, were the other members of the team—vice presidents Donn Tatum, Mel Melton, Card Walker, and Dick Morrow, and general counsel Robert Foster. Within the company, only this select group knew about the stealth project, also known as “Project Winter.”

    They were listening to a presentation that would...

  10. FOUR Marriage
    (pp. 55-77)

    What kind of marriage would it be? What would be the terms and conditions of the Disney World–Orlando relationship? In prospect, Disney seemed like a partner too fantastic to be true. The local business community was “transported into a dreamland from whence they could see nothing but unparalleled economic returns,” gushed theSentinel.¹ Orlando was “on the verge of the greatest period of growth this community has ever felt,” said Billy Dial. It will be “phenomenal what it will do for real estate,” predicted the board of realtors president. “The greatest plum that would ever come here,” remarked the...

  11. FIVE Growth
    (pp. 78-99)

    It was February 1972 and NBC anchorperson David Brinkley was telling his viewers about the wonders of the newly opened Walt Disney World. Never mind the exciting amusement park, laid out in radial fashion around Main Street USA, with spokes pointing here to Tomorrowland, there to Fantasyland, over there to Frontierland, and beyond it to Adventureland. What impressed Brinkley was the Disney “new town” that existed outside the park, consisting of roads, transportation systems, lakes, golf courses, campgrounds, riding stables, stores, and motels. “They all fit together in a setting of land, air, and water better than any other urban...

  12. SIX Conflict
    (pp. 100-121)

    The Disney Co. chose an auspicious setting to announce their plans for Epcot, the first big expansion of Disney World since the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. It was the meeting of the Southern Governors Association at Disney’s Contemporary Hotel on September 15–17, 1975. On hand were major government officials, from governors to congressional leaders to federal agency heads, including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the featured speaker. These dignitaries in turn attracted a small army of news reporters to record their reactions to the Disney presentation. Gaining more exposure, company executives simultaneously delivered personal invitations to thirty foreign...

  13. SEVEN Abuse
    (pp. 122-145)

    On September 27, 1989, Sam Tabuchi flew with five of his advisers from Orlando to Tokyo for consultations the next day with Japanese investors regarding a train, predicted to reach 300 mph, that would run between Disney World and Orlando International Airport. The superfast train would ride on an electromagnetic cushion of air created by magnets on the train and track that repelled each other. This new technology was called “mag-lev,” combining magnetics and levitation. The train would not only save time for Disney-bound passengers, who could check their baggage through to their Disney hotel room, it would also remove...

  14. EIGHT Negotiation
    (pp. 146-172)

    It was early 1989 and Osceola County Property Appraiser Bob Day was having icy dinner conversation with Disney attorney Rick LaLiberte in the Italian Pavilion at Epcot. Day had requested the dinner meeting with LaLiberte, saying he had something important to discuss.¹ They had met on Hotel Plaza Boulevard at Lake Buena Vista, just inside Disney property, and drove from there in LaLiberte’s car across the back property to Epcot. Over dinner, Day gave the Disney attorney the bad news. He had decided to deny the company’s agricultural classification on their 11,000 vacant acres in Osceola County.

    At the time,...

  15. NINE Therapy
    (pp. 173-200)

    “This is an outstanding example of the kind of partnership that central Florida is becoming famous for,” said Orange County Chairman Linda Chapin.¹ The occasion was a June 25, 1996, commission meeting at which Chapin and her fellow commissioners approved a $53-million taxpayer subsidy for Disney’s fourth I-4 interchange. Incredibly, the interchange was not even in Orange County, a fact not explained to county commissioners when they voted. As Chapin indicated, the deal was like other public-private partnerships involving area road projects. It was like the “cost-sharing” agreements discussed in the previous chapter to build Osceola Parkway and improve U.S....

  16. Appendix 1 Chronology
    (pp. 201-204)
  17. Appendix 2 List of Names
    (pp. 205-224)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 225-242)
  19. Index
    (pp. 243-251)
  20. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)