This October, Magic Kingdom will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the park’s opening and, by extension, the opening of the entire Walt Disney World Resort. Although the “Florida Project,” as it was called in the early planning stages, was Walt Disney’s last great dream, it was another Disney who saw it to its opening day. However, seeing to it that his younger brother’s plans came to fruition was not a new experience for Roy O. Disney. In fact, he had been doing so practically his entire life.
The co-founder of The Walt Disney Company, Roy O. Disney handled the financial side of the organization while Walt focused on the creative. From the pioneering animated shorts and features all the way to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Roy somehow always found the money needed to bring Walt’s big ideas to life. Following Walt Disney’s death in 1966, Roy O. Disney put off his planned retirement to take an even more active role in the ongoing development of the Florida property, which he officially dubbed Walt Disney World so people would remember whose vision the “Vacation Kingdom” was. When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, Roy was there to read the dedication, proudly announcing that “Walt Disney World is tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney, and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. ”
In 1999, Roy Disney was given a tribute of his own in the form of a bronze statue of him sitting on a park bench holding Minnie Mouse’s hand. Sculpted by Disney Legend Blaine Gibson, “Sharing the Magic” serves as a companion piece to the “Partners” statue of Walt and Mickey Mouse in the park’s hub, for which Gibson was also responsible, and was designed to showcase Roy’s unassuming yet supportive nature. A popular photo opportunity, it can usually be found just behind the Town Square flagpole (the site where Roy dedicated the park in 1971), although it is sometimes moved closer to City Hall due to the presence of the area’s Halloween and Christmas decorations. While he may have been too modest to admit it, without Roy O. Disney’s impressive financial skills and dogged belief in his brother’s final dream, a Florida swamp may never have become the magic kingdom it is today.