Unless you’re a total Disney fanatic, you might not even know that the name of the massive Disney park in Florida is “Walt Disney World,” not just “Disney World.” It’s almost never referred to as anything but “Disney World,” but if you check its official website, there it is: Walt Disney World. Walt’s first and last name are even in a separate font than “World.” (The URL, though, does just say Disney World.)
So what gives? And while we’re at it, why is Disneyland one word, while “Disney” and “World” are distinct enough words that they have different fonts? And is Disneyland technically “Walt Disneyland,” too?
Well, the answer to that last question is no. Disneyland is just Disneyland—it’s just one of many little-known differences between the parks. But why is that? Any Disney maniac can tell you that Disneyland is “the park that Walt built,” the original Disney park. So why wouldn’t that be the one with Walt’s name in it?
Time for some Disney history. Throughout 1954, Walt and his early Imagineers were designing and overseeing the construction of Disneyland, in California. It was the first-ever Disney park, born out of Walt’s desire to create a place that was magical for children and their parents alike. Disneyland opened in July of 1955, and Walt continued to supervise changes and additions to the park. Check out this rare 1960s account from a writer who got a tour of the newly opened Disneyland—from Walt himself.
Then, in 1966, Walt made a promotional video in which he first debuted his plans to build another park, this time on a massive plot of land in central Florida. This park, he pitched, would be called “Disney World.”
There’s no documented reason why “Disney World” is two words but “Disneyland” is just one. But it stands to reason that, when naming Disneyland, Walt went with a familiar theme-park-name construction, like “Playland” or “Fairyland.” (Within the parks, you’ll also find Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland.) But when he debuted his video pitching Disney World, it was two words from the start, perhaps because “Disneyworld” just doesn’t flow as well. And, according to Disney YouTuber Rob Plays, this new park was always intended to be much larger than Disneyland, so it was “too big to be called Disney ‘land,'” Plays explains. So Disney World was born.
But what about the “Walt” part? Well, there’s a bittersweet answer. Walt would pass away in December 1966, later in the same year he first debuted the plans for Disney World. Construction on the park hadn’t even started yet. So Walt never got to see this dream come to fruition. But, according to Plays, Walt’s brother and business partner, Roy Disney, postponed his own retirement to help the Disney World project get off the ground. And it was Roy who decided that the park would be named Walt Disney World, as a special tribute to the man without whom none of it would have been possible. Read on for more magical facts about the park that started it all, Disneyland.