The Magic Kingdom was built with a cinematic atmosphere by Walt Disney’s Imagineers. That is somewhat unsurprising given that virtually all of the first generation was produced by Walt Disney Productions, 20th Century Fox, David O. Selznick Studios, and MGM.
Everything plays out like a movie, with fades as you travel from one location to the next. The melody even fades from one region to the next. Your theme park experience, like a movie, begins with a sort of opening credits. They begin right past the turnstiles on the Main Street USA Railroad Station, above the iconic flowery Mickey head and just beneath the clock.
The Old Maestro’s name can be found as though he were the head of the Walt Disney World Railroad Office, just as his films would fade up to the words “Walt Disney Presents.” “Keeping Dreams on Track,” the tagline says. Disney, Walter E.”
He had no intention of paying tribute to Walt. It was added, as far as I can determine, between the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Atop the Confectionary, just as you approach Town Square, is a tribute to Walt’s elder brother, partner, and the financial genius who made Walt Disney World possible: Roy O. Disney.
There aren’t enough words to describe his influence and legacy. When Walt died, Roy postponed retirement to keep the firm and the dream alive. He died in December 1971, only two months after his debut. The text on his window says: “If We Can Dream It – We Can Do It!” – Roy O. Disney – Dreamers & Doers Development Co.”
If you glanced at Walt or Roy’s windows, they were probably immediately forgotten as your gaze magically pulled you along Main Street toward the hub, Cinderella Castle.
However, if you take a moment to examine it, the architecture of each block of Main Street tells a tale of a tiny town becoming into a major thing around the turn of the past century. In mysterious ways, the second-story windows convey their own stories.
Don Tatum, a broadcaster with a business mind hired by Walt in 1956, is one of my favorite stories. When it came to developing Walt Disney World, Tatum became Roy Disney’s right-hand man. Tatum had been made president of Walt Disney Productions by the time construction began, and he served as chairman and CEO following Roy’s death in December 1971. He officially retired in 1980, although he was a major force for the expansion of “The World” and the construction of EPCOT Center.
The inscription on the glass alludes to the story I like learning about. It says:“M.T. Lott Co. Real Estate Investments – ‘A Friend in Deeds is a Friend Indeed’ – Donn Tatum, President – Subsidiaries: Tomahawk Properties, Latin American Development, Ayefour Corporation, Bay Lake Properties, Reedy Creek Ranch Lands, Compass East Corporation.”
“M.T. (Empty) Lot” was one of the shell corporations that covertly purchased the 27,000 acres of scrub, marsh, and swamp property on which Walt Disney World was developed. Tatum, as one might imagine, had a starring part. As the day of October 1 approaches, I’ll tell you more about that story. Crystal Arts is above Tatum’s window.
A reference to “The Original Gym – Turkish Baths – Massage Parlor – Supervisor Dick Nunis, Night Manager Ron Miller, Masseur O. Ferrante” may be seen over the Main Street Bakery (aka Starbucks). These three gentlemen are all Disney Legends who met when they were in college at the University of Southern California.
Orlando Farrante graduated from high school, joined the Navy, and then played offensive guard with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers in 1960-61. Soon after, he joined what is now Walt Disney Imagineering, where he helped supervise projects ranging from the Enchanted Tiki Room in 1963 to Tokyo DisneySea in 2001.
Ferrante was recruited by Dick Nunis, whose dream of becoming a professional football player was dashed when he suffered a fractured neck while playing the game. He graduated in 1955, just in time to start on the bottom rungs as Disneyland was about to begin. In 1999, he departed as chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, and he also shared some of the finest anecdotes about getting Walt Disney World off the ground.
Nunis heard about Disneyland from Ron Miller, who went on to become Walt Disney Productions’ president and later CEO. Here’s how:
Miller went on a blind date with a young girl called Diane during his collegiate football days. In 1954, they married. Miller enlisted in the Army after graduation and then joined the Los Angeles Rams in 1956. His father-in-law, who happened to be Walt Disney, cut short his career. Walt “watched me play in two football games while I was with the Rams,” Ron recounts in the documentary “Walt: Man Behind the Myth.” I caught a pass in one of them and… (a player) knocked me out. I awoke around the third quarter. Walt approached me at the conclusion of the season and said, “You know, I don’t want to be the father to your children. You’re going to die out there. How about coming to work with me?” and I did.
Miller, in addition to supporting the theme parks and EPCOT Center, pushed Disney animation and live-action films into more imaginative terrain, with mixed results, and created The Disney Channel and Touchstone Pictures.
Ron and Diane Disney Miller went on to create the Napa Valley winery Silverado Vineyards. Diane was involved in bringing a Los Angeles treasure, The Walt Disney Concert Hall, from a dream in 1988 to a reality in 2004. Her passion project was the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened in San Francisco’s The Presidio in 2009.
The text on their window, which also names their children, reads “Lazy M Cattle Company of Wyoming – Ron & Diane Miller & Partners Christopher, Joanna, Tamara, Jennifer, Walter, Ronald, Jr. and Patrick.”
Sharon Disney Lund, Diane’s younger sister, was an art enthusiast and philanthropist. Sharon, her then-husband, and their children are memorialized nearby with “William & Sharon Lund Gallery — Exhibiting only Authentic Works of Art — Genuine Antiques Selected by Victoria, Bradford and Michelle.”
Across the street, there is a window dedicated to Roy E. Disney. He was a skilled sailor, Walt’s nephew, Roy’s son, and the one who succeeded in getting his cousin’s sister’s spouse fired from Disney in 1984.
Michael Eisner and Frank Wells took over for Miller. Roy E. Disney went on to salvage Walt Disney Animation and foster the renaissance that resulted in masterpieces such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and many more. His window also pays tribute to his wife and children: “Roy E. Disney – Specializing in the Gentlemanly Sport of Racing at Sea – Aboard the Ketch Peregrina – Patty Disney, First Mate & Gourmet Cook – Sail Maker: Roy Patrick, Abigail – Sail Lessons: Susan, Timothy.”
However, most windows do not recognize the family.
Joyce Carlson, a Disney icon and Imagineer, was most known for her work on “It’s a Small World,” “The Enchanted Tiki Room,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Country Bear Jamboree,” and “The Haunted Mansion,” among others. Carlson also designed the colors for the horses on Walt Disney World’s Carousel in Fantasyland with another legend, John Hench.
In the Magic Kingdom, there are two tributes to her: A Joyce Carlson doll near the Eiffel Tower in “It’s a Small World” and her window above the Main Street Emporium. Fittingly, it reads “Dolls by Miss Joyce, Dollmaker for the World.”
Charlie Ridgway, a one-of-a-kind PR extraordinaire, is another Disney icon with a well-deserved window on Main Street. While the text on his window reads: “No Event too Small,” Ridgway and his staff oversaw media coverage for hundreds of significant events, including the debut of Pirates of the Caribbean in 1967, Walt Disney World in 1971, and Disneyland Paris in 1992.
Lee Cockerell, a former senior Disney Parks executive and probable future Disney icon, has a window over the Watch Shop that says “The Main Street Diary – ‘True Tales of Inspiration’ – Lee A. Cockerell, Editor-in-Chief.”
On August 11, the newest window on Main Street was revealed, honoring a quartet of notables.
They are (from left to right): Trevor Larsen, former executive vice president of Facilities & Operations Services, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts; Jim MacPhee, former Walt Disney World operations executive; Phil Holmes, former vice president of Disney’s Hollywood Studios; and Djuan Rivers, former vice president of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
A word about Holmes. His involvement with Walt Disney World began as a construction crew assistant, and he was an opening day butler at The Haunted Mansion in 1971. While he resigned as CEO of Hollywood Studios and was instrumental in the park’s makeover, he is arguably better recognized for his long tenure as vice president of The Magic Kingdom. There’s also a picture of him within Belle’s Village’s “Bonjour! Village Gifts.”
MacPhee, who was born in Ormond Beach, retired in April 2021 after a 40-year career as a watercraft pilot that began in 1978. From 2007 to 2010, he was Epcot’s vice president, and for his efforts, he was appointed in control of the $1 billion+ “NextGen” project, which resulted in Magic Bands and FastPass+. He also played an important role in the transfer and growth from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs.
Outsiders may not recognize Larsen, but during his 29-year Disney tenure, he was a behind-the-scenes force in Ride-Show Engineering, design, mechanics, and safety systems. Later, he was put in control of vital Walt Disney Parks and Resorts activities all around the world, including construction, manufacturing, horticulture, utilities, textiles, and environmental operations. He is proud to have been a part of the design team for the Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as his participation in the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Djuan Rivers, the most recent Vice President of Animal Kingdom, left in January following a 30-year career that saw him advance from entry-level to general manager of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, as well as important positions with Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland Paris, and Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs.) Rivers was named vice president of Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii in 2008, making him one of the company’s top African-American executives. In that capacity, he managed the $800 million project’s development and opening, while also assisting it in maintaining strong links to Hawaiian culture and its local population. He managed the development of evening activities at Animal Kingdom, as well as the building and opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar.
“The Academy of Talent Education & Training.” is advertised in their window. Current Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle shared the event photos on Instagram, writing, “It was a fantastic morning recognizing four exceptional executives who made an impact on @waltdisneyworld…. Look for their names and those of others who left a lasting impact in the building and management of our resort the next time you’re on Main Street, U.S.A. Congratulations on this incredible honor!”
Another accolade is that their window is next to Meg Crofton, former president of Walt Disney World and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.
Sid Philips is a father of two and a loving husband. He currently resides in Pennsylvania and has been a fan of Disney since his parents took him there in 1980! Sid has visited multiple Disney parks around the world and loves each one!
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