The Layers of Secrecy on “Project Future”

by / Wednesday, 12 December 2012 / Published in History Vault, iCORE

“I’m doing this because I want to do it better” ~Walt Disney on Project Future.

Walt Disney was not happy with the less-than-desirable businesses that sprung up around Disneyland in Anaheim back in 1955.

Cheap restaurants and tacky motels were not up to the quality of Disney’s park, yet they reaped the benefits of proximity. Vowing not to let this happen again, Walter Elias wanted his next venture to have plenty of land for what he wanted to build, and to create a buffer between his dream world and the speculators who wanted to ride on his coat-tails.

Other property locations Walt looked at for his next park included St. Louis, Niagara Falls, New York.

St. Louis was the runner-up for the location and it turned into a project in itself. And the lengths to which the company went to make sure no one traced the land purchases back to California is something out of the Bourne movies.

In 1963, Bill Lund boarded a plane in California, flew to Florida and drove to a sleepy little backwater called Orlando. He was instructed not to tell anyone why he was there or who he was working for. Just act like a tourist.

His real job was to scope out land for a new Disney theme park.

Many layers of secrecy were created to keep the Disney name out of the papers during the negotiations to purchase the property in Florida. A vast amount of time, research, and effort went into creating the Orlando Resort known today as Walt Disney World, referred to by the code name “Project Future”, by Walt.

Tufts University in Boston owned the mineral rights to a large portion of the land Disney wanted to purchase and they were separated from the surface rights, but Walt gained control of both.

Ayefour Corporation was one of many corporate names used to disguise the identity of the Disney Company when embarking upon land acquisitions. Walt began to secretly purchase land in Central Florida for his Disneyland East idea, which blossomed into the City of Tomorrow.

For the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Disney prepared four separate attractions for various sponsors, each of which would find its way to Disneyland in one form or another.

In November 1965, “Disney World” was announced, with plans for theme parks, hotels, and even a model city on thousands of acres of land purchased outside of Orlando, Florida.

He would end up purchasing 43 square miles, 27,000 acres of swamp and farmland, and turning it into one of the top vacation spots in the world. Surely, a project of this size and scope will never be duplicated.

People still speak of the secret Project Future land acquisitions. Even in court.

Currently, there is a court battle tracing back to those secret land deals in Florida. This battle is between a prominent East Valley Developer, a controversial Arizona real-estate baron, and two Disney heirs—Walt’s grandchildren—who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars.

Get the latest update here on Disney’s land legacy.