Magic Kingdom continues to evolve while keeping its magical elements intact

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A half-century ago, it started as a way for Walt Disney World to attract visitors east of the Mississippi River.

Now, Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park in the world. Disney is taking a nod to its past while setting its sights on the future.

Cinderella Castle, for example, was here 50 years ago when Disney World opened to the public. Yet in that time, it has been repainted, relit and refurbished dozens of times, making it familiar, but different, each visit.

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When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, you also needed paper tickets, not just to get in but to ride the rides. That is long gone. But the changes at the park are much more than just trading in paper.

“Fifty years goes by pretty quickly, I can tell you that,” said Disney historian Tom Morris.

The history of Walt Disney World isn’t just rides being replaced; it’s also classic, familiar rides being renovated and updated.

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The Enchanted Tiki Room, for example, was a day-one attraction at Magic Kingdom, just like Hall of Presidents, which gets updated every four to eight years.

Space Mountain opened in 1975. Soon, next door to Space Mountain, Disney’s “TRON” roller coaster will open.

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“It’s only been 50 years, and there’s going to be different times and ways of spending our time they just haven’t come to fruition yet,” Morris said.

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.