Book Review: “Buying Disney’s World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World”

Hi everyone!

I received “Buying Disney’s World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World” by Aaron Goldberg. The book is available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle – I received the paperback version. “Buying Disney’s World” is just over 150 pages.

The book is about the purchase of the 47 square miles that is now Walt Disney World. We all know Walt wanted the blessing of size that he did not have with Disneyland and had to be stealth in finding and buying Florida property (for $183 average per acre instead of the $3500 it cost in CA). I know about it from Disney presentations and reading blurbs here and there, but this is the first book I’ve read cover to cover only on this subject.

Buying Disney’s World” is a straightforward and engaging read. It begins talking about how Walt’s parents came from Florida (not so far from where Walt Disney World is) and ends with the opening of Walt Disney World. The book is pretty detailed on how the property was purchased – not only how secretive it was (I’m not sure it could happen today) but also with a series of fortunate situations that allowed it to happen as the acreage was acquired in numerous transactions. And much of it happens in the year before Walt died. He passed almost five years before Walt Disney World opened but chose the location he wanted for Walt Disney World prior to that. The book goes into Walt’s Florida Project film that was recorded just before he went into the hospital, as well as Reedy Creek Improvement District, the modular construction of Disney’s Contemporary Resort and more. Roy O. Disney postponed his retirement to open Walt Disney World (and he passed a couple of months later).

“Buying Disney’s World” is an easy few-hour or so read. I also had never understood the term mineral rights and finally took the time to understand it while reading the book. It is talked about quite a bit in terms of Tufts University.

I enjoyed “Buying Disney’s World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World”  and plan to read through it again soon. It is well written and avoids the extra verbiage that I sometimes find in similar books.

The official description of “Buying Disney’s World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World” :

In November of 1965, after numerous months of speculation surrounding a mystery industry that had been purchasing large amounts of land in central Florida, Walt Disney finally put an end to the rumors. He announced to the public his grandiose plans for the thousands of acres he had secretly purchased.

For the eighteen months prior to the announcement, Walt entrusted a small group of men to covertly make these purchases. Next, they were tasked with drafting a legislative act to submit to the state of Florida that would allow Disney to wield nearly absolute legal control over the property under a quasi-government municipality.

Staying true to its storytelling roots, Disney wove a tale of mystery centered around a high-ranking CIA operative, who was rumored to have been, just a few short years before, the paymaster behind the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba.

This savvy and well-connected CIA agent became the de facto leader for the group of Disney executives and attorneys who orchestrated and executed a nearly perfect plan to keep Disney’s identity a secret from the public by utilizing aliases, shell corporations, and meandering travel itineraries, all in an effort to protect the company’s identity during the land acquisition process.

As told through the personal notes and files from the key figures involved in the project, Buying Disney’s World details the story of how Walt Disney World came to be, like you’ve never heard before.

From conception to construction and everything in between—including how a parcel of land within Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort was acquired during a high-stakes poker game—explore how the company most famous for creating Mickey Mouse acquired central Florida’s swamps, orange groves, and cow pastures to build a Disney fiefdom and a Magic Kingdom.


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