More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

Opening-Day Cast Members Mark 40 Years

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Earlier this month, Disney cast members who were hired in 1971 gathered at Magic Kingdom Park for a photograph marking the 40th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort.

Opening-Day Cast Members Mark 40 Years

A photo of this group was first taken before the park opened in 1971, and was featured on the Oct. 15 cover of LIFE magazine with the title “Disney World Opens.”

At opening, there were about 5,000 cast members needed to run the entire Resort, which first included Magic Kingdom Park and two resorts, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Today, the resort has grown to feature four theme parks, two water parks, and 25 resort hotels.


  • I was there! But a little too late for the festivities in the morning. However I had the honor of meeting Mr. Dave Smith, the legendary retired Disney archivist. Being a history buff myself I was very intrigued by the stories he told to the group of people who were gathered around him and by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper he was holding from Oct.2,1971. I spent a couple of hours in the Magic Kingdom riding the Jungle Cruise and Pirates, having a few snacks, walking around all the Lands, before giving into the rush of the enormous crowds and heading over to Epcot.

  • Looking at the projects time line reminds me of all the Great WED Enterprise projects that started the park in 1971, and continued to change it during the seventies and early 80’s through Epcot. Congratulations to all the WED Legends who made the magic happen.

  • Your post says there were about 5,000 cast members on Opening Day. After forty years and massive expansion, how many cast members work so diligently to keep WDW what it is today?

    • Our cast has grown to more than 62,000. 🙂

  • Question: are all of the individuals in the picture people who were working at Disney World on opening day and that are still working there? Reason I ask is that our server this summer at Crystal Palace indicated that she was coming up on her 40th anniversary at the park. This is a great accomplishment for these people and they have touched many lives.

    • The people photographed are current Cast Members who were hired up through December 31, 1971.

  • “CONGRATULATIONS MAGIC KINGDOM ON YOUR 40th”….. My hubby and i are going to be celebrating our 40th too at WDW – NOV,4-13th !!!AND a congrats to George and all the other cast members who have been working there and making vacations magicial and memorable for all of us for 40 years……We appreciate ALL of you…

  • A big Thank You and Congratulations to all of those fantastic cast members.

    I bet they have some great stories to tell.

  • Congrats on 40 years to those day one cast members!! Your hard work has touched the lives of countless numbers of people. Thanks for making the magic real for all of us!

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