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The Legend of Walt Disney World's "Partners" Statue
Go on a Hunt for Hidden Mickeys!
Partners in Crime
Walt Disney is famous for saying "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing-- that it was all started by a mouse." As thousands upon thousands of visitors approach Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom on a daily basis, they are reminded of this very "one thing" in a simple way: Walt Disney himself holds the hand of Mickey Mouse, facing away from the castle and pointing forward.
Most people are aware of the history of Disneyland, a park that Walt himself designed to provide a place where "parents and kids could have fun together." At the heart of that park was the character who formed the basis of Walt's success, none other than Mickey himself. Apart from the obvious appearances in costume and art, Imagineers placed hidden mickey heads within the rides and throughout the park, offering return guests a special additional treat to search for.
While Walt Disney gets the majority of the credit for the parks today and Mickey Mouse has become the lovable face of the Disney empire, the truth is that Walt was a dreamer-- and he needed someone else to help him make his dreams a reality.
Brothers with a Vision
Working from a young age delivering newspapers, Walt always had a partner by his side, an ever present helper to put his dreams into motion: his brother Roy. As they grew older, Walt came up with amazing ideas-- from the world's first full length animated film (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) to the enormous task of taking his creations off the page and into the real world (through Disneyland).
While many creative types were cheering Walt on, those with a more logical thought process grounded in reality had pressing questions to ask: How was he going to bring these stories to life at an amusement park? Would anyone actually sit through an entire hour and a half of animation? And perhaps most importantly, how did Walt think he was going to pay for all of this?
Enter Roy Disney, the logical brother with a business mind who knew how to make Walt's dreams a physical reality. By working together, it seemed there was no mountain too high for the brothers to climb; nothing impossible for the duo to achieve when they put their minds to it.
Are you more like Walt or Roy Disney?
Read More About the Original EPCOT
One Final Impossibility
As the years passed and Walt neared the end of his life due to lung cancer, the two brothers shared one final impossible task: the Florida Project. No animator had ever successfully brought his creations to life as the Disney brothers had in Disneyland, and no animator had ever dreamt about attempting the scheme Walt planned for Florida: an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
In addition to the Magic Kingdom, original plans for Disney's work in Florida included an entire city. Called EPCOT for short, the Community of Tomorrow was originally intended to be far more than the theme park it is today. By showcasing upcoming technology and utilizing revolutionary ideas for city living, EPCOT was meant to be a place where people could not only visit, but live, work, and play as well. By talking with the Governor of Florida and other lawmakers, Roy was able to again do the impossible-- creating the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a district within Florida that legally allowed the Disney company to essentially create their own government within the borders of their land.
Although the plans were in motion, Walt would never see the opening day of Disney World in Florida. After officially announcing the project in 1965, Walt died at age 65 the following year in 1966... leaving his brother Roy to finish his final dream.
Sharing the Magic at Walt Disney World
After Walt's death, Roy decided to postpone the retirement he had planned to ensure that the first phase of Walt Disney World (now renamed from the simple Disney World as a permanent tribute to his brother), the Magic Kingdom, would be built. A year after the tragic loss of his brother, Roy oversaw the team breaking ground on the Disney World Resort. Sticking true to his originally announced opening date of October 1st, 1971, Roy watched as curious guests entered the park and explored Walt's creation for the first time.
Twenty four days later, Roy Disney stood in the center of Town Square to deliver the dedication speech for Walt's final dream. As he prepared to read the words for the cameras, he realized that it was too hard of a task without his brother by his side. Excusing himself for a moment, he traveled off to the side and grabbed Mickey Mouse, who was taking pictures and greeting guests. If Roy couldn't stand next to his brother, he wanted the Mouse to be by his side.
Disney legend suggests that this story is represented each and every day with the placement of the Partners statue: as the bronze Walt looks out over Disney World, holding the hand of Mickey, he points down Main Street towards an unknown source. Some hypothesize that Walt might be metaphorically pointing into the future; dreaming once again about something yet to come.
Some Cast Members and Imagineers paint a different legend of the statue, however, pointing out that Walt is pointing right down Main Street to something very specific. In Town Square, right at the location where Roy Disney once made his dedication speech, is another statue: a bronze bench called "Sharing the Magic" which features Roy, Minnie, and one open seat.
To those who remember the story of Roy and Walt, two brothers with a teamwork that achieved the impossible, the answer is simple: Walt is pointing out Roy and Minnie's location to his fateful friend Mickey Mouse, reassuring him by saying "I'm not going to be able to continue on with this Florida Project, but you're in good hands with Roy-- and he's saved you a seat."