In 1959 Walt Disney began looking for land for a park to supplement Disneyland, which had opened in Anaheim, California in 1955. Disney’s vision had outgrown the existing park, and he did not like the businesses that had sprung up on adjacent properties.
Company research found that only 2% of Disneyland guests came from east of the Mississippi – where 75% of the U.S. population lived – so the search for an east coast site was on.
According to legend, Disney originally wanted to build his new park near the beach, a natural magnet for tourists. Disney’s search for a large tract of undeveloped beachfront led him to the Florida Panhandle.