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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Card Walker

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

Esmond Cardon Walker, more commonly known as Card Walker, died November 28, 2005 at the age of 89 from heart failure. Even though he retired from the Walt Disney Company in 1983, Walker continued to serve as a consultant to the company until 1990, and was member of the board of directors until 1999.

After Walt Disney died in 1966, Walker became executive vice president and chief operating officer. When Walt’s brother Roy O. Disney died in 1971, he became company president, serving under Chairman and CEO Donn Tatum. He became CEO in 1976, opening Epcot and serving through February 1983, but stayed on as chairman of the board until May 1 to oversee the opening of the Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.

(c) Disney

In 1990, then CEO Michael Eisner said, “In a very real sense, Card is the link between the small, family-owned film company of the ’30s and the major global corporation we are today.”

Here is a brief excerpt from a speech Walker gave entitled “Walt Disney World: Master Planning for the Future” given on October 5, 1976 to the 40th anniversary convocation of the Urban Land Institute where he talked about building Walt Disney World.

“Not all the construction was actually here on the site. The monorail trains for example, were designed and engineered by our Disney staff in California and then assembled at the Martin Marietta plant in Orlando.

“We also required 337 monorail beams to be precision cast using the first major application for three-dimensional, pre-stressed concrete. The nearest place that could handle the work was Tacoma, Washington, so we had to ship them 3,000 miles across the United States to our property.

“Overall, the construction program was the largest non-governmental project in the world at the time. At the peak of the building activity, we had more than 8,000 construction workers on the property at one time. This created another kind of problem.

“In order to train many of the good-looking young hostesses and tour guides, we had to take them through the construction areas. And every time we did, it literally caused a work stoppage. Well, we finally got smart and put them in coveralls and old coats before the construction crews would see them. Productivity went back up after that considerably.

“With the opening date only a year away, we made a detailed evaluation of the construction progress and problems. Finally, we decided that the only way we could finish on schedule was to assume the construction responsibilities ourselves.

“No one understood what we were trying to accomplish or how to come to grips with the unprecedented construction problems any better than our own people. So right in the middle of the stretch run, we formed our own construction company, Buena Vista Construction, and managed to bring the project in on time, October 1, 1971.

“Needless to say, we were pretty nervous when opening day rolled around. Why did we choose October 1st? Quite frankly, we wanted to sneak it open. We deliberately chose the slowest month of the year because we needed a shakedown period where we could deal with smaller numbers of guests before the really big tourist season hit.

“But for Walt Disney World’s opening, the rumors were really flying. Some people had predicted that more than a million people would show up. Soon, everybody in Central Florida was believing it. And, despite the low tourist period of the year, pretty soon we were beginning to believe it ourselves.

“People were afraid to come out of their houses. The opening day crowd was, you might say, ‘underwhelming’. We had almost as many employees as guests. Well, after that, they did come. This week marks our fifth anniversary of operation and in that time, more than 59 million people have gone to Walt Disney World. Today, it stands as the number one tourist destination in the world.”

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Thanks, Jim!  And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.


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