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Walt Disney and World's Fairs:
1893 - 2010
 

Walt Disney visited at least five world's fairs in his lifetime, but he can also be connected to other world's fairs through his father as well as the Walt Disney Company, his legacy.

As far as we can tell, Walt Disney visited the 1933-'34 Century of Progess Exposition in Chicago, the 1939-'40 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, the 1962 Century 21 Exposition in Seattle, and naturally, the 1964-'65 New York World's Fair.

Oddly, he helped with a pavilion at the 1939-'40 New York World's Fair, but did not personally attend.

Walt Disney's first attraction outside of a park was in the United States Pavilion at Brussels' Expo '58.

It seems very conceivable he could have visited the 1928 Pacific Southwest Exposition in Long Beach since he had moved to Hollywood five years earlier.

In his Sam Gennawey's book, Walt and the Promise of Progress City, he mentions that Joseph Fowler, the head of construction for Disneyland, said "Every summer Walt would send me to Europe for ideas. Often he would come along. We'd go to World's Fairs, Oktoberfests, gardens, amusements parks..."

He received an award from the 1935 Exposition Universelle et Internationale in Brussels.

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1964-1965 New York
 
 
Disney attractions at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair

Walt Disney contributed to four of the dozens of pavilions at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

This video, from Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, highlights the exposition as well as the history of world's fairs.


In this radio interview, Walt Disney talks about his company's contributions to four 1964-1965 New York World's Fair pavilions.

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1964-1965 New York: Pepsi/UNICEF Pavilion
 
 
Pepsi/UNICEF Pavilion, 1964-1965 New York World's Fair

Disney fans are well familiar with the Pepsi Pavilion, a benefit for UNICEF although they know it as the attraction "it's a small world" (all lower case, naturally).

After the fair, in 1966, it was relocated to Disneyland and copies exist at Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Disneyland Tokyo, Disneyland Paris, and Disneyland Hong Kong.

Visit Bill Young's web site NYWF64.com for detailed description of the Pepsi Pavilion.

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1964-1965 New York: State of Illinois Pavilion
 
 
Illinois State Pavilion, 1964-1965 New York World's Fair

The Illinois State Pavilion featured Walt Disney's Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The attraction was then moved to Disneyland. An updated version is still shown.

NYWF64.com has this excellent article about the Illinois State Pavilion.

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1964-1965 New York: Ford Pavilion
 
 
Robert Moses and Walt Disney at the 1964 World's Fair Ford Pavilion

The Ford Motor Company Pavilion was one of the largest at the 1964-1965 World's Fair. Walt Disney was responsible for helping develop the motorized vehicles that ran through the pavilion. That system was re-used at Disneyland as the People Mover. Dinosaurs from the exhibit are still in view in Disneyland's Primeval World, an exhibit seen from the Disneyland railway.

NYWF64.com also has this article about the Ford Pavilion.

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1964-1965 New York: General Electric Pavilion
 
 
General Electric Pavilion, 1964-1965 New York World's Fair

General Electric's Progressland Pavilion featured Disney's Carousel of Progress which was later moved to Disneyland and later, Walt Disney World. It was most recently updated in 1994 to feature "Christmas in the House of 2000."

See also NYWF64.com's information on the pavilion.

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EPCOT
 
 

It is often said that EPCOT (now known as "Epcot") is much like a permanent world's fair.

 

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1893 Chicago
 

Years before Walt Disney was born, he already had a connection to a world's fair. His father worked as a carpenter at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Walt's brother and business partner, Roy, was also born that year.

That same year, Walt Disney's father built the home that Walt Disney himself was born in.

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1933-1934 Chicago
 
 
1933-1934 Century of Progress Pocket Knife featuring Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse was created just five years before the opening of the 1933-1934 Century of Progress Exposition, but already he was being used on a wide variety of items, including this world's fair pocket knife featuring Mickey Mouse.

It is said that the fair's Belgium Village inspired Disney when planning Disneyland 20 years later.

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1935 Brussels
 
 
193t

Walt Disney received awards for his animation from a film festival held as part of the 1935 Brussels International Exposition. The Disney Family did travel to Europe in 1935, but more research is needed before we can difinitively say he attended the exposition.

The certificate shown awards his films Band Concert and Who Killed Cock Robin and is on exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

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1935 San Diego
 

It seems likely that Walt Disney visited the California-Pacific International Exposition given San Diego's proximity to Los Angeles. Any information about this would be appreciated. Contact Urso@ExpoMuseum.com.

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1937 Paris
 

it is possible that Walt Disney visited Paris for the 1937 Exposition Universelle, but more research is needed.

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1939-1940 New York
 

Despite the fact that Walt Disney did not attend the exposition himself, the company did contribute a cartoon for Nabisco's pavilion entitled Mickey's Surprise Party.

Also attributed to the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair is a Snow White exhibit, but more research is needed to confirm where this was located.

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1939-1940 San Francisco
 

Mickey Mouse was also called into service to help promote the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. He was in promotional materials distributed by the Standard Oil Company called "Mickey's and Donald's race to Treasure Island."

Mickey and Donald's Race to Treasure Island

Disney personally visited the world's fair. Among the exhibits he saw was the "Miniature Rooms" of Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Thanks to this experience, he was inspired to start his own collection of minatures. In 1951, he considered traveling his dioramas on a train under the name "Disneylandia," but realized it wouldn't be financially feasable. His interest, though, clearly influenced attractions at Disneyland when it opened in 1955.

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1958 Brussels
 
 
Expo '58 United States Pavilion

The United States Pavilion at Brussels' Expo '58 was the largest circular building ever built at was accompanied by two smaller buildings. One of those side buildings featured the Circarama (360º) film "America the Beautiful." It is also noteworthy for being the first Disney attraction outside a Disney park. Walt Disney himself served as a consultant to the pavilion.

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1962 Seattle
 
 
The Disney Family at the 1962 World's Fair
 
Ducksburg World's Fair

Walt Disney visited the 1962 Century 21 Exposition in Seattle for a week and was clearly inspired what he saw. He was quoted as saying that he thought there would be “Space Needles cropping up all over after the success of this one.”

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1986 Vancouver
 
 
Canada Telecom Pavilion, Expo 86

The Walt Disney Company produced a 360º film for Expo '86's Telecom Canada entitled Portraits of Canada/Images du Canada. After the world's fair was held, the film was shown for a time in Epcot's Canada Pavilion.

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1988 Brisbane
 

The mascot for Brisbane, Austraila's 1988 Louisiana World Exposition was reportedly created by a Disney animator, but more research is needed to confirm this.

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2010 Shanghai
 

The Walt Disney Company was a sponsor of the United States Pavilion at Shanghai's Expo 2010.

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