It's been 40 years since Disney World opened and turned Orlando into one of the world's most visited destinations. And our state has never been the same - for better and, some argue, for worse.
But this is undeniable: Disney World generates an estimated $18.2 billion annually for Florida's economy and one out of every 50 jobs here is tied to the Mouse, according to a study commissioned by Disney.
Sure, the long lines are a punch line. And all Disney magic comes with a price tag. But all 17.2 million people who pass annually through the Magic Kingdom can't be wrong.
So we tip our mouse ears to Disney with this 40 for 40 - one fact for each year of its existence.
Grab your sunscreen. We're going to Disney World.
1. Walt Disney, the Trump of his day? You be the judge: He bought the 43 square miles of Central Florida swampland for Disney World for $5 million, or about $185 an acre.
2. But he never saw it finished. Disney died from complications of lung cancer on Dec. 15, 1966, before the first shovel of dirt was moved for Disney World.
3. 10,000. That was the attendance for Disney World's soft opening on Oct. 1, 1971. But the grand opening later that month, which included performances by Julie Andrews, Bob Hope and Glen Campbell, was televised nationally. Today, the Magic Kingdom alone averages about 47,000 visitors a day.
4. Disney never closes, right? Not quite. It has closed three times, all in anticipation of hurricanes: Sept. 15, 1999, for Floyd; Sept. 4 and 5, 2004, for Frances; and Sept. 26 of that same year for Jeanne.
5. Less than 30 minutes. That's how long it took to evacuate thousands of guests from the theme parks on Sept. 11, 2001.
6. Don't plan to buzz Cinderella's castle. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the FAA put a flight restriction over the Disney World resort. It extends in a 3-mile radius from Cinderella's Castle and up to 3,000 feet.
7. 1.65 million. That's the estimated number of eyeglasses that have made their way to Disney World's lost-and-found bins since 1971. Every year, they find an average 6,000 cellphones, 3,500 digital cameras and 18,000 hats.
8. And now you're wondering about the weirdest things ever found? How about a glass eye, a prosthetic leg and a potty trainer - all of which were claimed (but not by the same person, we're told).
9. It really is a small world. One married couple from Boynton Beach, Alex and Donna Voutsinas, realized years later that they were coincidentally photographed together at Disney as children.
10. OK, it's not small after all. The Walt Disney World resort is about the size of San Francisco, and of its more than 27,000 acres, only about 35 percent has been developed.
12. An ear full. Stretched end to end, the number of Mickey-ear hats sold at Disney World would stretch from West Palm Beach to, well, Disney World - about 175 miles.
13. How many bricks did it take to build Cinderella's castle? None. Trick question. The entire castle is made out of fiberglass, and it's 189 feet tall.
14. Disney World's biggest theme park? That would be Animal Kingdom, which encompasses 403 acres.
15. The latest creature to Disney's Animal Kingdom? The blue people of Avatar. A new section, with interactive 3-D rides, is planned to open between 2015 and 2016 at a cost of about $400 million.
16. What makes Animal Kingdom feel so much like an actual sanctuary? It features more than 3,000 species in its 4 million trees and plants. And there are more than 1,500 animals brought from other zoos, including some species that exist today only in captivity.
17. Walt's secret apartment. Inside the upper levels of Cinderella's Castle is an apartment that Walt Disney intended to use when he and his family were in Florida. It was left unfinished when he died until Disney announced in 2006 that it would turn it into a deluxe suite, which is awarded randomly to a family every day. It comes complete with 24-carat gold tile floors, a "magic mirror" that turns into a television, stained-glass windows and a 600-pound limestone fireplace molded from a 17th-century gothic wooden piece from France.
18. The Land ride at EPCOT isn't just for entertainment. More than 30 tons of fruit and vegetables are grown there every year and served at Disney restaurants.
19. So your fantasy is living in a hotel? Room service for life? If you were to stay in a different room every night at the Disney World resorts, to sleep in them all would take you 68 years.
20. From an acorn. More than 500 of the young trees around Disney World properties started out as acorns from the Liberty Oak, the focal point in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom.
21. It takes more than a Mouse to make the magic. Disney World employs more than 62,000 as part of its cast, making WDW the largest single-site employer in the United States.
22. What does EPCOT mean? Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
23. How did it work out? As envisioned, it would be a working community of about 20,000 people, who would live with futuristic "push-button" technology in their daily lives. But after Walt's death in 1966, brother Roy O. Disney scaled back the social experiment into a world's fair with a vision into "tomorrow."
24. The original idea for EPCOT did come to fruition, in a way. Disney built the moderately upscale town of Celebration, which, at the 2010 census housed about 7,500 people. The town, which began construction in 1996, used to be operated by Disney, but is now mostly autonomous.
25. Jack Wagner. Not the soap star. The late voice actor. It is his voice that tells you to stand clear of the doors on the Disney World monorail. Samples of his recording for Disney have shown up in everything from cartoons (Phineas and Ferb and Toy Story 2) to the music of No Doubt. And you can still hear it aboard the tram at the Orlando International Airport.
26. Who says there's never a bus around when you need one? Disney's infrastructure has more than 270 buses, making it the third-largest bus system in the state, behind Jacksonville and Miami.
27. About 200 feet high. The newest roller coaster at any of the Disney World parks, Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom (aka the Yeti ride), is the tallest of any of the parks, at just a shade under 200 feet. Space Mountain at 180 feet is puny by comparison.
28. An ear full, Part 2. Ever notice the water tower wearing the giant Mickey ears at Disney's Hollywood Studios? If you made actual Mickey ears for it, the "Earffel Tower" would wear a size 342¾.
29. One harpist. Of all the dozens and thousands and millions of things at the Disney World parks, it has only one harpist. (How many do you really need, right?) You can hear him nightly, over dinner at Victoria & Albert's, the restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
30. Optical illusion? If you look closely at the mosaic mural on the fourth floor lobby of Disney's Contemporary Resort (one of the first two resorts built on site), you can see a five-legged goat facing the monorail track.
31. Disney World really invests in the holidays. They decorate more than 1,500 Christmas trees during the holiday season.
32. Disney World has theme parks for dads: There are more than 81 holes of golf on five courses of the property.
33. That's a lot of shrinkable cotton. Dress up folks in all the shirts sold at Disney World in one year, and you'd have enough for every resident of the state of Montana (pop. 974,989).
34. It's not cheap to go to Disney. When Disney World opened, adult admission to the Magic Kingdom cost $3.50. Today, it costs $85.
35. Ring that bell. In 1976, 50 replicas of the Liberty Bell were made out of the original's cast and one donated to each state. Since Philadelphia had the original, it agreed to give it to Disney, making Florida the only state with two replica bells. (The other Florida replica is in Melbourne.)
36. The movie experiment. Before it became strictly a theme park, Disney's Hollywood Studios (originally called Disney-MGM studios before a legal falling out), was designed to be a studio to bring movie-making from Los Angeles to the East Coast.
37. What was the first film made at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando? Ernest Saves Christmas.
38. TV shows were filmed there, too. The Mickey Mouse Club show featured soon-to-be stars Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling and Christina Aguilera. No shows are filmed there today.
39. "I'm going to Disney World!" Jane Eisner, wife of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, is the one who came up with the campaign, Michael Eisner wrote in his 1998 memoir. Giants quarterback Phil Simms was paid $75,000 to utter the iconic phrase after winning the Super Bowl XXI in January of 1987.
40. Why did Disney World fly flags at half staff on the day Apple founder Steve Jobs died? At the time of his death, Jobs was Disney's largest single shareholder (7 percent), and he was on the board of directors.