1999 was a vital year for Walt Disney World preparing for the 21st century

25 years ago, Walt Disney World answered the challenges of Universal Studios and the 21st century with bold transformations to the entire resort!

USA, Florida, Orlando, Disney World, Epcot, Spaceship Earth...
USA, Florida, Orlando, Disney World, Epcot, Spaceship Earth... / Wolfgang Kaehler/GettyImages
1 of 3

While 1994 turned out to be low-key one of Disney World’s biggest years, it’s not hard to see how 1999 was likely a bigger deal. In many ways, it could be argued the last gasp of a “classic” feel to one park while others took a bold step forward. Oddly, it makes sense that the dawn of the 21st century would be a time of transformation for the entire Walt Disney World area. 

It was easy to mark the opening of new resorts, attractions and more. However, it was also the feel of it. With competition heating up, Disney was inspired to create attractions for a thrill audience and other changes, many of which would affect the company for years to come. With 25 years past, it’s remarkable to look back at 1999 Walt Disney World to see how much has changed and that this year would set the tone for the 2000s for the resort. 

The Disney-Universal War Heated Up

Performer At Universal Studios
Performer At Universal Studios / Stan Godlewski/GettyImages

Maybe it wasn’t intentional, but it’s hard not to conclude that much of what Disney World did in 1999 was a response to Universal taking a huge step up. While Universal Studios Orlando was a decent enough park, it lagged a bit compared to WDW, with too much emphasis on movie-making rather than adventure. 

In 1999, Universal rose up with Islands of Adventure, featuring some of the most acclaimed cutting-edge attractions around, like the Spider-Man ride, among others. There was also the CityWalk and more hotels, and a major shot was fired against Disney.

Even SeaWorld got into the act with the Kraken, their first thrill coaster. Make no mistake, 1999 was when the Orlando theme park wars kicked into high gear and that rivalry sparked new innovations.