Celebration Florida: Disney’s Not So Perfect Town

Celebration Florida: Disney’s Not So Perfect Town


When Celebration saw its first residents move into town during the summer of 1996, everything seemed great. The town center was beautiful, the houses
looked idyllic, the streets cozy and inviting. It was figuratively a Main Street USA that
you could actually live in. However it wouldn’t be long before the flaws
and troubles of the town began to surface and it would start to receive criticism from
the outside. What was meant to be a perfect town was apparently
not so perfect. Announcer: “When it was first announced,
demand to live here was so high Disney ran a lottery. Bill and Susan Bona were among the first 400
winners.” Susan: “I think people came here because-
thinking they were gonna be living on Main Street USA and you know the pixie dust would
be sprinkled and their life would be perfect and they wanted the monorail to pick them
up at their front door and you know this is real life, real mortgages, real jobs.” While many residents of the brand new town
were quick to praise the sense of community that the neotraditionalist design aimed to
foster, they were also quick to highlight a pretty glaring flaw, which is that the houses…
well… they kind of sucked. Back in its initial stages, Disney opted to
use contractors to build the homes of Celebration rather than building the houses themselves. It would hurt their bottom line since they
had to pay the third party companies to do the building, but the benefit was that they
wouldn’t have to manage the logistics of constructing thousands of homes over the decade
or so they expected it would take to complete the town. So they reached out to a number of different
companies who specialized in home construction and put them to work as fast as they could,
and while that speedy construction would prove helpful in the growth of Celebration, it would
ultimately hurt the homes themselves. Problems with the houses began to spring up,
and they ranged from small issues like outlets not working to major ones like leaking roofs
and moldy walls. Many residents found themselves requesting
repair after repair. Some of the contractors would later argue
that a large factor in the sub-par construction was the time crunch they were under and the
sheer number of homes they had to complete. On top of that, the quick turnaround between
planning and building meant that many of the out-of-state companies had no time to foster
working relationships with good local subcontractors who would provide quality building supplies
and additional labor. They also claimed that having to stick to
Disney’s strict style guidelines ultimately slowed them down and increased costs. Lastly, Celebration came about at a time where
there was a housing boom in central Florida, which led to a shortage in skilled workers
who really knew what they were doing. Some outlets, like the Tampa Tribune, also
made the case that perception played a big role in how bad the situation looked. Many of these homeowners were die-hard Disney
fans, and they bought into the idea of a house in Disney’s town on Disney’s property
with the thought that Disney would be the ones involved and taking care of everything. Yet the reality of the situation was that
once that contract was signed, it was pretty much out Disney’s hands. Eventually the complaints would pile up so
high that in 1999 the town would commission an independent inspection of the homes, and
the results would show that of the initial batch of houses, over 70 would need to have their roofs completely replaced to meet industry standards Thankfully over the years as the town expanded
at a much slower rate, the quality of the homes would improve and that list of problems
would shrink. Celebration’s K-12 school would also find
itself getting off to a rocky start. The school was meant to be cutting edge and
use experimental educational techniques. For example, rather than typical classrooms
of 20-30 students with one teacher, classes were made up of 80+ students from different grades with three teachers collectively overseeing everyone. Instead of traditional grading systems, report
cards were made up of more individualized and detailed assessments. In general many of the techniques attempted
were ones that were already being tested elsewhere in the country, however where other schools
would try to implement one technique, Celebration was trying to do it all at once. It lead to a confusing and hectic initial
school year that resulted in six of the nineteen full-time teachers, not to mention the principle,
quitting. Now all of this on it’s own would be worrying,
but it was made even worse by the fact that the following year the campus would be completed
which meant that more students outside of Celebration would begin attending the school. The student body would grow from just over
200 students to as many as 900 students. The school would need a larger and capable
faculty, yet it didn’t even have a small capable faculty at that point. For a few families in Celebration, that first
year was so bad that they’d list their houses for sale and move out. The criticisms of Celebration weren’t just
coming from within the town, however. Early on in it’s development, the concept
faced a lot of ridicule. Now in all honestly, this was largely an extension
of the ridicule that Disney as a whole had received since the early days of Disneyland. For many people, the promise of escaping reality
to a perfectly designed and maintained fantasy world is an appealing one. It’s a way to shed the stresses of daily
life and embrace your inner child. But for plenty of other people, the idea
is unsettling. They find the artificial nature of everything
and the perceived forced happiness as creepy. Celebration was no exception. Some argued that while striving to create
a nicer and more communal town was a noble goal, trying to force it through design regulations
and the appearance of perfection was going too far. And while that level of control and escapism
worked when it came to a day or two at Disney World, what would it mean to live it 24/7? For instance how would it affect children
who would grow up there? Would the overly safe bubble of a “perfect
town” do more harm than good? After years in the town, would they be prepared
to face the real world, which would look and operate nothing like Celebration? There was also the matter of accessibility. When the town was originally conceived, the
idea was to include houses of affordable varied prices as well as different styles of apartments. They’d be blended together in their layout
in order to promote more diversity so that there wouldn’t be a “rich part” of town
or “poor part” of town. But with the rising costs of the elaborate
town center and school, not to mention the very specific and detailed architectural guidelines,
Disney quickly learned that the houses needed to lean towards the expensive side to make
up the costs. And so the homes in 1994 began at $125,000,
which put the price at almost 20% over the county average at the time. The result, was a town that served as an example
of the growing socioeconomic divide. Celebration, Florida was over 80% white, and had a median income that was nearly double the county’s There were people working at shops and restaurants
in the town center who couldn’t afford to live there. Now to be fair it certainly wasn’t the first or last
community like that, but again, Disney was trying to market this as the ideal
American town for other towns to emulate. Trying to sell that idea without any economic
or racial diversity did not look good for them. And then there was the matter of crime and
accidents. Now really, neither was much of a major problem
in Celebration. That said, like any other town in the country,
it still happened. 1998 would be the year Celebration would see
its first armed home invasion, as well as the first death due to a car accident. And while it would be unreasonable to expect
a perfect town with zero crime and zero accidents, it’s not surprising when the spotlight is turned on both when you try to sell your town as perfect. It was, more than anything else, a marketing
problem for Disney. When someone crashes a car into a pond and
drowns, as far as the media is concerned it didn’t happen in Celebration. It happened in Disney’s Celebration. With every house sold, Celebration inched
forward towards all of the issues and troubles that came with most every town out there. At the same time, with every house sold, Disney’s
investment in the project was literally shrinking. A new home meant that much less land to sell,
and that much less ownership over the town. They could, of course, retain ownership over
the town center, but would it really be worth it? After all, the lion’s share of the revenue
was in the land they were selling for houses. So in 2003 Disney began to divest itself from
Celebration, announcing their intentions to step back from the development and put the
Town Center up for sale. The town center would be purchased by a private
investment firm called Lexin Capital for an estimated $42 million dollars. Knowing that their name would be tied to the
legacy of the town anyway, Disney included a stipulation in the sale that the new owners would uphold
the same design and building standards that they first established back when the town
began. Between those sales and the land sales over
the years, it put Disney’s take on the project at an estimated $550 million. Not bad for a chunk of land they weren’t
using. The news prompted mixed reactions from residents. Some welcomed the change in ownership, and
hoped that it would mean more relaxed homeowner association rules down the line. Others, however, felt abandoned. They had bought into the idea of Celebration
as a town designed, built, and run by Disney, and now Disney was leaving them. How do you measure the success of a town? On the one hand, it was a financial success
for The Walt Disney Company. It helped with Osceola county’s tax revenue,
and it provided a place to live for many families who, despite all these troubles I just mentioned,
were often still proud of the sense of community that developed there. Disney wanted to build a town that would foster
the idea of community, and it worked. On the other hand, Disney also pitched the
idea of a perfect town that the rest of the country could use as a model to base theirs
off of, and with that they failed. It was a development that many people were
happy to live in, but it was very much one-of-a-kind, not a template for the new suburbs. Roy: “Celebration is really EPCOT I think
in the end, in the sense of what Walt was looking for. A really nice place where people really live real lives and have the advantages of modern technology.” So was Celebration successful? Personally, like the Disney parks themselves,
I think it’ll depend on who you ask. For many it’s a dream come true, and for
others it’s a failure. The reality, as is usually the case, probably
lies somewhere in between. If you’re new to the channel and want to
get fresh Disney history videos every week, I’d ask that you consider subscribing. And if you’re looking for a good next video
to check out, I suggest the history of the Disney Cruise Line, which had a somewhat unique
origin. Thank you for watching and I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Celebration Florida: Disney’s Not So Perfect Town

  1. Over a decade a go I worked for an electrical company and for just over two years, all I did was wire and trim 4 giant houses on Aquila loops (only a few small breaks for other jobs). The people were great, to include the neighborhood people and home owners whose homes I was working on. On multiple occasions on the weekends, the owners would stop by and buy lunch for the workers. Another time, we did a 7 day OT push with another crew to have a section done in time for another trade. They were pleased of our efforts and gave each crew (two crews, two people each) a bottle of rum at the end of the day. It was pocket change to them, but was a great gesture that went a long way.

  2. I remember going there when I was little thinking this is such a strange place, we drove past there again later as my mother told me a guy was holding his girlfriend hostage committing homicide…

  3. All but 1% of the homes are made of white bread, if you know what I mean. Inherited white bread yuppies. Shoddy materials, surreal environment.

  4. I have lived there, this doesn't cover anything to do with living there. The only bad part of Celebration is the people from Kissimmee or surrounding areas coming there and causing crime and crowding. Disney has zero involvement of the town now. The houses are still pretty bad quality, the Condos just keep getting worse. Tourist think its an attraction, when its really just peoples neighborhood . Living in the city was honestly great, until the you realize for the same money you can live in better areas with the same concept, without the crime and tourists bothering you.

  5. Celebration is a Lovely place to live! Such a painfully biased video all about "how it didn't turn out like it was supposed to". Who cares? My Entire Family LOVES living in Celebration & we're Glad we're here!

  6. I heard Celebration was intended to be residences for Disney employees but then the rich moved in and took over.. maybe a rumor?

  7. No different than all of florida the problem is rushing rushing rushing i worked on brickell and 7 st the owners rushed the opening of their buildings what they did not know was that the sub-parking that was under in the ocean ( and although the building was erect ) the concrete on one of the parkings would not seal so ocean water was coming in 😳😳 and it was in that one parking but all of the underground were connected that was one of the selling features that all the buildings were connected 🤭🤭😔😳the apartments owner used to walk by and ask when will we get to mve in unknowing of what was going on!!!🥺🥺people dies building them. For example one of the buildings pool was overlapping the floors above that had balconies so debris would fall on the pool. with all the rush workers payed the price like being squished to death when the glass being lifted for the windows fell on top 🥺😔😩another time the window shattered and glass came tumbling down into the pool the worries of the pool but the employee that got hit on his face they asked are u ok no blood kept working yet next day face bruised all over .
    People are the problem they demand , want, rush then complain!!!!!
    Houses built are really poorly made with spaces hollow under the tiles that will eventually crack, outlets not connected to look finished inspectors dont check them all, houses built on top of huge ant piles that will never go away am pro wild life!!! snakes, gators, birds how selfish have humans become
    Disney is to blame, NO
    Contractors need to ask for proper time to build CITY INSPECTORS TOO!!! BANKS are the guilty ones pushing forcing projects becase loans start accumulating interest payments are due by a certain date all issues lead to them!!!!!

  8. In my opinion, the community thing was a breeze, it was the economics and ethics that were poor. It would have been much better if Disney made an honest, normal city (with reasonable quality of course) with some perks from the park. Just making a whole city of disney fans helped by providing a common ground of interest that everyone shared.

  9. it's similar to other overly regulated master planned communities selling perfection. It's just that this one has Disney's name associated with it. some people like living under localized fascism, but I don't find places like that appealing. Celebration didn't fail it's just not their perfected Disney world fairytale town that they thought it would be.

  10. I visited there in 2005. Just a boring cookie cutter suburb. High level of conformity needed to maintaining a house there, very limited choices. Just boring.

  11. Growing up in the '60s, I was fascinated by all the urban renewal/city planning projects happening across the country. Out with the old and in with the new, which leaned heavily upon the prevailing modern architecture of the day, which intrigued me. When I first became aware of EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) I was in awe of what was to be a huge leap forward at trying new ways of living, learning, working and co-existing with each other. At least that is what I had been led to believe. Suburbia was at this time beginning its full power outward expansion from most large cities and vast land areas were being constructed in what would become nothing more than places to raise families in monochromatic blandness. Places with no 'there'. Just houses and little more. Roads that went in endless curves and dead-ends to nowhere.

    My family moved to a D.C. area suburb during the early days of this trend. I had two planned towns to observe nearby, Reston, Virginia, and Columbia, Maryland and my dad obliged my interest by driving there on Saturdays. EPCOT seemed to also want to address this 'just roads and houses to nowhere' and try something new, possibly trying several alternatives to reach the desired outcome, a new way of living.

    To say I was disappointed when I first read about EPCOT construction commencing to build an amusement park is an understatement. I held out hope that one day Walt Disney's vision would be realized. The town Walt had wanted to build did eventually get built. This video helped me realize how that vision that seemed so ambitious in my youth become just another real estate transaction in the end.

  12. I drove through this place back in 2000, it was INCREDIBLY creepy. It just felt so forced and fake, every house down the street I was on was identical. Very uncomfortable.

  13. I'm from Ireland and Celebration was the first town I visited in the US. It was absolutely bizarre, I initially wondered if all American towns felt so surreal and artificial. I quickly learned that Celebration is a strange anomaly.

  14. I went trick or treating in celebration and used to go to celebration high school. It’s a good school and community despite what others say. Just filled with nice,RICH,white people😭

  15. Contrakt worker – no time.. but still take the gud damn contract, DONT FUCKING COMPLAIN IF YOU ACCEPT THE OFFER

  16. I was just on vacation to Disney and had to go to the ER at midnight. Going to "Celebration Hospital" for an ER visit feels a little condescending.

  17. Drove through celebration one time on the way home from Disney just to see what it was like. I was incredibly creeped out because it was just so “perfect” like weirdly perfect just a nagging at the back of head that you can’t get to go away told me to leave.

  18. My dad worked construction. I have helped him a lot.
    There's ZERO excuse for flaws in a new home.
    A new house should last minimum 30 years before you get the 1st flaw.

  19. Celebration reminds me of a movie/tv backlot in California.
    If you watch the old Twilight Zone, everything was shot on MGM backlots.
    Celebration is exactly like this.

  20. anything to do with an HOA you can count me out. i'll be damned if i'll live the way they want me to… and pay them for it!

  21. This video shows a complete lack of understanding at to how new home developments work. The developer is typically NOT a home builder. The developer typically tries to bring in multiple builders whom they sell the lots to. The builders then sell the homes to buyers. This is a good thing as there's a system of check and balances. The builders are NOT third party contractors of the developer!

  22. All of the really nice developments in Florida are mostly white, they are purposely built this way. Most don't allow apartments and they are very strictly run by HOA's who control everything. You must remember that Florida is the South, much has not changed. As much racial diversity as there is, where people live is still very segregated.

  23. There's so much incorrect about this. My family lived there since almost the beginning of the town – and I went to the school in its early years as well. Let's talk…

  24. How ironic this came up while scrolling. A horrific murder has occurred there in the past weeks. They just found the bodies this week, a husband confessed to killing his whole family including the dog. Evil is everywhere:(

  25. This reminds of an X-Files where the people who lived in this perfect community had to follow strict rules, like not putting flamingos on their lawns. If they broke the rules, they went missing.

  26. Now you can add Anthony Todt. He killed his wife, his children ages 13, 11 and 4 years and dog, Breezy. And lived with the dead bodies while claiming they disappeared. He lived at 202 Reserve Place.

  27. I lived in celebration for a year in 2015. we were renting a house from a lady who lived there (I never saw her though). when we first got there some of her old decorations were still there and they were all chickens, which was funny but they were removed shortly after we moved in. it felt weird liveing there because I felt that we were driffrent from everyone else. on the outside our house was bueatfly but on the inside it was mostly barren with old carpets and other stuff like that. our neighbors were alot richer than us and has lots of newr stuff on the inside. going to the school was weird to. I'm from ohio and the diffrence between the schools is that more of it is outside like the hallways and stuff. but it was also weird because I didn't have many friends going there, only about two or three. I went there in 8th grade wasnt exactly the easiest lol. other than that liveing there wasnt bad. the town was great and there was nice walking trails, places to eat, and shop. we did move out though but mostly because of family issues. celabration was a weird place and time in my life but I'm glad to have a cool experience like that. also there was a murder just a couple houses from where I lived that just happend sooooo idk lol.

  28. I was born in Celebration but haven't been in years. I live on the space coast now but I want to go back to see what it's like.

  29. When I was in Orange County CA in 2003, the builders called it "90 days from pour to door" — they would build the houses so fast. And then the shit would hit the fan when folks moved in.

  30. Sounds like every gated community in so-cal, though nicer and affordable. Near San Diego there are two, both offering big homes, small yards, about thirty feet of space between, advertised as starting in the low $1,000,000.

  31. I went there a few years ago with my brother. He said he was scared to sneeze. Creepy and I can't get it into my head that the shops are real, the hospital is real etc. Just all seems like a toy town

  32. Why have I never heard of this? Again, Disney does an excellent job of covering up. Scarey corporate and political power. Should I fear for my life? Also, too many stupid Disney fans chasing the Disney dream like little blind mice. Enough with extreme Disney fanaticism.

  33. We lived in Orlando. After the town opened, we went to tour. It was idealic. I walked through home after home, dreaming that it was mine. The downtown just had a few shops with a little food store, wonderful restaurant, a clothing store. Just a dream Land, for sure. We left Florida in 2000, so never heard all this. Too bad. It was the perfect town.

  34. My cousins lived there from 02-2009. When I first went over there I loved visiting celebration now in 2020 it’s been kinda shitty the last few years

  35. Its a good town, not perfect for some great for others . Would I live there maybe . If you like Disney then its great location, If you do not ,well there are plenty of other places that may suit you

  36. whats gets me is wear do they get that this place will look like Disney land. Disney never sed that they wear just a nother business such as any other that was using property ment for a failed project. if you look it up the land was intended to be a theam park I belev it was a water park but things failed so they desided to build homes in order to make more money fro it them selling it off and clear land.

  37. That's why you should never force financial-background diversity in a community. In another word, don't try to beat natural laws of the market. It has more to do with how you live than just skin color.

  38. Going into celebration is a weird experience. You're just like "yeah this is a town, it's a normal town," but its just two degrees off. I cant really see anyone actually living there because it feels like a tourist attraction. Its a nice place just feels… plastic I guess? Idk how else to describe it ¯_(:/)_/¯

  39. What’s the name of that Jim Carey movie where he kept trying to leave the town and couldn’t and I think he was like in a show tv on him all time lol this what this reminds me of lol

  40. It has a nice Starbucks, but, that's about it…. some dude just massacred his entire family there, so, theres that…

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