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.

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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 idea 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.

Sources

📰The Orlando Sentinel
“Celebration Draws Crowd for Drawing” (Nov 27 1995)
“Disney cash puts Celebration School on Track” (Dec 15 1995)
“Celebration focuses on future without Disney magic, rules” (Dec 26 2003)
“Disney shares its vision for city, dazzles officials” (Jan 22 1993)
“As Celebration nears completion, Disney puts downtown up for sale” (Jun 23 2003)
“SunTrust to test cashless smart card at Disney’s Celebration” (Sep 22 1997)
“Disney officials say homes may start in $125,000 range” (Jan 16 1994)
“Home buyers are eager to join Disney’s town” (Jan 16 1994)
“Father calls pond a danger” (Nov 22 1998)
“Arvida to run Celebration center” (Feb 27 2003)
“In Celebration, some are losing faith in Disney” (Jun 20 2002)
“Disney plans a Celebration of life, work, play in Osceola” (Apr 30 1991)
“1st robber strikes at Disney’s Celebration” (Aug 12 1998)

📰The Florida Today Sun
“First phase nearly sold out” (Aug 10 1997)

📰The South Florida Sun
“House Mouse” (Oct 21 1995)

📰Tampa Bay Times
“Another line forms at Disney for a lottery for houses” (Oct 6 1995)

📰The Tampa Tribune
“Some parents find little to cheer in Disney’s Celebration school” (Jun 8 1997)
“Reality check on Disney dream homes” (Jul 1 1999)

📔Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins

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