New Disney World theater modeled after KC’s old Willis Wood Theatre

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A piece of Kansas City history will soon be a main attraction in Disney World, and it’s all to honor Walt Disney who grew up here.

Walt Disney got his start at the old Laugh-o-gram Studios at 31st and Troost. Inside the building is where he drew his first animated movies and fed a tame mouse that inspired him to later create Mickey Mouse.

While a nonprofit continues to try to renovate the old Laugh-o-gram Studio, it’s another Kansas City landmark that’s about to get the Walt Disney treatment.

Below is a rendering of a new theater being built on Main Street in Disney World in Orlando.

New Disney World Theater

Tourists will soon be able to go there to watch all sorts of live shows based on all of their popular movies. The design is inspired by the old Willis Wood Theatre, which once stood at the corner of 11th and Baltimore in downtown Kansas City.

Below is an old picture of that from the Jackson County Historical Society.

The Old Willis Theatre

Built in 1902 by Colonel Willis Wood, it was considered the only “first class” stage theater in Kansas City for many years.

When it began to struggle financially, they turned it into a movie theater, but it still struggled to draw crowds. It burned to the ground in 1917.

One hundred years later, the Mark Twain Tower stands where the Willis Wood Theatre once did. But you can imagine Walt visiting this theater in his youth, and how the shows and movies he saw here might’ve inspired him to become the famous animator he later became. That is why Disney World officials want to bring a part of his childhood to their theme park in Florida.

There’s no word on when it will be built or when it will open.

As for Disney’s old Laugh-o-gram Studios at 31st and Troost, they are still raising money hoping to one day open it up as a museum and show the old cartoons Disney first drew.