Disney parks around the world are commemorating Disneyland’s golden anniversary with special events to keep the dream of Walt Disney alive in all of us.
On July 18, 1954, an orange grove in Anaheim, California, began to undergo a transformation. By the summer of 1955, it had been replaced by an amusement park called Disneyland, complete with a jungle, a river, a castle, and a crowd of children and parents who marveled at this land of enchantment.
On May 5, 2005, The Walt Disney Company launched “The Happiest Celebration on Earth,” an 18-month global commemoration of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, at all 11 of its theme parks around the world.
The 50th anniversary celebration will be highlighted by the premiere of new entertainment spectaculars, adventures, and attractions at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim; Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida; Japan’s Tokyo Disney Resort; and France’s Disneyland Resort Paris. Joining the celebration on September 12, 2005, will be Hong Kong Disneyland, Disney’s 11th vacation destination and first theme park in China. The first-of-its-kind global celebration marks the largest debut of new Disney theme park attractions and entertainment ever.
The “Happiest Celebration on Earth” salutes 50 years of Disney theme park magic in a variety of ways. If you have not visited a Disney park recently with your children or grandchildren, this anniversary may provide just the reason to do so. Below are highlights scheduled for the California and Florida theme parks.
Where It Began
Walt Disney and his brother Roy were the longtime heads of a successful Hollywood film studio when Walt developed the idea for Disneyland. During numerous outings with his daughters, Walt realized that few permanent attractions offered activities that parents and children could enjoy together. In addition, the studio received letters from many Disney film fans who expressed interest in meeting their favorite Disney characters.
After soliciting the help of the Stanford Research Institute, Walt decided on a 160-acre parcel of land in Anaheim that would be big enough for rivers, waterfalls, and mountains, as well as moon rockets and a scenic railway (and more).
Funding for the theme park was needed, so Walt and Roy brokered a deal with the brand-new ABC television network. Walt would develop a TV show for ABC called “Disneyland” in which he described the park, and the network would invest in the park in return.
Walt’s self-promotion worked. On July 17, 1955, with temperatures surpassing a blistering 110 degrees, Disneyland opened to a crowd of 28,000, when only 6,000 were expected. It was a major media event. Opening ceremonies were broadcast nationwide on TV, featuring some of Walt’s friends from Hollywood: Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan.
A decade later, 50 million visitors already had come through the gates at Disneyland. And in January 2004 the California theme park hosted its 500 millionth guest.
“When Walt Disney conceived Disneyland, he envisioned a place where the wonder and nostalgia of his much-loved characters and stories would leap off the screen, immersing audiences in magical realms of fantasy and adventure,” said Michael Eisner, CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “Today . . . at each of our resort destinations worldwide, we celebrate the fantastic success of Walt’s creative vision.”
California’s Disneyland Resort And California Adventure Park
The “Happiest Homecoming on Earth” puts new and returning guests inside the park’s biggest celebration ever. Sleeping Beauty Castle has been transformed into an elegant “Crown Jewel,” decorated in richly colored finery and royal banners, adorned with custom-made jewel-like stones, and glowing with enchantment as never before.
The traditional daily parade, Walt Disney’s Parade of Dreams, is all-new, and features one of the largest casts of Disney characters and performers ever assembled.
“Remember . . . Dreams Come True” is the name of the all-new fireworks spectacular, the most elaborate in Disneyland history, highlighted by a fine musical score and never-before-seen firework designs.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is a new Tomorrowland adventure inspired by a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios film, Toy Story 2.
On July 15 an updated Space Mountain ride will open, featuring an all-new queue and Space Port, redesigned rockets, a brand-new soundtrack, and stellar special effects.
And be sure to catch “Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years.” This new attraction highlights a half-century of Disneyland memories and includes a heartwarming film hosted by famed Hollywood stars Steve Martin and Donald Duck.
Next door to the original Disneyland is Disney’s California Adventure Park, a separate park dedicated to the rich history and fun of the Golden State. At the Block Party Bash, the Pixar Film Pals invite guests to dance and play as part of this interactive street spectacular.
Walt Disney World Resort
Lake Buena Vista, Florida, will blossom with “Happiest Celebration On Earth” activities. Each of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks will feature a new attraction or show “imported” from Disney parks around the globe “” plus a new attraction will be unveiled just for the Florida resort.
At the Magic Kingdom, guests will enjoy “Cinderellabration,” an enchanting musical spectacular direct from Tokyo Disneyland. Performed beneath the glittering spires of Cinderella Castle “” adorned for the anniversary with a swirling overlay of golden decorations “” the live stage show enacts the coronation of Cinderella. This royal event is attended by a coterie of Disney’s most-beloved princesses.
At Epcot, guests will take flight aboard Soarin’, a ride that mimics a hang-gliding journey over the magnificent landscapes of California. Appropriately enough, this aerial tour of the Golden State comes to Epcot from Disney’s California Adventure Park.
Also at Epcot, guests can get a sneak peek at the next 50 years of Disney parks when they visit the Hong Kong Disneyland Preview Center, located in the China pavilion. Guests pass among showcases filled with plans, photos, costumes, models, maps, and artwork of the newest Disney theme park.
At Disney-MGM Studios, the “Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show” spotlights the high-octane best of the movie industry’s stunt masters. Inspired by the blockbuster show from Disneyland Resort Paris, this action extravaganza sends cars, motorcycles, and watercraft careening and jumping across an enormous Mediterranean village set.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Lucky the Dinosaur moves from the research and development labs of Walt Disney Imagineering to the streets of DinoLand U.S.A. This first-ever free-roaming Audio-Animatronics figure will meet and greet guests during a limited engagement.
Later in the celebration, Walt Disney World Resort will present a new adventure of its own with the opening of the towering Expedition Everest thrill ride in the Asia area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.