Saturday, July 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Disneyland :)

posted on May 7th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

In the weeks leading up to the 55th anniversary of Disneyland park – July 17, 1955 – we’ll be sharing a post every week to remember 55 years of magic, dreams and imagination. We’ll start with the most recent half a decade and work our way backwards.

Premiere of 'Pirates of the 
Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' at Disneyland Park

Each week, I’ll pick one particularly memorable event in those five years to highlight. For the years 2010 to 2006, I chose the premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” at Disneyland park on June 29, 2006. The red carpet was amazing, and it was a really fun event to work. Pirates of the Carribbean is also one of my favorite attractions, so I was thrilled when the attraction celebrated 40 years of swashbuckling, pillaging and singing with a movie premiere at Disneyland park AND by adding new magic to the classic attraction. In case you’ve forgotten, Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbosa and Davy Jones joined the attraction, and a revamped sound system and other special effects made Pirates of the Caribbean better than ever.

Premiere of 'Pirates of the 
Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' at Disneyland Park

You may certainly disagree with my choice. It’s really difficult to choose just one event, so please feel free to share your opinions on your favorite event or favorite memory that took place in the years mentioned in each post. 

A lot happened in the past five years. Here’s a snapshot to refresh your memory:

2010Captain EO returned almost two decades after it first debuted. Opening day was quite a scene as fans came out in complete EO garb to see the show.

2009 – New magic was added to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers visited the Disneyland Resort to celebrate his fourth NBA championship.

2008Toy Story Mania! inspired by Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story” films debuted at Disney’s California Adventure park. In Adventureland, the Enchanted Tiki Room celebrated 45 years of singing birds, plants and totem poles. The year 2008 also saw the return of a re-imagined Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough attraction.

2007 – Two major re-imagined adventures on the high seas came to Disneyland park: the return of the submarines and the debut of Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. The debut of Pirate’s Lair occurred in the same year as the premiere at Disneyland park of the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, “At World’s End.” Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage opened to rave reviews as the subs had been missing from Tomorrowland for nine years.

2006 – In addition to the changes to Pirates of the Caribbean, this year was also a year of firsts as Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort debuted. Disney’s Princess Fantasy Faire and the Jedi Training Academy also debuted this year, allowing guests the opportunity to meet with Disney royalty or battle Darth Vader and Darth Maul.

It’s your turn. What do you think is the most memorable event between 2006 and 2010 at the Disneyland Resort?

posted on May 14th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

 50th Anniversary

Last week, we started counting down the days to the 55th anniversary at the Disneyland Resort by sharing highlights from the most recent half a decade.

This week we’re looking back to 2005 through 2001.

This week, I chose the 50th anniversary celebration on July 17 as the event I found most memorable in this five-year period. The re-dedication ceremony was full of fanfare and concluded with Walt Disney’s eldest daughter, Diane Disney Miller, re-dedicating Disneyland park the same way her father did in 1955.

One of the things I remember most about the 50th anniversary was the golden versions of some of my favorite Fantasyland attractions.

 50th Anniversary

Here’s a look at some of the events around the Resort in 2005 through 2001. What do you remember best?

2005 – A 50th anniversary celebrity kick-off event included Julie Andrews, Steve Martin and Tim Allen. Sleeping Beauty castle underwent a beauty makeover, complete with crowns. “Remember…Dreams Come True” fireworks show made its debut. Neil Armstorng re-dedicated Space Mountain. Disneyland park was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Animation Academy and Turtle Talk with Crush premiered at Disney’s California Adventure park.

2004 – Over at Hollywood Pictures Backlot, guests began having hair-raising experiences when The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened May 4. At Disneyland park, three Olympic gold medalists took to the water at the Disneyland Resort in a pool built in the middle of Main Street, U.S.A. during the final stop of the “Disney’s Swim With the Stars” tour. “Snow White – An Enchanting New Musical” debuted. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel completed a renovation in June featuring redesigned guest rooms, an enhanced lobby and a new pool area with a waterslide.

2003 – “Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage!” came to Disney’s California Adventure park and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh debuted at Disneyland park. Jingles and the rest of King Arthur Carrousel’s 72 steeds were ready for guests again after an extensive refurbishment. In June the Pirates franchise was born when we rolled out the red carpet on Main Street, U.S.A. for a Hollywood-style premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

2002 – “a bug’s land” opened at Disney’s California Adventure park, offering guests the chance to see the world through a bug’s eyes. In October, the first CHOC/Disneyland Resort Walk in the Park saw 11,000 participants stroll through the Resort. After baseball’s fall classic had ended, the Resort was awash in a sea of red as fans came out to cheer the Angels in a victory celebration. The year ended with three wishes as the Disney’s California Adventure production of “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” had its first performance.

2001 – This year saw the completion of the largest expansion in Disneyland history at that time, and on just the second day of the year, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel welcomed its first guests. Shortly after, Downtown Disney opened the doors to its shopping, dining and entertainment venues, while Disney’s California Adventure park celebrated its grand opening in February. Over at Disneyland park, Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante opened in Frontierland. On July 4, guest favorite “Disney’s Electrical Parade” returned after an absence of almost five years to light up the streets of Disney’s California Adventure park. Grim grinning ghosts celebrated the holidays with the first appearance of Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland park, and band lovers celebrated “The Power of Blast!” at the Hyperion Theater at Disney’s California Adventure park, featuring brass and percussion instruments and choreography reminiscent of a halftime spectacular.

What’s your favorite event or memory at the Disneyland Resort between 2005 and 2001?

posted on May 21st, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort


This is the third installment in a series of posts counting down the weeks to the 55th anniversary on July 17. As you probably know, we’re counting backwards and have already covered two half decades (2006-2010 and 2001-2005). This week we’re looking at highlights from 1996 to 2000.

This week I’m featuring Autopia as the most memorable attraction to open in this five-year period. I have several pictures of myself “driving” in Disneyland park over the years, and while I wasn’t at the Park in 2000 for this re-opening, this attraction certainly evokes some strong memories for me.

Counting backwards, here’s a look at what happened from 2000 to 1996 to help you pick your favorite:

2000 – A brand new parade – 45 Years of Magic Parade – and a dazzling new fireworks spectacular – Believe…There’s Magic in the Stars – debuted this year. The only original Tomorrowland attraction left from park opening, Autopia, is reimagined. Combining the old Fantasyland and Tomorrowland attractions, young drivers now cruised along a modern highway through scenic forests and past shimmering waters. 

1999Disney’s FastPass service makes its official debut with “it’s a small world” holiday in November. The Plaza Gardens undergoes a revitalization effort with a new canopy and stage. New faces can be seen throughout the park, such as Radio Disney DJs Just Plain Mark and Zippy, who begin broadcasting live from underneath the Observatron. Tarzan moves into a tree house in Adventureland.

1998 – Three new attractions transformed Tomorrowland this year, including the Astro Orbitor, “Honey I Shrunk the Audience” and Rocket Rods. Over in Fantasyland, Fantasyland Theatre received an entirely new look with a new roof and a whole new show – Anamazement – starring some of Disney’s famous animated characters.

1997 – The Hercules Victory Parade traveled through the park for the first time, celebrating Disney’s newest hero. Light Magic opened, and Main Street, U.S.A., got a lot more tasty with new locations for the Carnation CafĂ©, Blue Ribbon Bakery and Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor. On Refreshment Corner, a window was dedicated to honor Bob Penfield, the last original cast member to retire. Bob was a part of “Club 55,” which was the term for those who were on the job the day Disneyland park opened. 

1996 – A record number of guests turned out for Main Street Electrical Parade before the show dimmed the lights. The new stars from Disney•Pixar’s hit “Toy Story” opened up the Toy Story Funhouse over in Tomorrowland. In Frontierland another guest experience premiered at Big Thunder Ranch. The Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival of Fools completely immersed the audience in an exciting song, dance and fun-filled extravaganza. 

So, what’s your favorite event or memory? Is there anything that happened in these years that you forgot about or is news to you?

TARZAN® Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

posted on May 27th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

This latest post in a series counting down the weeks to the 55th anniversary focuses on the highlights between 1991 and 1995. These were huge years. A whole new land was added to Disneyland park, a gigantic attraction debuted in Adventureland, and one of the most beloved nighttime spectaculars premiered on the Rivers of America.

My favorite? While arguably not the biggest new addition to the Disneyland Resort in this five-year period, Fantasmic! is probably my favorite. The show has an epic feel to it. Fantasmic! has a rich story, includes more than 100 cast and crew members, and is one of the best shows to see all of my favorite characters in one place. The photo below is from the opening event on May 1992.

A Fantasmic Moment at Disneyland Park

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a look back at this half decade, jam-packed with new attractions and shows:

1995Indiana Jones Adventure (TM), the thrilling off-road journey through an ancient temple, blazed its way to Disneyland park. On July 17, a time capsule was buried in the Sleeping Beauty Castle forecourt containing items that would not be revealed until the park’s 80th anniversary. The dance club Videopolis was transformed into Fantasyland Theatre, featuring the all-new stage show “The Spirit of Pocahontas.” The Disneyland Resort expanded to include the Disneyland Hotel’s next-door neighbor, the Pan Pacific Hotel, which was transformed into the Disneyland Pacific Hotel (and later Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel).

1994Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin welcomed its first fares on the one-year anniversary of Mickey’s Toontown. This innovative dark ride featured vehicles that could be rotated in any direction or speed. One of the biggest parades in Disneyland park history debuted, as “The Lion King Celebration” showcased unique Audio-Animatronics and larger-than-life puppets along with more than 100 live performers. The park said goodbye to a longtime favorite, as the Skyway attraction connecting Fantasyland and Tomorrowland closed after 38 years of operation. 1994 also brought the spring break which saw Disneyland park go Pog Wild and Rollerblade Crazy.

1993 – The toons finally received their very own home in Mickey’s Toontown, the first all-new land added to Disneyland park in over 20 years. Featuring a gag-filled downtown inspired by the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the cartoon-like design was influenced by the personalities of the characters living there, with Donald taking up residence in a boat while Chip and Dale inhabited an acorn tree. With Aladdin hitting theatres in the summer, a Royal Caravan parade made its way to Main Street, U.S.A., while the Tahitian Terrace in Adventureland was replaced by a new restaurant, Aladdin’s Oasis. As Mickey Mouse celebrated his 65th birthday, the “Partners” statue featuring Walt Disney that sits in Disneyland park’s Central Plaza was also dedicated.

1992 – Mickey Mouse ignited the night for the first time with Fantasmic!, an epic battle between good and evil on the Rivers of America featuring water, pyrotechnic and laser effects. Though the show begins its 19th year this summer, it wasn’t the only entertainment of note in 1992. Coinciding with the theatrical release, a live Beauty and the Beast stage show debuted on the Videopolis stage, which ran for several years and eventually inspired the Broadway smash. Goofy also celebrated his sixtieth birthday with the larger than life parade, “The World According to Goofy,“ and opened his first restaurant as Goofy’s Kitchen debuted at the Disneyland Hotel. The park’s biggest special event was the private 60th birthday party of actress Elizabeth Taylor, featuring a performance of “Happy Birthday” led by Barry Manilow.

1991 – As the Persian Gulf War came to an end, Disneyland park honored thousands of veterans returning home from the region with a daily cavalcade from April 17 to June 17. The park also helped raise money for the U.S. Olympic Committee with Olympic Salutes, a five-mile cast member torch relay in June leading to Sleeping Beauty Castle. Elsewhere in the park, the Blue Ribbon Bakery opened its doors on Main Street, U.S.A., and those with fond memories of watching Darkwing Duck and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers after school remember the thrill of meeting their favorite stars live at Disney Afternoon Avenue. This temporary Fantasyland attraction featured the TaleSpin stage show “Plane Crazy” at Videopolis, plus redressed rides including the Rescue Rangers Raceway (Fantasyland Autopia) and the Motor Boat Cruise to Gummi Glen (of Gummi Bears fame).

©Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd.
What is your favorite attraction or memory between 1991 and 1995?

posted on June 4th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

Splash Mountain

The countdown to the 55th anniversary continues! Today we’re looking back to 1986 through 1990.
I spoke with my colleague and longtime publicist John McClintock, who celebrated his 23rd anniversary with the Disneyland Resort just last month, and asked him what he remembers best during these years. John recalls, “Star Tours had just opened when I arrived in Disneyland Public Relations. Work was just getting under way on Splash Mountain. So we had this one-of-a-kind Tomorrowland space adventure and we were working on this flume ride, not only the first in a Disney theme park but with an enormous cast of characters, the longest steepest drop and the most elaborate show of any flume ride anywhere. It wasn’t hard, even for the new kid on the block, to get excited about what we were publicizing.”

For those who may not have visited Disneyland park at this time or those who might not remember, here’s an overview of this half decade.

1990 – Disneyland park celebrated its 35th anniversary with “Disneyland Big” and a new parade called Party Gras that featured a parade float that towered 37 feet. The Dream Machine, located in Central Plaza, gave some fortunate guests an opportunity to try their luck to win one of many prizes that included Walt Disney Home Videos, a Mickey Mouse plush or even a new car. 

1989 – Splash Mountain debuts and is the fastest, tallest and steepest flume attraction at its time! Disneyland park welcomed its 300 millionth Guest with a new marquee in 1989. The new marquee featured a digital board with changing messages and fiber optics that helped the name Disneyland sparkle at night. “Blast to the Past” returned with Chubby Checker and 2,248 guests breaking the record for most people doing the twist in one location. In the winter, the “One Man’s Dream” show premiered at Videopolis.

1988 – The celebration of 60 years with Mickey Mouse started with a visit to Disneyland park by Earforce One, a 100-foot hot air balloon. In November, five thousand children from North America and parts of Asia were treated to a day at Disneyland park to celebrate. The ’50s were also celebrated in Disneyland Blast to the Past, and the Main Street Hop filled the street with cast members dressed in poodle skirts and saddle shoes. In 1988, Disneyland park set the record for the most people hula hooping at the same time in one location – 1,527 people gathered in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle to break the record. Also in this year, Disney purchased the Disneyland Hotel from the Wrather Company, and Bear Country’s name was changed to Critter Country in preparation for Splash Mountain. 

1987 – Star Tours officially opens at Disneyland park in January! A galaxy far far away was brought a lot closer as Star Tours began transporting guests to Endor in a new type of experience, combining military grade flight simulation and a first-person perspective of flight scenes. The Disney Gallery also opened its doors above the Pirates of the Caribbean and offers guests an opportunity to view unique Disney art.

1986 – With a party that lasted 60 hours, Captain EO leaped off the screen in Tomorrowland for the first time, giving guests an intergalactic musical adventure that could only initially be seen at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort (and nowhere else in the universe). On the other side of the park, Big Thunder Ranch opened, and for the first time, guests could visit with some of the animals from the Circle D Corral. Guests could also visit the new Big Thunder Barbecue where they could drink from a glass jar and get their food from the “chuck wagon.”

So, what do you remember best during these years?

posted on June 9th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

We’re going back…waaay back to 1981 through 1985 in this week’s countdown to the 55th anniversary of Disneyland park. 

Certainly, one of the biggest transformations at Disneyland in this half decade is the re imagining of Fantasyland in 1983. Kim Irvine, Director, Concept and Show Design at Walt Disney Imagineering, worked on the Fantasyland project in 1983. 

Kim recalls, “I have worked on many Disneyland projects in my 35+ years with Walt Disney Imagineering, but one of my all time favorites was the new Fantasyland in 1983. John Hench had spoken often of the little fairytale village that Herb Ryman had originally drawn for Fantasyland, but apparently time and budget had constrained it to the jousting tournament tent facades that were ultimately built. Finally, here we were, 27 years later, creating that village that Walt had hoped for! It is a delightful collection of European styles from the English Tudor of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Peter Pan’s Flight to the Tyrolean charm of Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and Village Haus, but with lots of storybook charm and detail layered on top. Add King Arthur Carrousel in the middle and Dumbo the Flying Elephant in back, and you truly have a child’s fantasy world!

For a visual explanation of the changes to Fantasyland that Kim explains above, check out these photos of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride before and after the changes in 1983. (The photo on the left is from 1955, and the photo on the right shows how the attraction has looked since the changes in 1983).

 Mr. Toad’s Wild 
Ride  Mr. Toad’s Wild 

1985Disneyland park’s 30th anniversary was celebrated in spectacular style. A gigantic machine called the Gift Giver Extraordinaire doled out thousands of prizes to guests as they entered the gates, including brand-new GM cars to every 30,000th guest; Disneyland park stayed open for a full 24 hours to mark the actual anniversary on July 17. A new version of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln premiered on Main Street, U.S.A., complete with an advanced Audio-Animatronics figure. Videopolis opened, bringing teens and young adults a place to dance the night away to the latest popular tunes. And for the first time in the park’s history, Disneyland park began operating 365 days a year (before this time, the Park was closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the off-season).

1984 – This year was a grab bag of special events and activities. Summer Olympic fever spread from Los Angeles to Disneyland park, and the pre-games Olympic Night Charity Benefit on May 24 brought in $600,000 to Team U.S.A. During the games, the park hosted hundreds of athletes on Olympic Spirit Weekends. Donald Duck finally got his due with a 50th Birthday Parade. The Magic Eye Theater replaced the Space Stage in Tomorrowland and premiered EPCOT Center’s Magic Journeys 3D film. Elsewhere in Tomorrowland, Circle-Vision 360 reopened with two new breathtaking films: “American Journeys” and “Wonders of China.” The Country Bears received a special Christmas makeover for the first time, and the New Fantasyland was finally complete with the opening of the refurbished Alice in Wonderland attraction.

1983 – Fantasy reigned in 1983, as a whole new version of Fantasyland was unveiled in May. The new land cast aside its old facades of tournament tents and banners and became the Fantasyland of Walt Disney’s imagination: a quaint little fairy-tale village, where the denizens of Disney’s classic animated features lived and thrived. Old classics like Snow White’s Adventures and Peter Pan Flight remained, but with new technology, slightly altered names (they were now Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Peter Pan’s Flight), and brand-new facades that stressed the distinct cultural origins of each characters’ story. A new adventure, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, joined the group. The whole Park celebrated the new Fantasyland with the aptly titled Flights of Fantasy Parade.

1982 – When Disneyland park first opened, guests used tickets to gain admission to individual attractions. Those tickets eventually gave way to the A–E coupons, which could be used for multiple attractions. All tickets were retired in June of 1982 and replaced with the Passport – an all-encompassing ticket providing unlimited access to all attractions and shows (except the arcades). In Frontierland, Disney Legend Wally Boag hung up his carpet bag and officially retired from the Golden Horseshoe Revue after more than 39,000 performances. The SuperSpeed Tunnel along the PeopleMover route received a futuristic makeover and became the World of Tron, showing highlights from Disney’s big summer film release, “Tron,” on massive circular screens.

1981 – The New Fantasyland was still two years away, but a project on par with that one developed in small scale along the banks of Storybook Land in June, 1981. All of the original miniature buildings and scenery details built for the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction in 1956 were removed and replaced with brand-new ones. Efforts were made to make the replicas as similar to the originals as possible, stressing even the most minute details. In this year, Disneyland park also welcomed its 200,000,000th guest: 26-year-old Gert Schelvis of Santa Barbara, California received a lifetime pass to Disneyland, as well as an assortment of goodies from the Park’s sponsors.

What do you think is most interesting about 1981-1985 at Disneyland park? If you have a favorite memory from these years, we want to hear that, too. Let us know in the comments.

This is the 6th post in this 11-part series. To find past posts, click on the “Countdown to 55″ tag just below this post.

posted on June 18th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

Thunder Mountain Railroad
Talk about time flying! We are just flying through these half decades. In this week’s countdown to the 55th anniversary, we’re looking at 1976 to 1980.
By just glancing at the title of this post, you can tell it was another busy five years.

While it can be hard to pick just one favorite attraction or event in a half decade, there is one project that is very dear to Tony Baxter, Senior Vice President, Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering. It’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We asked Tony if we would share his thoughts in this five-year period, and he gave us some insight into the thought that went into creating this attraction.

“When planning the design for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad,” Tony recalls, “we turned to National Geographic Magazine for research. There in the opening paragraph in an article on Utah’s Bryce Canyon was the statement, “When you first glimpse the canyon you will feel that it was the creation of Walt Disney…” That settled it — Bryce Canyon would be the theme for the Disneyland attraction. 

The charm of the attraction is the rockwork. If you look at rockwork in other parks you get the feeling that the train was there first, and the rocks “grew” around the train. Big Thunder Mountain is absolutely convincing because it appears that the track was laid out to fit an existing landscape.” 

Here’s a photo of Tony Baxter with a model of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before the attraction opened.

Tony Baxter and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Before you decide what you think is the biggest addition to Disneyland park in 1976 to 1980, take a look back:

1980 – Disneyland park kicked off a year-long Silver Anniversary celebration with a pre-parade show at the Tournament of Roses on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. Several special parades and shows followed for the rest of the year, but it was a special event in March, featuring Michael Jackson and Danny Kaye, that brought national attention to the celebration. On July 17, the 25th anniversary of the park’s opening, doors were open for 25 straight hours. In April, Family Reunion Night Celebration brought out several famous Disney faces, including Jackson, Fred MacMurray, Ernest Borgnine as well as the Carpenters, Ray Bradbury and even…Elliot Gould.

1979 – Disneyland park welcomed its first birth: Teresa Salcedo was born on a busy July 4th near Main Street, U.S.A., and she was later presented with the official “Disneyland Birth Certificate No. 1.” Teresa wasn’t the only new addition, as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad took its maiden trip in September. Celebrating his 75th birthday in grand style, Count Basie welcomed several of his closest celebrity pals to a summer party, including Sammy Davis Jr. and Ed McMahon Other hot names (for the time) who showed up throughout the year included Peaches and Herb, Evelyn “Champagne” King and Buddy Rich.

1978 – Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday was all the rage, as special shows and parades were peppered throughout the year. The official celebration took place on Nov. 18 and 19, with Annette Funicello and other fave Mouseketeers on hand to celebrate. New elements were added to the popular Matterhorn Bobsleds, while the Disneyland Hotel opened the 13-story Bonita Tower, the first hotel in the U.S. with a solar heating system. Grad Nite continued its popular run, growing to eight parties for 821 high school graduating classes.
1977 – Openings and closings highlighted the year, as famed astronauts, including Alan Shepard, gathered for the opening of Space Mountain…and Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland closed after 21 years to make way for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. In addition to Space Mountain, Tomorrowland also debuted the PeopleMover SuperSpeed Tunnel, Starcade, and the Space Place restaurant. Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade returned for the summer after a two-year break, while an all-new Very Merry Christmas Parade bowed for the Christmas seasons.

1976 – Disneyland park welcomed its 150,000,000th visitor – Elsie Mae Houck of Tulare, Calif. It also welcomed a slew of “name” guests during the year, including Olympic gold medal darling Nadia Comaneci and Alabama governor George Wallace. On the entertainment side, a special Thanksgiving show featured singer Pearl Bailey on a Rivers of America floating stage, while Disney fans got a chance to walk down memory lane as the original Mouseketeers gathered at the park for a 20-year reunion of the Mickey Mouse Club. Adding to the magic, Jungle Cruise underwent major changes with seven new scenes and 31 new Audio-Animatronics animals.

Ok, so what do you think the biggest change at Disneyland park is during these years? If you visited the park during this time, what’s your favorite memory?

posted on June 24th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

Have you been following our countdown to the 55th anniversary of Disneyland park? This is the 8th post in an 11-part series in which we look back at a different half-decade every week. This week, we’re looking at 1971-1975.

I spoke with my colleague and Disney Parks Blog contributor, George Savvas, and I really enjoyed hearing about one of his first memories of Disneyland park, which was largely influenced by America Sings.

America Sings

George recalls, “I came to see it on a field trip with my elementary school. It made such an impression me. I had never seen anything like it before. When I think of it now, I’m not sure I’d have ever heard many of those songs if I hadn’t seen America Sings over and over again through the years. I still remember all those songs even now! The best part was the finale – there were so many characters on stage. Every time I’m over at Innoventions I remember Sam and that school field trip – oh, and the weasel, of course.” 
Before you pick the attraction that you think is the most impressive addition between 1971 and 1975, read about what else happened during these years.
1975 – Disneyland park celebrated its 20th anniversary and began a 15-month salute to the U.S.A. Bicentennial with the most elaborate parade in the park’s history – “America on Parade,” which featured 50 floats and 150 giant performers at least eight feet tall, in addition to an all-new red, white and blue fireworks spectacular “Fantasy in the Sky.” Disneyland park welcomed back Christine Vess Watkins and Michael Schwartner, the park’s first visitors in 1955. Mission to Mars, an updated version of Flight to the Moon, was an exciting journey deep into space, since man had already reached the moon in real life. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln returned to Main Street, U.S.A. as a featured part of The Walt Disney Story.
1974 – Disneyland park was featured in two televised specials, “Sandy in Disneyland” starring Sandy Duncan, in April, and “Herbie Day at Disneyland” in July. In Tomorrowland, America Sings, a humorous musical review, opened in the Carousel Theatre with a cast of 110 comical Audio-Animatronic animals singing America’s favorite heritage folk music and campfire tunes led by emcee Sam the Eagle. It replaced General Electric’s Carousel of Progress. The Main Street Electrical Parade entertained millions of summertime visitors, as did the All-American College Marching Band and a new addition, The Kids of the Kingdom. Special events included Alice in Wonderland Days, Viva Mexico, Disneyland and All That Jazz, “Herbie Rides Again” Days, and “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” Days.
1973 – Disney celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney Productions with the opening of “The Walt Disney Story” in April, attended by Mrs. Walt Disney, and a special tribute October 20-21 that included special parades, a cartoon festival and complimentary posters, attended by more than 100,000 guests. Disneyland Showcase, located in Town Square, displayed models and artist renderings of new attractions planned for future expansion at the park. Special events included a Viva Mexico Salute, Star Spangled Holidays, Festival Pan American Saludos Amigos, Big Band Festival and Angels-Disneyland Fun Day. Cary Grant narrated the Christmas Candlelight Procession. General Electric’s “Carousel of Progress” closed to the public on Sept. 9 in preparation for relocation to the Walt Disney World Resort.
1972 – Disneyland park added Bear Country as a seventh land on the far corner of Frontierland. A new production of Walt Disney World, Country Bear Jamboree, was brought to Disneyland park, and new eatery Hungry Bear Restaurant opened. What was to become the most popular entertainment feature in all Disney parks, the Main Street Electrical Parade, debuted as a major summer nighttime feature with millions of tiny lights creating images from Disney animated film classics. Winnie the Pooh campaigned for president with a red-white-and-blue parade and pep rally on Main Street, U.S.A. Rock ‘n Roll Reunion sparked September entertainment with Frankie Avalon, Chuck Berry, The Drifters and The Platters. Disneyland Hotel opened a $7.2 million Convention Center with a 29,000 square-foot exhibit hall and an 18,000 square-foot Grand Ballroom.
1971 – An amazing attendance mark was recorded when Disneyland greeted its 100-millionth visitor in just under 16 years. The lucky 100-millionth guest Valerie Suldo from New Brunswick, N.J., came through the gates on June 17, launching a summer-long celebration of entertainment called “Year of One Million Smiles.” The world’s biggest New Year’s Eve party was celebrated with 23,000 guests on hand, the largest number in Disneyland history. New in Frontierland, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes were introduced as a way to see the Rivers of America. The year marked the debut of the first All-American College Marching Band. During the four-day President’s Holiday in February, the park rolled out lavish red-white-and-blue “I Am an American” ceremonies in Town Square. Sadly, the year ended with the death of Roy O. Disney on Dec. 20. Walt Disney’s brother was co-founder of Walt Disney Productions and chairman of the board.
Which of these attractions do you think made the biggest impression between 1971 and 1975? Do you have a personal favorite?
If you missed the previous 7 stories in which we looked at the milestones between 1976 and 2010, click the “Countdown to 55” tag below to get caught up.

posted on July 9th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

Walt Disney in the Enchanted Tiki Room
It’s just one week and one day before the 55th anniversary of Disneyland park, on July 17, 2010.
This week’s countdown covers 1965 to 1961. During this time, the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Flying Saucers all debuted at the Park.
The Enchanted Tiki Room stands out as a personal favorite for Kevin Kidney, a Disney artist who is well-known for his art and collectibles that are created for this classic attraction.
Kevin explains why The Enchanted Tiki Room is one of his favorite attractions: “The design of the Enchanted Tiki Room just thrills me, from the peaked-roofed exterior with the lanai full of Imagineer Rolly Crump’s whimsical Tiki god characters, to the dark interior crammed with all the great details. As a kid, I actually tried to build those fantastic bamboo-slat windows that “rain.” If I could live inside Disneyland, I would want my house to be the Tiki Room.”
What do you think? What is your favorite attraction that was added during this time?
1965 – Disneyland park marked its first decade with a yearlong “Tencennial.” Celebration elements included parkwide decorations, a grand parade and numerous special events throughout the year. To help represent the park during the busy year, the role of Disneyland Ambassador to the World was created. Tour guide Julie Reihm was selected as the first “Miss Disneyland” — as the position was originally called — and she spent the year traveling throughout the United States and the world as the official emissary of Disneyland park. 3D Jamboree debuted at the Fantasyland Theater starring Mouseketeers. The film was presented in 3D, a technology that wouldn’t be used again at Disney Parks until Magic Journeys was produced for Epcot 25 years later. Also in 1965, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln found its permanent home in the Opera House on Main Street, U.S.A.
1964 – Although the 1964 New York World’s Fair didn’t actually occur at the Disneyland Resort, many of Walt Disney’s exhibits for the fair found their permanent homes in Disneyland park after debuting for enthusiastic Fair audiences. Walt used the opportunity of presenting at the Fair to fine-tune and perfect his technologically advanced Audio Animatronic figures through four exhibits: “it’s a small world,” “Progressland,” The Magic Skyway and “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.” Of course we all know that Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and “it’s a small world” are now classic Disneyland attractions, but “Progressland” also came to the park as The Carousel of Progress, and The Magic Skyway utilized omnimover technology, which was used in many Disneyland classics including The Haunted Mansion. Disneyland also hosted more than 400 American athletes heading to Japan for the 1964 Summer Olympics. Events included a tribute show on the shores of the Rivers of America, featuring Bob Hope and a cast of Hollywood stars.
1963 – In 1963, the then-groundbreaking technology of sophisticated Audio Animatronics debuted to Disneyland park guests in an attraction that was touched by Walt Disney in every aspect of its planning. The Enchanted Tiki Room opened in Adventureland, featuring colorful singing birds, delicate singing flowers and powerful tiki gods. With its infectious songs and lovable hosts — Fritz, Michael, Pierre and Jose — the Enchanted Tiki Room is still a favorite with park guests of all ages. Walt also hosted a press conference to explain his upcoming Audio Animatronics exhibits for the New York World’s Fair the following year.
1962 – Guests were invited to live the life of adventure by climbing and exploring the new Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, towering 70 feet over Adventureland.The year 1962 also saw the debut of the Safari Shooting Gallery – where the guns actually used real pellets! Also added in 1962: the picturesque elephant bathing pool within the world famous Jungle Cruise. Walt Disney also celebrated the 10,000th performance of the Golden Horseshoe Revue by airing it on television with its stars, including Betty Taylor, Wally Boag, Gene Sheldon and Ed Wynn.
1961 – This marked the year that the beam of the Disneyland Monorail, the transportation of the future, was expanded to reach the Disneyland Hotel. The Monorail began whisking hotel guests past the Main Entrance ticket booths and directly into Tomorrowland, where the hovering Flying Saucers debuted the same year for space travelers. Guests could also wish for their own Prince Charming at a quaint wishing well alongside marble statuettes of the seven dwarfs at Snow White’s Grotto. 1961 was the first year a Grad Night was hosted in Disneyland Park and 8,500 graduating seniors came to celebrate their accomplishments at the Happiest Place on Earth.

posted on July 16th, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Manager, Print and Social Media, Disneyland Resort

The 55th anniversary of Disneyland park is tomorrow! Today’s post concludes our 11-week countdown as we look back to the very beginning of this magical place – the first five years.
A lot of great attractions opened in this five-year period, but the original attractions from opening day certainly stand apart from the rest.
On opening day, there were 18 ticketed adventures and five free attractions or exhibits in four themed lands and on Main Street, U.S.A. Many of these original attractions remain in the Park today, including King Arthur Carrousel, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Jungle Cruise, Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight, Autopia, Disneyland Railroad, Horse-Drawn Streetcars, Mark Twain Riverboat and Main Street Cinema.
We went into the Park and asked guests, “What is your favorite attraction from opening day, July 17, 1955?” Here’s what they had to say:

Let us know in the comments what your favorite attraction is from opening day, but before you do, make sure you brush up on your knowledge of the early years that made Disneyland park what it is today.
1960 – Just five years after opening its gates, Disneyland park continued to add new experiences. Nature’s Wonderland, based on Walt Disney’s film series ”True-Life Adventures,” opened in Frontierland, allowing passengers to travel by mine train or pack mule through Beaver Valley and the Living Desert. A new production in Circarama debuted, called “America the Beautiful.” Nine screens surrounded the audience with scenes from across the nation. “Dixieland at Disneyland” staged its inaugural performance with six Disneyland bands for a musical procession of boats and rafts on the Rivers of America, followed by concerts throughout the park.
1959 – Let the expansion begin! Three of the most famous Disneyland park icons made their debuts in 1959. Vice President Richard Nixon and his family were on hand to dedicate the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System and were among the first to experience Walt Disney’s “highway in the sky.” The Matterhorn Bobsleds, considered the world’s first steel roller coaster, opened as the first coaster to allow multiple cars to run simultaneously on the same track. The eight original Disneyland submarines began their voyage in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in Tomorrowland. The “E-ticket” is introduced, entitling admission to select attractions. The tradition of Rose Bowl football teams visiting Disneyland park prior to the Pasadena New Year’s Day Game begins, with University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin.
1958 – The first Candlelight Procession took place on Main Street, U.S.A., and Dennis Morgan received the honor of being the first narrator. The special holiday event took place on two separate nights telling the story of Christmas with a full orchestra and mass choir. Guests could now take a trip down the rabbit hole with the introduction of the Fantasyland classic attraction Alice in Wonderland. The Sailing Ship Columbia, a full-size replica of an 18th-century sailing ship, began to navigate the Rivers of America. The 96-year-old Hopi Indian Chief Nevangnewa blessed the trains of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad during dedication ceremonies for the Grand Canyon Diorama, the world’s longest diorama depicting the chief’s homeland.
1957 – Legendary film star Shirley Temple Black and Walt Disney were on hand to open Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. Guests climbed a staircase through the castle and walked by miniature dioramas that told the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. A section of the park was added called Holidayland. In the new area, guests could hold a company picnic, group events or conventions and dances. Date Nite at Disneyland park became the hot spot on Friday and Saturday nights from June to September with four Big Bands performing. The first celebration of New Year’s Eve took place on Dec. 31 with 7,500 guests.
1956 – In the same year Disneyland park welcomed its 5-millionth guest, an expansion opened in Frontierland, including Tom Sawyer’s Island and Rafts, Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, Rainbow Mountain Stage Coaches, Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules, Indian Village and Indian War Canoes. The official Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher came from Hannibal, Missouri, to dedicate Tom Sawyer Island. In the Indian Village, an authentic tribe performed hourly dances for guests. The first Easter parade was held on April 1, and in the same year the first Disneyland park fireworks display debuted high in the sky.
1955 – This was the year! It only took a year to construct Walt Disney’s grand vision of “The Happiest Place on Earth.” On July 17, 1955, the first guests descended upon Anaheim for their chance to step into the movies at the Magic Kingdom. A 90-minute live broadcast on ABC network TV introduced the park to the world. There were 15,000 invited guests (more than 28,000 showed up through a mix-up in tickets), including dozens of Hollywood movie and TV celebrities. Co-hosts during the live broadcast were actors Ronald Reagan and Bob Cummings, TV’s Art Linkletter and network anchor Hank Weaver.
The opening day dedication speech presented by Walt Disney can be found on a plaque in Town Square:

Opening day dedication speech by Walt 
Disney on Town Square plaque
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I know I’ve had fun putting it together.

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