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Mike Scopa

WDW Celebration

Florida theme parks join in on Disneyland's 50th Anniversary festivities

Friday, May 6, 2005
by Mike Scopa, with contributions from Brian Bennett and Mark Goldhaber

This story is coming to you through the combined efforts of Mike Scopa, Brian Bennett and Mark Goldhaber. Mike, the lucky dog, is the one who was in attendance, thanks to his selection as one of the winners of Disney's Happiest Passholders on Earth contest (link). Mike passed his photos and his recollection of the events on to Brian, who got them online and passed them to Mark, who put them together into a semblance of a story, each of them adding their own knowledge along the way.


A billboard advertising the new stunt show sits outside the Disney–MGM Studios. Photo by Mike Scopa.

Disney is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Disneyland in all Disney theme parks worldwide, with Walt Disney World opening two attractions, two shows, and an interactive experience as part of the festivities. The Cinderellabration show at the Magic Kingdom officially premiered yesterday morning at 9:00, after over a month of preview performances. After more than a month of its own previews, Soarin' got its media premiere last night in an invitation–only event at Epcot (the park closed to the public at 3:00 to prepare for the event).


Winners of the Happiest Passholders on Earth contest check in for the event. Photo by Mike Scopa.

Lucky the Dinosaur, who has been meeting guests at Disney's Animal Kingdom for a couple of weeks while the performance of his companions has been adjusted, will officially debut to the media this morning before park opening at the same time as more information is passed along about the upcoming Expedition: Everest attraction. And last but not least (maybe) the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show had its premiere in front of the media and the Happiest Passholders Wednesday night at the Disney–MGM Studios. We'll review Wednesday night's show, then talk a little about yesterday's events.


The laminated event badge indicates event times and locations. Photo by Brian Bennett.

Mike arrived at the park closing time of 4:00, as day guests were still being cleared out. Those attending the event had a special check–in area to receive their event credentials. The laminated badge had an event schedule on one side, and a map of the park indicating the location of events on the other.


The Toy Story “Andy's Bed” float drives through the stunt show arena as part of the festivities. Photo by Mike Scopa.

The minimum age for admission was set at 21 due to the adult beverages at the post–show party. Some arrivals were turned away for attempting to ignore that restriction. After all contest winners had arrived, Disney took a photo for inclusion in the next issue of the Passholder newsletter, the Mickey Monitor. (Mike and his son will be in the top right of the photo.) Guests were then allowed to enter the park through a single turnstile, and everyone proceeded back to the stunt show arena.


The explosive finale brings an end to the stunt show. Photo by Mike Scopa.

Once the guests and media were in their seats, the celebrities were introduced and floats from the Stars and Motor Cars drove through the arena. “Kaptain” Robbie Knievel, 'N Sync, the cast of The Real World, the cast of Power Rangers SPD, Boyz II Men, Alfonso Ribeiro, Paige Davis and others made appearances. Those in the floats included Frozone, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl from The Incredibles, Luke and Leia in the Landspeeder vehicle, the Toy Story “Andy's Bed” float, the Power Rangers float, “Indiana Jones” and “Marion Ravenwood” in a vehicle from their stunt show and Goofy dressed to the nines in Mickey's usual car.


Mike is accosted by this spy, who asks him if he has “received the message.” She then instructs him to make sure to pass it to Agent 09 when he deciphers it. Photo by Mike Scopa.

The show has been tightened up since Brian reviewed the “test–and–adjust” performances (link) and now runs only 30 minutes, including the recently added personal watercraft. However, according to Mike, the new show still fails to impress. We'll have to wait to see what the general public thinks.


Photo by Mike Scopa.

After the show, it was time to party. The theme park had been rethemed to a “Spies” motif for the event. Marquees sported spy–themed messages and “spies” roamed the park. Mike reports that there was A–level streetmosphere throughout.


Photo by Mike Scopa.

Guests and the media were plied with free pastries, fruit, champagne, wine and other goodies. Background music in the park included the James Bond theme and other mood–setting music. Later on, entertainment was provided by a live concert by Ashanti and a “fashion show.”


Marquees throughout the park had taken on spy themes. Photo by Mike Scopa.

The evening was capped off with a short fireworks show, which Mike estimates lasted approximately six minutes. The fireworks were good, with lots of shells, but Mike said that it wasn't themed or matched to music. Since we've received other reports that the “Spies in the Skies” fireworks “featured all new music designed specifically for this show,” we can only assume that either the fireworks drowned out the music or the music was not audible everywhere within the park and Mike just didn't hear it.


Interesting streetmosphere characters made their presence known. Photo by Mike Scopa.

Wednesday, Disney CEO–elect Robert Iger, President of Disney Parks and Resorts Jay Rasulo and Walt Disney World President Al Weiss were out and about at the Magic Kingdom, talking with guests and even helping guests by taking group photos for them. It is refreshing to know that this team is displaying the attitude that trainers attempt to instill in rank–and–file cast members, even if it was likely staged for the benefit of the press.

Yesterday, Magic Kingdom guests arrived to find that they would not be able to walk down Main Street, U.S.A. before 1:00 p.m. because of the festivities. Instead, they had the choice of using the backstage overflow walkways or taking the Walt Disney World Railroad to the Frontierland or Mickey's Toontown Fair stops. These walkways are normally cast members–only territory, and go from the doors by the Main Street Firehouse and Tony's Town Square Restaurant through parking areas and walkways to backstage entrances into Adventureland and Tomorrowland, respectively. It is believed that they had Jumbotron screens in those areas for guests to watch the festivities in a manner similar to the kick–off event for Walt Disney World's 25th anniversary in 1996.


Ashanti performs for the crowd. Photo by Mike Scopa.

Meanwhile, back on Main Street, Cinderellabrations had its official debut on the Castle forecourt stage in front of the media at 9:00. Afterwards, the photographers and videographers moved back to Main Street for a family obstacle course–like event called the “Vacathlon” at 10:30. Everybody reset back in front of the castle and grabbed a bite before the satellite hook–up with all Disney resorts around the world at 1:00 p.m. After that, it was time to break down all of the equipment and prepare to head over to Epcot last night for the official unveiling of Soarin' and the party that was expected to run until midnight.


What are the well–dressed spies wearing these days? Photo by Mike Scopa.

Today will bring the final event over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, where Lucky the Dinosaur will go through his paces for the press before the expected announcement (according to Len Testa of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) of an actual cultural/scientific expedition to Mount Everest to help promote the new Expedition: Everest attraction. It is expected that an April 22, 2006 official opening date will be set (Earth Day, and the eighth anniversary of the theme park), though soft openings will likely start months earlier. It is also possible that artwork from the ride will be shown or distributed.

So for now, that's the news from Walt Disney World in this whirlwind of a global event for the kick–off of Disneyland's Golden Anniversary.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.

OTHER LINKS

Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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