50th Anniversary Announcement

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

The Walt Disney Company yesterday announced “The Happiest Celebration on Earth,” which marks the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, with the introduction of new shows and attractions at all of its 10 Disney theme parks.

The 18-month-long promotion begins May 5, 2005, and includes a three-month move of its Disney Magic cruise ship from Port Canaveral, Florida, to Los Angeles.

Walt Disney Company President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Iger opens the announcement ceremony. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Each theme park will honor Disneyland's birthday by introducing new shows or attractions. Hong Kong Disneyland will apparently celebrate simply by opening sometime during the promotion. With few exceptions, the “new” additions to each park are simply concepts borrowed from other resorts. The press release detailing Walt Disney World's new additions goes so far as to boast that the resort is “importing” attractions from other Disney theme parks.

Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Disney President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Iger and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts President Jay Rasulo were on hand for the official announcement yesterday at Disneyland, which featured guest appearances by Art Linkletter and Julie Andrews. Andrews will serve as Disneyland's Honorary Ambassador during the promotion.

Michael Eisner, Julie Andrews and Art Linkletter help announce plans for Disneyland's birthday. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Walt Disney World

As many have expected, the Florida resort seems to be the focal point of this global celebration, with a new show and three new rides on tap, including a brand-new, original, E-ticket attraction.


This stage show is “direct from Tokyo Disneyland Park,” and will utilize the Magic Kingdom's castle stage. The show depicts the coronation of Cinderella.

Cinderellebration come to Walt Disney World in May 2005. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Lights, Motors, Action

The first U.S. version of the popular show from Walt Disney Studios Paris will be presented at Disney-MGM Studio.

Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show debuts at Disney-MGM Studios in 2005. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


A copy of the most unique ride from Disney's California Adventure, is slated for a spot at Epcot. Although we reported last week that the Florida version of the ride may feature a new film, the official announcement from Disney says that the ride will take visitors on a “journey over the Golden State,” and will end “with an aerial view of Disneyland itself.”

Soarin' begins daily flights from Epcot next spring. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Lucky the Dinosaur

Lucky moves to new digs next year, when the audio-animatronic figure becomes the only “living” inhabitant of Animal Kingdom's Dinoland, U.S.A. The creature was a hit with visitors during its short tenure at Disney's California Adventure park, and was named one of the top inventions of 2003 by Time magazine.

Lucky the Dinosaur heads to Animal Kingdom next year. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Expedition Everest

An original attraction, Expedition Everest, will open at Animal Kingdom towards the end of the celebration. The ride has been described by some as a cross between Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsled and Disneyland Paris' Indiana Jones roller coaster.

Expedition Everest opens in 2006 in the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Hong Kong Disneyland Preview Center

Finally, Epcot will host an exhibit billed as a “sneak peek at the beginning of the Disney 50 years of Disney theme parks” The Hong Kong Disneyland Preview Center will include renderings and a scale model of the new park. Hong Kong Disneyland is expected to open in late 2005 or early 2006.

Nothing was said about the rumored water raft ride reportedly planned for Epcot's Canada pavilion.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris will introduce a new version of the fireworks show from Walt Disney World. Wishes will be performed nightly from July 9 to August 28, 2005. The Paris resort will also offer visitors a “special program” to help them “remember the first time they visited a Disney theme park with some Golden moments.” Further details about this special program were not available. There was no announcement about any expansion of the Walt Disney Studios park, or the rumored addition of the Tower of Terror.

Disneyland Paris debuts Wishes in summer 2005. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland will kick off the party a little early when their version of Buzz Lighyear's Astro Blasters opens in 2004. Tokyo DisneySea will open two new rides by 2006: an unnamed new thrill ride in the Lost River Delta section of the park, and the third property in the Hollywood Tower Hotel chain. The Lost River Delta thrill attraction will feature a vertical 360-degree loop through fire and water effects, and is expected to open in 2005. Tower of Terror will be located in the American Waterfront, and is expected to open in 2006.

Tokyo DisneySea gets Lost River Delta, an original E-ticket ride in 2005. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Hong Kong Disneyland

The opening of Hong Kong Disneyland, set for late 2005 or early 2006, is being billed as “the beginning of the next 50 years” of Disney theme park history. The first phase of construction will include a “Disneyland-style” theme park with an estimated attendance of 10 million visitors each year, two hotels with a combined capacity of 2,100 rooms, and a shopping, dining, and entertainment area.

Hong Kong Disneyland is expected to open in late 2005 or early 2006. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Disney Cruise Line

Strong rumors of a West Coast expansion of the Disney Cruise Line have been circulating for the past year, and were re-ignited when former Disney Cruise Line head Ouimet was named as the new president of the Disneyland Resort.

In an interview with the Associated Press last weekend, Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, confirmed that the Disney Magic will be coming to California for a series of 12 seven-night cruises between Los Angeles and Mexico. The cruises on the Disney Magic will depart each Saturday between May 28 and August 19, 2005. The seven-day itinerary includes stops at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, with three at-sea days. Since Disney does not have a private island off the West Coast, the popular Castaway Cay stop is not possible on this itinerary (link).

The Disney Magic heads to California for a three-month test drive. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

At the beginning and end of this pilot program, two 14-day repositioning cruises will move the Disney Magic through the Panama Canal on its way to and from Los Angeles. This cruise includes stops at Castaway Cay, Curacao, Puerto Quetzal, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, a trip through the Panama Canal, and seven days at sea.

Jay Rasulo, President Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, talks about plans to bring the Disney Cruise Line to California. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Disney officials have said that this current offering is just a test, and that there are no definite plans to permanently expand cruise operations to California. In his interview with the AP, Rasulo said, “I think someday you will see more cruise ships, not only in the Caribbean, but also on the West Coast and probably elsewhere in the world.” Future expansion plans have been rumored to include ports in the San Francisco Bay Area and Alaska.

The West Coast itinerary will include three ports of call and three days at sea. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

While some have complained that the California cruises are too expensive—as much as $900 more per person than seven-day Disney cruises departing the same dates from Port Canaveral—the fares have not proven to be a major deterrent to hopeful West Coast cruisers.

Disney Cruise Line reservations agents said that they expect the seven-day cruises to sell out within a week, and confirmed that several cabin categories were already sold out for both the seven-day and 14-day cruises. Disney Cruise Line prices go up as the available inventory decreases, so prices will only go up from here.


Of course, the purported focus of this global celebration will be Disneyland, the first Disney theme park, and the only one that Walt Disney got to see in operation during his lifetime. Disneyland will celebrate its own milestone with a promotion called “The Happiest Homecoming on Earth,” an event touted as the park's “biggest party ever.” In a prepared statement, Disneyland Resort President Matt Ouimet said that the Disneyland celebration would “be filled with great nostalgia, heartwarming moments, grand occasions and topped by the debut of elaborate new attractions, shows and events.”

Julie Andrews will serve as Disneyland's Honorary Ambassador for the 50th anniversary. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Despite repeated assurances that we would “be surprised” by the announcements, most of the local media left Wednesday's ceremony with little new information to share. The event served only to confirm many items that had been reported here and elsewhere for several months, and put an end to hopes that Disney was waiting until this event to announce a new E-ticket ride for Disneyland, a reincarnation of the Submarine Voyage, or a replacement for the Rocket Rods. Instead, Disney provided details of the rides and shows we were already expecting, and a little more information about the nature of the 18-month event.

Sleeping Beauty Castle gets a new look

The Disneyland castle will serve as the focal point of the celebration, and has already been immortalized on a cloisonné pin, the first piece of 50th Anniversary merchandise made available for sale.

A concept photo released yesterday put an end to the endless speculation about the nature of the decoration planned for the landmark building. Instead of painting the castle gold, wrapping it with balloons or covering it with a giant top hat, Sleeping Beauty Castle will be decorated by day with drapes of gold fabric bunting. Each of the five turrets will wear a “crown” said to represent each Disney decade.

Sleeping Beauty Castle will receive a birthday overlay, complete with "crowns” on each of the five turrets. © 2004 Disney. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Kim Irvine-Allison, the art director from Walt Disney Imagineering responsible for the overlay, said, “We're not altering the castle; it will still be very recognizable, but we are enhancing its look by adding a festive and elegant overlay that will dress the Castle in even finer glory.” Irvine-Allison was involved with the “new” Fantasyland renovation, and was the art director for the newly refurbished King Arthur Carrousel.

In this test shot, Sleeping Beauty castle is “painted” gold, with a burgundy ribbon. MousePlanet file photo.

Earlier this year, MousePlanet reported that Disney was working with Austrian special-effects firm Pani to decorate Sleeping Beauty Castle, and showed photos of test designs. It appears that Disney is proceeding with these effects to give the castle a completely different look by night.

Scott Givents, vice president of entertainment for the Disneyland Resort, provided more details about this plan. “By using state-of-the-art, high powered and precise projection systems we can turn the Castle to shimmering gold, make it appear to be wrapped with a big bow or we can have animation of 101 Dalmatian puppies running across the face of the Castle, leaving behind their black spots on every tower and turret.”

This patriotic motif may be used during or after the fireworks show. MousePlanet file photo.

Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams

Disneyland will finally wave good-bye to the Parade of the Stars next spring when Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams makes its debut on Main Street, U.S.A. The parade will feature the theme song, “Welcome,” written by Phil Collins. The floats were created with the help of world-famous float designer Raul Rodriguez, best known for his award-winning entries into the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. (Rodriguez is known for appearing on one of the floats he designs each year, accompanied by his ruby macaw Little Foot.)

Steve Davidson, the creative director responsible for Believe… There's Magic in the Stars fireworks and “Haunted Mansion Holiday” overlay, says that the new parade will make four performance stops along the parade route and feature over 100 performers. The parade seems to take pieces from Disney shows and parades of the past and combine them into a brand new production.

The six “parade units” are rolling performance stages, and incorporate fountains, bubbles, confetti effects and puppetry:

  • Gateway to Dreams – Tinker Bell leads the parade, along with other Disney “magic makers”: the Fairy Godmother; the Blue Fairy; Flora, Fauna and Merryweather; and Merlin the Wizard.
  • Dream of Enchantment – a Beauty and the Beast-themed float
  • Dream of Laughter – featuring the cast of Pinocchio and life-sized “marionettes.”
  • Dream of Another World – a giant, articulated Ursula puppet lurks over the Little Mermaid and friends, including a troupe of rhythmic gymnasts.
  • Dream of Imagination – the Alice in Wonderland float features “playing cards” bouncing on an oversized trampoline.
  • Dream of Adventure – circle of life, indeed! In an echo of Animal Kingdom's Festival of the Lion King show—which was in turn created from the remains of the beloved Disneyland parade—the new Lion King float includes two “twirling acrobatic dancers performing as exotic birds.”
  • Dreams Come True – the finale float is a representation of Sleeping Beauty Castle, complete with a full set of Disney Princesses, plus Mickey and Minnie

Remember… Dreams Come True

Following the success of the regular and holiday versions of Believe… There's Magic in the Stars, and WDW's new Wishes show, Steve Davidson is back with Remember, a new fireworks show created for the anniversary. Like Wishes, the show is hosted by Jiminy Cricket.

The first “act” features the wishes of Disney characters. The second begins with archival tapes of Walt Disney describing his wish to create Disneyland, and uses music and narration from park attractions to accompany the pyrotechnics. But the most impressive effect will take place between acts, when Tinker Bell re-creates her Wonderful World of Disney performance and actually flies around Sleeping Beauty Castle. Davidson said, “This acrobatic aerial performance is truly groundbreaking and will reinvent Tinker Bell for a whole new generation.”

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland

The ride has been under construction for months, so the official announcement of Disneyland's upcoming attraction in Tomorrowland proved somewhat anti-climatic. Even so, Imagineering promises that the Disneyland version of the ride already popular at Walt Disney World, and about to be introduced at Tokyo Disneyland, will have one upgrade. The newest ride will have an interactive component, where online players can help increase the scores of the riders by manipulating the point values of the targets they are aiming for.

Barry Braverman, senior vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, said that this ride “will be especially popular with the video game generation. Players will jump back on the attraction again and again to improve their scores and top friends and family members.

Space Mountain

The “re-Imagineered” version of Space Mountain will include new rockets, a new sound system, and new special effects and show elements. While Disneyland's Space Mountain still won't have a loop like the Paris version, the ride will feature a launch start, instead of the familiar long climb to the top of the first hill, and entrance and exit tunnels filled with new lighting effects.

Mickey and Minnie share a kiss in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Disneyland – The First 50 Years

The Disneyland history exhibit inside the Main Street Opera House may prove to be the most controversial addition, as it will displace “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” for at least the 18 months of the celebration. “Disneyland – The First 50 Years” begins with a display of concept artworks and attraction models from Disneyland, including the original Herb Ryman overview of Disneyland, created in the space of a single weekend for Walt Disney to use in a meeting with investors.

Inside the theater, a new film about Disneyland will feature recently discovered footage, archival photos, narration by Walt Disney and Disney songs to show the 50-year history of the park. In the exit foyer, an exhibit of concept art will focus on the Disneyland that never was—rides, shows and parades that never made it off the drawing board.

Block Party Bash

This is a new performance concept—not quite a parade, and not quite a stage show—debuting at DCA for the anniversary. Doug McIntyre, director of show development for the Disneyland Resort, calls it, “immersive party technology. Guests won't see it coming until it's too late.”

The “block party” takes place simultaneously at five locations around DCA, each with a different set of characters and a different musical theme. In the Hollywood Backlot District, the Muppets take the stage for “Animal's House Party.” Mickey and crew dance to surf tunes at “Mickey's Surf Shack” in the Sunshine Plaza.

The stars of A Bug's Life host “Flik & Atta's Homecoming Carnivale” at the entrance to a bug's land. “Monsters Freak Out” stars Mike and crew from Monsters, Inc. in a disco party at the Golden State Amphitheater. In Paradise Pier, Stitch and a cast of Elvis impersonators crash “Lilo's Luau.”

So, finally, after months and years of speculation, Disneyland fans know what the 50th Anniversary Celebration will look like when viewed from inside Disneyland. One new ride and one refurbished ride, neither of them especially new or unique for the park's milestone anniversary. No replacements for the Submarine Voyage, Rocket Rods or Superstar Limo. No new E-ticket. No surprises on the ride front, so far.

Although the new parade and fireworks show look promising, the lack of brand new, original attractions for Disneyland is pretty glaring. In fact, while Disney's press releases emphasize that Disneyland will celebrate with “new and exciting shows throughout the 18-month celebration,” press releases about Walt Disney World and Tokyo DisneySea detail the brand-new rides.

The Sleeping Beauty Castle overlay has been met with mixed reactions, but unlike the hideous Pepto Bismol-pink castle cake that WDW visitors were subjected to, the destructive top hat that graced Disneyland Paris' castle or the “temporary forever” wand over Spaceship Earth, the fabric bunting is more subtle and temporary—and easy to remove.

In other words, it's pretty much shaping up to be the event we expected: Disneyland qualifies for AARP, while its younger sister parks get to eat the cake. And for as many questions as it answered, this announcement created dozens more, good for at least another 12 months of idle speculation:

…Will Disneyland have a 50-hour party over its three-day birthday weekend?

…Will Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln ever return?

…And just how high do you think tickets prices will climb by May 5, 2005?