Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Statue at Walt Disney World Resort

A Look Back at July 20, 1969: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Watched Live at Disneyland Park

posted on July 18th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


On the afternoon of July 20, 1969, just steps away from an attraction called “Flight to the Moon,” thousands of Disneyland park guests gathered at the Tomorrowland Stage to watch a seminal event in human history unfold on live television.

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Just last week, while researching another project, I came across this rare color image in our archives that shows the Apollo 11 Moon Landing being watched live at Disneyland park.

In the years that followed this momentous event, we were fortunate to welcome two members of the remarkable Apollo 11 crew to Disneyland park.

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In February 1989, Buzz Aldrin joined us for the Challenger Spirit Salute, an event to honor the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.

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In July 2005, Neil Armstrong was on hand for the “re-launch” of Space Mountain. This photo was taken just above the exact spot where all those years earlier, Disneyland guests gathered in almost unimaginable anticipation to watch as he became the first man to step foot on the moon.

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Splash Mountain Celebrates 25 Years of Splashdowns at Disneyland Park

posted on July 18th, 2014 by Valarie Sukovaty, Disneyland Public Relations


On July 17, 1989, a new attraction opened to guests in Critter Country at Disneyland park — one that made a big splash. That attraction was Splash Mountain, a log ride that remains a guest favorite today. It stands 87 feet tall and drops guests five stories at a 45-degree angle. The attraction is a journey through scenes, featuring the story of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear, and ends with a thrilling splashdown. That’s the best part! No worries if you shut your eyes. A photo snaps a shot of guests reacting the moment they drop. If you don’t have a photo from splashdown with your face frozen in sheer elation, then it’s time to visit the Disneyland Resort. Trust me, it’s an experience you’ll always remember. Here’s a look back at opening day. Enjoy!

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Vintage Walt Disney World: Early Days of Disney Water Parks

posted on July 10th, 2014 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


It’s summertime. It’s warm. I need to cool off. Should I hang ten at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park or hit the slopes at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park? Decisions, decisions. While I deliberate, here’s a look at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park under construction from March 1989 and Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park in December 1994.

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I still can’t decide. If I go to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon I can take a ride on Crush ‘n’ Gusher, while over at Disney’s Blizzard Beach I can slide down the Toboggan Racers.

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This is the toughest decision of the summer for me at Walt Disney World Resort.

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Vintage Walt Disney World: Disney’s Polynesian Resort Through The Years

posted on June 26th, 2014 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


With all the exciting changes coming to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, I thought it would be fun to look at a guest room through the years. (No signage changed yet! This picture below is from 1989.)

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Inside the photo gallery you can take a look at guest rooms from 1972 until 2013. (Please note this is not a comprehensive look – just select photos from our archives.)

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Windows on Main Street, U.S.A., at Disneyland Park: Randy Bright

posted on June 13th, 2014 by Jon Storbeck, Vice President, Disneyland Park


As the Sailing Ship Columbia marks another anniversary this weekend, I am reminded of Randy Bright – former attractions cast member who started on the Columbia and rose through the ranks to become Executive Producer, Disneyland and Walt Disney World Theme Parks.

Randy was hired the summer of 1959 and later recalled, “As a college undergraduate, I had enlisted in the Navy – the Disneyland Navy – and was scheduled for active duty aboard the Sailing Ship Columbia, the newest vessel to ply Frontierland’s Rivers of America.” Randy subsequently worked on nearly every attraction in the park, even roaming Tomorrowland as a costumed spaceman.

Born in Long Beach, Calif., in 1938, Randy attended California State University, Fullerton, earning a B.A. in political science. It was at this time that Randy met his wife, Pat, then a Disneyland tour guide, while both were working in the park.

In 1965, Randy moved into a full-time position with the Disney University, where he specialized in publications and audio-visual presentations. In 1968, Disney Legend Marty Sklar, former Executive Vice President and Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) ambassador, brought Randy to WDI as a staff writer, working on shows for Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. From 1973 to 1976, he was manager of Employee Communications at the Florida Disney University, after which he returned to California to lead the WDI Communications department.

Beginning in 1979, Randy served as director of scripts and show development, where he functioned as Executive Producer of film projects for Epcot Center, Tokyo Disneyland and other Disney Theme Park projects. In 1983, he was promoted to Vice President, Concept Development, responsible for overseeing the development of all major shows and attractions for Disney Parks. In 1987, he was named Executive Producer, Disneyland and Walt Disney World Theme Parks.

“I don’t think even Walt could have created a more quintessential believer in the Disney traditions than Randy Bright,” said Marty Sklar. “His growth from a Jungle Cruise guide and costumed spaceman at Disneyland to the top creative position at Walt Disney Imagineering is the stuff of storybook legends. He was a true dreamer and doer.”

For nearly two years, Randy researched, developed, and wrote the 1987 book, “Disneyland: The Inside Story,” an Imagineer’s-eye view of the first Disney park. He also served as Coordinating Producer on “The Disneyland Story,” an hour-long special for the Disney Channel.

On June 14, 1988, exactly 30 years after the original opening/christening of the Sailing Ship Columbia, the ship was re-christened by Randy and Ron Dominguez (then Vice President of Disneyland and chairman of the park operating committee). According to an article in the Disneyland Line (a Cast Member publication), “attempts to break the customary bottle of champagne over her bow were futile. The solution was to remove the cork, and let the well-agitated wine shoot over the bow. It was a little messy, but the deed was done and the Columbia was wished well on her future Magic Kingdom voyages.”

Tragically, on May 29, 1990, Randy was struck while bicycling near his home in Yorba Linda, Calif., and passed away.

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In 1991, Randy was honored with a set of windows above Disney Clothiers. The windows state: (left) Photographic Studio, C. “Randy” Bright, Proprietor and (right) Photographic Studio, “Bright Views to Order.”

Randy was named a Disney Legend in 2005.

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A Look Back at June 14, 1959: Grand Opening of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System, Matterhorn Bobsleds and Submarine Voyage at Disneyland Park

posted on June 13th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


The first major expansion of Disneyland park included three brand-new attractions so special they helped usher in a brand-new era of something called an “E-Ticket.” As he had four years earlier, Walt Disney planned to share the celebration of this expansion with a national television audience during a television special hosted by Art Linkletter on ABC. Walt invited more than 2,000 members of the press, celebrities and dignitaries to attend, including Vice President Richard Nixon, his wife, Pat, and their daughters, Tricia and Julie, who sent us a special message you’ll read later in this post.

Walt Disney sent the following letters to the vice president in May of 1959 as he was finalizing his plans for the biggest event since he opened the park.

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With assistance from the Walt Disney Archives and the Nixon Presidential Library I was able to piece together details from this event as well as solve some lingering “mini-mysteries” from the festivities of Sunday, June 14, 1959, that might surprise you.

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Using the text of the actual itineraries, finalized just two days before this event, here’s how the day unfolded:

Itinerary for Sunday, June 14, 1959

  • 07:30am – ABC–TV personnel arrives to set up equipment and rehearse
  • 09:15am (approximate) – Vice President and family to meet with Walt Disney at the Monorail Station for press photographs on the dedication of the Monorail

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With this morning publicity photo shoot we have the answer to one of those “mini-mysteries” I mentioned. Fans may have noticed that the Nixon family is wearing different clothing in some of the Monorail dedication photos from this day. As it turns out, these early-morning pictures, which include Art Linkletter as the Monorail pilot, were taken to enable wire services and newspapers east of the Rockies to include the photography in their Monday morning editions. Press photographers and television cameras would capture the official dedication later in the afternoon.

  • 12:00pm – Parade starts forming. Lunch at Red Wagon Inn for celebrities
  • 12:15pm – On return from Church, the Vice President and family will be guests of Walt Disney at an informal luncheon at his apartment.
  • 01:15pm – Pre–parade steps off from gate by Fire Station. Vice President and party to parade in “horseless carriages” from City Hall to the official reviewing stand.

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The reviewing stand for this special parade was built at the central hub of the park with a clear view down Main Street, U.S.A. In this photo, Walt is seen talking with the vice president as Mrs. Nixon looks on. Seated behind the Nixon family you’ll also see Roy O. Disney, his wife, Edna, and Walt’s son-in-law, Ron Miller with two of Walt’s grandchildren on his lap.

  • 01:30pm – Parade steps-off from gate by Opera House

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This fun photo captures one of my favorite moments from this day. Look closely at this rare color picture and you’ll see Hayley Mills, Roy O. Disney and Diane Disney Miller in the background. The man pictured between Walt Disney and Vice President Nixon is Meredith Willson, composer of the smash hit musical, “The Music Man,” which was still in its first theatrical run on Broadway at the time. Mr. Willson was an invited guest of Walt’s who was seated behind the vice president. During the television taping of this special parade, host Art Linkletter says, “What do I see down there? Meredith Willson, would you come up here for a minute?” Mr. Willson then came to the front of the reviewing stand. Art continued, “I want to hear from an expert. You’re ‘Mr. Music Man,’ what do you see coming up the street?”

To Mr. Wilson’s apparent amazement, what he saw was an all-brass band including 76 trombones, marching down Main Street, U.S.A., playing his signature song from “The Music Man,” “Seventy Six Trombones!” Mr. Willson could be overheard saying, “I’ve been saying it all afternoon, but Walt Disney, when he does anything, he does it right, doesn’t he? Listen to that!”

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As this incredible band approached the reviewing stand, Art led Mr. Willson to a small platform in the middle of the street, telling him, “Come on up here Meredith!” The drum major handed his hat and baton to Mr. Willson who then conducted the band to the finale of the song as the crowd roared from one end of Main Street to the other.

  • 02:10pm (approximate) – Matterhorn Show
  • 02:15pm (approximate) – Vice President and family will be escorted from the reviewing stand to the rear of the Carnation Ice Cream store on Main Street for special photographs. Following these photos, the family will return to Walt Disney’s apartment.
  • 03:00pm – Matterhorn Bobsleds, Autopia, and Motor Boats open to the press
  • 03:15pm – The Vice President and his family will be taken to Monorail Station in Tomorrowland for press photography of the Monorail dedication
  • 03:30pm (approximate) – Submarine Dedication ceremony

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Following an introduction by Admiral Charles C. Kirkpatrick, Mrs. Mildred Nelson, wife of the chief machinist on the the first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus, christens sub D-301, appropriately also named “Nautilus.”

  • 04:00pm (approximate) – Monorail Dedication ceremony. The Vice President and family will participate in the actual television dedication of the Monorail. Following the dedication, they will be returned to the apartment and the Vice President will be free to conduct any meetings that will be necessary, utilizing the office located adjacent to the patio of Walt Disney’s apartment.

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In these photos taken during the afternoon press photocall and official dedication of the Monorail, you can see the large scissors that Tricia and Julie Nixon used during the ceremony. What isn’t clear from these photos is that the scissors weren’t exactly cooperating. The stubborn dedication ribbon required Walt Disney, himself, to step in and help the Nixon daughters — just a little.

  • 04:15pm – Submarine and Monorail open to press guests
  • 05:00pm – 08:00pm – Press party at Holidayland with buffet and special entertainment

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  • 06:15pm (approximate) – Fireworks display
  • 06:30pm (approximate) – Walt Disney will meet Vice President Nixon and family and escort them to the informal press buffet and party in Holidayland

Walt invited the Nixon family back two years later when the Monorail track was expanded to include the Disneyland Hotel. In this letter, Walt also mentions those pesky scissors from the 1959 event.

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As you can see from the handwritten assistant’s note at the bottom of this letter, the Nixon family was unable to attend due to the former vice president’s travel schedule, but they did visit Disneyland again later that summer and at least one more time, in the late 1960s.

On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of this landmark day in Disneyland Resort history, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower sent the following message exclusively for Disney Parks Blog readers:

“We are pleased and excited to join Disney fans around the world in celebrating the 55th anniversary of the iconic Disneyland Monorail. When we cut the ribbon and took the very first Monorail ride on June 14, 1959, we could not have imagined what a popular icon it would become. For over five decades, it has provided countless families that special Disney experience – just as it did ours.

“Our family visited Disneyland as often as we could. It was then – as it is now – truly the ‘happiest place on earth,’ thanks to the visionary Walt Disney. Our parents cherished Walt’s years of friendship, not to mention his warmth, creativity and contagious sense of humor. He was, on that warm June day, charming as ever. His excitement for life has inspired millions across the globe.

“We send our best wishes on this special day of celebration. Congratulations to Disneyland, and may it continue to inspire joy and hope, as it has done for us for nearly 60 years.”

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Vintage Walt Disney World: Sunset Boulevard, Under Construction

posted on June 12th, 2014 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


Sunset Boulevard, home to some favorite Disney’s Hollywood Studios attractions and shows, officially opened on this date back in 1994. Here’s an aerial view of the Boulevard still under construction from December 1993.

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Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage also began performances at the new Theater of the Stars, on the same day. This ‘tale as old as time’ has been performed at Disney’s Hollywood Studios since November 1991.

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A little over a month later, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened for business at the park. Here’s a February 1994 look at the exterior of the hotel guests like to drop … into.

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Whenever I go to the Studios, I often find myself making a right turn onto Sunset Boulevard to start my day. What’s your favorite part of Sunset Boulevard? Tell us in the “Comments” section below.

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Vintage Walt Disney World: Donald’s Special Day

posted on June 9th, 2014 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


He’s been the face of orange juice, cast in bronze, and had a hot air balloon, the Zip-A-Dee-Doo Duck, fashioned after his likeness. Today, we celebrate his anniversary!

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On June 9th, Donald Duck made his big debut in the Silly Symphony, “The Wise Little Hen,” and he’s made millions smile, laugh, and quack ever since.

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Back in 1984, Walt Disney World Resort celebrated his birthday with Donald’s 50th Birthday parade. Below he’s celebrating in style with party hat and Grandma Duck!

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Here’s to the lovable Disney duck who’s always up for a hug over the past 80 years – especially when you’re sporting a very stylish hat.

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Celebrating the First Voyage Through ‘Liquid Space’ at Disneyland Park

posted on June 6th, 2014 by Valarie Sukovaty, Disneyland Public Relations


It was 55 years ago today that guests were treated to one of the very first E-ticket attractions at Disneyland park – one that would take them through “liquid space” and under the North Pole. That underwater attraction was called Submarine Voyage and the experience included an encounter with a giant squid and even mermaids!

In 2007, the attraction reopened as Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, and eight submarines, painted bright yellow, were recommissioned to take guests on a new underwater adventure. This time, new animation technology brought to life the popular characters from the Disney•Pixar film, “Finding Nemo.” I hope you enjoy a journey back in time to the opening days for this guest favorite.

And stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog over the following week for more looks back on the 55th anniversary of the Disneyland Monorail, Matterhorn Bobsleds and Submarine Voyage!

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Vintage Walt Disney World: Sorcery in the Sky Fireworks Blast Off

posted on May 29th, 2014 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


The skies above Disney’s Hollywood Studios lit up at night when Sorcery in the Sky premiered today back in 1990.

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This fireworks spectacular was directed by a 55-foot-tall inflatable Mickey Mouse who made a dramatic appearance atop the Chinese Theater and fired magical sparks from his giant index finger.

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Celebrating nearly 70 years of Hollywood cinema, this 10-minute show deployed over 300 fireworks shells and used musical excerpts from famous movies.

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