50th Anniversary? Disney’s California Adventure Park Opening? What’s Your Favorite Event or Memory Between 2005 and 2001?

Heather Hust Rivera

by , Vice President, Consumer Products

Disneyland 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.

Disneyland 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?


  • I loved Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration! 🙂

  • EASY! My trip down to Disneyland a month or two before the actual 50th (while the celebration was going on though) which rekindled my love of Disney that had been absent for a few years. In the 5 years since I have tracked down a good 100 or so DVDs, visited DIsneyland 3 times with a 4th trip planned, and have spent the better part of two years doing two stints on Walt Disney World’s international program. That one trip literally changed my life!

  • My best memory has to be from the year 2004, the very first time I experienced the Disney magic at Disneyland. Was there for a convention, but never knew I was going to fall in love with Disney. Since then, I have been to Disneyland twice, Hong Kong Disneyland twice, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris….. pretty big feat for someone like me from Malaysia…..

    Next stop, Disneyland Tokyo!

    Thank you for changing my life Disney!

    • Very cool.

  • I came after school for the 1st day of the 50th anniversary. I remember the huge crowds, but it was well worth it when I got to see the first showing of “Remember…Dreams Come True.” Everyone in the audience recited the famous lines and cheered together. It blew my mind that the fireworks covered so much Disneyland history in such an amazing way!

  • My wife and I were in the park on Walt’s 100th birthday in 2001. That was a cool experience.

  • My story is very similar to Jorden’s–

    I had seen the movies growing up, and of course had a soft spot in my heart for them, but, at the age of 19, when I went to visit Disneyland for the first time (July 2nd, 2005), I had a truely eye opening experience.

    I had a fantastic day, marveling at the wonder that was Disneyland. By the end of it, “Remember” was the perfect summary of what I’d seen, but what it really drove home to me was how many people Disneyland has made so *happy* throughout the years. I had tears in my eyes remembering kids and adults alike through the 50s, 60s, 70s, and so forth, how Disneyland has always been there for them, through thick and thin, making dreams come true for everyone that walked through its gates.

    Ever since then, I turned my college major to focus on Disney as popular culture, wrote my thesis on it, re-discovered movies I’d skipped as a child (Swiss Family Robinson, how did I live without it before??) and voraciously read any book that I can find (most specifically on the Parks).

    The films are important and truly wonderful, but the Park…that’s where the real magic lies, and that’s where my heart will stay!

    Thank you, Disneyland!

  • Seeing ‘Remember, Dreams Come True’ on July 17, 2005. What a special show, for such an extremely special park!


  • Taking the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour during the 50th Anniversary Celebration which included having lunch by the Gallery and the behind the scenes look at The Enchanted Tiki Room. Our tour guide was the best! The synergy of the celebration and the historic look at the park made our trip Absolutely Magical!

  • My Favorite Memory about Disneyland between 2005 and 2001 is New years eve 2002, I proposed to my long time Girlfriend in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I had planned on popping the question at midnight, but the park was so busy I thought I would never get a good picture of it. So I grabbed the nearest Cast Member gave her the camera, ran back over, and got down on one knee. She said yes and we’ve lived Happily ever after since…

  • In the summer of 2005, my family took our last trip to Disneyland together as a family….We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel. I will forever treasure the memories of those 2 days…It is and will always be the Happiest Place On Earth. Thank You Walt Disney for your vision and never giving up on your dreams..

  • Since my family makes the journey to Disneyland at least twice annually, I cannot think of one thing that stands out. However, every time I venture there it evokes an incredible sense of nostalgia. Disneyland has been a constant in my life, even though I have seen parts of the park change with the years. I feel as if I am coming home when I walk through the turnstiles and under the train tracks.

  • Enjoying DCA before it opened to the public in January 2001 for my birthday.

  • I wasn’t able to make for the 50th until 2006, but it was my favorite Disneyland Trip. I remember on the first day we got in line for Dumbo and our line got cut off right in front of me. Because of this I was able to sit in the golden Dumbo, the best way to start off the trip. During this trip I was also able to find the horse with the golden tooth on King Arthur’s Carousel, met Maynor for the first time (most enthusiastic and animated cast member in the park, if you see him at the tiki room don’t miss it), I saw the downstairs lobby of Club 33 by mistake (I’ll never forget it, hopefully I’ll see the rest someday), and much more. Another important moment to me was seeing Remember Dreams Come True. The music for this show is spectacular, and the effects for the fireworks were phenomenal. I almost cried watching the fireworks because way back in July when it began I never thought I was going to make it here for the 50th. I just couldn’t believe that I was here watching the best fireworks show is Disneyland history (it’s still my favorite, and it still makes me cry). Ever since that trip I’ve had a new love for the park and I’m hoping that someday I get to work behind the scenes making the magic

  • I remember arriving @ DLR July 16th 2005 around 8PM, getting ready to camp for the 50th the next day, spending the night at DCA, waking up next day after taking a nap on Hollywood Pictures Backlot, and getting ready to enter Disneyland that July 17th 2005 around 7am.

    Eating some cupcakes made specially for that day, wearing my 50th anniversary golden mickey ears, watching and listening Walt’s daughter rededicate the park, watching “remember..” the best fireworks that have ever been..

    As you can see, that 50th anniversary experience was the best.

    • I love hearing these stories. Thanks for sharing.

  • It was so cool to be there during the 50th Anniversary; however, my best memory was in 2003 when we brought our then 3-1/2 year old daughter to the Land for the first time! She had no idea we were going. It rained every day but the last, and that one was glorious. There were no lines and we rode everything a million times. Of course, there were no parades and many of the outside rides were closed (but not Dumbo!), but that didn’t deter us and we were able to do all of that stuff on our last day there. And, to top it all off, our daughter was JUST tall enough to ride Space Mountain! It was an awesome trip.

  • I was at Disneyland on May 5, 2005, for the opening day of the 50th Anniversary, I got in line at the security tents at 2am, was 7th in line, I saw all of the Opening Ceremonies at SBC, which were awesome, all of the new shows and parades, and everyone reciting lines in the first public performance of “Remember” was absolutely awesome.

  • The July 17th, 2005 celebration is by far my favorite Disneyland memory. I remember walking out of DL on the 16th after enjoying a day in the park and seeing the people, already lined up to get in the next morning. We quickly went to the DLH to get some supplies for the night, then enjoyed a magical sleepover in DCA. Walking down Main Street half a day later wearing our golden ears was an amazing experience, and spending the day celebrating the happiest birthday on Earth is something I’ll never forget.

  • my favourite memory is definitely the 50th anniversary that was when I really got into collecting penny presses because there were sooo many! we got the golden tea cup one time! and my mom and I saw mickey climbing the matterhorn during that visit (we had gone a few years ago and have gone since the 50th but have never seen that again)

  • agreeing with Fred… I loved Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration! °o°

  • There have been so many great moments for me at Disneyland in the last five years and so it’s really hard for me to pick a favorite! One of my favorites from the 50th celebration would have to be riding in the special golden Dumbo and on the golden carousel horse with my niece! She was so excited when we were able to get the “special” ones that it made a great memory for both of us! I also really loved being able to come to the Trick or Treat party! I dressed as Giselle from Enchanted and having all of the characters recognize me and ask about my dress was just really awesome! It was a truly amazing experience!

  • I remember seeing “Remember… Dreams Come True” for the first time sometime in 2005, and it was the most amazing fireworks displays I had ever witnessed. (It still is!)

  • #21 – Some of our most favorite Disney memories come from going to the special events that are offered and my answer to this question involves that topic precisely!!

    My all-time favorite memory from DCA comes from January 19, 2001, the night we went to the special DCA Sneak Preview and Scavenger Hunt Event! We had a great time seeing all the new things in the brand new park, enjoyed the panel discussion in the brand new Hyperion Theatre, loved dining at the Soap Opera Bistro, that no longer exists, and had a great time searching the park for the answers to the Scavenger Hunt, that ultimately led to each of us receiving a very special set of park pins as a prize!!

    For Disneyland, between 2001 and 2005, my all-time favorite memory comes from our going to the special 50th anniversary event for the park and getting up WAY before my normal rising time, so enjoy the breakfast in the park, just a little after 5 am, on July 17, 2005!! We had the whole park to ourselves (and our CM escorts & other workers of course!) as the sun came up and we got some really great photos at that time. Unfortunately, they didn’t escort us past the Sleeping Beauty Castle, as things were being put together for the opening, so I don’t have any early morning castle photos,

    Having the breakfast then meant we were already in the park when it officially opened that day and we received several cool items, like the special edition version of the embroidered 50th mouse ears hats and our special proclamations, to acknowledge our participation in the anniversary celebration!!

    We have way more photos from the event there, so feel free to take a peek at some of the other things we did at the event.

  • I could only think of so much but I have to say the 50th Anniversary, the grand opening of Disney’s California Adventure and the return of Disney’s Electrical Parade, which couldn’t have come at a better time in 2001.

  • 12/12/04 – The day I married my favorite person in our favorite place, the Happiest Place on Earth. I was/am the Happiest Bride on Earth!

  • Nov. 2001-The first time I took my kids to Disneyland. We walked through the main gates and up main street. We looked over to the Plazza Hotel and saw Tigger looking at us out of a window. He waved at us and my 4 year old saw him and started to smile and said,”Daddy, Tigger is welcoming us to Disneyland.” Tigger went out of his way to make my childs first trip to Disneyland Magical.

  • My favorite memory would be going to Disneyland during the 50th anniversary celebration.

  • December 2003 when our little family of four took our first, last, and only big vacation together. The next time we made it to Disneyland our oldest daughter was married (still a great visit, just different). In 2003 we splurged for the Grand Californian and stayed four days. We watched the fireworks every night and cried every time. Somehow we knew it would never be just us four again.

    Finally, this year in December, we will visit Disneyland all together again. Only this time our son-in-law will be with us and our two grandchildren will get to experience the magic for the first time!

  • I had a blast finding the Mickey icons throughout the park. It was almost as much fun as the Parade of Dreams (of which I must have a thousand photos.)

  • My favorite memory has got to be the fire works. We were there near the end of June, 2005. We sat for hours and hours on a perfectly centered bench at the hub, facing the castle in order to have that view for the fire works. So worth the wait. Another great memory was following my son around as he took photos of all of the golden hidden mickey’s in the park. Now that I have read Jorden’s post (above at top) it means even more to me since Jorden was sitting with me on that bench – he is my son.

  • The very first time I visited Disneyland was in 2005. We went up to the gate with our tickets and the woman said, “Do you have a hand stamp?” (it was maybe two hours before closing) and I said, “This is the first time I’ve ever been here!” and so I inserted my ticet and it made the ACCEPT noise, so she let us in and we rushed in as the parade was just about to go around the flag pole. We took our place right in the middle of so many beloved stories, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio and I’ll never forget the lyric, “This has to be the most beautiful, the most peaceful place I’ve ever journeyed to. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before.” and it was literally everything I had hoped and dreamed of my entire life. I still get chills and emotional years later. It was nothing short of incredible!

  • In 2005 Was my first trip back to Disneyland since I was 8, I am 23 now. I have to say the Fireworks were always my favorite next to the parades

  • I had the honor and privlage of working at Disneyland in Cast Dinning, The Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, and the Main Street Bakery for almost all of 2005 and a little of 2006. I remember working on the 50th anniversery and all the wonderful times I got to watch Remember…Dreams Come True, which in my opinion is the greatest fireworks show Disney has ever done. The 4th of July that year was out of this world and every event that had to do with the 50th was amazing! I no longer work at Disney (though I would love to come back) but I am an Disney Passholder and I am there once a month or more….and I am still in love with all things Disnet!

  • My wife and I went on the 50th for our 15th anniversary it was magical

  • first off let start with the fact that I was terrified of fireworks! every fireworks show i would stand there with my fingers in my ears waiting for it to be over(and Im in my 20s). but when I went to disneyland during the 50th anniversary and watched the “Remember…Dreams Come True” Fireworks show I stood there in awe with tears streaming down my face…it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen…its my favorite memory!!! soo glad they brought it back!!!

  • summer of 2009. my friends and i went to disneyland. one of my friends has never rode the indiana jones ride. we got her to believe that we are in control of the car, so the entire time we were waiting in line, she was anxious to be the driver. when we finally reached the disney worker tenant guy he was pointing us to the back rows of the car an so my friend asked if our group could sit in the front so that she could drive. the guy played along and set us to the side to wait for the next available car. right when we were about to sit down, my friend tried steering the wheel and finally realized we were playing her the entire time. it was hella funny!! best moment EVER at disneyLAND!!

  • One of many favorite memories of the park around that time was the “Happiest Faces on Earth”! I thought it was so great to be able to submit family photos taken on previous visits and later have them used for the collages placed all around the park. I was very happily surprised to receive an email that told me that five of my photos had been used, and also gave me the locations where I could find them. I remember walking around the park with my family hunting for those collage locations, then staring endlessly at them until finding my photos! So much fun, what a great idea that was!

  • Those years were the BEST of my Disneyland Resort memories, most of those years I held an annual pass! In 2001 I went to Grad Nite, our school hadn’t been invited when my brother graduated in ’99 so when I graduated in ’01 I brought him as my “date” we had a great time, and in college at Azusa Pacific University I was at the resort EVERY Tuesday with my roommate, Rachel. And my mom and I really enjoyed hearing Julie Andrews speak at the big 05-05-05 celebration!
    So many memories!

  • My favorite memory would obviously be my very first trip to Walt Disney World! My friends took me in December of 2004, as thanks for being their best man (and making sure the groom got to the church on time!). I’ve been hooked ever since. While I was there was right in the middle of the “Happiest Celebration on Earth” promotion. So my first glimpse of the Castle was with all the golden decorations and character statues. It was beautiful. I’ve been back 16 times since then, and have four more Disney Parks trips planned within the next year!

  • My favorite memory from 2001 to 2005 is from November 2005. I turned 40 years old at Disneyland with over 40 friends and family members there to celebrate with me. We had the best time ever! In keeping with my Disneyland tradition all of us had my birthday lunch at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. I just love sitting there overlooking the river. I have been to Disneyland many times but this has been my favorite trip of all. To be there and share the magic with so many people I care about was truly a dream come true!

  • I wrote this in my journal on May 18, 2005 – as we were driving home from a full week in Disneyland celebrating the 50th anniversary:

    Yesterday, after deciding to stay a full day, rather than leave at 2, we also made a promise to each other that we’d make the best of our last day. We rode some rides we hadn’t already ridden and ate in new restaurants. I bought little this-and-that’s to bring home to the family and we capped the night off with the Disneyland Moment of a Lifetime.

    As night fell, and after we ate a dinner healthier than the cheese-filled donut nuggets we’d had for lunch we began to scope out a viewing place for our last night of fireworks. As we walked toward That Spot, Miss A noticed the teacups, that we hadn’t yet ridden, and asked if we could stop and ride them. “Sure,” I said, “but we’ll miss the fireworks.” She didn’t care and neither did Trevor, so we went for it.

    Not realizing that we were getting a great seat for the show, we got on the ride. We began spinning right as the glitter waterfalls and the music to which they are timed, began. And every time the cups stopped, the ride operator smiled at me and said, “You can stay on.” and we did.

    We spun beneath the best fireworks show I have ever seen for what seemed like hours, but was probably only about fifteen minutes. While Tinkerbell flew overhead, Julie Andrews narrated and a soundtrack of classic Disney music and kid giggles played, I tipped my head back as far as it would go and took it all in. Breath by breath and moment by moment. The lights in the sky reflected green and gold on Austen’s face. Trevor intensely gripping the center wheel spinning the teacup as fast as his four year old arms would let him. Drew laughing at them, laughing at each other.

    A camera couldn’t have done it justice and telling the story can’t possibly explain it, but if you imagine it, you’ll know what I mean. You’ll know the warm surge you feel when you’re surrounded with a sort of happy perfection that is only achieved once every great while. That same happy perfection that is simultaneously infinite and fleeting.

  • In April 2005, after 12 years of friendship, I finally married a wonderful woman whom I met while working at the Disney Catalog in 1991.

    To celebrate, we decided to postpone our honeymoon until July, when we made the trek from Kansas to California for Disneyland’s big 50th anniversary celebration. Rachel was from California and had practically grown up at Disneyland. For her, it was a homecoming. I had previously only visited Walt Disney World in Florida, so Disneyland was a great new adventure. We were there on July 17th, celebrating our love for Disney and for each other.

    This year, on our 5th anniversary, we returned to Disneyland. It was a wonderful chance to relive our honeymoon. Dreams really do come true.

  • I have to agree with the 50th Anniversary. One of the best trips ever. We camped out all night, which was so fun! When we got to enter the park that morning all the cast members where lined up “Welcoming us Home” and it was truly magical. I think we maybe rode 5 rides that day. We were too entranced by the atmosphere, the stars and the realization that we got to be there on the actual day. An amazing moment in Disney history.

  • I have the best memory that came on August 10, 2003, my 16th Birthday. My Aunt took me and my best friend to Disneyland as a suprise and it just so happened my favorite band, Suburban Legends, was playing at DCA for the X-Games celebration. After singing along and getting pictures and birthday wishes, we made our way back over to Disneyland. Right when we walked into the park a cast member stopped us and wished me a Happy Brithday and asked if we would like to be a part of the parade that night. Of course we said yes and we were on our way. We got to wear pink tu tu’s and dance our way through Disneyland’s parade route (you never realize how long it is until you dance your way through it! Phew!) with the characters from The Jungle Book. At the end of the parade the same cast member was waiting for us with a small cake, balloons and Mickey and Minnie. Everyone around us sang Happy Birthday and cheered. I have never been so suprised or cried so many tears of happiness. That was one of the most wonderful, magical, loved memories I have of Disneyland. Dont get me wrong every trip has had its wonderful and unique memories but this was the best of all. Thank you Walt and Disneyland for making dreams come true!

  • I remember my favorite ride opening. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I absolutely love that ride! I also remember being there for the first day of the 50th anniversary celebration. It was soooo crowded at Disneyland and DCA was almost empty. Which was great for me cause i got to ride the tower like 40 times over, and still be able to see the fireworks for the 50th birthday of the greatest place on earth!

  • My family was at the Animation Academy at Disney’s California Adventure on a very un-crowded day when Sorcerer Mickey and Cinderella showed up and said hello to everybody (took pictures, signed autographs too). When they were done they invited my two sons (ages 6 and 3) on a personally guided tour of the Sorcerer’s workshop. Cinderella told them all kinds of interesting things and Mickey mostly pointed a lot at stuff. They both spent lots of one on one time with each of my boys as if they were school friends. It was such a unique experience – I don’t know who was more excited – the kids or us parents! I’ll never forget that.

  • My favorite moment was being a cast member back in 2004. I was given the opportunity to be part of the “Happiest Faces on Earth” mosaic in front of the castle, encouraging people to upload their favorite Disneyland moments for the 50th Celebration. It was such a great experience, I myself uploaded a few photos, and all of them were used throughout the park the following year. I brought my friends and family in to see where they were placed was also a joy. Oh, and being the opening crew of this little ride called Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters!

  • It must have been 1980 or 1981 when my family took a trip to California and made a stop at Disneyland for a few days. I was there at night and my parents had let us 4 kids explore the park on our own. We all wanted to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade so we tried to find a spot on Main Street to see it but there were so many people and only being 4 years old I could only see through the legs of other guests. I’ll never forget that a total stranger picked me up and put me on his shouders so tat I could see the parade go by. I had the best view! This stranger was so nice that when the parade had passed he gave me a plastic Mickey Mouse pin which I have to this day.

  • Being an AP there are many memories of Disneyland And DCA over the years. The one that sets in my mind the most was in 2001. It was shortly after the attacks of 9/11. While the crowds were small, I felt very safe at the park. It seemed like stepping into my living room and settling down nicely. The cast members were maybe overly polite to everyone and tears came down my face as I watched the flag lowering ceremony on Main Street. I never really watched it before, but was compelled to watch that afternoon. My whole family was in tears as they gracefully lowered the flag and marched off. You could have heard a pin drop in that plaza it was so quiet.

    Yes, there have been many memories, but none as powerful as that one.

  • I loved the photo mosaics all around the park that used pictures submitted by park guests. I submitted a few pictures and was notified that some of my pictures were used. I couldn’t wait to get to Disneyland to try to find my pictures in the mosaics, so much fun to be a part of Disneyland history like that!

  • Hands down ‘Remember….Dreams Come True’. It puts tears in my eyes each time I watch it, and the soundtrack helps me go to sleep each night. Definitely one of Disneyland’s best as far as entertainment goes!

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