Autopia? Disney’s FastPass? What’s Your Favorite Park Addition or Memory Between 1996 and 2000?

Heather Hust Rivera

by , Vice President, Consumer Products


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 Café, 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.


  • I loved the Rocket Rods. Even though they didn’t perform reliably, I loved being able to zip along the overhead track of Tomorrowland. Here’s hoping something will eventually travel along that track again!…

  • Watching the boy band “Polo” at Tomorrowland Terrace back in the 80’s. “Main Street” Electrical Parade. Christmas time, Christmas time, Christmas time! Every year that I am able to watch the fireworks and A Christmas Fantasy Parade. When I used to take my son to the park when he was a little boy. I miss the Country Bear Jamboree : (

  • My favorite memory was from 1999 when I went to Disneyland (my first time!) for the Magic Music Days program with my high school choir.

    We got to go backstage at Toon Town and learn the music for Fantasmic…and we got to sing in the Carnation Plaza Gardens one afternoon.

    I have been hooked on Disney ever since!!

  • Believe… I still wish that could come back some day…

    Don’t get me wrong… I loved Remember, but the music in Believe still wonders me to this day… it’s beautiful and so original. It reminds me of that long summer where I hadn’t been to Disney in so long and finally went and saw the show.

  • I would have to say the FastPAss service does make it better. What I do not like is that (after a long absence from SoCal) I heard that all announcements are in English and Spanish.

    I feel that if you are going to have multiple languages, you should have more than two.

  • I would defintely say it is fastpass. my favorite memory is coming to WDW with my mom for our first visit and staying at the Pop Century for the grand opening.

  • nice who won?? mickey or pluto??

  • MAIN STREET ELECTRICAL PARADE–Please bring it back!!!!

  • I love this ride and I ride it every time I go

  • You know, I have only vague memories of seeing Light Magic at Disneyland, but in recent years I have seen it on youtube.

    In retrospect, I don’t think that it was as bad as people made it out to be. I think the biggest issues were that people were expecting a parade rather than a street show and as such, people felt that it was not a fitting replacement for the Main Street Electrical Parade. Also, I think that most people were still hurting from the fact that the Electrical Parade was gone, so they were especially critical.

    The show did have some great Celtic-inspired music.

    If it came back out again today, perhaps it would be better received by guests.

  • Oh my gosh i used to love going to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival it was my favorite thing to do. oh! and the Pocahontas show was great to. I think Disneyland should consider bringing both of those back.

  • I absolutely loved Light Magic!!! It was so immersive, so colorful, so toe-tapping tuneful, and just so uniquely Disney Parks!!! I can still hear the soundtrack playing in my mind, and remember sitting on the Main Street curb that summer of ’97 waiting for it. But I get a little reminder of Light Magic every time I visit Pixie Hollow!

  • In May of 2005 my family and my sister’s family took my mother to her last trip to Disneyland. When my husband,daughter and I walked down Main Street to meet her and my sister’s family was a memory I will never forget. She was standing in front of Plaza Inn with a huge grin on her face and she started to cry because she was so happy. We lost her in August of the very next year. So this memory is so very special to me. To know that the one last big trip that my family took with her was in our favorite place and made her so happy was wonderful. Disneyland is truly the happiest place on earth!

  • FastPass is the best!!!

  • I really enjoyed Small World holiday. I was very impressed by it when it first started, and I still am. 🙂

    The new version of the Autopia was pretty cool too. I just vaguely remember the Toy Story Funhouse, but from what I remember, it was cool.

  • Rocket Rods was my favorite and of course the Fast Pass – what would we do without those. I just wish they could find a way to put a fast pass for Peter Pan!!

  • My favorite memory is possibly the fastpass since who knows what I would do without it =)and Joe I miss VMK too R.I.P

  • Another vote for Fastpass.

    This was also the 5 year period when I had my one and only annual pass to the park. I need to get another one soon. I loved being able to pop down any time I wanted to.

  • My favorite was FASTpass…. But Soon to be the fantasyland expansion.

    However, I think my favorite extension to Disney Magic would’ve been VMK. R.I.P 2 years!

  • Who was the genius that came up with FASTPASS?

  • Ah, but what about the opening of the Animal Kingdom park in 1998? To me, that’s a HUGE addition to the Disney experience! FastPass is definitely the best thing since sliced bread, but it pales in comparison to all the experiences and attractions of the AK park!

  • Of all my favorite memories, it would have to be the first time we took our daughters to Disneyland in 1998. They had no idea what was going on, they got on the plane and still had no idea where we were going. They didn’t figure it out until we drove by Disneyland to get to the hotel. Now we have a 3 year old and we are already planning our trip for next year. It seems you have some of the best memories from Disney.

  • Fast Pass by far!!

  • Fastpass for sure!! Especially for Space Mountain :]

  • I would love the see the Electrical Parade make a comeback to Main Street USA! That would be my absolute favorite….other than that…Autopia!

  • My favorite memory at WDW from 1999 is riding the Tomorrowland Skyway just months before it closed permanently. It would be great to see that attraction come back.

  • I LOVED the Hunchback Festival! And it’s always amused me to see that structure still standing in the years since. I think it’s finally gone now! But I want it back 🙁 And it absolutely kills me that despite practically growing up at Disneyland I NEVER went on the Rocket Rods! And this was when I was complaining about Skyway, my favorite ride, disappearing! I always assumed they’d bring it back. That and the Submarine ride.

    I was going to put Indiana Jones, but was that really pre-1996? I was born in 1988 and I remember attending the opening! We have 10 or so of those AT&T cards lying around the house. I keep one in my wallet for impromptu trips to the park; handy for long lines!

    And I was happy to find that the Treehouse in Paris is still Swiss Family Robinson. I love Tarzan, but… my childhood! Dashed! It’s okay Disneyland, I still love you <3

  • My favorite addition is the FastPass. Not only does a FastPass cut down on time, but my family, friends, and I play a game of sorts. We enjoy figuring out how we can make the most of our time at the parks.

    I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite memory because I have so many wonderful ones. I recently visited the Disneyland Resort with my brother and sister-in-law who(m?) I haven’t seen in about 10 years. It was a wonderful day.

    Oh, and Gaylin…I like keeping a bit of Disney with me all the time, too! Pins, keys, photos, music, you name it!

  • I think the Festival of Fools. It is that LIVE entertainment where it did not just pass you on the street. You were immersed.
    Soooo much to see and react to. We need a show in Fantasyland theatre of the Festival of fools area. Real people that can interact with the audience/

  • Definitely The MSEP Farewell Season, Hercules Victory Parade, FastPass and the debut of It’s A Small World Holiday!

  • Oh Fast Pass Where would I be without you? (Probably still in line for Space Mountain 🙂

  • I have a ton of great memories – but I have to say that the Fast Pass was genius and has changed the entire way we visit the parks. We have much more time just to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the little things that make the park so special.

  • I went to WDW in 1999 and bought my first PIN!!!!

    Little did I know it would be the first of many. I hung a Disney gift blanket on the wall and use it for a pin display. I can walk up to it anytime and take a pin off of it and wear all day.

    I like keeping a bit of Disney with me all the time.

  • Definitely not the price increase!

  • Oh man, these were the years when I got my first annual pass as a kid in 1997! There are so many things to remember like Rocket Rods, The Festival of Fools, Believe fireworks…

    but the two things that I will cherish forever were Animazement (what a great show! I watched it all the time with my mom) and the Sword in the Stone show. I was actually picked one time and I received a medal and certificate from Merlin! 🙂

  • BTW….I Love this B/W panoramic picture of Walt Disney walking through Disneyland, CA, early in the morning through the Cinderella’s Castle opening when no one else was around. It So immortalizes him once again!! Thanks for sharing!! 8=-D Can you see my Mickey Mouse ears on top of my head 🙂

  • The grand re-opening of the new Tomorrowland, with the Rocket Rods! I have to go with that, since I got to ditch school that day and be at Disneyland for the re-opening ceremony!

  • Definitely the FAST PASS!!! It can make such a difference in having a whole lot more fun at the park!! Thanks Disney for thinking of this brilliant ‘VIP’ type of service available to Every one in the park!! Great idea!

  • Well, Fastpass DID change everything, but, for me, the most memorable change was the 50th anniversary fireworks- the ones introduced by Julie Andrews. I have never felt so immersed in an experience- the crystal clear sound tracks, the sound cues and music from the rides co-ordinated with the fireworks- the fireworks that go off all around you- it’s just amazing.

  • its a small world 🙂

  • Definately Fasspass!

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