Splash Mountain Opening? Captain EO? Star Tours? What do You Remember Best at the Disneyland Resort Between 1986 and 1990?

Heather Hust Rivera

by , Vice President, Consumer Products

Splash Mountain
The countdown to the 55th anniversary continues! Today we’re looking back to 1986 through 1990.

I spoke with my colleague and longtime publicist John McClintock, who celebrated his 23rd anniversary with the Disneyland Resort just last month, and asked him what he remembers best during these years. John recalls, “Star Tours had just opened when I arrived in Disneyland Public Relations. Work was just getting under way on Splash Mountain. So we had this one-of-a-kind Tomorrowland space adventure and we were working on this flume ride, not only the first in a Disney theme park but with an enormous cast of characters, the longest steepest drop and the most elaborate show of any flume ride anywhere. It wasn’t hard, even for the new kid on the block, to get excited about what we were publicizing.”

For those who may not have visited Disneyland park at this time or those who might not remember, here’s an overview of this half decade.

1990 – Disneyland park celebrated its 35th anniversary with “Disneyland Big” and a new parade called Party Gras that featured a parade float that towered 37 feet. The Dream Machine, located in Central Plaza, gave some fortunate guests an opportunity to try their luck to win one of many prizes that included Walt Disney Home Videos, a Mickey Mouse plush or even a new car.

1989 – Splash Mountain debuts and is the fastest, tallest and steepest flume attraction at its time! Disneyland park welcomed its 300 millionth Guest with a new marquee in 1989. The new marquee featured a digital board with changing messages and fiber optics that helped the name Disneyland sparkle at night. “Blast to the Past” returned with Chubby Checker and 2,248 guests breaking the record for most people doing the twist in one location. In the winter, the “One Man’s Dream” show premiered at Videopolis.

1988 – The celebration of 60 years with Mickey Mouse started with a visit to Disneyland park by Earforce One, a 100-foot hot air balloon. In November, five thousand children from North America and parts of Asia were treated to a day at Disneyland park to celebrate. The ’50s were also celebrated in Disneyland Blast to the Past, and the Main Street Hop filled the street with cast members dressed in poodle skirts and saddle shoes. In 1988, Disneyland park set the record for the most people hula hooping at the same time in one location – 1,527 people gathered in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle to break the record. Also in this year, Disney purchased the Disneyland Hotel from the Wrather Company, and Bear Country’s name was changed to Critter Country in preparation for Splash Mountain.

1987 – Star Tours officially opens at Disneyland park in January! A galaxy far far away was brought a lot closer as Star Tours began transporting guests to Endor in a new type of experience, combining military grade flight simulation and a first-person perspective of flight scenes. The Disney Gallery also opened its doors above the Pirates of the Caribbean and offers guests an opportunity to view unique Disney art.

1986 – With a party that lasted 60 hours, Captain EO leaped off the screen in Tomorrowland for the first time, giving guests an intergalactic musical adventure that could only initially be seen at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort (and nowhere else in the universe). On the other side of the park, Big Thunder Ranch opened, and for the first time, guests could visit with some of the animals from the Circle D Corral. Guests could also visit the new Big Thunder Barbecue where they could drink from a glass jar and get their food from the “chuck wagon.”

So, what do you remember best during these years?


  • I was just a li’l one (almost 3 years old) on my first trip to Disneyland in 1987. My memory fails me, but my dad has video footage of meet ‘n’ greets with Goofy and Chip ‘n’ Dale. There was a ferris wheel in Fantasyland, and Rod Miller singing “It Had to Be You” to me at the Coke Corner. I vaguely remember my parents taking me through the Star Tours queue so they could ride “single flyer” style. I remember being scared when alarms set off as R2 charged up the laser cannons…

  • Splash Mountain is such a creative ride. I’ve been on it a ton of times but I always see new times. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to see the train passing by.

  • Sheesh…so hard to choose! Splash Mountain is still one of my favorites, Star Tours is amazing for any Star Wards fan, and Captain EO was so mind blowing as a young girl who loves Michael Jackson. Honestly, I can say that all three of these things were staples of Disneyland in my youth. My daughter loves both rides, and I hope that I can show her Captain EO before it leaves, since she too is a fan of the King. I can’t imagine Disneyland being the same for me without any one of these.

    Thanks for bringing back EO! Please keep him for at least another year. =)

  • The first time we went to Disneyland our children were 10, 8 and 6; I don’t know what was the most exciting; seeing it all for the first time myself, or seeing it through our children’s eyes and smiles. Then 4 years ago, I went back with our grown kids and 5 of our grandchildren…just as exciting all over again. Our son in CA and his wife take their family each time one of the children turns age 6; one day is reserved for the parents and the birthday child. Naturally someone (or someones) have to go along to be with the other children; loved it! Favorite: Small World.

  • I remember going to McDonald’s to play Splash for Cash during the celebration of the opening of Splash Mountain begging my mother for the larger sodas just to try and her telling me that day they already gave away the last instant win for the trip but begged her one last try! I pulled it off and told my Mother in my best Disneyland Voiceover Guy Voice “You just won a trip to Disneyland in Splash For Cash What are you Going to Do next??” she looks at it and said “Well someones been wishing real hard huh” Me, My Mother, My Brother in Full Dress Navy Uniform and Goofy on Splash Mountain! Still Have the Picture

  • I was there for the 35th Anniversary and received one of the lucky tickets and got to spin the Dream Machine! I was only about 5 or 6, and I remember my whole family watching me pull the giant lever, hoping I would win one of the grand prizes — I actually won a giant Mickey plush toy (bigger than me!) and was THRILLED! We even had to buy an extra train ticket home for it, and I think I still have it 20 years later.

  • I remember the first time I went back after moving out of Anaheim Junction Trailer park on west st. It was right against the back lot of disneyland. It was for my birthday and while we were there Disney had started their own circus. They had a trapeze rigged over Main St and getting your face painted. It was right before Splash Mountain opened. I also remember the first time I rode splash mountain. My sister came back from Desert Storm I and we did all the mountains and Star Tours. It was both awesome memories

  • Even though I was only three I remember being in the long line when Captain EO firt opened and getting those awesome t-shirts. I was so excited when they brought it back this year that it brought back a lot of memories. To top it all they finally brought back the old t-shirt design and I had to get one.

  • I had an advanced tour of the opening of Splash Mountain because of a fried who worked at Disneyland. I’ll never forget it. Very exciting to be one of the first people to ride the new ride!

  • I remember being on the Peoplemover in 1990, and I rode Space Mountain for the first time and it scared the heck outta me, but most of all I remember riding Star Tours and wanting to go on it again and again, I remember getting all excited to see C-3PO and R2 in the que

  • I was visiting Disneyland for the first time, and I remember watching Whoopee Goldberg coming out of Captain Eo as I was going in (movie stars go to Disneyland with security guards? really?). The first attraction I went on was the Haunted Mansion, then over to Tomorrowland for Star Tours, Captain Eo, the Submarines and Space Mountain. The longest queue after Star Tours and Captain Eo was for the last ride of the day for me – It’s a Small World. I mostly remember everyone smiling on a beautiful spring day.

  • I remember watching Splash Mountain construction go on next door to my favorite mansion (not a fan of water rides myself, but they did an fantastic job), seeing EO for the first time in 3-D (amazing then & still looks wonderful all these years later) and waiting in line for 120 minutes to take my first ride on Star Tours (and well worth the wait). Can’t wait for Star Tours 2.0!!!

  • Star Tours was the era’s best addition. I remember having a queezy stomach after getting off. (A true sign of a good ride!) I think if the parade floats of the Party Gras Parade returned, they’d be a huge hit!

  • Splash Mountain opening, I was in a cast because I had recently had surgery, and my dad took me to the both Disneyland and then Disney World for 3 weeks. It took him at least an hour while we ate lunch for him to talk me into doing it and then, cast wrapped in a bag we rode it. And then again, and again. I have gone to Disney World and Disneyland both over 30 times and this is still one of my favourite memories. By the end of the trip my dad and I would recite the crows mocking lines back and forth to each other.

  • I remember working in the park during the Star Tours launch party and the park was open for something like 36 straight hours. It was crazy nuts but tons of fun. It was oh so fun to be a cast member.

  • the MARDI GRAS PARADE!!! i miss that parade!

  • In 1990 my family took me on my first vacation to “Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom”. I would have been about 5 or 6 at the time (just in Kindergarten), but I have a few great memories. Being terrified of one of my now favorite attractions (The Haunted Mansion), and one that I still get anxious riding (Mr. Toad for whatever reason). Getting a Chechire Cat plush (which I still have). THE PEOPLEMOVER (or as my at the time 3 year old brother called his favorite ride “The People Re-Mover”). Finally dancing in the Mardi Gras themed parade for the 35th anniversary of Disneyland.

  • Splash Mountain has always been one of my ultimate favorites. Especially when I was a kid though.

  • I remember all of it when it opened and LOVE all of it still!! Memories

  • I’ve been looking forward to this post. Splash Mountain is the single piece of Disney history that has effected me most. I fell in love with Brer Rabbit the first time I rode it as a kid, and never looked back, lol. Even to this day, I can’t go to the parks if it’s down for refurb. Heck, I pay the entrance fee mainly just for that ride. I know Disney likes to downplay Song of the South today, but those princesses and Winnie the Pooh were never as magical for me as Brer Rabbit and the music from that movie.

  • I remember the line for Star Tours being all the way out to Main Street! I’m glad I waited in line for it! It was for my 10th birthday. I was enthralled with everything from the C3PO to R2D2 and everything in between. I’m with Mark about missing “America Sings” I really wish they would bring that back along with “Country Bear Jamboree”! Maybe in time………

  • 1989 saw my first visit! I was only 4 years old and traveled from Phoenix with my parents by bus. It was summer, and wickedly hot, but my parents obligingly waited hours in line so I could ride the dumbo ride! I got my first pair of mickey ears, and fell asleep on my dad’s shoulders while waiting in line for Space Mountain (quite a death-defying ride for a 4 year old!). Although Splash Mountain opened this year, it broke down the day we were there, and I had to wait until my next trip, 4 years later, for it to become my favorite ride!

  • YES!!! All of the above!!! Splash Mtn is my favorite movie!! So that may be it!!! I LOVE that ride and how you can follow the stories..!!! But I remember when ALL of these opened, and had the best time riding or experiencing them for the first time!!!

  • My first visit to Disneyland was in 1987 and thanks to my mother’s meticulous records, I just discovered that Star Tours was actually my first ride in the park. Apparently, at the age of four I wasn’t too fond of the loud noises, but it’s one of favorites now!

  • I was 13 years old when Splash Mountain broke my fear of “E-Ticket” rides. When I found out what Splash Mountain was I was determined that I would ride it. That was at the top of my to do list in the summer of 89. I will always have that special memory of my first splash down.

  • I LOVED the People Mover. I liked the way they changed it over the years. It was nice to get on it and give my feet a break. Also miss America Sings, and Enter Through Space (where Star Tours is now). I like Splash Mountain more than Star Tours.

  • #23 – My favorite memory from this time frame was our first ride on Splash Mountain! Some friends had been on it before we ended up getting to the park after the opening and told us you get REALLY soaked when you went on the ride, so we came prepared!!

    I had brought a couple of trash bags for each of us and as we were going thru the queue, we started putting them on. We rode the ride, had a great time and were VERY glad I thought of bringing the trash bags, otherwise we would’ve been soaked to the bone! I heard they tamed the water plunge part of it down a little while after the ride opened and even tho we don’t bring trash bags with us anymore, we have yet to have ever gotten that soaked again!

    I thought it was great that they incorporated the figures from America Sings into the attraction, since we enjoyed that show too.

    Another fond memory for us was going during the “Blast to the Past”, that included a discount on the park ticket. We also enjoyed the Disney Gallery for all the years it was up there and are very happy they changed the Main Street Bank into a gallery.

    We also enjoyed Captain EO, but didn’t make it to the opening. We went again when they recently reopened it at DL and enjoyed it then too.

  • I was 4 years old when I was in Disneyland for the fist time in 1988 and I STILL remember the 50’s theme and everybody dressed in poodle skirts. Loved it!

  • I remember my favorite: the PeopleMover. I remember riding that forever and ever, over and over. Loved it! Please bring back my favorite.

  • i was born in 1990.. so i wasnt around, but i have to say that my favorite ride as a child (since i was too scared of the other rides) was Star Tours, i loved the movies, and this ride made me feel like i was in the movie! Disneyland is such a great place

  • Slash Mountain !!! I love the singing animals from “America Sings” …really miss the “The Carousel of Progress”, and “America Sings”….and
    “The Bear Country Jamboree” was the best and now it is Winnie the Pooh, which is great eye candy, but not as much fun :(…also liked the Art Museum above the Pirates…now I go to The Vault…loved Star Wars…it was ALL GOOD!…M I C…”see you real soon”…K E Y…”why ? because we ….you know the rest !


  • My fondest memories are really of the overall MAGIC of Disneyland. You really do feel transported to another marvelous world. But if I had to pick a single favorite attraction, I would say Pirates of the Caribbean. Loved as a kid myself and now its a favorite for my daughters today.

  • I guess I’m too young to remember these things. Let’s just say that Star Tours is as old as me! 🙂 I still have great memories with those attractions though.

  • I am so partial to Splash Mountain. I love it, so much. I dream about it…and at least three times a week I work in Critter Country so I get to hear it =)

  • I remember Star Tours and Captain EO. I remember waiting in line for star tours and thinking how cool even the line to ride it was.

  • Splash mountain was my favorite addition!

  • I remember really loving the Party Gras parade!

  • Star Tours was the highlight for me. Was attending UCSB at the time and a group of friends and I found out that Disneyland would be open for 72 hours straight. The 4 of us packed into my car at about midnight or so and got the the park some where around 3am.
    I remember it being really cold (by So. Calfornia standards!) and having a blast on Star Tours and roaming around the park with fewer crowds.
    We were all pretty tired by noon so we decided to go. By that time, the line for Star Tours was so long it was all the way back to Main Street!

  • I remember road tripping with about ten other people from the Seattle area to get a ride on Star Tours and see Captain EO and then doing it again with the family to take a ride on Splash Mountain. Cannot believe that was over twenty years ago!! Good memories!!!

  • Still one of my favorites, Star Tours is the best of all three in my opinion.

  • I’m really torn. I love Star Tours, and I love Splash Mountain. Of course, I also morn the loss of America Sings every time I’m on Splash Mountain.

    Anyway, it would have to be one of those two rides.

  • I remember being completely spellbound by the line for Star Tours. Between the big board, the robot in a cage, all the parts moving overhead, and the loading area, the line keeps me thoroughly entertained every time! Beyond that, the ride was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. What a thrill it was to dip down into that groove and battle amongst the star fighters! I really felt like I was in space flying around with those characters. What a trip it was!

  • Is this the same time Disney Afternoon was also at Disneyland in full force?
    These were my high school years and we made frequent trips to Disneyland a lot of great memories at the Happiest Place on Earth.

  • my husband and went to disneyland for our honeymoon in june 1990. i loved the parade! to this day whenever i hear ‘hot hot hot’ it reminds me of all the dancers, and the streamers flying around. it was like living a dream!
    we’ve been back with our children twice since (spring ‘o4 and christmas’ 07) and we’ll be back (just us!)this next October to celebrate (a teeny bit late) our 20th anniversary!

  • YAY! Splash Mountain! Love that ride…

  • I remember the 35th Anniversary in 1990! Ok so maybe I was only 3 almost 4 but I do remember the jacket that I had! It was a fancy black track jacket and it had the castle with 35 years on it and confetti around with Sorcerer Mickey. Impressive 3/4 year old mind huh?! hehe

  • I totally atill have a 3ft or so Mickey plush from the Dream Machine!!!

  • I remember the first time I rode Star Tours. It was awesome and still is! We still have ideas about how the ride actually works, producing the G-force when accelerating to “light speed!” I look forward to taking my daughter to see Captain Eo since it had changed by the time she was old enough to go to Disneyland. Rock on, Disney!

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