Fifty-Five Years of Magic at Disneyland Park

Heather Hust Rivera

by , Vice President, Consumer Products

Disneyland 50th Anniversary
We are celebrating the 55th Anniversary of Disneyland park this weekend! Over the past few months, we have been sharing key moments in each year of the park’s history in our Countdown to 55 weekly feature. In honor of this weekend, we are bringing you the entire history of the Park we’ve featured on the blog – in one post! Read on to discover all the events, attractions and people that made Disneyland park the magical place it is.

1961 – This marked the year that the beam of the Disneyland Monorail, the transportation of the future, was expanded to reach the Disneyland Hotel. The Monorail began whisking hotel guests past the Main Entrance ticket booths and directly into Tomorrowland, where the hovering Flying Saucers debuted the same year for space travelers. Guests could also wish for their own Prince Charming at a quaint wishing well alongside marble statuettes of the seven dwarfs at Snow White’s Grotto. 1961 was the first year a Grad Night was hosted in Disneyland Park and 8,500 graduating seniors came to celebrate their accomplishments at the Happiest Place on Earth.

1962 – Guests were invited to live the life of adventure by climbing and exploring the new Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, towering 70 feet over Adventureland.The year 1962 also saw the debut of the Safari Shooting Gallery – where the guns actually used real pellets! Also added in 1962: the picturesque elephant bathing pool within the world famous Jungle Cruise. Walt Disney also celebrated the 10,000th performance of the Golden Horseshoe Revue by airing it on television with its stars, including Betty Taylor, Wally Boag, Gene Sheldon and Ed Wynn.
Walt Disney in the Enchanted Tiki Room
1963– In 1963, the then-groundbreaking technology of sophisticated Audio Animatronics debuted to Disneyland park guests in an attraction that was touched by Walt Disney in every aspect of its planning. The Enchanted Tiki Room opened in Adventureland, featuring colorful singing birds, delicate singing flowers and powerful tiki gods. With its infectious songs and lovable hosts — Fritz, Michael, Pierre and Jose — the Enchanted Tiki Room is still a favorite with park guests of all ages. Walt also hosted a press conference to explain his upcoming Audio Animatronics exhibits for the New York World’s Fair the following year.

1964 – Although the 1964 New York World’s Fair didn’t actually occur at the Disneyland Resort, many of Walt Disney’s exhibits for the fair found their permanent homes in Disneyland park after debuting for enthusiastic Fair audiences. Walt used the opportunity of presenting at the Fair to fine-tune and perfect his technologically advanced Audio Animatronic figures through four exhibits: “it’s a small world,” “Progressland,” The Magic Skyway and “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.” Of course we all know that Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and “it’s a small world” are now classic Disneyland attractions, but “Progressland” also came to the park as The Carousel of Progress, and The Magic Skyway utilized omnimover technology, which was used in many Disneyland classics including The Haunted Mansion. Disneyland also hosted more than 400 American athletes heading to Japan for the 1964 Summer Olympics. Events included a tribute show on the shores of the Rivers of America, featuring Bob Hope and a cast of Hollywood stars.

1965Disneyland park marked its first decade with a yearlong “Tencennial.” Celebration elements included parkwide decorations, a grand parade and numerous special events throughout the year. To help represent the park during the busy year, the role of Disneyland Ambassador to the World was created. Tour guide Julie Reihm was selected as the first “Miss Disneyland” — as the position was originally called — and she spent the year traveling throughout the United States and the world as the official emissary of Disneyland park. 3D Jamboree debuted at the Fantasyland Theater starring Mouseketeers. The film was presented in 3D, a technology that wouldn’t be used again at Disney Parks until Magic Journeys was produced for Epcot 25 years later. Also in 1965, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln found its permanent home in the Opera House on Main Street, U.S.A.

1966 – Walt Disney brings an attraction first developed for the 1964-65 World’s Fair to Disneyland park and presides at the opening of “it’s a small world.” A spectacular new geometric facade and giant animated clock with figures representing the children of the world parading each hour are designed for the attraction’s new home. In June, the Disneyland Hotel adds the Sierra Tower annex with 150 rooms and The Plaza Building shopping complex opens a few months later. In July, Primeval World Diorama, a world of gigantic dinosaurs, is unveiled as a major addition to the diorama along the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad. Also in July, the first new land in Disneyland park – New Orleans Square – opens its initial phase with a re-creation of New Orleans’ French Quarter, featuring typical belle-epoch architecture for shops, restaurants and musical stages, in addition to a new waterfront area along the Rivers of America. The colorful dedication is one of Walt Disney’s last official ceremonies before his untimely passing in December.

1967 – On March 18, Pirates of the Caribbean opens in New Orleans Square as the first mega-scale, indoor ride-through adventure and it gets rave reviews. The Blue Bayou Restaurant featuring Cajun-inspired cuisine also opens inside the attraction. Later in the year, Club 33, Walt Disney’s private dining establishment, opens to members for the first time, and that’s not all! Tomorrowland adds SIX new attractions to the park: Rocket Jets, the centerpiece of the new Tomorrowland; Carrousel of Progress, a show featuring the memorable theme song, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow;” America the Beautiful, an all-new film journey across the United States; People Mover, a perpetual-motion transportation system of the future; Flight to the Moon, a reality-based simulation of flight into space, and Adventure Through Inner Space, an omni-mover trip exploring the inside of molecules and atoms.

1968 – Following a massive year of new projects in Tomorrowland and New Orleans Square in 1967, construction in this year concentrates on the Main Entrance complex for improved guest ticketing and major changes in the guest parking lot. Special events include a record-breaking New Year’s Eve Party, Spring Fling, Old Fashioned Easter Parade, Angels-Disneyland Funday Doubleheader, the first Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and first St. Patrick’s Day Parade at the Park.
Haunted Mansion
1969 – Haunted Mansion opens after 15 years of planning and features a doom buggy tour through a mysterious ante-bellum home complete with 999 ghosts. Also in 1969, a new Disneyland Monorail station is completed to accommodate a larger, new generation of Monorail trains, the Mark IV.

1970 – At the beginning of this year, the Legacy of Walt Disney opens on Main Street, U.S.A., featuring a display of Walt Disney’s awards and memorabilia along with an exhibit on the California Institute of the Arts. Later in the year, the Disneyland Hotel opens the 319-room Marina Tower with a new registration lobby. “Show Me America” comes to the Tomorrowland Stage as a fast-paced musical comedy revue with more than 120 costumes and impressive backdrops built just for this show.

1971 – An amazing attendance mark was recorded when Disneyland greeted its 100-millionth visitor in just under 16 years. The lucky 100-millionth guest Valerie Suldo from New Brunswick, N.J., came through the gates on June 17, launching a summer-long celebration of entertainment called “Year of One Million Smiles.” The world’s biggest New Year’s Eve party was celebrated with 23,000 guests on hand, the largest number in Disneyland history. New in Frontierland, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes were introduced as a way to see the Rivers of America. The year marked the debut of the first All-American College Marching Band. During the four-day President’s Holiday in February, the park rolled out lavish red-white-and-blue “I Am an American” ceremonies in Town Square. Sadly, the year ended with the death of Roy O. Disney on Dec. 20. Walt Disney’s brother was co-founder of Walt Disney Productions and chairman of the board.

1972 – Disneyland park added Bear Country as a seventh land on the far corner of Frontierland. A new production of Walt Disney World, Country Bear Jamboree, was brought to Disneyland park, and new eatery Hungry Bear Restaurant opened. What was to become the most popular entertainment feature in all Disney parks, the Main Street Electrical Parade, debuted as a major summer nighttime feature with millions of tiny lights creating images from Disney animated film classics. Winnie the Pooh campaigned for president with a red-white-and-blue parade and pep rally on Main Street, U.S.A. Rock ‘n Roll Reunion sparked September entertainment with Frankie Avalon, Chuck Berry, The Drifters and The Platters. Disneyland Hotel opened a $7.2 million Convention Center with a 29,000 square-foot exhibit hall and an 18,000 square-foot Grand Ballroom.

1973 – Disney celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney Productions with the opening of “The Walt Disney Story” in April, attended by Mrs. Walt Disney, and a special tribute October 20-21 that included special parades, a cartoon festival and complimentary posters, attended by more than 100,000 guests. Disneyland Showcase, located in Town Square, displayed models and artist renderings of new attractions planned for future expansion at the park. Special events included a Viva Mexico Salute, Star Spangled Holidays, Festival Pan American Saludos Amigos, Big Band Festival and Angels-Disneyland Fun Day. Cary Grant narrated the Christmas Candlelight Procession. General Electric’s “Carousel of Progress” closed to the public on Sept. 9 in preparation for relocation to the Walt Disney World Resort.

1974 – Disneyland park was featured in two televised specials, “Sandy in Disneyland” starring Sandy Duncan, in April, and “Herbie Day at Disneyland” in July. In Tomorrowland, America Sings, a humorous musical review, opened in the Carousel Theatre with a cast of 110 comical Audio-Animatronic animals singing America’s favorite heritage folk music and campfire tunes led by emcee Sam the Eagle. It replaced General Electric’s Carousel of Progress. The Main Street Electrical Parade entertained millions of summertime visitors, as did the All-American College Marching Band and a new addition, The Kids of the Kingdom. Special events included Alice in Wonderland Days, Viva Mexico, Disneyland and All That Jazz, “Herbie Rides Again” Days, and “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” Days.

1975 – Disneyland park celebrated its 20th anniversary and began a 15-month salute to the U.S.A. Bicentennial with the most elaborate parade in the park’s history – “America on Parade,” which featured 50 floats and 150 giant performers at least eight feet tall, in addition to an all-new red, white and blue fireworks spectacular “Fantasy in the Sky.” Disneyland park welcomed back Christine Vess Watkins and Michael Schwartner, the park’s first visitors in 1955. Mission to Mars, an updated version of Flight to the Moon, was an exciting journey deep into space, since man had already reached the moon in real life. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln returned to Main Street, U.S.A. as a featured part of The Walt Disney Story.

1976 – Disneyland park welcomed its 150,000,000th visitor – Elsie Mae Houck of Tulare, Calif. It also welcomed a slew of “name” guests during the year, including Olympic gold medal darling Nadia Comaneci and Alabama governor George Wallace. On the entertainment side, a special Thanksgiving show featured singer Pearl Bailey on a Rivers of America floating stage, while Disney fans got a chance to walk down memory lane as the original Mouseketeers gathered at the park for a 20-year reunion of the Mickey Mouse Club. Adding to the magic, Jungle Cruise underwent major changes with seven new scenes and 31 new Audio-Animatronics animals.

1977 – Openings and closings highlighted the year, as famed astronauts, including Alan Shepard, gathered for the opening of Space Mountain…and Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland closed after 21 years to make way for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. In addition to Space Mountain, Tomorrowland also debuted the PeopleMover SuperSpeed Tunnel, Starcade, and the Space Place restaurant. Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade returned for the summer after a two-year break, while an all-new Very Merry Christmas Parade bowed for the Christmas seasons.

1978 – Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday was all the rage, as special shows and parades were peppered throughout the year. The official celebration took place on Nov. 18 and 19, with Annette Funicello and other fave Mouseketeers on hand to celebrate. New elements were added to the popular Matterhorn Bobsleds, while the Disneyland Hotel opened the 13-story Bonita Tower, the first hotel in the U.S. with a solar heating system. Grad Nite continued its popular run, growing to eight parties for 821 high school graduating classes.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
1979 – Disneyland park welcomed its first birth: Teresa Salcedo was born on a busy July 4th near Main Street, U.S.A., and she was later presented with the official “Disneyland Birth Certificate No. 1.” Teresa wasn’t the only new addition, as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad took its maiden trip in September. Celebrating his 75th birthday in grand style, Count Basie welcomed several of his closest celebrity pals to a summer party, including Sammy Davis Jr. and Ed McMahon Other hot names (for the time) who showed up throughout the year included Peaches and Herb, Evelyn “Champagne” King and Buddy Rich.

1980 – Disneyland park kicked off a year-long Silver Anniversary celebration with a pre-parade show at the Tournament of Roses on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. Several special parades and shows followed for the rest of the year, but it was a special event in March, featuring Michael Jackson and Danny Kaye, that brought national attention to the celebration. On July 17, the 25th anniversary of the park’s opening, doors were open for 25 straight hours. In April, Family Reunion Night Celebration brought out several famous Disney faces, including Jackson, Fred MacMurray, Ernest Borgnine as well as the Carpenters, Ray Bradbury and even…Elliot Gould.

1981 – The New Fantasyland was still two years away, but a project on par with that one developed in small scale along the banks of Storybook Land in June, 1981. All of the original miniature buildings and scenery details built for the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction in 1956 were removed and replaced with brand-new ones. Efforts were made to make the replicas as similar to the originals as possible, stressing even the most minute details. In this year, Disneyland park also welcomed its 200,000,000th guest: 26-year-old Gert Schelvis of Santa Barbara, California received a lifetime pass to Disneyland, as well as an assortment of goodies from the Park’s sponsors.

1982 – When Disneyland park first opened, guests used tickets to gain admission to individual attractions. Those tickets eventually gave way to the A–E coupons, which could be used for multiple attractions. All tickets were retired in June of 1982 and replaced with the Passport – an all-encompassing ticket providing unlimited access to all attractions and shows (except the arcades). In Frontierland, Disney Legend Wally Boag hung up his carpet bag and officially retired from the Golden Horseshoe Revue after more than 39,000 performances. The SuperSpeed Tunnel along the PeopleMover route received a futuristic makeover and became the World of Tron, showing highlights from Disney’s big summer film release, “Tron,” on massive circular screens.

 Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride  Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

1983 – Fantasy reigned in 1983, as a whole new version of Fantasyland was unveiled in May. The new land cast aside its old facades of tournament tents and banners and became the Fantasyland of Walt Disney’s imagination: a quaint little fairy-tale village, where the denizens of Disney’s classic animated features lived and thrived. Old classics like Snow White’s Adventures and Peter Pan Flight remained, but with new technology, slightly altered names (they were now Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Peter Pan’s Flight), and brand-new facades that stressed the distinct cultural origins of each characters’ story. A new adventure, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, joined the group. The whole Park celebrated the new Fantasyland with the aptly titled Flights of Fantasy Parade.

1984 – This year was a grab bag of special events and activities. Summer Olympic fever spread from Los Angeles to Disneyland park, and the pre-games Olympic Night Charity Benefit on May 24 brought in $600,000 to Team U.S.A. During the games, the park hosted hundreds of athletes on Olympic Spirit Weekends. Donald Duck finally got his due with a 50th Birthday Parade. The Magic Eye Theater replaced the Space Stage in Tomorrowland and premiered EPCOT Center’s Magic Journeys 3D film. Elsewhere in Tomorrowland, Circle-Vision 360 reopened with two new breathtaking films: “American Journeys” and “Wonders of China.” The Country Bears received a special Christmas makeover for the first time, and the New Fantasyland was finally complete with the opening of the refurbished Alice in Wonderland attraction.

1985Disneyland park’s 30th anniversary was celebrated in spectacular style. A gigantic machine called the Gift Giver Extraordinaire doled out thousands of prizes to guests as they entered the gates, including brand-new GM cars to every 30,000th guest; Disneyland park stayed open for a full 24 hours to mark the actual anniversary on July 17. A new version of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln premiered on Main Street, U.S.A., complete with an advanced Audio-Animatronics figure. Videopolis opened, bringing teens and young adults a place to dance the night away to the latest popular tunes. And for the first time in the park’s history, Disneyland park began operating 365 days a year (before this time, the Park was closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the off-season).

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.”

1987Star 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.

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.

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.

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.

1991 – As the Persian Gulf War came to an end, Disneyland park honored thousands of veterans returning home from the region with a daily cavalcade from April 17 to June 17. The park also helped raise money for the U.S. Olympic Committee with Olympic Salutes, a five-mile cast member torch relay in June leading to Sleeping Beauty Castle. Elsewhere in the park, the Blue Ribbon Bakery opened its doors on Main Street, U.S.A., and those with fond memories of watching Darkwing Duck and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers after school remember the thrill of meeting their favorite stars live at Disney Afternoon Avenue. This temporary Fantasyland attraction featured the TaleSpin stage show “Plane Crazy” at Videopolis, plus redressed rides including the Rescue Rangers Raceway (Fantasyland Autopia) and the Motor Boat Cruise to Gummi Glen (of Gummi Bears fame).

1992 – Mickey Mouse ignited the night for the first time with Fantasmic!, an epic battle between good and evil on the Rivers of America featuring water, pyrotechnic and laser effects. Though the show begins its 19th year this summer, it wasn’t the only entertainment of note in 1992. Coinciding with the theatrical release, a live Beauty and the Beast stage show debuted on the Videopolis stage, which ran for several years and eventually inspired the Broadway smash. Goofy also celebrated his sixtieth birthday with the larger than life parade, “The World According to Goofy,“ and opened his first restaurant as Goofy’s Kitchen debuted at the Disneyland Hotel. The park’s biggest special event was the private 60th birthday party of actress Elizabeth Taylor, featuring a performance of “Happy Birthday” led by Barry Manilow.

1993 – The toons finally received their very own home in Mickey’s Toontown, the first all-new land added to Disneyland park in over 20 years. Featuring a gag-filled downtown inspired by the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the cartoon-like design was influenced by the personalities of the characters living there, with Donald taking up residence in a boat while Chip and Dale inhabited an acorn tree. With Aladdin hitting theatres in the summer, a Royal Caravan parade made its way to Main Street, U.S.A., while the Tahitian Terrace in Adventureland was replaced by a new restaurant, Aladdin’s Oasis. As Mickey Mouse celebrated his 65th birthday, the “Partners” statue featuring Walt Disney that sits in Disneyland park’s Central Plaza was also dedicated.

1994Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin welcomed its first fares on the one-year anniversary of Mickey’s Toontown. This innovative dark ride featured vehicles that could be rotated in any direction or speed. One of the biggest parades in Disneyland park history debuted, as “The Lion King Celebration” showcased unique Audio-Animatronics and larger-than-life puppets along with more than 100 live performers. The park said goodbye to a longtime favorite, as the Skyway attraction connecting Fantasyland and Tomorrowland closed after 38 years of operation. 1994 also brought the spring break which saw Disneyland park go Pog Wild and Rollerblade Crazy.

1995Indiana Jones Adventure (TM), the thrilling off-road journey through an ancient temple, blazed its way to Disneyland park. On July 17, a time capsule was buried in the Sleeping Beauty Castle forecourt containing items that would not be revealed until the park’s 80th anniversary. The dance club Videopolis was transformed into Fantasyland Theatre, featuring the all-new stage show “The Spirit of Pocahontas.” The Disneyland Resort expanded to include the Disneyland Hotel’s next-door neighbor, the Pan Pacific Hotel, which was transformed into the Disneyland Pacific Hotel (and later Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel).

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.
Premiere of 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' at Disneyland Park
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.”

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.

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.

2006 – In addition to the changes to Pirates of the Caribbean, this year was also a year of firsts as Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort debuted. Disney’s Princess Fantasy Faire and the Jedi Training Academy also debuted this year, allowing guests the opportunity to meet with Disney royalty or battle Darth Vader and Darth Maul.

2007 – Two major re-imagined adventures on the high seas came to Disneyland park: the return of the submarines and the debut of Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. The debut of Pirate’s Lair occurred in the same year as the premiere at Disneyland park of the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, “At World’s End.” Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage opened to rave reviews as the subs had been missing from Tomorrowland for nine years.

2008Toy Story Mania! inspired by Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story” films debuted at Disney’s California Adventure park. In Adventureland, the Enchanted Tiki Room celebrated 45 years of singing birds, plants and totem poles. The year 2008 also saw the return of a re-imagined Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough attraction.

2009 – New magic was added to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers visited the Disneyland Resort to celebrate his fourth NBA championship.

2010 – Captain EO returned almost two decades after it first debuted. Opening day was quite a scene as fans came out in complete EO garb to see the show.


  • I just spent my 55 birthday (July 18, 1955) at Disneyland and all the magic came true. Had dinner at the Blue Bayou. Loved the new World of Color show. I love Disney and hope it stays to the imagination theme. That is what makes Disneyland different from other amusement parks. Would love to see some restaurants like 50’s Cafe and Sci-Fi Drive-In come to California Adventure. Would really give more choices of places to eat and they are just Disney greats with imagination surrounding you while you eat. My all time favorite ride is Carousel . See you next year Disneyland!

  • With 55 years of magic already made, I cannot wait to see what the upcoming years will bring. Way to go Disney!!

  • We were there on opening day so now you know how old I must be! I have loved every single new ride but I especially miss the flying saucers. They were so much fun! Many times Walt Disney would be there and give us a wave. I miss him most of all. Thank you Walt for giving us kids a place where we never feel older!

    • Very cool – you’re one of the lucky few 🙂

  • My mom, Mary Adams was the 50 Millionth guest in August 1965. Our whole family had an amazing day at Disneyland. It is a memory that we have always cherished.

  • I want to say I was there for the 25 Anv. In 1980. I felt so lucky becouse my aunt was also celebrate my birthday. I had so much fun and the castmembers were so sweet and fun. Thanks for the wanderful memorys. Have a blessed Day. Annette & Family

  • Great post this is. We’ve been in Anaheim in 2007. We loved the classic atmosphere that’s around there.

  • I have been to Disneyland 8 time and my Trip in October will Be my 9th. But the thing that is going to make this trip the best is that i will be going with My Husband and two little Girls for the first time!! i am so excited to take them to the Happiest place on earth and make new memories… Here’s to 55 more years!!

  • Ooh, Heather, you really summed it all up here! You always have the most fun posts here on the Blog! Thanks for giving us such a comprehensive timeline. Happy 55th Disneyland!!!

    • Thanks, Thor!

  • 2011 – Disney finally makes the right decision and releases their masterpiece Song Of The South. Disney is widely praised for giving younger generations the opportunity to see this excellent film that they have been deprived of for too long.

  • I’m 55 years old(same age as Disneyland) and I am a HUGE Disney fan. HUGE. I am headed out in September to stay at the Grand Californian with my sister. I’m still an Annual Passholder. I’m like a kid in a candy shop when I get there. I have grown children that cannot keep up with me. Keeps me young and the anticipation of getting there is exciting too. There is no other place like it on earth for me.

  • You left out some key moments in Disneyland History, what about ‘The Year(s) of a Million Dreams’? The Dream Suite? For those of us who were lucky enough to win some of the prizes and stay the night in the Dream Suite, that time in Disneyland History was our dream come true! I can tell you speaking for myself, it was the best 24 hours of my life when I was a guest in the Dream Suite. Taking a shower in Disneyland, sleeping in Disneyland, and waking up to the sound of the announcement to cast members that the park would be opening soon and that all vehicles needed to clear the stage. For me it was truly a dream come true. There are no words to describe what it feels like for me every time I enter the original Magic Kingdom. As an annual pass holder for the last 6 years I have been lucky enough to be a part of Disneyland history! Thank you Disneyland for all the magic you have brought to me and the ones I love over the past 55 years.

    • Thanks, Craig! There are just too many good things to cover them all here 🙂 I’m glad you mentioned some of the things that didn’t make it into the post. I’ve been inside the Dream Suite, but I’ve never had the opportunity to spend the night. That’s a very cool memory, I’m sure.

  • Born and raised in Los Angeles we aways got to visit Disneyland at least once a year. So many great memories even if we did use up all our “E” tickets first and would beg for more. Now my husband and kids live in Florida and one time when the kids were young I took them to visit family in Los Angeles and of course we had to visit Disneyland they could not wait to tell their dad about the NEW ride at Disneyland called the MATTERHORN. My husband and I had to laugh, We told them it has always been there but that they were finally tall enough to ride it so it would seem new to them! Seeing Disneyland or Disney World though a child’s eyes is the BEST way to enjoy a amusement park.

  • Loved it, when I got to go. Hope to go again. hurried through and missed part of it Im sure. grand children were very little and it was very hot. alot of work and detail on the program. enjoyed it.

  • What an excellent way to look back on happy times! Though it took a little bit for me to get into events I remember seeing firsthand, each was a wonderful trip down memory lane! Hopefully, my husband and I (who are CA natives) will get to come back this year for the 55th and bring our first son! He’s not even a year old, but he needs to experience what we did early, as often as we can, since we’re not stationed nearby! 🙂

    • Glad you liked it. Hopefully you can recreate some of those great memories with your son.

  • Whenever my parents took me to Disneyland in the early 1960s, I always went straight to Tomorrowland and the Flying Saucers. The sensation of floating above the ground was wondrous and magical to this little girl growing up in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. I suffered my first broken heart when the ride was eventually removed, but the blessing of a child’s short attention span allowed me to move on. I’ve had, and lost, a number of “favorites” in the years since, but the magic of Disneyland has never diminished. For me, it’ll always be the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

    • Thanks for sharing, Andrea.

  • i love this time line. I wish the people mover could come back, its a great way to relax while deciding what to ride/see next.

  • wish i had been there for all of this, but i’m not that old.
    love disneyland, can’t wait for the next 55 years!

  • I can remember when Disneyland opened I wa 10 and my MOM ended up making many trips to Anaheim with my friends and what a great time we had. The main street general store where the party line was. The flower vendor. It is all happy memories.

    • I love to hear the happy memories. Thanks.

  • You missed my favorite attraction opening: Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland, opened in May 1960

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