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Vintage Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom Park Marks 20 Years

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

Surprise! That was the theme when the Walt Disney World Resort celebrated its 20th anniversary back in 1991. At Magic Kingdom Park, the new Surprise Celebration Parade featured Disney character balloons that towered 35-40 feet in the air and celebrated festivals from around the world.

Surprise Celebration Parade at Magic Kingdom Park

And to kick the Surprise Celebration into high gear, the 20th anniversary enticed guests with the new advertising campaign “20 New Reasons to Visit Walt Disney World.” One of those reasons was the “Surprise in the Skies” show at Epcot as depicted below in a magazine advertisement.

Magazine Advertisement Featuring 'Surprise in the Skies' at Epcot

Magic Kingdom Park was also rededicated on Oct. 1, 1991, by Michael Eisner and Roy Disney. The festivities were capped with a supersonic surprise flyover for all in attendance. With a shindig this big, I’m sure this was one surprise party everyone knew about!

Anniversary Celebration at Magic Kingdom Park


  • I believe they have already stated that MK will have some special fireworks special cupcakes and special merchandise is all for the BIG 4 0 …. very sad!!!

  • This just reminds me how much more better Disney used to be 🙂

  • I will also be at the Magic Kingdom on Oct. 1 2011. Less then 2 weeks. WOW. Like a kid again. I usually come to WDW for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at this time anyway so this is great timing.

  • Oh how I miss all the trees on Mainstreet and around the castle. It gave it a much “softer” look.

  • I turned 40 this year and will be thrilled to go to Magic Kingdom on 10/1/11 to celebrate its 40th

  • OMG, this was the year I first visited WDW! I remember seeing signs for the 20th anniversary, and I remember that ad campaign in magazines, since it was those ads that made me ask my parents when they were taking me, lol!!

  • Will these celebrations be going on just for October 1st, or for the whole month? I won’t get there until the 14th but I hope to share in the celebrations.

  • My wife and I were there in 1991 either in august or sept.Since this has been 20 years ago,I don’t remember if there werer any year long celebrations going on or not.Usually there are,so there probably was.nevertheless, I was there.

  • Love the past anniversary blogs – keep them coming!
    I seem to remember those giant balloon/floats being used for a while? Am I crazy, wait don’t answer that 🙂 We weren’t there in 91 or 92 but were there in the fall of 93 and I remember something like these in a parade – need to dig out my old scrapbooks! What anniversary was it that they painted the castle like a birthday cake? I have a lot of pics from that time too 🙂 Missing the 40th, but we’ll see you real soon in December!

  • I was digging thru some boxes & found all our reservations for our trip in 1991. Leaving NY tomorrow morning for my 3rd trip to Disney this year & 2 more trips planned for the next 3 months

  • I cannot WAIT to be in the park for its 40th birthday – we both turned 40 this year – I celebrated my 40th at the MK earlier this month, and I’ll be there to help the MK celebrate just before running the Wine and Dine Half Marathon on 10/1. What a great day!!

  • Yes we were there and it was so exciting. My son at age 7 walked through the turnstiles and the lights and sound started going off. He received a cap with the flashing lights across it. He loved it and still has the cap. Thanks Disney for the great memories.

  • Also in the first picture you can see the beautiful trees that used to be in the hub. Sad that those are gone as well. 🙁

  • I worked at WDW in 1992, Liberty Square, and my name tag had a 20 on it! How is that Vintage already….. I must be old! 🙂

  • Wow, seems like an amazing celebration (I remember the 25th vividly – and still have some of my favorite memories of the parks from those years).

    Looks like Team Disney Orlando went all out for the 20th. Now that you’re hitting the big 4-0, a huge milestone, I can’t wait to see how you will top it! With all the advances in technology, and the amazing growth that the Walt Disney World Resort has seen in the 20 years since, I can only imagine that it is going to be an amazing, year-long celebration 🙂

  • I was there for the 15, 20 15 and 30 celebrations I can’t wait until visiting during the 40th!!!

  • I’m there on Oct 1st as well. I haven’t heard anything about what they might do for the 40th, and am really hoping to see something special.

  • I’m absolutely loving these anniversary entries and photos. Hoping this means October 1st will be fantastic this year. I’m actually encouraging everyone to dress 70’s in honor of the opening year, 1971. If you don’t have any 70’s clothes, just dress up like you’re from a piece of old WED concept art! The 40th Anniversary is a fantastic occasion, and a perfect time to dress for the part.

    I can’t wait to see everyone there on October 1st!

    Discussion Kingdom/WDW Retro Day

  • I planned my vacation b/c our passes were ending and we could go to Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT. I knew we were going to go to another park, but about a month ago, I learned we were going to be there for the 40th anniversary…and well that set it – we will be at Magic Kingdom on Oct. 1 2011! I’m beyond excited. I’m counting down the days…booked us a lunch at the park. Oooh, I can’t wait to see what Magic Disney has in store for us all that day! Happy 40th MK!

  • It’s sad that anniversary’s are not celebrated like that anymore.

  • i was there then for my first trip!!! Now in 2011 I am planning my families third trip! Creating Disney Memories with my girls…life doesn’t get any better

  • I was hoping it would be a few week celebration… we will be there the 22nd to the 29th…. just gonna miss it! =( Still very excited for our trip! see ya real soon!

  • In the first picture you can still see the Skyway behind the castle. I mis that so much!
    Imagine that you could have fly over the 7 dwarfs mine train hill and see the bautifull forest from the sky. Unfotunatily that magic will never return 🙁

  • i’m going to be at the MK on 10/1/11… i can’t wait to see what’s in store for the 40th!

  • i have a few pictures from that very parade on my flickr

  • I am really looking forward to being in the parks on October 1st. All this archive material is really fun to look at, and makes me even more excited.
    At first, I didn’t even realize it was going to be Disney’s 40th. And to think I was looking forward to the Shooting Arcade being refurbished and reopened on the 1st.

  • It is really so much fun to look back and remember these magical years. I was a kid in 1991, and I was so excited to see an appearance by Roger Rabbit in the Surprise parade. Thanks so much for doing such a great job of digging through the archives to bring back these great memories.

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