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Vintage Walt Disney World: The Teenage Years

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

When Walt Disney World Resort turned 15, a giant topiary birthday cake marked the occasion in the Hub right in front of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park.

Vintage Walt Disney World: The Teenage Years

This seven-foot-tall cake measured 41 feet in circumference and featured more than 11,000 live plants. The “15” candle on top was 30 inches high and made from Scarletta begonias – sure beats the wax kind I blew out as a kid. The topiary cake was changed with the seasons as chrysanthemums were installed for Thanksgiving and poinsettias for Christmas.

Vintage Walt Disney World: The Teenage Years

But the showcase of the celebration was the introduction of the WDW-GGM (Walt Disney World Gift Giver Machine). This computer awarded birthday gift surprises to guests entering the park every 15 seconds. A variety of prizes such as birthday visors, birthday pins, Walt Disney Pictures videos, Annual Passes and beach towels were awarded daily, and every day one lucky guest won a 1987 Chevy Cavalier. Winning guests received a voucher to order the car (or an S-10 pickup truck, their choice) at their hometown Chevrolet dealer. Any guesses on the value of a 1987 Chevy Cavalier?

Vintage Walt Disney World: The Teenage Years


  • I had a car like that and it was dubbed The Bassmobile!

  • Love this post! I remember winning a pin at Magic Kingdom on the last family trip we took to WDW. Maybe you can add in a photo of the EPCOT Center cake. Great memories!

  • I wish I could have gone during the 15th aniversary. I did get to go for the 25th. They had decorated the castle to look like the Candyland castle it was pink. Very cool.

  • I was a ticket taker at the Magic Kingdom entrance during the fifteen year celebration. It was a lot of fun giving out all those prizes. I even got to give tbe car away twice.

  • Like David, I still vividly remember the song from the 15-year celebration. “15 years of magic, 15 years of fun … 15 years of wonder, we’re gonna party with everyone.”

    I was only 7 years old on that visit, yet I still remember that tune.

  • Remember Nate, you said we were clueless, not us.

    I can’t wait to be down there at the end of October to see what is in store for the 40th party. I was down for the 20th, 25th, 30th, and 35th.

  • The “15 Years” logo is still one of the best-designed logos Disney has ever done.

  • We’ll be there in Oct. Can’t believe it’s been 40 years since WDW happened! What did people do before that? I remember my best friend(now sister-in-law) was there for the opening in 1971- I was so jealous! We’re taking my grandson this time for his first visit!

  • What a step back in time – the spaceship earth is timeless, but the car in front instantly dates the image.

    @Kristine – that’s awesome, contrats on winning the car!

    @Nate – can’t wait to see your posts about the 40th. Looking forward to living vicariously through the blog…

  • I won the Chevy Cavalier! I was a teenager and the whole experience was unbelievable. I was in the daytime parade and the entire day was so exciting. 🙂

    • Awesome!

  • I turn 40 on the 11th so I asked for season pass. Which I got on mother’s day. So I will be celebrating there that week. I was there for the 25th that was cool I took my daughter for the first time. But it doesn’t seem like they are doing anything special. 🙁

  • Of all the parades at MK over the years, the 15 year one was the BEST!!!!

  • I remember winning a pin. What I remember even more is my dad let a kid go in front of him and that kid won the car…

  • Is this a clue?!? We will be there on October 1st to find out!!

    • No, no clue. I’m clueless.
      I’m just sharing fun history.

  • Would love to hear of what is planned for the 40th!!!!

  • in 1987 the caviler had 24 differnt packages you could order form the factory.. The least expensive was the C27 package which was the 2 Door coupe with a 4 Cyl. retail was $7,255. The most expensive was the E67 package which was a RS convertable coupe which retailed for $14,106

  • We were there!! Our first year at Disney, I can still remember the music of the parade,
    ‘Come on everybody rapping to the beat put your hands up, we’re having a party!! Fifteen years The partys just begun!!’

  • I have a video of the parade and often the song gets stuck in my head “Fifteens years, we’re having a party” it was a great time to be a kid

  • I’m sure the 40th will be even bigger!
    Can’t wait to see what Disney has planned.

  • OMGosh, this was the year we went to spend our Honeymoon. Even though we had gotten married in 85′, we had to wait for a proper honeymoon because my husband was in school etc. We camped at Fort Wilderness, and up until our first full family trip in 2009, it was my favourite trip. I won a visor, and I have napkins, and all my tickets that didn’t win lol Disney to me is a place that truly trasends everything that is good in the world. It is the place to go as a single, couple and family, my heart warms thinking of every trip I ever took there. laa laa laa 15 years.. Were having a party, ( thanks David for the remind) I am going to have to dig out my album from that trip now.

  • How about telling us what’s in store for the 40th?

  • Look at that sweet ride! HAHA! I still remember the parade song… “…15 years… we’re having a party, at Walt Disney World…”

  • That looked very tastfull, much better then the castle cake and the Epcot wand I remember. What will they think of next, a big blue hat in front of the Chines Theatre in the Studios?
    Just kidding.
    I always find it special when they give a “birthday party” for the park, it´s the egnolagment of the love I have for the park.

  • The real question is: What is Disney doing for the 40th anniversary?

    • Hi James. I’m told from my sources over at Magic Kingdom Park that there are fun surprises planned, but that they will stay a surprise until October 1.

  • My first (of many) trips to WDW was during the 15 anniversary celebration, I was 10. My little 5 year old brother was one of the lucky recipients of the prizes they were awarding at the gates. He won a pin, and I was so mad because I had let him go in front of me in line!! But that jealousy vanished immediately after I entered the parks!!

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