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Vintage Walt Disney World: The Tencennial Celebration

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

As we get ready to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort on Oct. 1, 2011, I thought it would be fun to spend the next few weeks taking a look at past anniversary celebrations.

Vintage Walt Disney World: The Tencennial Celebration

On Oct. 1, 1981, the Walt Disney World Resort marked its first decade by launching the Tencennial Celebration. Dubbed as the “Happiest Happy Birthday Ever”, there was even a new birthday song written for the celebration that was performed daily in the Tencennial Show on the Tomorrowland stage. Back in 1981, the number of Cast Members working at Walt Disney World Resort had grown from 5,000 in 1971 to more than 15,000. (Today, we have more than 62,000 Cast Members working in Florida.) Below, Cast Members gather at the Hub in Magic Kingdom Park to celebrate the 10-year milestone.

Vintage Walt Disney World: The Tencennial Celebration

For this yearlong party, the centerpiece of the celebration was the new Tencennial Parade, which saluted each of the Magic Kingdom lands. Every day, a Guest was selected to be the Grand Marshal of the parade and rode aboard a special electric birthday car. Very environmentally friendly for 1981, don’t ya think?

Vintage Walt Disney World: The Tencennial Celebration


  • My husband and I will be visiting from Sept.24th through Oct.2nd to celebrate my 40th birthday. We extended our trip because we couldn’t bear it if we missed something special for the MK 40th. I’ve been there for the bicentennial, EPCOT opening year, 25th anniversary, 100 year and millennium celebrations. Disney never disappoints when reaching a milestone and we hope this will be no exception!

  • Will there be a year long celebration for the 40th birthday? I am on year 4 of celebrating dreams. I ready to celebrate a birthday.

  • We will be there before Oct 1st! Hope end of September you will be celebrating a little too!

  • Will they be celebrating for a while or just that day? We don’t come till the end of October but we would love to celebrate too!

  • My Dad took me to Walt Disney World in 1971 and every year after and I continue the tradition with my family. So this year will be our 40th family anniversary vacation as well. I remind my children that when I started to go to The Magic Kingdom that is all that existed. There was no Epcot, Hollywood Studios or the Animal Kingdom.

  • We will be in Disney World from Oct 6 through Oct 11. We will be there to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary. What better way to celebrate ours when Disney is celebrating as well. Looking forward for the celebration.

  • First time I went was back in the 70’s. Everything was still kind of new. Not as many rides but we still had fun. Also went when the castle was decorated as a cake. Glad I got to see that in my life time. Nephew and his family are there now. Took their daughter for the first time. Would loved to have seen her face.

  • I was there!!! And I share my Birthday with WDW October 1st, and this year I will be there celebrating with Winnie the Pooh on “OUR” special Day, Woo Hoo!!!! Cant wait to see the extra surprises!!!

  • My family and I will be there Nov. 18-22 I hope we get to enjoy some of the magic they have planned. If not we still get to enjoy the magic of just being there, and if we do, that is just icing on the cake!

  • This was happening during our first ever visit to WDW (from the UK). Can still remember the parade music: “Tencennial, tencennial!”.

  • My husband and I were also at WDW the first week of Oct. ’97 for our honeymoon. It was fun being there for the 25th anniv. That pink castle was so PINK!

  • oh I Hope the celebrations will last a year so that I can go celebrate next summer 😀

  • I have been there for the 25th anniversary. I hope I would be there again for this 40th with my whole family!

  • Loved the Tencennial Shows-especially the one in the Tomorrowland Theater-theme “It’s a year long and a smile wide”-I still remember

  • I turn 40 on September 14, so I’m only a couple of weeks older than WDW. My mom told me the other day that my family visited the Magic Kingdom in January of 1972, so I’ve been coming to WDW my whole life! I may be coming back this January, either to visit or stay longer as a intern (crossing my fingers!). Happy Birthday, WDW!

  • First visit was during Christmas 1972!!! Looking forward to taking my children and grandchildren along with the same husband!! I went with in 1972. We will be visiting in March 2012. I have had many visits since that first one and look forward to sharing the wonderful world of Disney to all my grands!!!

  • we are there sept 24th through oct 1st too. thinking about extending one more day so that we can check out the 40th anniversay events. stayin at the dolphin for the first time.

  • We have season passes and plan to be there for the celebration, my daughter also turns 40 this year!

  • I celebrated my 40th birthday last week, and we are bringing the family over on the 16th October for the first time to the USA. I hope we will be able to join in the celebrations if they are still on during the fortnight following 16th October!!

  • I am going for the weekend with hopes of seeing something, but just wanted to be there for Oct 1st if nothing else. Very excited!!

  • We took our 1 year old daughter the month WDW opened and have been bringing our family back ever since, in fact, will be going again soon with our grandchildren as well. We are a Disney family!!

  • Son is getting married at Boardwalk, Seabreeze Point, Oct 4…reception to follow at Living Seas with dessert party at time of fireworks…look for our party.

  • I still remember the Music from the 25th anniversary parade, and the 15th years anniversary parade.
    “it’s time to remember the magic…” and “15 years, we are having a party…”

  • I was wondering if there is a book out there about Disney Advertising? If not, then it would be a fun idea. I love looking back through vintage andertisments. 🙂

  • My husband & I still have a 10th Anniversary Christmas ornament for our Christmas Tree!!

  • Is that a new monarail train at Disney World?

  • Will the 40th Anniversary be celebrated all year. I will be coming to WDW in March for my honeymoon. It would be great if the even was going on then.

  • Are you doing celebrations all month long in October? My family and I will be there the 19th.

  • My wife and I are very excited for MK’s 40th.

    We will be at the HM 40th event the day/night before.
    Then, we will get up early to be at MK for the opening.

  • we are there from sept 24th to 8th oct so hopefully we will celebrate with them.

  • Our last day at WDW will be October 1st…but I hope to see a little Magic as we are coming to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary on Sept. 29th – and our kids’ first visit (our daughter just turned 6, our son turns 8 on Sept. 20th). I hope our week will be filled with Magic leading up to Oct. 1 (our last day – bummer). So it is our celebration too…(My birthday is Oct. 3rd so LOTS to celebrate) 🙂

  • Look who is forty! Congrats WDW and may you grow forever (never be finished).

  • My wife Kathleen and I were there for our Honeymoon in Dec’1991.It was the 20th year celibration we still have a souvenir coin from the parade that has roger rabbits face on it and a big 20.This will be our 20th anniversery in Dec.also.Can’t wait to return soon. Thanks John S.

  • I’ve never seen that poster/ad before. Very fun to see the retro art of it all and interesting to see what elements they included on it. Is that Princess Diana though? 🙂

  • It’s too bad that we’re hearing about surprises now, after several months of silence on the subject. I waited to plan my fall trip until after the D23 Expo, assuming that at the very latest we’d hear something then. Nothing.

    And so, I booked another date that worked better with our schedule because I didn’t want to be disappointed by being in the MK and to have no observation at all. Now it looks like there will be some observation of some sort, but it’s too late to change my plans.

    A risk I took, true, but still disappointing. Especially since the question has been asked on the Blog repeatedly.

  • What celebrations will be held for this years 40th Birthday on 10/1?

    • Hi Lauren. 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.

  • Whoops, got the year wrong. It was ’97 we were there for our honeymoon. We also went the following year.

  • My wife and I were there on our Honeymoon in ’98 when they transformed Cinderella Castle into the giant birthday cake. That was very cool!

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