Disneyland’s Five-0
Published Mar/Apr 2005

California’s storied theme park celebrates a half-century of mouse ears and family cheers.
By Sally S. Doran

Walt Disney was inspired a half-century ago to build a special amusement park in California–a place where adults and children would be amazed by a tropical forest, astonished by a fairy tale castle and astounded by sights of the space age.

Disney, a man of creativity, talent and perseverance, ran a successful movie studio where he put in a lot of hours. He also was father to two young girls and, as he once explained in an interview, he wanted to make something special for the precious hours he devoted to his children each Saturday.

So he put his mind and team of highly creative designers to work creating a one-of-a-kind amusement park, turning 60 acres of land on the outskirts of Los Angeles into the magical place he envisioned. The hard-working dad’s dream of spending quality time with his kids was realized when the gates of Disneyland opened in July 1955. Even a visionary such as Disney could not have imagined he had created the vacation destination for millions of families for five decades and counting.

Come Home Again

To honor 50 years of America’s beloved theme park, the Disney corporation has christened the celebration the Happiest Homecoming on Earth, with events centered at the Anaheim, Calif., park that started it all. The party officially begins May 5, as do global celebrations of the golden anniversary, which will span 18 months and feature special events at Disney parks in Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and on board the Disney Cruise Line.

In addition to celebrating a remarkable 50 years since opening, Disneyland's homecoming theme is a warm invitation to millions of guests to return and relive memories and create new ones.

“Disney parks are at the heart of a timeless tradition for millions of families,” said Jay Rasulo, the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts president. “They pass down their experiences from generation to generation.”

Whether experiencing Disneyland for the first or 50th time, visitors will be awed by the new look of some attractions and fall in love with the timeless favorites.

Sleeping Beauty Castle is shining anew, festooned with banners, precious stones, a gold finish and five turrets topped with regal crowns. Walt Disney’s Parade of Dreams will be all new and feature one of the largest casts of Disney characters and performers ever assembled. A new building in Tomorrowland will beckon visitors to grab an Astro Blaster and journey with Buzz Lightyear “To infinity and beyond.”

Nearly a decade before Johnny Depp was born, the original captain of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride stood on his ship’s deck and fired his pistol at his enemy. Today, that swarthy mechanical pirate of the beloved Disneyland ride is still as lifelike and entertaining as ever.

Sure, the new high-tech rides, like Indiana Jones Adventure, represent the modern era of thrill rides Disneyland has continually added to the park. But lines still snake around five-decade favorites, such as the Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan's Flight and Autopia, which entertain today’s computer-playing kids just as they did their black-and-white-TV-watching grandparents.

Bigger and Better

In 2001, a second theme park opened–Disney's California Adventure. It’s located just a quick skip across the esplanade from the gates of Disneyland. In celebration of all that the Golden State has to offer, the park is divided into four areas, including Paradise Pier with a Ferris wheel, roller coaster and carousel, and the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, which features the movie-themed attractions and the drop-your-jaw thrills of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

A short walk from the main entrance of both parks is Downtown Disney, an entertainment complex with shopping, dining, live music and other entertainment. And Disney offers three nearby resorts: the Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier Hotel and the luxurious Grand Californian Hotel, each near Disney's California Adventure.
more special events

The Happiest Homecoming Celebration will include:

• Remember. . . Dreams Come True is a new show that features music and never-before-seen fireworks.

• Disneyland: The First 50 Years showcases five decades of Disneyland memories, plus rare film footage of the evolution of the park from concept to reality.

• A revamped and more high-tech Space Mountain reopens in Disneyland January 2006.

• Block Party Bash at Disney’s California Adventure, travels throughout the park, stopping at every section so characters can mingle and dance with guests.

• Disney Cruise Line’s flagship Disney Magic will offer seven-night cruise vacations from the Port of Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera this summer. The 2,600-passenger ship is scheduled to sail 12 consecutive seven-night cruise vacations each Saturday from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, between May 28 and Aug. 19.

• Walt Disney World Resort pays tribute to the 50th anniversary with an entertainment feature imported from each Disney park around the world. At EPCOT, guests will be treated to a simulated flight over the Golden State as the popular California Adventure attraction Soarin’ opens.

Sally S. Doran is regional editor of Home & Away magazine’s Miami Valley edition.

Above: Beginning in May, Disneyland celebrates its golden anniversary with new parades, shows and attractions. ©2004 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

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