Disneyland Unveils Global 50th Anniversary Celebration
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Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth, to Mark Its 50th Birthday with Unprecedented Global Celebration
May 5 (5/5) was a truly happy day in the Happiest Place on Earth. In front of Disneylands beloved Sleeping Beauty Castle, a special event was about to unfold. Before an hour had passed, the world would finally know the eagerly awaited details of the 50th Birthday celebration of Walt Disneys original magic kingdom.
There was a bustle in the air before the ceremony began. Cast TV beamed rare live coverage to the many working members of the Disneyland cast who could not attend in person. Resort President Matt Ouimet genially greeted guests and media. A large seating area had been set up in front of a festive stage. Members of virtually every division of the vast Walt Disney Company were represented in the crowd. A mind boggling array of credentials, badges and IDs were dangling from lanyards, or pinned to breast pockets. In the back, photographers and writers jostled in position; the gallery was full.
As the five minute warnings were announced, the excitement ratcheted up by degrees. Executives began filling in the empty front rows. Representatives of the Disney Cruise Line chatted with officials from Imagineering. Old friends from across the country and around the world had gathered to celebrate this very special occasion. Then, a hush fell as the familiar music of Main Street faded to silence.
Two large Jumbotron screens, flanking the stage, burst into glorious black and white. The word "Disneyland" zoomed forward, as the announcer invited all to share Walt Disneys dream. And there was Walt himself on screen, saying, "Now we want to share with you our latest and greatest dream " A video montage followed, detailing not only Disneylands opening, but its early years as well. Walts voice was heard again, intoning, "To all who come to this happy place, welcome "
As the music swelled, live dancers, dressed in colorful gold, red, and blue costumes filled the stage. They sang and danced a song with the simple melody of Brother Bear's "Welcome to Our Family Time." As they did, the images of Disneyland dissolved into a kaleidoscope of views of Disney Resorts around the world, including the Disney Cruise Line, and Hong Kong Disneylands construction site. The song, dance, and video climaxed with a burst of daytime fireworks, launched from Sleeping Beauty Castle.
An announcer introduced Bob Iger, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Walt Disney Company. He acknowledged a warm round of applause, and said, "On behalf of the Walt Disney Company, it is our great pleasure to welcome you this morning." He enthused over the occasion, referring to it as "our first ever global celebration." He pointed out that it was Walt Disney himself who had envisioned this place-and that since 1955 Disneyland has been a part of the fabric of America. He then suggested that a look at Disneylands opening day might be in order-and who better to do that than the man who had hosted that landmark television broadcast, Art Linkletter.
There was a big round of applause for the "93 years young" television legend. As the dapper Linkletter, dressed in pale blue and gray surveyed the crowd, his eyes twinkled. He smiled and said, "Thank you very much. After that introduction, you know how old I am. So when I say I am happy to be here, I am happy to be anywhere!" The crowd laughed heartily as he stood alone, commanding the empty stage. He went on to relate about his first visit to the Disneyland construction site-accompanied by Walt Disney himself. He admitted that he thought Walt was making a big mistake, though, in placing Disneyland so far away from everything.
But, Linkletter continued, he was proud to be chosen as the host for the opening television special. And he related that he personally selected his two co-hosts. One was popular light comedian Bob Cummings. The other "Who was that guy?" he asked. Oh yes. Film star Ronald Reagan.
"Now, here we are," he continued, "celebrating the 50th year. And there will be celebrations around the world." As he concluded his remarks, he said, "Have fun, and thanks for inviting me."
The next speaker was Jay Rasulo, President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. He acknowledged the previous speaker, saying, "Thank you Art. Its a tremendous privilege to have you here today." Rasulo then went into a discussion of an event that he described as unprecedented. For the first time ever, all ten Disney resorts, spanning the globe, would join together in an 18 month celebration of "the park that started it all." He lauded the Disneyland cast through the years, as well as the designers and artists who had created the magic. But his focus was on Disneylands global salute. Indeed, he promised we would soon be on a journey a journey that would start with a visit with Disneylands Ambassador to the World, Becky Murphy.