I have always loved Walt Disney World. Possibly because it’s the first Disney resort my parents took me to. Maybe it’s because I worked there in my mid-20s. Maybe it’s the fact that there are four parks instead of one or two. Or maybe it’s all because of this 4th of July Spectacular from 1988. That’s right, this special program aired in honor of America’s 212th Birthday! Of course, this being a Disney program, it was more than just the country that was being celebrated. 1988 marked the opening of Mickey’s Birthdayland at Magic Kingdom (which later became Toontown and now is an extension of Fantasyland called Storybook Circus), the Grand Opening of the Grand Floridian, and the opening of Maelstrom and the Norway Pavilion at Epcot. Here’s a commercial sharing the highlights of the program:
I have no idea why my parents taped the 4th of July Spectacular, but they did and I watched it often. Although part of the reason this video was special to me was because I loved the old commercials for Pert Plus, Doublemint Gum, and Baskin Robbins…but enough about that.
As I grew older, I recognized Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) playing with the Beach Boys at the Grand and thought that was pretty cool. In later years, I would visit Walt Disney World and see these locations for myself. So for me, the 4th of July Spectacular was connected to the Parks and the Parks were connected to the Spectacular and it left a strong, positive impression on my young heart.
Another thing I vividly remember, was visiting the different versions of Mickey’s Birthdayland. And while I know we attended his birthday celebration, I mostly remember watching this video. I loved seeing all of Mickey’s friends working together to plan the perfect party for him. It wasn’t nearly as terrifying as the Disney Afternoon show where Goofy gets stuck behind the giant metal door. When this special aired, it was in honor of his upcoming 60th birthday and this November, he’s turning 90! One final, silly note about the birthday celebration: my family doesn’t just sing “Happy Birthday” when that yearly date rolls around. No, we sing about six songs and one of them is the song from Mickey’s Birthdayland.
I could go on and on as I rewatch the Spectacular and remember more about this time in my childhood. If you’re interested in the full program, you can watch the video below. This is the best quality version I’ve found, so thank you to YouTuber WDWRLD for posting.
As always, Disney specials are full of surprise guests and top notch entertainment and 1988 was no exception. Be on the lookout for:
- Tempestt Bledsoe and Marc Summers
- Burt Reynolds
- Rita Moreno and Tommy Tune
- The Beach Boys and special guests The Fat Boys
- Carol Burnett
- Lee Greenwood
- Bert Convy
- Main Street Electrical Parade Television Debut
- “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys
- Willard Scott at the Maelstrom
- Tommy Tune
- Rita Moreno
- Michael Eisner
- Sandi Patty
Thank you for watching with me and reading about my childhood Disney memories. Happy 242nd Birthday America! We hope you have a wonderful day celebrating our nation’s Independence.