James Shillinglaw | May 26, 2015 4:19 PM ET
What Would Walt Think?
Last week Disneyland Resort kicked off its Diamond Celebration, a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Disneyland. Now the theme park resort was actually opened on July 17, 1955, but Disney being Disney, they are beginning to celebrate in May and may not complete their festivities until early next year (there's no end date for the Diamond Celebration).
I was lucky enough to be invited to this year's kick off press event last week, and ended up taking my daughter Carolyn, who graduated from Tulane earlier this month. Going to Disney events like this has become somewhat of a tradition for us, so she's a veteran of such celebrations.
Now I've been to Disneyland's 45th and 50th anniversary events and it never ceases to amaze me what Disney comes up with to honor its founder. As the story goes, Walt Disney created Disneyland because he wanted to have a nice place to go with his two daughters. He found traditional carnivals rather seedy, so he created the ultimate themed carnival in Disneyland.
Then again, Walt Disney once said his company was all started by a mouse (though to be completely accurate, his first character was actually a rabbit named Oswald, which he lost in a rights dispute). But Walt's theme park empire began with Disneyland, though he never lived to see the opening of his second grand theme park, Walt Disney World on Oct. 1, 1971.
Disneyland officials are using this Diamond Celebration to reflect on Walt's legacy. Indeed, the three main new shows created for the event all reflect on Walt Disney's achievements, with a healthy dose of the company's more recent creations thrown in to boot.
In Disney California Adventure, the second park introduced Feb. 8, 2001, a new World of Color sound, water, lights and fireworks show called "Celebrate: The Wonderful World of Walt Disney," made its debut on May 20. Not surprisingly given that name, the spectacular focuses specifically on the evolution of Walt Disney and his many accomplishments.
PHOTO: The new "Celebrate" World of Color debuted at Disney California Adventure. (Photos by James Shillinglaw)
The evening show, "hosted" by Neil Patrick Harris, with lots of Walt himself thrown in, is projected against giant jets of water, as well as the huge Mickey's Fun Wheel Ferris wheel. It's an extravaganza of light, sound, water and fire, and well worth the trip just to see the show on its own. Neil Patrick Harris was actually there on May 20, though future visitors will have to make do with a projected version of him on huge jets of water.
In Disneyland itself, the Diamond Celebration is being recognized with two new events: a new parade called "Paint the Night," which replaces but evokes the old "Electrical Parade," and a new fireworks show called "Disneyland Forever."
PHOTO: "Paint the Night" is the new Disneyland parade down Main Street.
Disneyland's "Paint the Night" parade features a series of brilliantly lit floats moving down Main Street, starting with one devoted to Tinker Bell, followed by others with characters from "Toy Story," "Aladdin," "Frozen" and many other Disney animated films. It all ends up with Mickey himself, with rays of light shooting from behind his head. It's an incredible combination of lights and music, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did my daughter.
"Disney Forever" is the park's new evening fireworks program, unique in that for the first time you can be almost anywhere in Disneyland to see and hear the entire show. Once again, the fireworks display kicks off, as it has in the past, with Tinker Bell, and there are heavy doses of Mickey and other Disney characters throughout. But it takes the technology of fireworks shows to another dimension, and we were very entertained.
PHOTO: The new nightly fireworks show is called "Disneyland Forever."
On the other hand, my daughter lives for Disney rides…and we were able to experience plenty of those, some classic and some relatively new. We began our visit to Disneyland Resort with a full day (well until 2 p.m.) at Disney California Adventure, where we quickly knocked off California Soarin', the relatively new "Frozen" show, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the California Screamin' roller coaster, the Golden Zephyr rocket ship ride, and Radiator Springs Racers, a ride themed around the Disney animated film "Cars," which I had never experienced before…a great addition!
We also spend the afternoon, and part of the following day, going on the Indiana Jones Adventure, a great ride that's now 20 years old (hard to believe!), the classic Pirates of the Caribbean (now with Johnny Depp featured), Thunder Mountain, Star Tours and a few others. But we saved the best for last: A return to the classic Matterhorn Bobsleds Ride, which has been partly refurbished for the Diamond Celebration and now features a Abominable Snowman who threatens riders (twice). We also visited the Haunted Mansion, which has also been "renewed," specifically with one character whose head now disappears and reappears in his lantern.
Finally, we experienced It's a Small World yet again, despite the danger of getting that song into our heads, but mostly because it was the only ride we could get on during the 24-hour Disneyland Diamond Celebration opening day on May 22. Indeed, the park was absolutely mobbed with Disney aficionados eager to join in the celebration.
It's always enlightening to be in on these Disney celebrations, especially as the company keeps getting bigger. When Walt Disney created Disneyland, he basically had an animation and live action movie studio, with no theme parks. He then decided to expand with his massive Walt Disney World project, but never lived to see its opening. Disney as a company followed that by opening EPCOT, Disney Hollywood Studios (former called Disney MGM Studios), Disney Animal Kingdom, and Disney California Adventure, all in the U.S.
Abroad, Disney had expanded to Disneyland Tokyo (the first international park), Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Paris, Disney Cruise Line, escorted tour operator Adventures by Disney and Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii. And next year the company is poised to open Disneyland Shanghai. It's all come a long way from that original park in the orange groves of Anaheim.
I'm not exactly sure what Walt would think of this, but I'm sure he'd be amazed and pleased by what he began so modestly back in 1955. In just 60 years, Disney has grown into a mega-theme park, entertainment and media company that has the ability to create almost anything it sets its mind to doing. And it still hasn't lost the magic that Walt Disney had when he created his animated and live action films, as well as Disneyland itself.?
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Latest Travel News
Hotel & Resort
Cruise Line & Cruise Ship
Airlines & Airports
Destination & Tourism
Cruise Line & Cruise Ship
Airlines & Airports