Walt Disney World, the happiest place on earth, will turn 40 years old tomorrow, October 1, with the Magic Kingdom marking the occasion in consciously lower-key events than previous anniversaries. But even low-key events are sure to bring some extra magic to the park that opened on October 1, 1971.
The park will open at 9 AM, but Mickey and Minnie will lead a character procession down Main Street USA to the front of Cinderella Castle just before 10 AM followed by a special presentation including a few remarks from the park’s higher-ups and sing-a-long performance to “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The day will also close with an equally magically moment thanks to a special presentation of the “Wishes” fireworks display.
Throughout the day, Magic Kingdom guests will also be treated to extra surprises and treats like limited edition merchandise, special park maps, buttons, pins (we’re sure!), cupcakes and a chance to meet with some of Disney’s artists. And, the day may even include a few meet-and-greet opportunities with some hard-to-come-by characters!
And while this is still sure to make the day feel extra-special, it is certainly more understated than one would expect from the most popular recreational resort on the planet. So, why?
According to Rick Sylvain, Walt Disney World’s Print and Online Publicity Director says, “While 40 is an important milestone, our focus continues to be on our guests and the memories they have made, are making and will be making in Disney parks.” Their attention is focused on the future.
And one thing that may strike you as different already if you’re attending the celebrations tomorrow is the Walt Disney World Transportation and Ticket Center. No longer will guests find the parking lot named after classic characters (Minnie, Chip ‘n’ Dale, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto and the Seven Dwarves). Instead, guests will park in one of six Heroes sections (Aladdin, Mulan, Peter Pan, Rapunzel, Simba, Woody) or one of six Villains sections (Cruella, Hook, Jafar, Scar, Ursula, Zurg). Say hello to the future of Disney already!
But just for fun, let’s take a quick look at the past. On October 1, 1971, the official attendance is listed as 10,000 guests with approximately 5,000 Disney cast members working that day. Since then, the Magic Kingdom has only been closed five times, for hurricanes Charley (1986), Floyd (1999), Frances (2004) and Wilma (2005) as well as for the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
And in a fact that continues to amaze me – and perhaps anyone who has been to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland – Magic Kingdom swung open its gates 16 years after the much smaller Disneyland in Anaheim, California had opened.
So be sure to celebrate a little magic tomorrow, whether you watch your favorite Disney movie at home, go see The Lion King 3D in theaters or you’re lucky enough to be in Magic Kingdom for the magical day to remember.