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Memories of Disneyland birthdays past

Memories of Disneyland birthdays past

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"A lot of people didn't believe in what we were doing...my brother had the worries of getting this money and fighting the bankers and things...but we ran out of money...a lot of people don't realize that we had some very serious problems here, keeping this going...getting it started...But at this time, ten years after opening, I want to join my brother in saying, 'Thanks to you people who have been here with us, and have been part of making this thing come across'..... But I just want to leave you with this thought...that it's just been sort of a dress rehearsal, and we're just getting started. So if any of you start resting on your laurels, just forget it."

---Walt Disney at the Tencennial Celebration at the Disneyland Hotel Magnolia Room, July 17, 1965

"We were the inheritors. We inherited the traditions established by Walt and Roy Disney...the many brilliant people at the studio and the dedicated Disney people at WED. We have been fortunate in being a part of extending these traditions at Disneyland...and then carrying them across the country to Walt Disney World. It's a time to remember that Disneyland was the Disney organization's first venture in a totally new concept of person-to-person family entertainment. We accepted that challenge and established a worldwide reputation for our friendliness and cleanliness and very unique brand of showmanship. You'll remember that at the Tenth Anniversary, Walt gave us a challenge. Those words said in 1965 are just as important tonight July 17, 1975 as we look forward to preserving and extending our great Disney heritage."

---Donn Tatum, Chairman of the Board, at the dinner honoring the first Disneyland cast members, July 17, 1975

As Disneyland salutes its 49th birthday and makes preparations for the big 50th birthday next July, I wanted to take a few minutes to remember some of Disneyland's past birthday celebrations.

There was no big Fifth Birthday celebration in 1960 because the celebration had begun the previous summer with the "Second Opening of Disneyland" and the appearance of the first E Ticket attractions: the monorail, the submarine voyage and the Matterhorn.

However, by the time of the Tenth Birthday celebration in 1965, it was time for the big Disneyland Tencennial from a special large comic book from DELL Publishing where Mickey and his friends celebrated the event to a special park parade and theme song which was later showcased on television as the "Tenth Anniversary Special". That special television show reminded viewers not only of the World's Fair attractions that would be coming to Disneyland like Mary Blair showing off the new facade for It's A Small World but the new attractions in development like the Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. On Thursday, August 12, 1965, Disneyland's 50 millionth guest, Mary Adams entered Disneyland.

In fact the publicity demands were so great for the Tencennial that a "Miss Disneyland" was chosen to help Walt Disney with all the events. Yes, the very first Disneyland Ambassador was also known as "Miss Disneyland" in the publicity and it was intended as a one year job. There were no plans to continue that role but the first Disneyland Ambassador proved to be so outstanding that the program has continued to this day.

That first Ambassador was a college student from Long Beach, California named Julie Reihm. She had been a tour guide at Disneyland during school vacations and weekends for the previous two years. Born in Galveston, Texas, Julie and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Reihm, moved to Long Beach when she was three months old. She lived there for over twenty years before becoming "Miss Disneyland". She had a younger sister, Susie, and younger brother, Ryan, at the time. The official publicity declared that Julie was "5 feet f inches tall, with hazel eyes and dark brown hair, and weighs 117 pounds. In addition to her friend-making personality and smile, Julie has an excellent record in scholarship, music and public speaking. She hopes to become a teacher."

Julie studied piano for ten years and won a gold certificate of merit from the Music Teachers Association of California. She sang in school choruses and in the Disneyland Tour Guide Glee Club. According to the publicity release, she also loved "outdoor sports, such as swimming, tennis, surfing and bicycling."

When she received the honor of being the first Disneyland Ambassador, Julie said, "I've learned so many fascinating things about so many places from the Disneyland tours I have conducted for visitors from all parts of the world that I can hardly wait to see them for myself. I feel I've traveled everywhere because of the wonderful people I've met in Disneyland."

Disneyland's 25th birthday party in 1980 was celebrated with a twenty-five hour party and a special "I was there" button. Most Disneyphiles may not remember that at one time button collecting, not pin collecting, was the big Disney hobby. That twenty-five hour party lasted from 12:01 am July 17, 1980 to 1:00 am July 18th.

Disneyland's 30th birthday in 1985 saw a television special hosted by John Forsythe and a very young Drew Barrymore. One of the things showcased in the special was the Gift Giver Extraordinare machine at the front of the park. The machine offered prizes to every 30th guest. Some were minor prizes like pins and free Disneyland passes. However, once a day, the machine gave away a free General Motors GEO automobile. If you got a winning ticket, you went to the Hub at Disneyland where a huge cake (and fortunately the GM GEO was small enough to fit in the cake) was displayed. The event host had the guest pull a lever to see what prize they had won like a plush Mickey and Minnie.

For Disneyland's 35th birthday in 1990, the Disney Company had seen how successful that Gift Giver Extraordinaire was so it installed the "Dream Machine". This time there were lots of minor prizes like free popcorn or ice cream so there were more winners but often winners with minor prizes never collected them because the tickets featured different Disney characters and those tickets were wildly collected and traded in an attempt to get a complete set. Yes, more cars were given away as well as well as Delta airline tickets.

In addition to the Disneyland birthday buttons, there were now also collectible pins that you could win from the Dream Machine and they reflected the various lands of the park. (However, there was some controversy that some of those pins like Donald in a spaceship and the pointed sheriff's badge had sharp edges that might hurt children so they were replaced with a different version with rounded edges.)

There was a "Party Gras Parade," complete with a Latin beat and a Mardi Gras theme, featuring 45-foot-tall balloon sculptures of favorite Disney characters. (The parade moved to Walt Disney World for its 20th birthday celebration the following year.)

And there was the ever present television special, this time hosted by Tony Danza, that often showcased now forgotten celebrities rather than the park and its history.

Disneyland's 40th birthday in 1995 no longer emphasized the "magic" in its catch phrase. It was now "40 Years of Adventure" to take advantage of the opening of the new Indiana Jones ride. In fact at the official celebration, Indiana Jones slid from the top of the Matterhorn to an area off stage while singer Randy Travis at the top of the Matterhorn led the crowd in a rendition of "Happy Birthday".

A time capsule in the shape of Sleeping Beauty's castle (so it was referred to as a "Time Castle") was buried in front of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty castle to be opened on Disneyland's 80th birthday in 2035. It contained a good deal of 1995 merchandise.

Some of the 62 items included:

  • A "40 Years of Adventures" cast member nametag, with the name "Mickey"
  • Early photos of Disneyland
  • An aerial photo of the Disneyland resort
  • Various Disney logo merchandise from 1995
  • Photos and documentation of the just completed Disneyland attraction, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
  • A 1995 Disney press kit, and a copy of "Disney Magazine"
  • A scroll of thoughts and quotes from Michael Eisner, Roy Disney, Marty Sklar, and others.

Marking the spot is a plaque reading:

"Placed beneath this marker on July 17, 1995 - THE DISNEYLAND 40TH ANNIVERSARY TIME CASTLE. A Time Castle containing Disneyland memories, messages and milestones, lies beneath this spot. The Disneyland Time Castle is dedicated to the children of the 21st century, who may unlock its contents on the 80th Anniversary of Disneyland: July 17, 2035."

For Disneyland's 45th birthday? Well, there were a lot of pins including a special lapel pin recreating Sam McKim's map of Disneyland from the 1950s and there was some free birthday cake at various locations. And Disneyland's 50th? Well, most of you who frequent this website probably know all the big events: In Disneyland, Tomorrowland will debut "Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters" a new version of the Magic Kingdom's "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin." And the Main Street Opera House will welcome"Disneyland - the First 50 Years," a retrospective of the park, with plans and models of past attractions and those that were never built, as well as a new film featuring Walt reminiscing about the park.

In addition, Disneyland will debut a new fireworks show called "Remember," saluting past and present "E ticket" attractions. A new parade will also debut next year, called "Walt Disney' Parade of Dreams," featuring floats themed to Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, the Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland and the Lion King. Space Mountain will also reopen after its extensive rehab.

Finally, Disney will redecorate the exterior of Sleeping Beauty's Castle with tapestries, banners and crowns.

I suspect many readers of this website actually attended some of these birthday celebrations and will probably share their memories on the discussion board. I am sure I missed some highpoints but again, this was just a short trip down memory lane as Disneyland celebrates its 49th.

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