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"Grey skies are gonna clear up" ... Or how WDW got the blues for its 20th birthday

"Grey skies are gonna clear up" ... Or how WDW got the blues for its 20th birthday

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Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort. However --since that the Disney Company's primary focus right now is on the successful launch of its new worldwide "Year of a Million Dreams" campaign -- this auspicious occasion pretty much got ignored. The only acknowledgment of the event was the "35th Birthday" pins that all WDW cast members were wearing yesterday.

Ah, but the Mouse didn't always deliberately ignore Disney World's birthday. In fact, 15 years ago yesterday, Disney World's PR department staged the mother of all photo-ops. With the hope that newspapers & magazine around the world would then run this image. Which -- in turn -- might then help promote the resort's 20th anniversay celebration. 

Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

Mind you, it wasn't the easiest photo shoot. October 1, 1990 dawned cold and wet. And those "scattered showers" continued on well into the morning. Which made it kind of difficult for Tom Bergeron (Who -- back then -- was just the host of a local Boston area TV show, "People Are Talking") to interview a few members of the MMC on an outdoor stage that had been set up right in front of the Magic Kingdom's train station.

Photo by Jeff Lange

But inside the theme park, hundreds of photographers and TV crews had crowded into Town Square. All because they hoped to get a shot of this image that Disney's PR flaks promised was  really going to "wow" them.

Photo by Jeff Lange

In spite of the continued light drizzle, the festivities still got underway as scheduled, kicking off at 10 a.m. with an elaborate production number right in the middle of Main Street U.S.A.

Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

Even for those of us who were watching from the sidelines, this was really quite the spectacular show.

Photo by Jeff Lange

There were marching bands and banners ...

Photo by Jeff Lange

Hundreds of cheerleaders waving flags ...

Photo by Jeff Lange

Even Samuel Wright (I.E. The voice of Sebastian from "The Little Mermaid") got into the act, belting out a live rendition of "Under the Sea" from high atop a "Surprise Celebration" parade float.

Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

But once the production number was complete, it was time for that photo op. So Roy E. Disney first joined Michael Eisner on a float that had been especially decorated for this photo shoot.

Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

Then everyone smiled for the camera as a squadron of fighter jets flew in tight formation directly over Cinderella Castle & Main Street U.S.A.

Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

Everyone was then asked to remain in place for a moment, as Mickey's PR staff conferred. In the end, it was decided that -- just to be on the safe side -- they'd do one more take.

So as everyone smiled & posed for the camera again, the fighter jets made one more pass over the Magic Kingdom ...

Photo by Jeff Lange

... And then everyone got out of the rain, hoping to find someplace warm & dry. Or maybe even a change of clothes.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Now where this gets interesting is that -- in the end -- the Walt Disney Company found that it just couldn't live with the real photo that had been taken that morning. Which showed those fighter jets soaring through a slate grey sky over the Magic Kingdom.

Soooo ... After the fact, Disney's PR staff had this image retinted. Which was quite a project back in those pre-Photoshop days.

Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

You know what I love about the retouched photo (Which -- obviously -- is on the right)? It wasn't enough for Disney's PR staff to make the sky blue. No, they had to make sure that the sky over Cinderella Castle also featured fluffy white clouds.

Which reminds me of another logo that I've seen recently ...

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

Anyway, that's what Disney did to commemorate WDW's 20th anniversary. And speaking of that anniversary ...

In addition to being JHM's official photographer & archivist, Jeff Lange also produces a best-selling series of Disney theme park DVDs. His most recent title is a three disc set that commemorates Walt Disney World's 20th anniversary celebration. For further information on this DVD as well as all of the other titles in Jeff's catalog, please follow this link.

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  • Whaddaya mean they forgot the anniversary? They sold a set of commemorative pins, didn't they? ;)

    It's a shame, but I guess it's not much of a surprise -- the same thing happened in 2001, when they pretty much ignored the 30th anniversary in favor of promoting the "100 Years of Magic" marketing campaign... er, I mean, celebration. History apparently does repeat itself at WDW...  
  • Eh, I dunno. 35 years isn't exactly what most would call a major milestone. Sure, it ends in "5" but the 55th anniversary, or 105th wouldn't be that big a deal either. the 5s are big up to 25, and then it's all about the 10s, baby...

    That being said, Happy Birthday to Walt Disney World! Thanks for being a good neighbor!

    (I live in Celebration. The holiday Illuminations show should start shaking my house in about 8 weeks!)
  • Yay for the holiday Illuminations!
    Disneyland's 35th birthday was right around the time of WDW's 20th, right?  Didn't DL have a 35th birthday party?  And WDW had a 20th birthday party...DL had their big 50th b-day party, and maybe Disney thought that they didn't need yet another birthday bash for WDW, since the new promotion just started.  My first official day working at WDW, after training classes, was Oct. 1, 2004, and we got the 33rd Birthday pins.  
    I don't blame the PR dept. for doctoring up those photos- it looks a lot better with the blue sky and puffy clouds.  That Disney Parks logo reminds me too much of the computer-made Disney Pictures logo...I like the "old" one better...
    But, thanks, Jeff, for the article and pictures!!!
  • Maybe the WDW marketing people are losing track of when the anniversaries fall these days because they consider all of these 15-month campaigns (17 months in the case of the Happiest Clebration on Earth) to be "year long events". :)  
  • Birthdays can come any year, and one more could glut the market for the more cynical mainstream non-fans--
    What gives Year/MIllion higher priority is that the concept sells the new Disney Parks logo--and the "Dreams" tagline--given that (ahemdisneyfairies) one of the new Iger directives is to sell Disney's various marketing arms as their own separate and identifiable brand names.

    Just throwing anniversaries around, and saying how many generations used to like them in the past?...Eh, that's pre-Disney Decade--Too Ron Miller!  :)
  • I just came back from WDW, and they didn't completely ignore the anniversary. At the Contemporary they had excellent cake and punch out in the lobby, with balloons and a little display on what has happened at both the resort and in our society over the last 35 years. It was just a low-key event, but if you were at the parks and resorts, you knew what was going on. Several cast memebers even made sure to tell us about the anniversary date.
  • I can never understand the reasoning behind some of these celebrations. I mean, who comes up with this stuff? I agree with Jmelrose, the 5's are big until 25, then it's all about the 10's. Disneyland's 35th was huge as I recall, and it made me wonder if all the hoopla was about Disney being as surprised that the park would even last that long?

    And what about WDW's 30th? That should've been a big celebration as well, but I don't remember a whole lot about that.

    Instead, WDW horned in on Disneyland's 50th. I'm still bitter about that! Those rediculous commercials of Walt superimposed in front of Cinderella's castle were disgraceful! The "50 years of Disney theme parks" diminished the importance of Disneyland being the original. Instead it's lumped in with all the other parks.

    Maybe each park should be celebrated every 25 years, and limit it to it's own celebration.

  • Well, that was kind of the point about YoaMD:
    The reason they're selling "Disney Parks", and not one little park having a birthday, is that Iger now wants to sell ALL the parks, as their own brand in one swoop, and that tourist families can go anywhere they like--Even if you live in Orlando, there's nothing that stops you from booking a ticket to Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong or on the cruise, since It's All Good, and they each have their own flavor.  That's the ad copy, anyway.

    Also, from experience, it's to strategically stop the image of "bitter" and short-sighted fans saying "Well, why should we care about WDW if it's Disneyland's anniversary?"  Well, from a business standpoint, you -should- care...They want all the parks to make money, not just the lucky lil' one having a birthday.
  • Wow, I've always wondered how photographers retouched photos before software like Photoshop became available... haha, I love the additional clouds, especially!
  • Pre-Photoshop? 1.0 came out in 1990 and by 1991 I was using Photoshop 2.0 to do photo retouching. Plus, there were a handful of proprietary retouch systems, like the Scitex, that color houses were using for retouching.
  • I was there this past Sunday morning, bright and early for the Magic Kingdom's pre-opening party. It was rather sad that during that short event, nothing was mentioned about that momentus day in WDW's history. Listening to many of the Cast Members, when other guests asked if anything special was taking place that day for the 35th anniversary, most Cast Members gave a blank stare as though they had no idea what that guest was talking about (I guess they missed that session during their 'Traditions' class).

    I'm all for global, Disney celebrations, but when you neglect your company's largest Resort's birthday, it merely further proves the fact that WDW has always been the second child next to Disneyland. This is proven on multiple levels; i.e. WDI-California taking all of WDI-Florida's design rights away from them several years ago when WDI-Florida proposed their own in-house design for a Switzerland pavillion at Epcot, quality of attractions and themeing placed in Disneyland vs. WDW, increased attention to detail in Disneyland vs. WDW; the list goes on. I think the California boys have always had a severe case of insecurity that is most prevelant in the fact they won't even allow WDW it's own Celebration.
  • Disney's been retouching skies and adding clouds to their park images for over 40 years, Jeff.

    I started my collection of DL postcards waaay back in the 60s, and spent many hours studying those images.  Eventually I noticed that many different pictures (taken in many different years from many different angles of many different attractions) had EXACTLY THE SAME CLOUDS IN THEIR SKIES!

    I pieced some of these images together back then and discovered that the company that printed these postcards must have had a few giant transparencies of fluffy white clouds and used different parts of them to touch-up the skies on multiple cards.

    Get out your copy of Nickel Tour and see for yourself, Mouseketeers!

    Ron Schneider
    [email protected]
  • I just got back from WDW last night and I can tell you that MANY Cast Members were not only aware of the 35th anniversary, they were under the impression they were actively celebrating it via the Year of a Million Dreams.

    In fact, during a ride on Jungle Cruise on October 1st, the guide asked our boat if anyone knew what we Disney World was celebrating starting today ... I immediately responded, "It's the year of a million dreams!" (feeling quite proud of myself, I might add).

    He looked at me like I had three heads and responded, "No ... it's Walt Disney World's 35th birthday!"

    I have to say, though ... we were REALLY disappointed in how the celebration was handled. I don't know if it's going to get more attention as time goes by, but outside of some minimal banners and a few random comments about it by Stacy, you'd hardly know they were celebrating anything.
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