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Do-it-yourself Epcot celebration leads to new fan-based business

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Do-it-yourself Epcot celebration leads to new fan-based business

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It wasn't what the Disneyana community wanted to hear last year.

Copyright 1980 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

That -- in a January 27th interview with Deb Wills of AllEars.net -- Brad Rex, then-VP of Epcot, said that the Walt Disney World Resort had no plans to celebrate that theme park's 25th anniversary. That -- with the exception of a few behind-the-scenes get-togethers that would only be for Epcot cast members -- this occasion would go unobserved.

Now to be fair, from Mickey's side of the fence, this decision did make sense. From strictly an operational point of view. Sort of.

Copyright 2005 Disney. All Rights Reserved

To explain: Back then, the Walt Disney Company was just coming off of its "Happiest Celebration on Earth" promotion. Where -- for 18 months -- the Mouse House had celebrated Disneyland's 50th anniversary at each of the Disney parks that are scattered around the globe.

More to the point, just prior to the "Happiest Celebration on Earth" promotional campaign, this Central Florida resort had celebrated what-would-have-been Walt Disney's 100th birthday with its 17-month-long "100 Years of Magic" promotion. So there was a feeling in-house that WDW was ... Well ... overdrawn at the anniversary bank. That launching yet another year-long celebration which would then have been built around Epcot's 25th birthday just wasn't a compelling enough reason to get your average tourist to book yet another Disney World vacation. Which is why Mouse House execs eventually opted to go with that "Year of a Million Dreams" promotion instead.

 Copyright 2006 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Now the only thing that these executives failed to take into consideration while making this plan was Disneyana fans' deep affection for Epcot. And when these folks read Brad's no-official-anniversary-party-for-Epcot comment in Deb's interview, they then decided to take matters into their own hands.

And from one posting that Jenn Waitt made on WDWMagic's discussion boards came "Celebration 25." Adam Roth and Jason Diffendal took Jenn's original proposal of a fan-organized get-together in the park on October 1, 2007 and just ran with it. Working with other Disney webmasters like John Corigliano of Mouse Times, Lou Mongello of Disney World Trivia as well as Jeff Pepper of 2719 Hyperion, Adam & Jason created this day-long event that featured history walks and dessert parties.

Photo by Jeff Lange

And then this odd thing happened. After 200+ people had signed for "Celebration 25" by June of 2007, the Walt Disney World Resort suddenly began changing its tune. It first announced that -- on October 1st -- there would in fact be some sort of public acknowledgment of Epcot's 25th birthday. And then as the months flew by, Disney's plans began expanding until that it was finally decided that this theme park would be holding an official rededication ceremony. Not to mention opening a temporary exhibit inside of Innoventions that would feature Epcot concept art as well as many of the props & models that the Imagineers had originally created for the park.

 Minnie & Mickey Mouse lead Marty Sklar to the podium at Epcot's rededication ceremony.
Photo by Robert Bish

And to cap the whole thing off, Disney Legend Marty Sklar (i.e. One of the key movers & shakers behind the EPCOT Center project) would be flying into Orlando. Not only to serve as MC at the park's rededication ceremony but also to present three history talks on the development of Epcot.

The end result was a day that was better than Jenn, Adam and Jason ever could have hoped for. Which began with literally hundreds of Disneyana fans, WDW guests and cast members crammed in front of the Fountain of Nations stage waiting for that morning's rededication ceremony to begin.

 Photo by Robert Bish

Meanwhile, right next door in Mouse Gear, WDW execs looked on in amazement as limited edition Epcot 25th anniversary merchandise flew right off the shelves (With the commemorative t-shirt and Figment plush actually selling out long before the rededication ceremony had concluded). And as I stood in this Epcot merchandise location that morning, I actually heard one Disney manager say to the other: "This is terrific! Do you think that we could get these guys to hold a similar sort of event at Animal Kingdom next year for that theme park's 10th anniversary?"

As it turns out, Adam & Jason were thinking along the same lines. Which is why they founded WDWCelebrations, a new fan-based organization that (I'm quoting from their press release here) hopes to ...

" ... bring Disney fans everywhere together for a variety of occasions, both big and small."

Roth & Diffendal are working directly with WDW management to create a series of signature & commemorative events that will be built around the Disney theme parks. And the first one out of the box (just as those Epcot merchandise managers had hoped for) will be “A Wild Decade.” This special day-long event -- which will be held at Disney's Animal Kingdom on Tuesday, April 22nd -- is designed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of WDW's newest theme park.

Copyright 1998 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Though the official schedule for "A Wild Decade" has yet to be announced, Adam & Jason have told me that they expect this event -- just like "Celebration 25" -- will feature history walks through DAK. Roth & Diffendal are also working on lining up a guest speaker with special ties to that park. Not to mention setting up a few dinners that should entertain Animal Kingdom enthusiasts.

Which (I know) isn't an awful lot of info on an event that's only three months away now. But know this: So many people had such a great time at "Celebration 25" that -- as soon as they heard that Adam & Jason were planning another Disney theme park-related event -- they immediately signed up for "A Wild Decade." Which is why -- as of today -- there are already 106 registrants for this Animal Kingdom celebration.

So if you missed out on Epcot's 25th anniversary celebration (And speaking as someone who was there, helping Nathan Rose of Magical Mountain out with his own "Epcot Thing" event, it was a pretty amazing day), don't make the same mistake twice. Sign up now for "A Wild Decade," that you can be among the first to experience WDWCelebrations' sure-to-be-fun series of signature & commemorative events.

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  • Ummm ... Adam and Jason may be a bit disappointed this time around. While Epcot has a very loving, deep, and loyal fan base, Animal Kingdom is about as beloved as DCA.

    Which is to say ... not so much ... I would travel up the block for a 10th anniversary celebration of Animal Kingdom.

  • Actually, I think Animal Kingdom's fanbase has been growing for quite some time now.  It was pretty unpopular when it first opened and there wasn't much to do there for a while, but since Everest opened and the Nemo musical, the place has changed quite a bit.

    The overal theming/architecture/art of the park is very appealing on its own.

  • Err ... that should say I WOULDN'T travel up the block ... not would ...

    And Dude, to each his own I guess. I find AK (outside of Everest) one of the most boring places on the planet.

  • Animal Kingdom is something of a disaster. Last time, my family only went there once - so my dad and I could ride Everest. We almost always end up fighting by the end of a day there.

    Next WDW vacation, we're only planning on going there once, again.


    Unless there was a no-wait line at Everest, I wouldn't even be travelling up the block.

  • DAK is probably the most underrated theme park in the world. To me it is a very similary experience as going to Epcot. Both require you to have a different sort of theme park in mind before you go through the gates. AK is a park for strolling, for taking your time and for enjoying all of the little details. It is probably the most detail oriented of any Disney park, save for maybe Disneyland. And on the rare occassion that AK is open past dusk...well there are few theme park experiences that can compare to that.

    They just need to ban strollers at AK (well, ban them at all theme parks really, but AK most of all). The roads, for some reason, were not layed out with hundreds of stollers in mind and it leads to a frustrating walk sometimes.

  • The 25th anniversary celebration at Epcot was fun, but was obviously rushed and felt somehow unfulfilling as a celebration.  It's hard to explain, I guess.  I'm speaking of the official, events, of course.

    Matry Sklar's talk that I attended was THE highlight of the day.  It was awesome hearing such a Disney legend speak.

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