Disneyland's 50th Birthday Celebration Kick-Off - May 4 - 6, 2005


Go to May 4 preview day.

Go to Parade of Dreams.

Go to Opera House 50th exhibit.

Go to preparations for the celebrity party.

Go to Block Party Bash.

Go to May 5.

Go to May 6.

Disneyland's 50th birthday is officially on July 17, 2005, but the 18 month celebration was officially scheduled to start on May 5, 2005. It had been announced more than a year prior that Disneyland would be closed on May 4, 2005 in order to prepare for the celebration. As time drew nearer, it turned out that May 4 would be a media event day culminating in a celebrity party in the evening. In addition to media, celebrities and other invited guests, there were other ways for the general public to participate in at least part of the activities. Annual passholders could register on Disneyland's official annual passholder site for a chance to win tickets to the day's festivities. Numerous television and radio stations were also having contests to give away tickets for the day. When I wasn't chosen to win tickets through the annual passholder contest, I decided to try a radio station and was lucky enough to win 2 tickets. (Thanks, Mark and Brian!) The contest prize was actually 2 sets of 2 tickets each - 2 tickets permitting entrance to Disneyland on May 4 from 8:30am to 5pm and 2 tickets for entry into Disney's California Adventure (DCA) for the day as well, so that after our visit to Disneyland, we could spend the rest of the evening at DCA. Since we were annual passholders, we wouldn't have needed to use the tickets, but it was a nice extra for anyone who won the tickets and wasn't an annual passholder.


The front of the sneak preview ticket depicts one of the old attraction posters.


The back of the sneak preview ticket.


MAY 4, 2005

On May 4, we arrived at the parking structure at about 7:30am, and there were already cars in the structure. I'd read that the parking structure was opening at 6am that morning, to accommodate contest winners who were allowed early entry into Disneyland for the taping of a morning TV show. When we got to the entrance gates, there were already a few people in line, so we joined one of the existing lines. We noticed that the Mickey floral had been unveiled.


The new Mickey floral.


A closer view of the main floral.


A little after 8:30am, we were let into the park. Cast members (CMs) had been instructing people that we were to go all the way to the castle and not just stop on Main Street to wait for the 9:30 parade, so even though I was reluctant to do so, we did as instructed. I'd gotten information from a Disney-related discussion board that indicated where various floats in the new parade would be situated on Main Street, and I'd planned to make sure I was in front of a particular float, so being told I wasn't supposed to be on Main Street was something I did not want to hear. When we did head towards the castle, we then noted that most of the area in front of the castle and hub area were blocked off for the media, so the instructions seemed a bit confusing. We started to take seats on the sidewalk in the hub area but noticed that others had taken places along Main Street, so we made our way back. By the time we got to where I had originally planned to go, there were already people in the front row (the curb area was not available, with tape blocking off that area), so we ended up in the second row. I have no idea why they were instructing people to go to the castle when they were clearly allowing people to line up along one side of Main Street (the east side of the street was reserved for media and invited guests, as opposed to contest winners). I certainly understand the desire not to have the walkways blocked by the first people coming into the gates, but since the street was clear and you could only stand on half the walkway anyway (the other half was to be kept clear for pedestrian traffic), it didn't seem like blockage would have been a problem. But we took our spaces anyway.

Many of the shops on Main Street were open, which I was surprised at given the hour. There was already a line at the bakery, and my husband joined that line to get us some breakfast. A little while later, it was clear why they had blocked off the curb area. A group of children from an elementary school was brought in, and they and their chaperones were seated on the curb, so it was fun to watch them for a while. There were a lot of people in suits and nametags everywhere, so I was at first a little surprised to see so many Disney executives around, but upon remembering the occasion, it made a lot of sense. At one point, I noticed a lot of photographers focusing on the children in front of me and thought it odd. It wasn't until I noticed that an executive was there and talking to the children and recognized him as Matt Ouimet, President of the Disneyland Resort, that it explained why the photographers were following him around. I watched as he spoke to various of the children in front of me, crouching down to their level to better be able to talk to them. My husband returned shortly with our breakfast, and we finished it just in time for the parade.



The parade for Disneyland's 50th birthday, called Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams, includes three locations where the floats stop and the performers have additional choreography to perform at those locations. The three show stops are in the corridor leading to It's a Small World, the hub, and Main Street/Town Square. Since guests this morning weren't allowed past the hub, they skipped the Small World show stop and only did the other two show stops. The parade consists of 8 floats. The lead float is "driven" by Peter Pan, with Tinkerbell perched atop and the Blue Fairy along with the three fairies from "Sleeping Beauty" walking along in front. The second float is themed to Beauty and the Beast, with Belle and Beast riding the float along with articulated versions of Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip, preceded by a number of dancing plates and flatware. Lumiere in the parade is voiced by the same person who voiced him in the film, Jerry Orbach, with this being one of the final projects he worked on prior to his death last year. The third float is themed to Pinocchio, with Geppetto controlling two live marionettes and Jiminy Cricket riding the float while Pinocchio and other characters walk alongside. The fourth float has Ariel sitting high atop the float, with water cascading down and various dancers accompanying the float. The fifth float is a companion to Ariel - a huge articulated Ursula with Flotsam and Jetsam accompanying her. The sixth float is the Mad Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland, with Alice and the Mad Hatter riding the float while the White Rabbit travels alongside on skates, accompanied by various flowers and other characters. The seventh float is the Lion King float, with a very articulated Simba atop Pride Rock, with Nala beside him (one of Nala's paws can give little waves to the crowd). Pumbaa is asleep on the float, and there's also an articulated Zazu while Timon walks alongside the float, accompanied by a giraffe and a zebra. There are also two rope gymnasts who perform during the show stops. The last float includes Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White with their respective princes, with Mickey and Minnie high atop the float. Donald, Chip and Dale also ride the float while Goofy, Pluto and the seven dwarfs accompany the float. The main song for the parade is "Welcome", an adaptation of the Phil Collins song from "Brother Bear" that mostly utilizes the chorus and bridge from the song. "Welcome" is used as the underlying music for each float as well as for the show stops. Each float also plays music that matches the theme of the individual float.

With the information I'd brought with me, I ended up just about where I'd wanted to - in front of the Lion King float. The Lion King Celebration was the parade that Disneyland had going when I got my first annual pass, and it remains one of my favorite parades ever. I ended up discovering the parade late in its run, so I was only able to see it for a few months before it went away, but during that time, I spent many a Sunday in spring and summer of 1997 making sure that I got to Disneyland in time for the second parade and at my spot in Town Square that ensured I was in front of the float with the drummers. Knowing that the new parade had a Lion King float, I was eager to see what memories the float would evoke. I was not disappointed. From my vantage point, I could look right and see Simba and Nala, and one of the rope gymnasts was directly in front of me. "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" was being played from the float, and then when all of the floats had reached their stopping points, a brief snippet from Walt Disney's opening speech was played - "To all who come to this happy place, welcome." - before the longer portion of "Welcome" is played as the performers on each float go into their individual choreography. The rope gymnast in front of me was terrific. After the show stop, as the float moved away, "Circle of Life" was being played from the float. This is definitely a spectacular parade. All of the floats are intricately designed, and the articulated characters have much more range and movement than in previous parades, and the performers themselves are wonderful. There are also so many beloved characters and related personnel in this parade that there are so many things to look at and enjoy. I love that instead of just one song that runs through the entire parade, each of the individual floats broadcasts a related song, much like with the Electrical Parade. Being a huge Phil Collins fan, I'm particularly pleased that one of his songs is being used as the common theme as well as for the show stop, though because so little of the song itself is actually used, I expect the parade performers will quickly tire of singing the same lyrics over and over again. A second parade was run at 11:45 that day, and we were able to catch that showing from the Small World area, where we had a much better vantage point.


The lead float and accompanying fairies.


Tinkerbell in her first parade.


The feather duster from the "Beauty and the Beast" float.


The Pinocchio float.


Jiminy Cricket rides on the Pinocchio float.


Ariel sits atop her float.


Ariel's perch rises during the show stop, creating an additional water cascade.


One of the beautifully dressed dancers accompanying Ariel's float.


The spectacular Ursula float.


Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum "ride" in teacups.


Alice in Wonderland's Mad Tea Party float.


The flowers along one side of the Mad Tea Party float.


Another flower on the float.


A familiar rhino.


The majestic Lion King float.


The final float. Note the silhouette of the partner's statue.


No parade is complete without Mickey and Minnie.


The parade's regular schedule includes one in the afternoon and one in the early evening. We were able to catch the early evening parade later in the week, and the floats are lit up beautifully (note in particular the chandeliers on the Beauty and the Beast float). This is a parade that's definitely worth seeing both in the daytime and after dark.



After the first parade was done, we decided to see some of the newly-reopened attractions. Our first stop was the Jungle Cruise. We'd heard that some changes had been made so wanted to see what they were. There was a bit of a line, but the 10 minute wait for this attraction was about the longest wait we had all afternoon. We later heard that there were about 15,000 people in the park that day, so it was great to be able to see and experience the new things with such a small crowd. There were numerous changes to the Jungle Cruise, the biggest being the newly added piranha which now makes it more of a water ride than previously. It was fun to see the new and moved elements on the attraction. Afterward, we decided to get a locker on Main Street as the weather had warmed up some from that morning. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the lockers were free this day, so all you had to do was press the buttons to request a locker, and instead of the screen appearing that instructed you to insert the correct amount of money, it just went to the screen which told you which locker was yours and your passcode was printed out. What a nice touch on Disney's part.

We then walked around the park a bit. We noticed that the animated windows on the Emporium had been unveiled. The windows offer a retrospective on the various animated films that have been represented in the windows, so it was fun seeing some of the figures that we were familiar with as well as others that we'd not seen before. We also decided to take a look at the newly unveiled gold ride vehicles. The most impressive was the gold vehicle from the Peter Pan attraction. The vehicle is out to the right of the queue, with a backdrop as well, making for a great photo location. We also saw the gold teacup, the gold Storybook boat, the gold Autopia car, the gold Dumbo and the gold horseless carriage. The gold carousel horse had not yet been unveiled.


What a beautiful vehicle.



We had heard that there would be a grand opening ceremony for the new 50th exhibit in the opera house on Main Street and that Steve Martin would be there for the event, so we decided to catch that. While waiting for the ceremony to start, we noticed that a new Happiest Faces on Earth collage had been unveiled on Main Street, next to the Mad Hatter hat shop. This one was in black and white, with small pictures making bigger pictures of cast members, which in turn made up the giant picture of Steamboat Willie. Above the collage was Mickey in the drama/comedy symbol, though the drama representation was a bit odd.


Not so much drama/comedy as allergies/comedy, though the left Mickey does have a tear.


The grand opening ceremony was introduced by Becky Phelps, one of the current Disneyland ambassadors, with Michael Eisner appearing to say a few words as well. Then Donald Duck and Steve Martin were introduced, since they are the hosts of the new film in the theatre where Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was previously shown. Steve Martin told the story of how his first job at Disneyland was at the age of 10, when he worked selling Disney-related news flyers, before going on to work in the Magic Shop, among other things. At one point in the ceremony, Donald Duck co-opted Steve Martin's signature line of "Excuuuuuuuuse me," much to the delight of the audience. Also, when the new marquee was unveiled, there was a surprise banner before the actual marquee was revealed.


A Steve Martin show?


After the ceremony, it was announced that the exhibit was open to invited guests. We'd heard earlier that the exhibit wasn't going to be open to all event attendees, so we'd been disappointed to hear that, but later in the day, we received word from a friend that the exhibit was temporarily open to everyone, so even though we ended up having to detour quite a ways to get there because of various walkway closures, we did manage to make it back to the opera house while they were still letting people in. The new exhibits inside are terrific, with information that includes, among other things, the earliest concept drawings for Disneyland, the various ticket media used, cast member name tags over the years, and animatronics used in different shows.


The County Bear Jamboree is back in Disneyland, sort of.


The much-beloved America Sings.


The most impressive aspect of the exhibit is the detailed miniature recreation of what Disneyland looked like on opening day.


The imagineers did a great job.


There are so many things to look at in the entire exhibit that you could definitely spend quite a bit of time in there. The film takes you through the first 50 years of Disneyland and is a lot of fun to watch. Steve Martin was a good choice as host of the show. At the exit area next to the Mad Hatter hat shop, there are pictures on the wall of the most recently added attractions to Disneyland as well as highlights of DCA. Also included is the newly announced Turtle Talk to be added to the Animation Building at DCA as well as the new "Monsters, Inc." ride in the former Superstar Limo location. Conspicuously absent on the wall is mention of the "Finding Nemo" attraction that will be put in the old submarine lagoon, though one picture includes a "top secret coming soon" label, which is presumably where that information will be added later.


Disney still needs a spell checker - note the third to last line.



During the day, we also had a chance to ride the newly opened Storybook land ride. No real changes have been made, but everything is freshly painted and newly thatched, so it all looks very pretty and pristine. We did have a bit of an irreverent tour guide, so that was a bit surprising though still a lot of fun. Later in the day, preparations were being made on Main Street for the evening party. There was a setup at the Main Street Train Station, and there was even a sign on the Main Street Cinema. In lieu of the standard red carpet, a gold carpet was put down, with a grand entrance arch for guests to enter under.


The train station ready for some kind of ceremony.


The Steamboat Willie marquee has been temporarily replaced.


A gold carpet to celebrate Disneyland's golden anniversary.


Getting ready for the celebrity party.


There were quite a number of media outlets around, and Mickey and Minnie were making their way to meet some of them.


Mickey and Minnie greet a cast member in between media outlet visits.



Even though we didn't need to leave until 5pm, more and more walkways were being blocked off and we'd seen most of the new stuff that we'd wanted to, so we decided to head out early and over to DCA at 4:15. There was a 5:30 showing of the new Block Party Bash, so we'd wanted to catch that. Like the new parade at Disneyland, the Block Party Bash also has three show stop locations, so we decided to stake out spots in the location right at the sun plaza, and we met up with a friend who'd decided to join us for the evening. Before the parade started, four of the army men from "Toy Story" came out to teach the crowd how to jump, scream and dance in anticipation of participating in the parade.


One of the green man group.


Even the CM's who normally precede the parade with refreshments for sale are a bit different.


Anyone thirsty?


The Block Party Bash consists of floats representing various Pixar films, including "Toy Story", "Monsters, Inc." and "A Bug's Life". In addition, there are blocks that are pushed along which during the show stops unfold, revealing trampolines. There also giant cones being pushed along, and during the show stops, the performers come out and utilize the razor scooters carried along on the cones. The show is very high-energy and a lot of fun, and the performers do a great job. Having three show stops along the way, I can imagine they must be exhausted at the end of the parade.


The Block Party Bash begins.


Hmmm, the cones have feet.


Woody is part of the festivities.


Mr. Potato Head with the other "Toy Story" bunch.


Oooooo, little green aliens.


My favorite part of the parade. Finally, a walkaround Boo, in her monster costume no less!


There appears to be an ongoing sock emergency.


Heimlich, high atop a float.


Another character from "A Bug's Life".


After the parade, we went on Soarin' and then headed to Downtown Disney for dinner at Catal. We were there late enough that we ended up being able to see a little of the fireworks that night. We were to discover the next night that what you can see from the second floor of Catal is nothing compared to what the fireworks are actually like.


MAY 5, 2005

When we found out that we'd be able to attend the May 4 sneak preview, we'd decided to spend the night in Anaheim since we had planned on being there early on the 5th. We were able to get a room at a hotel across from Disneyland's entrance on Harbor Blvd. The park was scheduled to open at 9:00 that morning, but a TV news broadcast that morning was indicating that the park was opening at 8:30, so we quickly got ready, and I walked over to Disneyland while my husband went to park the car in the parking structure. Arriving at the esplanade at just before 7:30am, I was a bit surprised that the lines were already past the monorail tracks and half-way into the esplanade. As it got later, the esplanade filled up completely, with all of the lines extending to the gates of DCA and then some of the lines even wrapping back. Later in the day, we spoke to a friend who said he got through the bag check at about 8:10am, and they temporarily closed the bag check just after him because there was no more room in the esplanade.


Lines, this early on a Thursday morning?


The esplanade, filled up.


Shortly after 8:30, the entrance gates opened. We made our way toward the castle, but even more of the surrounding area had been cordoned off than the day before. We made it to a spot just on the curb close to the entrance to Tomorrowland. From that point, it was almost impossible to see anything that happened during the ceremony, so I mostly listened to everything. The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 10am. It was very cloudy that morning, with rain predicted on and off during the day. While we waited, it did drizzle at various times, but by the time the ceremony started, the drizzle stopped, with just clouds overhead. The crowns had been added to the castle the night before, and even on the cloudy day, the crowns sparkled. We were pleased that the crowns weren't as obtrusive and gawdy as we thought they might be. During the ceremony, there were speeches by Bob Iger, Michael Eisner and Art Linkletter as well as songs by LeAnn Rimes ("Remember When", the Disneyland 50th anniversary theme song) and Christina Aguilera ("When You Wish Upon a Star"), and Julie Andrews was also part of the festivities as were a multitude of Disney characters. The front of the castle was also unveiled.


The castle with its crowns but before the official ceremony.


Genie, arriving on a camel.


The castle, completely unveiled.


Once the ceremony concluded, it was very difficult to leave the area, given the amount of people and the many closed walkways. We had earlier decided to try to have lunch at the Blue Bayou and had arranged to meet other friends there. As we made our way there, we noticed enormous lines for the River Belle Terrace and French Market. We also noticed that Rancho Del Zocalo was closed, presumably because of the media, and Plaza Inn was also closed since it served as the media center. In addition to finding it ironic that the Mexican restaurant was closed on Cinco de Mayo, we questioned the decision to have two of the largest restaurants in the park closed on such a busy day, which most certainly added to the congestion at other food locations. At about 11am, we met up with our friends, who had already joined the standby line at the Blue Bayou. We were told that the restaurant wouldn't open until noon, which seemed a bit late, and since we didn't have priority seating reservations, we figured we probably wouldn't be having lunch until 1pm, but given the long lines we'd already run across at other locations, the Blue Bayou seemed as good a place as any. There was also a new annual passholder dining pin available, and when we'd checked at City Hall the day before, we'd been told that in Disneyland, the only locations where we could get the pin were Plaza Inn, Rancho Del Zocalo and Blue Bayou. Not wanting to leave the park, and with the other two locations closed for the day, Blue Bayou was the only place left. The line behind us grew as the rest of the morning went by. The doors opened at about 11:30, so we thought they might have opened early because of the large crowds, but after we got closer, I looked at the menu sign out front, which indicated an 11:30 opening time, so the CM was apparently just incorrect about the opening time. Even without a reservation, our party of 7 was seated just after noon, so that worked out quite well, especially since we noticed that it had started to rain again outside. We then enjoyed a leisurely meal in a comfortable environment on this very busy day. We all enjoyed our meals (I ordered the jambalaya and was reminded how much I liked it there - I hadn't had lunch at the Blue Bayou in a number of years.), and the service was terrific, especially from the very attentive busboys who were constantly refilling our drinks.

After lunch, we decided to head to the opera house so that the others could see the new exhibit. Given how crowded the park was that day, we knew it would be pointless to go on any of the rides, so we decided on attractions that we figured would be relatively easier to get into. After the opera house, it was time to find a spot for the parade. One of the people in our group was a huge fan of "The Little Mermaid", so we'd decided on trying for a spot near Ariel's float. Not knowing where the floats stopped in the Small World area during the first parade, we settled on a spot just in front of Le Petit Chalet, the merchandise kiosk near the Matterhorn and just about across from Storybook. The parade route was very crowded indeed, with everyone eager to see the new parade. We ended up having the Ursula float right in front of us, with Ariel within sight, so the spot worked out quite well. After the parade, we decided to spend a little time at Fantasia Gardens, which has become a favorite place to just relax in the park. We then headed over to see the new 50th exhibit at the Disney Gallery. There are lots of things to see in the exhibit, but I was disappointed that there are no captions on anything, so oftentimes, you have no idea what you're looking at. I'm hoping the exhibit just wasn't fully ready yet and that captions will be added later. After the exhibit, we made our way back to Main Street and spent some time at Coke Corner in anticipation of staking out spots for the fireworks. While we were there, it rained again on and off, at times even raining rather hard, but the rain stopped before the second parade, so we were able to watch the lit floats go by. Shortly after the parade went by and the crowds had cleared a bit, we took spots just outside Coke Corner near a streetlamp and waited about 40 minutes for the fireworks. It had been difficult getting through the park at times during the day, and we hadn't done that much other than have lunch and see two exhibits and a parade, but everything was made completely worth the trouble when we saw the new fireworks show - "Remember Dreams Come True". All of us had been huge fans of "Believe", and we'd been skeptical about how that could be topped. The new fireworks show far exceeded anything we could possibly have imagined. There are many other places on the internet where complete show details can be found, so I won't include any spoilers here. The effect of seeing and hearing the new fireworks show for the first time is something I can't even put into words. Disney is the best at creating amazing and spectacular shows, but no superlative can adequately describe this new show. Congratulations to Steve Davison for designing yet another even more brilliant fireworks show.

After the show finished, we hung around Coke Corner for a while, discussing the fireworks and waiting for the exiting crowds to lessen before heading out ourselves.


MAY 6, 2005

On May 5, Disneyland had debuted a new guided tour, one in celebration of Disneyland's 50th birthday. We had decided to book the 4pm tour on Friday instead (figuring we would be plenty busy on Thursday), so we arrived at Disneyland around 2:30 and did some shopping before checking in for our tour. We discovered that the new tour building adjacent to City Hall was actually open, and a CM said that they'd opened that Monday, May 2. We checked in and were given our tour tags and were told to wait in the little garden next door.

The new 3 1/2 hour guided walking tour is called "From Imagination to Celebration", costs $55 (no discounts are available at this time) and currently runs 7 days a week. Monday through Thursday, tour times are 10am, 3:15pm and 5pm. Friday, tour times are 9am, 12:15pm, 4pm and 5:40pm. Saturday and Sunday, tour times are 8am, 12:15pm, 4pm and 5:40pm. Each guided tour includes priority boarding on several attractions (3 for the later tours, up to 5 for the first tour). The middle tour(s) also includes reserved seating for the parade, and the last tour of the day includes reserved viewing for the fireworks when fireworks are scheduled. Tour times may change depending on park hours. Each person on the tour also receives a special tour pin that looks like Walt's lamp, the one that remains lit in Walt's apartment above the fire station on Main Street, and the lamp pin actually lights up. In addition, each person receives a special replica of the old A-E ticket books with information about the history and development of the park, and each person also receives a souvenir photo and a snack. Neither the pin nor the ticket book was available when we took our tour, so we were asked to fill out cards with our names and addresses and were told that both would be mailed to us. Each tour can accommodate a maximum of 16 guests, and reservations can be made by calling Disneyland's guided tour line at (714) 781-4400.

For a review of the tour, please click here.

After the tour, we went to Main Street to watch the fireworks again. They were still spectacular, but unfortunately, it is impossible to duplicate the very first time and your very first reactions to the fireworks. As much as I love and look forward to repeated viewings of the new fireworks show, I will always remember my first viewing of them.


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