Article from RU42 - Welcome Home – Opening Day 5/5/05
Welcome Home – Opening Day 5/5/05
Disneyland is not an obsession. OK, it is an obsession but it is much more. Disneyland is an ideal, a dream, a wish, and a memory. I grew up Disney. Being 40, that is a long time. My earliest memories are of Disneyland. I grew up shrinking to the size of a molecule, exploring liquid space, singing with Pirates and Ghosts, and flying across Tomorrowland to Fantasyland. Many changes over the years; some good times for the Park and some not so good times for the Park – but it is The Park none-the-less.
To have the chance to be there on the kick off of the 50th is just too special to miss. People in our group flew in from out of state (despite pending final exams); ignored work/school, and in general made this day a priority. I know my commitment to this day was made 1 year ago, during the 5/5/04 ceremony.
The People: A vast majority of the group was made up of Visions Fantastic folks. I first hooked up with XFKirsten as we chatted on the phone and tried to figure out when they were going to let us park in the parking structure. We ended up about 10 cars from each other. After security let us into the Esplanade at 6:30ish we hooked up with Daddyb, Cavemandon, and Mrs. Cavemandon. Soon joining us was Almandot as we waited for the gates to open; and waited, and waited and waited. As the morning progressed Peoplemovermatt, fantasmic_freak and Mad Mickey caught up to us. Acgonzales and brother met us at the 2:00 meet. Later in the afternoon and WDWMagic friend jaylenofan was spotted in the MH line behind us and we drafted him to join our merry band. And there were a few others that came in and out during the day.
Ok, now where was I. Oh yes, we waited, and waited, and waited. Did I mention that we waited. And as time progresses, the Esplanade got full, I mean really full. From ticket booth to ticket booth and from DL gate to DCA gate the Esplanade was packed. Finally about 8:00 we got past the front gates and were stopped ½ way down Main Street. Great move on Disney’s part. Keeps the crowd from moving fast and people getting trampled. After a while we were allowed to move further down the street to the normal rope off line. At 9:00 we were allowed to jockey for positions in the Hub.
The Hub was roped off, tented with radio booths, and general mayhem. We did manage to get a fairly nice post on the Tomorrowland side of the Hub, 2nd back from the ropes. We had a good spot to see the stage and not so good spot to see the jumbotrons. I heard people on the Frontierland side also didn’t have a good view.
After a few showers and us being saved by the very nice big umbrella of Cavemandon the show kicked off a little after 10:00. Leanne Rhymes kicked things off with the wonderful new theme song for the 50th celebration ‘Remember When.’ Iger, who got polite applause, followed her. Next, a very special commentator drives up to the microphone, and this time they did have a microphone ready for him, Art Linkletter. Art rode up to the stage in Walt’s car and I bet Walt was glad to see him use the car.
50 years ago he stood at that same spot and brought Disneyland into the living rooms across America. Now, he stands there to celebrate his friend and visionary; Walter Elias Disney. Several amusing stories later he turns the show over to the jumbotron, which showed us glimpses of the happenings at Disney properties around the world. Following the multimedia show Mr Eisner took the stage and let’s say, his reception wasn’t very warm. In fact, a section of the crowd chanted ‘We Want Roy. We Want Roy.” Next up was a former mouseketeer Christina Aguilera; who, amazingly enough, was actually wearing clothes (as was pointed out by a 12 year old near us.) She sang what would have to be the heart of Disney dreams; “When You Wish Upon A Star.”
Then the highlight of the show, the regal and practically perfect in everyway Julie Andrews took center stage to deafening applause. She fulfills her role as the Ambassador of the 50th Happiest Homecoming Celebration and officially kicks off the ‘welcome home’ celebration. Now characters pour in from every direction. A mischievous Stitch is being chased by 2 motorcycle policemen. Genie is riding a real camel. Goofy rides in on Herbie the Love Bug. Cinderella comes down the middle of the stage and curtsies to Julie Andrews. Doves, ants, fairies, bears, and many other Disney characters come from every direction. They have made it home!
That is exactly what it felt like. Home. Kick your feet up, relax, be comfortable – Home. While I am sure many of us wished we could live there and never have, many of us still call it home.
Disney is a harbor in a world of chaos. Walt wanted it to be just that. Go through the berm and enter a whole new world. Explore yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy. He built the Park for us – to be our home. He didn’t build Disneyland with profit in mind. He did not build it to make an empire. He built so that there could be a place where grandparents, parents, and children together can laugh and play. Is there any better definition of home then that?
Yes, the characters were home and so were we - - - and 15,000 other people packed like sardines into the Hub and Main Street. So where do all these people go after the ceremonies. No where in particular because we couldn’t move. But who cares, we were with friends and wanted to have fun – and to find a place to sit since by this time we have been standing 5 hours; some of our group even longer.
I am not going to dwell on the daytime activities. Our first ride was Jungle Cruise and the changes were great. (The skipper was boring but that happens.) We had lunch at the Stage Door Café. We rode Pirates and then explored the newly opened Disney Gallery.
That is worthy of a slight pause. There are 2 new exhibits in the Park. First, as I just mentioned, the Disney Gallery is open featuring the Art of 50 Artists to Celebrate 50 years (or some such title.) Inside you will find concept art that covers 50 years. It is a very special exhibit.
The other new exhibit is on Main Street in the Opera House (that formerly was the home to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln; which will return in 18 months.) This exhibit is a tribute to Walt and to Disneyland. Many pictures and renderings cover the walls. There is a showcase of ticket books and special event tickets from over the years. Dominating the room (where the Capital building used to sit) is a scale model of Disneyland, 1955 Disneyland to be exact. It is breathtaking in it’s scope and detail. It is amazing to see the Park as it was and to be able to mentally place where everything is now. You see the hill that became the Matterhorn. You can see the waters that because the Sub Lagoon. You can see where the tracks used to run and how they were moved to create New Orleans and Bear Countries. Both exhibits get a very special 2 thumbs up.
Now where was I? Oh yes, we are waiting again. This time we are on the Small World Promenade. We are at the far end, near the entrance to It’s A Small World. Now we are waiting for the Parade of Dreams.
Disneyland has had some great parades over the years. I can remember the big heads of the bicentennial America on Parade. We have political parades, party parades, and movie parades. The Parade of Dreams tops them all. The music is fantastic, the floats are stunning, and the street performers are incredible to watch.
The Parade kicks off with Peter Pan and Tinker Bell. Not a miniature Tinker or an AA Tinker – a real live Tinker Bell sits on top of the float and waves. This is followed by the Beauty and the Beast float. The AA figures of Lumiere and Cogsworth are incredible. Soon into view is Gepetto and the Pinocchio float. And what would a Pinocchio float be without Jiminy Cricket waving to the crowds. The next 2 floats are from under the sea – as Ariel and Ursela both have floats. They are followed by the floats for Alice in Wonderland and the Lion King. Finally we have the Princess Float (Cinderella, Aurora, and Snow White.) Dancing around the float are Goofy, Pluto, and Donald Duck. That is 3 of the Fab 5 – but where are the other 2? They are high on top of the float, a very regal looking Mickey and Minnie Mouse wave down to the crowd!
A nice feature of this parade is the show stops. 3 times during the route the floats stop and special action takes place. We had the Lion King float stop in front of us. Across the speakers a voice speaks to us from the past.
TO ALL WHO COME TO THIS HAPPY PLACE
(An expectant pause hangs over the air. Everyone knows what comes next, yearns for it to come, and excitement build…)
The music hits a beat, the crowds cheers, and the top of the Lion King float raises, literally. This impressive float gets even more impressive as tree gets taller and taller. 2 rope acrobats begin to do their stuff. Characters dress as animal dance all around the float. Birds on strings and poles fly circles over our head and..well…dreams are remembered. Magical dreams while eating churrons, licking ice cream, or snacking on cinnamon rolls as I have watched many different parades over the years.
Well, we have a pretty typical Disney day for a while. We join 999 happy haunts. We did a fairly quick trip in the Walt Disney exhibit (mentioned earlier.) Due to time and crowds we did not stay for the movie. Something to look forward too! We grabbed a bite to eat at a fairly busy Redd Rocket. It is now a little before 7:00pm. The next major item on our list is the fireworks show. Wisely, as it turns out, we decide to grab our places for the fireworks. We travel to the Hub and camp out in the middle of Main Street, fairly near the coffee cart that sits between Frontierland and Carnation Plaza.
And we did what we do best for the day – we wait. Later after the fireworks we would ride Buzz and Indy; but for now we wait and we wait some more. And to break the monotony of waiting, we get rained on. Not the simple sprinkles of the morning but real rain. Enough I pulled out my poncho, XFKirsten dons her Sea World weather gear. Cavemandon pops is umbrella. A certain member buys a $7 poncho which almost immediately causes the rain to stop. The clouds part, the Parade of Dreams makes it’s return trip to the back of the park (starting about 15 minutes late because of the rain.)
One final rabbit trail if I may. We only saw it from a distance but the Parade of Dreams looks even more impressive at night! They do not rely on flood lights from the buildings but they are their own lights. A few even commented that this parade is our new electrical parade.
Finally, the clock gets closer and closer to 9:25. The crowds get closer and closer together. The crowds that packed the Esplanade and Main Street this morning pack the place again.
Suddenly, the Castle changes colors. The crowd cheers. The music swells. And a voice comes across the speaker…”Good Evening, this is Julie Andrews.” Well, that is all this crowd needs to hear. Cheers, whistles, and applause ring out. We are ready to see the new Remember…Dreams Come True fireworks show.
Will it be as good as the beloved Believe, There is Magic in the Stars? Oh yes, as good and even much better.
Open your heart and remember, dreams come true. If I had to design a firework show to showcase 50 years of Disneyland magic, what would be my focus? Well, the Park of course. Yes, movies played a part but this is about the Park. And the show hits it on the head. 50 years ago Walt set in motion a dream. This show takes us on a magical journey through the beloved rides and movies from the past 50 years.
The show opens with a ‘wish’ montage. Yes, Disney magic has always been about dreamers. Characters that had a desire to go beyond the circumstance, a wish, something to change in their lives. Whether is Simba looking into the clouds wishing his father was there to Ariel fathoms below wishing for a pair of legs. Whether it was man daring to be as small as an atom or marveling how life is easier with the latest inventions. Dreams of elephants flying, wishes of Genie’s being set free, a hearts desire to be a boy. They had their wishes and Walt set in motion a way for their wishes, their dreams, to come true. Yes, with a little faith, trust, and pixie dust we must remember, dreams come true.
The show highlights Walt’s opening speech. Then we are taken on a magical journey around the kingdom. We start on Main Street with the Disneyland Railroad Announcement and we hear the music from the Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade.
Then it is show time as we hear the Tiki Room birds sing. We are warned not to look into the eyes of the idol as we journey with Indiana Jones. The crowd is totally into the show as we hear…welcome foolish mortals in a tribute to the Haunted Mansion.
Now don’t forget, the Castle is part of the show now. It changes colors to match the show. There are projections on the Castle. It is as much as part of the show as the fireworks. And the Park is part of the show too. The fireworks come from everywhere and I mean everywhere. If you are in the middle of the hub, there are fireworks 360 degrees around you (at times.)
Just as we hear Leota call to us to ‘come back’, we hear an eerie voice echo ‘dead men tell no tales.’ The Pirates take control of the show and wow! The Jolly Roger is projected onto the Matterhorn and a battle begins. Fireworks shoot from the Matterhorn and fire off towards Frontierland. Not to be outdone, fireworks are shot from Frontierland back to the Matterhorn. A battle of firework cannonballs fill the sky as the Pirate Captain barks out his orders.
As we catch our breath we are taking on the ‘wildest ride in the wilderness.’ Music from Davy Crockett fills the air as guns shots ring out; complete with sound effects and of course fireworks. We journey to a Laughing Place, fly to Neverland with Peter Pan, chug along with Casey Jr, celebrate a very merry unbirthday, spin with Roger Rabbit, jam with some Country Bears, bounce with Tigger, and pop with the weasel.
As your toes tap we begin a journey in Tomorrow. Many sound clips ring out from Submarine Voyage, Adventures thru Inner Space and then we kick it into immediate boarding with Star Tours. The Star Wars theme starts and a space battle begins.
We finish off with Julie Andrews reminding us that every dreamer may wish upon a star.
And that is what 5/5 was all about. It did not matter that we were 10 weeks early for the ‘true’ 50th. We gathered to share a vision, a vision that Walt began as he dared to dream beyond what conventional thinking thought was right and prudent. America wasn’t built by the money conscience. America was built by the dreamer. That is Walt’s legacy as we begin to celebrate 50 years. He wants us to continue holding the flame, holding onto imagination, looking to the stars at night and dream, and to remember, there is magic as long as we have faith, trust, and a little pixie dust.
And to think, it was all started by a mouse. Welcome home to all of us as we being the Happiest Celebration of Earth. Welcome home Mouse! May your banner wave high, high, high high.