Back in February of 2003 (February 4th, to be exact), Kevin published an article on MiceAge called "Disneyland's 50th". In it, Kevin made rumor-based predictions and suggestions for the then still far-in-the-future 50th Celebration. Three years later, with the 50th coming to a close (though after two years it will actually feel odd to have Disneyland not be dipped in gold everywhere I look), we can finnally see how the 50th played out.
He started with the parade...
Well as we now know what ended up being Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams, while being a well-done Disney parade and easily viewable at both day and dusk, it unfortunately missed the chance to actually celebrate the rides, with the exception of the first float. But even that float leads us to wonder why Peter Pan is driving the Disneyland railroad and not a conductor. Let's start with the parade. The key here is a parade that looks good both day and night. The Parade of the Stars looks pretty plain at night. Its predecessor, the Mulan Parade, was decent at night, but it had nothing to differentiate it from the daytime version. Light Magic, as we know, was a dud, so you have to go all the way back to the Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP) to find a truly attention-grabbing nighttime parade. Could Disney just do a clone of the MSEP (but with different floats and different music)? I suppose so. It�s been done before � Dreamlights (in Tokyo) and Spectromagic (in Orlando) are essentially updates of the MSEP, and they work just fine. A new Anaheim version of the "floats covered in lights" would be enough, and satisfy most every fan. But such a parade doesn�t work in the day, so my guess is that Disney will try to find a parade that works for both day and night. Notice that in the last eight years of budget cuts, the emphasis has been on finding one parade for both day/night, whereas in the past the MSEP would play at night and something else would play during the day. Now, Disneyland isn�t about to pay for two parades, so they have to find a hybrid. If they do it right, a hybrid could be downright cool. Imagine something like the Mulan Parade or Parade of the Stars that had floats which were somehow different at night. Lasers. Fog. Fiber optics that really work. Effects that only show up at night. It would be like watching a different parade! All I ask is that the parade have good music which doesn�t become repetitive too quickly. An ideal theme is to celebrate Disneyland for a change, rather than the movies from the studio. How about a Pirates of the Caribbean float? it's a small world. Adventures thru InnerSpace. PeopleMover. The list is certainly longer than the required number of floats!
Next came fireworks...
He wasn't too far off there. There are fireworks from both Toontown and the castle, and while the fireworks-in-the-round effect is really only used during the Haunted Mansion stretching room segment, the visual pun of the vertical fireworks and stretching room dialog from the ghost host is used quite wisely. And of course there are the projections on the castle and it's a small world. The soundtrack was a medley of Disney PARK music for once, although one had to wait through the comparatively underwhelming Wishes segment to get to it. This show has definitely outdone "Believe" (albeit that's a conclusion healready came to in his 8/25/05 'Remember, Dreams and Wishes" article). As for a Disneyland theme, we got a Disneyland 50th theme, "Remember When", but its really just another anthem song that Disney has done before with other events and attraction openings. The unofficial Disneyland theme has been a medley of "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes" that has been used in the marketing for the parks, and with the dream theme of the new marketing theme, I can only assume we will be hearing these songs even more in the next few years. Now let�s turn to fireworks. It's true that Believe There's Magic in the Stars isn't very old, and is already a fan favorite. Why change something if it isn't broken? I submit to you that fireworks still have a ways to go. Just as Believe radically updated the familiar Fantasy in the Sky fireworks, a new show could really outshine Believe. How? One word (well, OK, one phrase): "Fireworks in the Round." The Festival of Fools show was a "theater in the round": action happening all over the place, often where you aren't currently looking. The classic art of misdirection functions here to surprise, dazzle, and entertain, and there is no reason Disney cannot employ it for fireworks. In fact, the idea has been considered before as an "expansion" to Believe: to add fireworks all around the perimeter of the park. It was deemed too expensive, however, for a simple addition to an already popular experience. But the 50th Anniversary, already relying heavily on promotions and entertainment, could justify this expense. It would be especially dazzling if they do it right, though. Picture, if you will, the normal Believe show. The vast majority of the action starts out above Toontown. You'd expect the castle to join in with a few rockets of its own halfway through. But then, unexpectedly, more low-level pyro erupts above Splash Mountain. And then above Innoventions. The Matterhorn. Plaza Inn. I know: how about fifty different launch points to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary. In case you're worried about fallout, they could use ashless pyro (Some "close proximity pyrotechnics," especially those used in indoor stadiums, is safe when used carefully and pretty close to ashless. Even modified Roman candles could work). Can you imagine a fireworks show timed to music where pyro explodes all around you? On buildings throughout the park? Even better, in this era of "no ride on Indy will ever be the same," you could create a show with random variations. A different fireworks show every night! Would it be expensive? Undoubtedly. A current Believe show costs around $20,000. But fireworks-in-the-round wouldn't cost more than $30,000 per night. Even if it ran every day of the year, we�re only talking about $11 million, and as you know it would only run holidays and weekends, so the annual cost would be less than that. A very generous 240 days a year. They usually do less than that, so it would only cost about $7 million annually. A new show would need new music, of course. I don�t know about you, but I�ve had enough of "When You Wish Upon a Star." This show needs to be upbeat and high energy. What it needs, in fact, is a Disneyland Theme. Why is there no Disneyland Theme? There's a theme for Pink Panther, James Bond, Charlie Brown, Yahoo, Chili's Baby Back Ribs, Jeopardy, Coca-Cola, Big Red, Cal Worthington, Almond Joy and even Toyota of Orange. Nothing creates branding and brand awareness like a jingle. After fifty years, it�s time for Disneyland to have one, don�t you think? Something unique to the Park, not a borrowed theme from the movies. The fanfare master, of course, is John Williams. He did the 1984 Olympics (something Disney was involved with, in fact), and there�s another well-branded theme to consider as a model. They should get him involved. Something uplifting, bold, and bombastic. There�s no reason established Disney music can't be a small part of it, though, and my vote would go to the Mickey Mouse Club March for two reasons: first, it all started with a mouse, and second, this music formed the high point of Fantasy in the Sky (us fanatics like homages like this, and it would be fitting for the new fireworks show to honor the original one). Rumor has it they may also be exploring using Disneyland attraction music too, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, or it�s a small world. Now THAT would honor the park. Once they create the Disneyland Theme, whatever it is, they should keep using it. Have it as background music on parkwide announcements. I'd like to see them spontaneously blare out the theme music every few hours on parkwide speakers, in fact, to keep things upbeat and exciting.
Indeed, Matterhorn Climbers have returned. Disneyland has put interesting things around the parks, but they are decidedly Hands-Off: Photo Murals (which picture Disney Movies even though they are made out of Disney Theme Park photos and are meant to celebrate the parks, confusing), Golden Attractions (an idea which really sounds better then it looks, but still a cute photo oppourtunity), and two whole exhibits filled with art and memorabilia. Exciting should be the order of the day, actually. They should announce everything, and make a big deal out of all the entertainment offerings. They should bring back the Matterhorn climbers and announce it parkwide, make it an event. In past parkwide promotions, there was an awful lot of entertainment. In addition to the usual area entertainment (such as the Tomorrowland Terrace stage, French Market, walkaround acts, etc), parkwide promotions featured several other "events." Look at 1988's State Fair, for instance: there was the Come to the Park parade, the Main Entrance Mall Exhibit, Captain Zoom the Human Cannonball, the Baby Animal Beauty Contest, Lumberjack�s Timber Carnival, Pigmania pig races, and Disneyland's Best of Show Animals. Granted, those are fair-themed events, but I�m confident they could come up with seven good, interesting, and relevant similar events for 2005. The anniversary should be all about action.
To my mind, Fantasmic is the greatest addition to Disneyland since Pirates of the Caribbean, and Fantasmic succeeds not because it has lasers, fog, and fireworks, but because it is a spectacle. People like spectacles, simple as that. It attracts a crowd, it has surprises and loud noises, and it has upbeat, bombastic music that also appeals to the heart. Fireworks-in-the-round has a good chance of becoming a kind of "Fantasmic Fireworks," if done right.
Even more generally, the entire 50th Anniversary needs spectacle. Party Gras, the 1990 celebration of the 35th Anniversary, had enormous inflatable balloons as parade floats. We need stuff like that. Has there been spectacle at Disneyland lately? Sure, in a couple of forms: first, the flashy and colorful holiday makeover for it�s a small world. It was attention-getting, and word of mouth passed that people just had to see this � the very definition of spectacle. Lightning struck again with the "snow" during the holiday version of Believe. Crowds poured in, and now, suddenly, Disneyland could lay claim to the Christmas season much like Knott�s Berry Farm had done with Halloween. It was the spectacle of snow that did it.
Block Party Bash is certainly exciting and energy filled. However it is decidedly Pixar-themed, purposely, and takes place at DCA. Not really a celebration of Disneyland at all.
Spectacle for the 50th could take many forms, even beyond a flashy new daytime/nighttime parade, fireworks in the round, a new Disneyland theme song, and countless area entertainment. Why not replicate what worked so well before? I�m referring to giveaways in prior anniversaries: in 1985, the Gift Giver Extraordinaire doled out prizes at the Main Entrance, and in 1990 the Dream Machine rose up from the Central Hub to give out other prizes, sometimes even a car. The idea of a lottery for prizes was brilliant then, and it would work just as well now. Disney can even save money this way: instead of cars, grand prizes could be trips to Walt Disney World or the Disney Cruise Lines, things the company can pay for relatively cheaply.
There is even the chance that the actual day of the 50th Anniversary, July 17, could be a big media day. And guess who seems to be interested? None of than Art Linkletter, one of the three hosts for the televised premiere of Disneyland back in 1955. What a fitting tribute that would be! True, he�ll be 93 years old in 2005, but by all accounts he�s both healthy and willing to take the job (see his response to my question about it below). No one at Disney has yet asked Art to take the job, despite his willingness. Fan Daniel Mart has even assembled a Yahoo Group to create an online petition for Art to get the job (the hope is that Disney will take note of the fan community�s wishes). Why not stop by and sign his petition?
Fortunately, Disney decided to make 5/4/05 and 5/5/05 the big media days, though there was a ceremony and plenty of fanfare on 7/17/05. Art Linkletter did appear and speak at both events. In fact, on a personal note, he was seated at the table next to mine at dinner at the Napa Rose the night before the big day.
This claim could be argued either true or false in the way things went, but I personally would say the 50th did successfully create a spectacle. The 50th has driven attendance at Disneyland (and even it's pubescent sister park DCA) to new heights, and the exhaustive 2004/05 refurbishment program has given Disneyland a new (or old) sparkle.
I know, I know. I want a new E-Ticket ride myself. But a 50th Anniversary of parades, fireworks, and marketing isn't necessarily a bad thing. It all depends on how they do it, and whether they achieve the important goal of creating a spectacle. Ideally, a must-see spectacle. To pack in the crowds, they've got to do more than just celebrate. They've got to blow the roof off, and exceed expectations. Disneyland has offered new parades and fireworks before, so the marketing of the 50th will really only be successful if the offerings are truly high energy. Given enough action and excitement, even parades, fireworks, and giveaways can do the trick.
So while not all of his predictions were dead on, congratulations to Kevin on a fairly good idea of what the 50th could have been. Anniversary celebrations are happening all the time of course, with Epcot and Disneyland Paris on the pipeline for next year, so we have more celebrations to look forward to.
(PS- Yes I did repost the entire article. This post was taken from an email to Kevin as a suggestion for a follow-up article, but he suggested I post here instead)