Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Festival of Good Times in the 41st Year: Disneyland 1996

          Okay, so granted, I may not have picked the most exciting year to write about for the 60 Days to 60 Years of Disneyland, but I had fun searching for some nuggets of history that hid in this important year.  Well, important year to me anyway.  I picked 1996 because it was the year I graduated from high school and my Disney dreams were growing rapidly that year.  I so badly wanted to dance some day at the Happiest Place on Earth, and I knew it would happen eventually.  Now hindsight has told me that I should have taken a more “Walt” historical year considering when I was a tour guide and one of my favorite tours to give was the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour, and I was a part of the first group to change the tour to include a lunch at the end (it has since changed again).  Or maybe I should have picked one of the years that I worked there and shared some of the “backstage destroy the magic” shenanigans that I witnessed firsthand.  Even better yet, I could have picked last year when I was running through Disneyland on a regular basis participating in all of the runDisney events like many of my pals.  No, I chose 1996.  A year that I thought I was there, but then realized no that I hadn’t actually gone to Disneyland then, but that I went September of 1997.  Oops!  Well, I guess that story of my last time parking in the old lot now Disney California Adventure Park will just have to wait.  Either way, here is my account as to what was up with the Happiest Place on Earth in 1996…

          Timeline of Notable Activities/Events:
  • ·         January 27th Toy Story Fun House opened as a temporary stage show that gave guests an experience with the popular 1995 movie characters, well from what I understand anyway.  How many of you saw the show?

  • ·         March 21st marked the renovation plans for another new Tomorrowland to come in 1998 (yes, I actually got to ride Rocket Rods, in the front seat too!  However I still say bring back the peoplemover).   
  • ·         Big Thunder Ranch welcomed an interactive live stage show called the Festival of Fools starring characters from the animated movie, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  To this day I am not sure why I didn’t see this show when I was there in 1997.  I so badly wanted to dance on a Disney stage and I’ve always enjoyed the theatrical performances envisioning what parts I would have played (especially loved Animazement and Steps in Time), but maybe I just didn’t know to look for it as I was so focused on hitting the mountain range.  I’ve seen pieces of the show on YouTube and it looked to be very exciting.  

  • ·         The Mike Fink Keel Boats made a brief yearlong return and then disappeared again in 1997.  

  • ·         Cruisin’ The Kingdom Parade, one of the shortest parades in Disney history graced 1996 with its presence and then left in 1997 as well.  It was a series of non-regular Disney characters, vintage cars, and roller-bladers (remember that was a thing).  Think rainy day cavalcade but with more wheels.
  • ·         A mysterious chandelier clock showed up in the foyer of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and it doesn’t seem that anyone still to this day knows where it came from and why it was added.  It is beautiful though.  

  • ·         Two new windows graced Main Street USA honoring Disney Legends Frank Wells and Sam McKim.  Wells became chief operating officer in 1984 and worked a partnership with Michael Eisner to give the Walt Disney Company some of its most amazing years of financial growth.  While McKim designed souvenir maps from 1958-1964 that were sold in Disneyland as well as storyboards for several Disney films.  Can anyone tell me where these windows are on Main Street?

  • ·         Perhaps the biggest most notable piece of Disneyland history that came out of 1996 is that it was the farewell season for the Main Street Electrical Parade.  We all know now that the parade became Disney’s Electrical Parade and traveled to other Disney parks and then made it back to Disney’s California Adventure in the summer of 2001 (I auditioned to be a performer in the spring before the return and made it through several rounds, but was cut in the end.  However, I did get the privilege of working guest control a couple of times for it…  Not the same.), but it was hard for many Disney lovers to say goodbye to this nostalgic parade.  The music is like no other!  Other parades have tried to match up but they are just not the same.  Spectromagic in Walt Disney World comes close, but for me it has a creepy weirdness factor that I can’t get over.  Now the Paint the Night Parade does look to be interesting, so I’m excited to see it someday.

Now while 1996 may have marked a year that I was not personally at the park, but it sure wasn’t a year that went by without my dreams of being there on a regular basis someday.  I didn’t know that in just five shorts years the 24 hour military time of the Disneyland Resort would be my life, but the desire was building.  Because of this magical place I have met some of the most amazing visionaries, dreamers, historians, fellow believers, and most importantly, friends that no matter how the park changes it will always be home to me.  No matter how sparse people thought Tomorrowland was or how upset people were that the Main Street Electrical Parade was leaving, at least our castle never looked like this.

I know, a jab at Walt Disney World 25th Celebration in 1996.  I love them both, but Disneyland will always have my heart.  I can’t wait to see her in all of her beautiful sparkling diamonds.