Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary: Why It Matters

Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary: Why It Matters

Today was the45th anniversary of Walt Disney World. Here’s what I observed on this “special” day:

Transportation had buses ready to bring extra guests to the park from the TTC. But express monorails–a signature part of Walt Disney World’s opening–were not up and running until well after opening.

Guests entering the park were handed free buttons and commemorative guide maps. The guide map noted the 9:30 am celebration, the merchandise, and anniversary cupcakes. It then wasted an entire half of the brochure to a depiction of the anniversary’s logo.

As opening crowds rushed to the Emporium to buy merchandise, this creating lines and crowds they were not ready for.

Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary
I hope the people who waited here were able to get the merchandise they were hoping for. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Other crowds gather in front of the castle. Those waiting to enter the Emporium are now lined up all the way toward the entrance to Adventureland.

About a half hour before the show the Main Street, U.S.A., the fire truck comes through with guests, but there’s practically no room for it to get through. It was if operations hadn’t received a memo that something special was going on that day.

The show starts promptly at 9:30 with the Walt Disney World ambassadors welcoming guests.

A flood of Disney characters come on stage. The guests are excited. The Country Bears were there, as well as new characters from Zootopia.

Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary
Crowds love Disney characters. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

George Kalogridis is welcomed on stage. He speaks for about 5 minutes using teleprompters. I admire much about him as a leader. Of course, not everyone has a gift for speaking, but with 45 years waiting for this day to happen, he should be ready for this event. He spoke about starting at the Contemporary 45 years ago clearing tables. He has a great story. He just needed to speak from the heart.

Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary
George Kalogridis welcomes guests to the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Mentions of current projects are discussed, such as Pandora, Star Wars and Toy Story Land. George notes that more things will be shared between now and the resort’s Golden anniversary. The remarks are short–as if corporate didn’t want him to say anything else. He introduces the next part, and then leaves the stage, not returning.

Singers–apparently everyday Cast members–come on stage to sing “When You Wish Upon a Star”. It’s nice, but not very polished. The characters simply watch stand there and watch, not adding any choreography or additional staging. It’s like observing a really nice Karaoke performance. But it isn’t the polish of a Disney production.

Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary
The expression on the Mad Hatter pretty well summarizes this entire presentation. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The show ends with one pump of fireworks. Nothing more. The daily castle show gets more pyro hype. Afterwards, characters, singers and ambassadors leave the stage. Finally, after an awkward pause, the recorded voice thanks people for attending.

Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary
The morning clouds cleared just in time for the photo op. Note the banner above the doorway of the castle. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Guests start leaving but some linger as a technician starts to fix the banner which failed to correctly unfold on the castle. Finally, in its unfolded state, guests applaud.

An hour later, the banner is gone.

Long lines continue at the Emporium. Lines for anniversary cupcakes are also long. By the time I leave, there are long lines at the toll plaza with guests trying to get in. But the party was pretty much over.

Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary
Traffic is stopped coming into the Magic Kingdom parking lots. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

All in all, it was just disappointing. I don’t think anyone expected a celebration similar to the 25th anniversary (most remember the balloon cake castle, but it also had a massive band/character experience, new attractions like Toon Town Fair and a brand new parade). Still, it seemed that there could have been something more. It seemed more important than a 5 minute show, some souvenirs and a cupcake.

As a point of comparison, Disneyland’s 45th anniversary was its lamest ever, but it still had a new parade and anniversary decor. This was even more disappointing.

When I celebrate a wedding anniversary or a birthday, I don’t do so because I think there is a bottom line financial benefit. I do so to cherish the memories, share appreciation, celebrate with those you love, and point ourselves to the new years ahead. Such events give renewed energy and investment to those committed to the relationship.

I saw people talk about when they were there for previous anniversaries. Most expressed disappointment by the day’s offerings. One guest had pins for nearly every anniversary. They could talk about previous celebrations, but there wasn’t much to say about this one. Even as bad as that birthday cake balloon was for the 25th anniversary, people at least could remember it. What really is there to remember of the Walt Disney World 45th anniversary?

Disney missed an opportunity today. The event was fairly forgettable. I think they will pay a price for that–one that won’t be measured by the end of the day, but one that can ultimately impact the bottom line in terms of loyal, returned guests.


J. Jeff Kober

One thought on “Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary: Why It Matters

  1. Thanks for your insight and comments! From everything else I have read about the celebration, I think your opinion is shared by most who were there. Disappointing seems to be a recurring theme these days with WDW…

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