Walt Disney World celebrates 40 year anniversary

| October 1, 2011

Walt Disney World celebrated its 40th anniversary today.  The Magic Kingdom opened October 1, 1971. I was thrilled to be in the Magic Kingdom today with lots of Disney lovers. You could feel the excitement in the air.  I wish I could have been there on opening day.

Disney had a number of cast members that were there opening day in 1971.

Some of the cast members we had an opportunity to meet were Charles Ridgway, former Director of Walt Disney World (WDW Public Relations), Forrest Bahruth, Epcot show Director of the grand opening, and Darlene Kennedy, Creative Costuming at WDW resort.

The Disney Ambassadors welcomed us to this special event.

The Main St. Philharmonic played a selection of Disney tunes while we waited for the ceremony to begin.

There was a parade of Disney characters and snippets of the music used in the parades over the last 40 years.

Once the characters were on stage they had a short ceremony with Meg Crofton, President of the Walt Disney World Resorts.

Phi Holmes, Vice President of the Magic Kingdom and opening day cast member shared some memories from 4o years ago.

My favorite moment from today was when the Magic Kingdom Barbershop Quartet invited the crowd to sing along to “When you Wish upon a Star.”  It left me teary eyed thinking how blessed I am to be able to enjoy Walt Disney World on a daily basis.  I wish all my friends and family that enjoy Walt Disney World could have been there to enjoy this special day!

Today is a day I will remember for a long time.  Thank you Walt Disney and all the castmembers that make Walt Disney World a special place to visit.  I can’t wait to celebrate 50 years.  If you were there today what did you think?


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  • njchris412

    I felt it was to short and the park was super crowded

  • Jeremy Gates

    Great summary of the events, Kathy! It looks like quite a celebration and I’m sad I couldn’t make it. I’m glad you are out there filling us in on it all! I watched the video and couldn’t help but tear up, too, when everyone sang “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The magic truly is special. Thanks again!

  • tinaheck

    It was a day I will remember for a long time as well. Unfortunately for a very different reason. Disney’s lack of planning, particularly for the merchandise aspect of the event, was deplorable. I was one of the many people who were literally lied to throughout the day. Disney failed to do much by way of communication about this event ahead of time. They gave out merchandise wristbands early Saturday morning only to cheaters and cast members; by the time Disney opened up transportation from the parking lot (TTC) to MK, at 7:10, the supply of wristbands had already been exhausted for 40 minutes. There was mass confusion even among cast members working the event as to what merchandise was available where and when. The commemorative map listed the names of several stores selling such merchandise, but no one that I asked, including cast members, could tell me where these stores were. Guests who were able to find these stores were told that the merchandise they’d had had been sold out within minutes. Then, once the merchandise at the main venue was made available for the general public at noon, no more than 40 minutes later they closed the line, telling people that the merchandise was all gone. Later they reopened the line again (amazingly, the pixies must have created more merch, because it was not all gone after all). This was repeated no less than 4 times throughout the afternoon. At 4:30 they closed the line again, first saying that the merch was all gone but later revising this statement to say that the store was closing at 5:00 (which doesn’t really explain why they closed at 4:30). After more than a dozen “guests” waiting in the street asking to speak to the person in charge, Disney eventually said that any merch left would be available at the Trading Post on Sunday morning. Guests continued to ask to speak to the person in charge, insisting that it was a simple matter to answer whether or not there was any merch left or not. Eventually Disney did admit there was merch left, and the people in the street repeatedly asked why it couldn’t be sold now, but the only answer they were given was that the remaining merch had to be inventoried and that the store was closing. Guests asked if the merch couldn’t be made available in the Trading Post later than night since the park was open until midnight, rather than making available the next day to people who weren’t even at the celebratory event. The people were told that it would take too long to inventory the merchandise, and they took this as an indicator that there were, in fact, plenty of items remaining to be sold. The guests remaining in the street waiting for answers were told to go to City Hall and talk to Guest Relations. Some did so, but others did not, citing the fact that City Hall could not do anything to assist them. They stated that the merchandise was right there, and all that was necessary was for the store to reopen as it had several times throughout the afternoon. More than one of these individuals stated that it seemed personal; everytime they got in line, the store would close, but after they were sent away, it reopened. One woman pulled her five-year-old son away angrily saying, “Come on, Billy, we’re leaving.” The confused little boy, sensing the tension in air, asked, “Why?” “Because they don’t like us,” she answered. Again Billy asked why, and this time he was told, “I don’t know, but we’re not going to be spending $20,000 a year here anymore. We’re taking our money and going elsewhere!” Meanwhile, guest who did go to City Hall as directed were told by the Cast Member there that he/she could not do anything to help them, and they were given a business card with the contact information for Guest Communication Services. This was an unforgettable day for many of us. The “Magic” Kingdom turned into the “Cigam” Kingdom.

  • DCTooTall

    Wait…. You mean they still had Merch later in the day?! After being told numerous times after the celebration in front of the castle by several people throughout the MK that they had completely sold out of the special day-of-merchandise, We just gave up on any hope of getting any of the cool stuff to commemorate our trip and resigned ourselves to the idea that we would have to be happy with the special park map and the button we got when we got into the park.

    The thing that REALLY got me was the cupcakes. We were told they had sold out within 1hr when we decided to swing by the bakery after lunch. Somehow we couldn’t justify waiting in the line down the street first thing in the morning, and figured “It’s cupcakes. They’ll have plenty later.” How little did we know….

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