Fascinating and Unusual Disney Moments from the 1950s to Today
In our last newsletter we talked about some of the most significant events from Disney’s first three decades. Since we’re going to have plenty of Halloween hijinks coming up in our next newsletter, we thought that this time around we’d wrap our “Disney History Tour” by highlighting some of the more unusual events in the subsequent decades. We all know that Disneyland opened in the 1950s, that Walt Disney World opened in the 1970s, and that EPCOT opened in the 1980s. But let’s dig a little deeper! What else was going on in those decades? Well, get ready to climb into the “go with me here” vehicle and let’s head back to our first stop in the Fabulous Fifties!
On June 14, 1959, the Disneyland monorail was dedicated by Vice-President Richard Nixon, who was joined by his wife Pat and their two daughters Tricia and Julie. Walt Disney himself began the ceremony by saying “To open the first operating monorail system in America, it is our good fortune to have our friend and fellow Californian, the Vice-President of the United States, Mr. Richard Nixon and his charming family, Mrs. Pat Nixon, ‘Julia’ and Patricia, his daughters.” Nixon replied: “Thank you very much, Walt. I want to say this has really been one of the most exciting and interesting days that I’ve ever had in my life and I’m sure that’s true of all the others who are here at Disneyland.”
Disney purchased the film and merchandising rights to A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories in 1961, leading to the release of several animated featurettes. One minor but notable difference between the original Milne version and Disney’s version was in the name; the silly old bear that we’ve come to adore on screen has no hyphens in his name (Winnie the Pooh), as opposed to the character created by Milne, which is spelled with hyphens. Winnie the Pooh would go on to become one of Disney’s most beloved characters, eventually surpassing Mickey himself in terms of merchandise sales.
The Black Hole was released on December 21, 1979, and was the first Disney film to be rated PG. It was also Disney’s most expensive film to date, with production costs totalling $20 million.
Ground is broken for Tokyo Disneyland on December 3, 1980, and construction commences on the first Disney park outside the United States.
The Disney Wilderness Preserve, an 11,500-acre nature reserve near Kissimmee, Florida, was established in April 1993. On November 11, 1999, the Disney Wilderness Preserve opened to the public, providing visitors with an educational center and seven miles of walking trails.
The year 2003 saw Disney become the first studio in history to surpass $3 billion in global box office receipts.
The video game “Epic Mickey” is released on November 30 in North America. “Epic Mickey” saw the famous mouse forego his typical cheerful persona and instead cast him as a mischievous and adventurous epic hero. The plot centered around Mickey as he accidentally damages a world called Wasteland, created for forgotten characters by Yen Sid (the sorcerer from Fantasia), which Mickey must now save. As Mickey, you’ were armed with a magic paintbrush, which allowed you to draw or erase objects using paint and thinner. For example, obstacles could be erased with thinner and then restored with paint. The game was notable for featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, whose rights had been reacquired by Disney in 2006.
Walt Disney World Resort celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 1, 2021. The celebration lasted nearly two years, and saw the arrival of some new attractions, (including Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure), golden statues throughout all of the parks, and a new look for Cinderella Castle, complete with a golden “50” medallion!