Disneyland Resort celebrates 100-year history with yearlong celebration
Disney100, which kicked off Jan. 27 to mark the company’s centennial, includes a new ride, new nighttime shows, foods and merchandise and the reopening of Toontown
In the summer of 1923, aspiring cartoonist Walt Disney arrived in California from the Midwest with big dreams, $40 in savings and a handful of sketches to help him pitch a cartoon series to a Hollywood studio. He didn’t have to wait long. On Oct. 16 of that year, he signed a contract with a distributor, and — with his older brother, Roy — launched the business that would become The Walt Disney Co.
One hundred years later, the Disney company now has an estimated worth of nearly $100 billion, 12 theme parks around the world and hundreds of films, television shows and stage musicals. But to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary at Disney’s very first park, Disneyland in Anaheim, and its sister park, Disney California Adventure, company officials have focused their energies on honoring how the company got its start — animation.
On Jan. 27, the Orange County parks kicked off Disney100, a yearlong celebration built around the company’s more than 60 animated feature films, from the very first, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, to some of the most recent: “Soul,” “Coco” and “Encanto.” This tribute to Disney animation — as well as some of the company’s most high-profile live-action properties, Star Wars and Marvel Studios — can be seen throughout the parks in a new ride, new nighttime entertainment, a revived parade, food and merchandise items and the March 8 reopening of the Mickey’s Toontown land in Disneyland Park.
Here’s a look at what’s new and what’s coming soon at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, which Southern California residents can visit on weekdays through May 25 with a discounted $73-per-day, three-day pass with proof of residency. Know before you go: To control crowds, Disney parks in Anaheim now require advance reservations and tickets are only sold online.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway Ride — Disneyland
This newly opened dark ride (so-called for its indoor track in darkly lit rooms) replaces the former Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin ride near the entrance to Mickey’s Toontown. Riders board cars to travel to a 1920s-era premiere of Mickey and Minnie’s latest cartoon short, but their journey takes a wrong turn and mayhem ensues. As riders move through the ride’s indoor queue, they’ll pass exhibits that celebrate the costumes, props and designs of the Mickey Mouse shorts, the first of which — “Steamboat Willie” — premiered on Nov. 18, 1928. Listen for the metal whistle instrument used in the “Steamboat Willie” short in the ride’s soundtrack.
‘World of Color — One’ — Disney California Adventure
This new nighttime water fountain, projection, light and sound spectacular is the first World of Color show to feature films from Walt Disney Animation, Pixar Studios and the “Star Wars” and Marvel Studios “Avengers” films combined. Directed by Wendy Ruth, show director for Disney Live Entertainment, the show has an aquatic theme. Ruth said the theme is about how all it takes is one drop of water to create a ripple effect that leads to waves of change. Walt Disney was such a “drop,” and so was the mouse chef Remy in “Ratatouille,” the inquisitive Mirabel in “Encanto” and the Chinese girl warrior Mulan in “Mulan.” Ruth said that one of her favorite moments in the 24-minute show is the crowd reaction to the “Star Wars” main theme music and accompanying light-saber lasers and production art used in the projections. The show also features a tribute to “Soul,” about a Black music teacher who dies before he can achieve his dream of being a jazz musician, then tries to reunite his separated body and soul. The show’s lights and fountains were programmed to the film’s score to create the visual manifestation of jazz. “One” shows nightly on Paradise Bay.
‘Wondrous Journeys’ — Disneyland
The park’s new nighttime show is also focused on 100 years of Disney animation. It features fireworks, music and projection-mapped animation on the walls of Main Street U.S.A., Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the It’s a Small World ride building and the Rivers of America. Jordan Peterson, show director for Disney Live Entertainment, described the show as a “love letter to our studio.” The show’s story takes viewers from the earliest Disney animated features to the most recent. Because “Wondrous Journeys” is being presented in multiple locations, the animations will vary slightly from place to place, so visitors will have to travel around the park to see tributes to all 60-plus films, which include “Hercules,” “Peter Pan,” “Treasure Planet,” “Frozen” and “The Princess and the Frog.” The score was recorded with an 80-piece orchestra, 16 singers and a 33-voice choir, and, as always, concludes with fireworks.
‘Disney 100 years of Wonder’ — Disneyland
Inside the Main Street Opera House (better known as the home of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln”), the Disney Gallery is exhibiting hundreds of archival items from the company’s history, including concept art and models for films, theme park rides, an animator’s desk, a multi-plane camera that created 3D effects in films like “Fantasia,” and more.
The ‘Magic Happens’ Parade — Disneyland
On Feb. 24, Disneyland will relaunch its “Magic Happens” street parade. First introduced on Feb. 28, 2020, it ran for just 14 days before the pandemic arrived and shut down Disney parks for more than a year. The 40-minute parade celebrates Mickey Mouse, as well as some of the more recent animated films in the Disney canon, including “Coco” and “Moana.” To give the parade a more modern and hip vibe, the score was composed by R&B singer-songwriter Todrick Hall, with choreography by San Diego-raised Tessandra Chavez of “World of Dance” fame and makeup by David Petruschin of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Mickey’s Toontown reopening — Disneyland
After a nearly yearlong closure, Toontown reopens with an all-new look on March 8. Toontown opened in 1993 near It’s a Small World. It was designed as a cartoonish cul-de-sac where Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto live in separate homes and children can line up to meet these characters, play and ride low-speed rides. Walt Disney Imagineering producer Jeff Shaver-Moskowitz said the land is being reimagined to give parents with small children more room for children to run around and rest. A large grasslike area called CenTOONial Park is being built near the entrance with climbing areas, water tables and a “dreaming tree.” The former Goofy’s Bounce House is being turned into a clubhouse with lots of hands-on contraptions, toys and tools that children can interact with, and a new play yard outside. Donald Duck’s Boat is being revamped with water play splash pads, balance beams and rocking toys.
New decor, food and merchandise — both parks
To celebrate the company’s platinum anniversary, park decorations, food and gift items bear the traditional 100-year milestone colors of platinum and purple. Look for cakes, trifles, tarts and pies bearing edible silver Disney100 “coins” and purple and silver frosting and sprinkles at the parks’ bakeries, cafes and restaurants. New Disney100 merchandise includes collectible cups, hats, ears and clothing and more.
Disneyland Park & Disney California Adventure
When: Open daily, hours vary
Where: 1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim
One-day single-park tickets: $104 and up. Park-hopper tickets (to visit both parks in one day) are $60 extra. Until May 25, Southern California residents can purchase a three-day, one-park-per-day, weekdays-only ticket for $219 (or $73 per day).
Reservations required: To control overcrowding in 2021, the parks instituted a mandatory reservation system for all park visitors that is still in force. Advance online ticket purchase guarantees reservation.
Parking: $30 per car or motorcycle; $35 to $40 for oversize vehicles
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