The Happiest Celebration on Earth

Overview of Disneyland's 50th Anniversary at all Disney Parks

Jungle Cruise at Disneyland
••• The Jungle Cruise is one of the original attractions at Disneyland. Disneyland

In 2005, Disneyland celebrated its 50th anniversary with a worldwide event called, "The Happiest Celebration on Earth." Focused at the California park where it all began, the party spread to all Disney parks, including Disney World in Florida. If you want to learn how the Mouse marked the special occasion, detailed info is below.

Before we take a look way back, you may be interested in discovering how Disneyland celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015.

Here are some resources to explore:

Disney Pulled Out the Stops for its 50th Anniversary

When the man best known for bringing the world Mickey Mouse and groundbreaking animated features first proposed building a grand-scale "family park where parents and children could have fun -- together," critics lambasted his idea as "Disney's Folly." Indeed, when Disneyland first opened on July 17, 1955, it was something of a disaster. The landscaping was sparse, the asphalt wasn't completely cured, rides weren't functioning, and the buzz was fairly grim. But a determined Walt Disney learned from his mistakes and polished his beloved park until it became a lustrous gem.

Fifty years later, Walt Disney's bold vision had more than withstood the test of time.

Disneyland and the company's global chain of what are now known as theme parks are more than just vacation meccas; they're cultural landmarks, incubators for technological and industrial innovations, and trendsetters for everything from retail merchandising to hotel design. Firmly entrenched in our collective conscious, a trip to the Disney parks is a rite of passage for children and families.

And they're places to which we return so that we can reconnect with our past and forge new memories.

It only makes sense, then, that the company would be pulling out all the stops for a 50th anniversary blowout. In the wake of Walt Disney World's successful multi-month promotions built around the Florida resort's 25th anniversary, the millennium, and Walt Disney's 100th birthday, the company presented "The Happiest Celebration on Earth," an 18-month festival that kicked off on May 5, 2005.

The focus was on the California original of course (where the event was alternately known as the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth"), but the resorts in Florida, Japan, and France joined in the celebration as well in an unprecedented worldwide, multi-location fete-a-thon. As part of the festivities, all of the parks debuted new (and, in some cases, improved) attractions, shows, and features. And in the case of Hong Kong Disneyland, the company unveiled an entire new park.

The Happiest Celebration on Earth at Disneyland

Disneyland, the park where it all began, kicked off The Happiest Celebration on Earth with a host of new attractions and special events. Among the 18-month anniversary highlights:

Remember...Dreams Come True

An all-new nighttime fireworks spectacular in the spirit of Walt Disney World's lavish Illuminations and Wishes presentations.

Like Wishes, Remember featured narration by Jiminy Cricket. Incorporating Walt Disney's own words, the show harked back to Disneyland's origins. Disney is the world's pyrotechnics master, and this production enhanced the company's reputation.

Space Mountain

The seminal indoor roller coaster already had one makeover a few years back that included the addition of onboard audio. Instead of the Dick Dale surf music that had been part of the attraction, the reconfigured coaster introduced a new "edgy" soundtrack. Disney hasn't been particularly forthcoming about additional updates, but the E-ticket attraction will reportedly include new rocket coaster cars (which will likely deliver smoother rides), a modified finale with a longer reentry tunnel (I hope they don't tinker too much with that, it's one of Space Mountain's most endearing features), and a bunch of new special effects, including a near-encounter with massive meteorite.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

A clone of the popular Tomorrowland attraction, Buzz Lightyear's Space Rangers Spin at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the new interactive ride will send guests to infinity and beyond. Armed with laser guns and pivoting Star Cruiser vehicles, riders will attempt to zap Emperor Zurg and his minions while racking up points. Think of it as a three-dimensional video game.

Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams

What would a Disney celebration be without a parade? With over 100 performers, floats that reach up to 20 feet tall, confetti blasts, classic Disney characters, and choreographed musical numbers, the anniversary parade sounds like it will be spectacular.

Disneyland--The First 50 Years

This new Main Street USA attraction will trace the evolution of the landmark theme park through a film and an exhibit of artifacts including concept artwork and attraction models. A post-film exhibit hall will showcase attractions and concepts that never made it from the drawing board to bricks and mortar.

Disney Cruise Lines Sails for the West Coast

The "Disney Magic" will leave its Port Canaveral, FL berth between May 28 and August 19, 2005 for a series of 12 seven-night cruises that will originate in the port of Los Angeles and sail to the Mexican Riviera. The line will also offer two 14-night Panama Canal cruises. While Disney hasn't said anything officially, it's likely that these anniversary cruises are testing the waters to develop a permanent California fleet.

In addition to the new attractions, Disneyland will be burnishing its centerpiece Sleeping Beauty Castle with a fresh coat of paint, royal accoutrements, cutting-edge lighting, and other enhancements. Guests who have sent in their Disney vacation snapshots (sorry, it's too late to send any more) will be featured in The Happiest Faces on Earth...A Disney Family Album. Artists will position the small photos to create large photo collages of classic Disney attractions and characters. And Disney's California Adventure, the sister park which recently opened its version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, will introduce a Block Party Bash to commemorate the anniversary.

Disneyland's Happiest Celebration on Earth Photo Gallery

The Happiest Celebration on Earth at Disney World

Disneyland may be the park where it all began and the focal point of the 50th anniversary event, but Disney World has joined the festivities with a slew of new attractions, including...

Disney-MGM Studios: Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show

Imported from Disneyland Paris, this ambitious new stadium show is in the spirit of the Indiana Jones stage show. The focus is on car and motorcycle stunts instead of Nazi warplanes and giant rolling balls, but like Indy, the show includes copious explosions and death-defying moments.Check out my review of Lights, Motors, Action! and my Lights, Motors, Action! photo gallery.

Epcot: Soarin' and Turtle Talk with Crush

Florida guests can now experience the wonderful Soarin' Over California that has been wowing audiences at Disney's California Adventure park. Located in The Land pavilion, the attraction simulates hang gliding by lifting riders forty feet into the air on a motion base, with their feet dangling, and gently moving them in synch with projected images of famous California landmarks. Read my Soarin' ride review.

Although it debuted a few months before the Happiest Celebration and is not officially part of the 50th anniversary event, Turtle Talk with Crush, located inside The Living Seas pavilion, is a must-see. In classic Disney fashion, its real-time animation is an astonishing breakthrough in Imagineering technology that is wrapped around an engaging, delightful story. Crush, the surfer-dude from "Finding Nemo," is utterly convincing as he interacts with audience members.

The Magic Kingdom: Cinderellabration

If the pumped-up mayhem of Lights, Motors, Action! is intended for boys (and men with the dominant let's-blow-something-up gene--which is to say all men), then girls can get their sugar-and-spice-and-all-things-nice show with this new stage presentation. Picking up where the 1950 film ended, the show features Cinderella's coronation as an official princess. All together now: "Awwwwwwwww." On hand to cheer the newly crowned Cindy are other Disney royalty, including Snow White, Aurora ("Sleeping Beauty"), Belle ("Beauty and the Beast"), Jasmine ("Aladdin"), and, of course, one beaming fairy godmother. This show originated at Tokyo Disneyland.

Disney's Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest

Another mountain coaster is coming to Disney World, and this one sounds like it will hit new peaks. The E-ticket ride will feature an adventure through the Himalayan Mountains in pursuit of the elusive yeti. Like the Revenge of the Mummy coasters at the Universal parks, the trains on Expedition Everest will reverse direction for parts of the ride. See my Expedition Everest Ride Review for more info.

Other Walt Disney World Developments

The wonderful Typhoon Lagoon water park recently opened Crush 'n' Gusher, a complex of three uphill water coasters.

Effective January 1, 2006, Disney revamped its ticketing prices and policies. Its one-day ticket soared to $63, but a new 10-day option offers incredible value. It may be a little confusing to sort through all of the choices, but I've pulled together a feature, Walt Disney World Prices Go Up...and Down, to help you decode the pricing program, save some money, and find the best deal for your vacation.

To coincide with the kick-off of the "Happiest Celebration on Earth," the resort introduced its new "Magical Express" service. One of the hassles of a Walt Disney World vacation is getting from Orlando International Airport to your hotel. But Disney has removed most of the hassle and all of the costs for guests staying on-property by offering complimentary motor coaches to shuttle them from and back to the airport. The service also allows guests to bypass the baggage carousel and check in for their return flights at their hotels. Read Your (Free) Magic Carpet Awaits for more info about this innovative, intriguing new value-added benefit.

Walt Disney World's Happiest Celebration on Earth Photo Gallery

The Happiest Celebration on Earth at Disney Parks Beyond the U.S.

The 50th anniversary, 18-month long Happiest Celebration on Earth that kicks off May 5, 2005 will focus, of course, on the original Disneyland in California, but all of the parks, including Florida's Walt Disney World, will be joining in the fun. Let's explore the highlights at the parks outside the U.S.

Disneyland Resort Paris to debut Wishes Fireworks Show and new Space Mountain

The Disney parks are known for many things, but fireworks shows have to be right up there with Mickey Mouse for signature icons. Imported from Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Wishes will mine the rich Disney catalog and tell the story of making wishes come true through familiar songs, the voices of animated characters, and, of course, pyrotechnics. For a preview of the show, see my overview of the wonderful Florida show. Wishes will run from July 9 until Aug. 28, 2005. Disneyland Paris will also launch a retooled version of its Space Mountain attraction, called Space Mountain Mission Two (or is that "Deux?").

Tokyo Disneyland Resort Paris to debut Lost River Delta

The Disney parks that have opened around the world have been, more or less, clones of the U.S. originals...with one exception: Tokyo DisneySea. The second park at the Tokyo resort is a wholly unique ode to all things nautical, and it's chockablock with original, innovative attractions. As part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth, it will get another E-ticket attraction called Lost River Delta. The highly themed coaster ride will immerse guests in fire and water effects and will include a vertical 360-degree loop. Lost River Delta is scheduled to open in May 2005.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Fifty years after Walt Disney brought his unique theme park vision to the world, a brand new park, modeled after the California prototype, will debut in China. The park will include the centerpiece Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Jungle River Cruise, Dumbo, and other classic Disneyland features. It is scheduled to open in late 2005.