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Yankee Doodle always said
the past is just a start;
Tomorrow will bring songs to you
that come straight from the heart.
Another thing he had to say
is life is just a song.
So, everybody get in tune,
and let’s all sing along!
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After the success of Believe… in Holiday Magic, DISNEYLAND decided to bring that same magic to its regular fireworks show. Fantasy in the Sky, the fireworks show that started it all was retired to introduce Believe… there’s Magic in the Stars, a show that would use the same low level pyro to produce a dazzling show full of Mickey shaped fireworks and Magic.
The show was introduced in 2000; it was meant to both celebrate DISNEYLAND’s 45th year and keep the crowds coming in on what the park was afraid would be an “off” year for the park; with Disney California Adventure opening in 2001, many families were putting off their vacations until the new park opened up.
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As DISNEYLAND’s first summer wound down in 1955, Walt Disney began planning for the park’s inaugural Christmas. He consulted with Walter Knott to ask about holiday crowds at Mr. Knott’s roadside attraction. Walter Knott advised Mr. Disney that after Thanksgiving weekend, crowds at his Ghost Town Attraction dwindled and that they wouldn’t pick up until Christmas when they would pack his attraction until just after the new year. Mr. Knott admitted that he tried various promotions and entertainment offerings but none of them worked. Walt decided that he could buck the trend and he planned an aggressive first Christmas.
In addition to the standard holiday offerings, like Christmas decorations and a parade, Walt decided to offer a circus in which the performers would be the popular kids from his hit new show The Mickey Mouse Club. The circus was a massive…. failure. DISNEYLAND’s first Christmas would be exactly as Mr. Knott has warned; big crowds Thanksgiving weekend, then nothing until Christmas. The Mickey Mouse Club Circus would not just fail to attract crowds during the down time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it wouldn’t prove to be popular on the most crowded days.
Many observers felt that compared to the other offerings in the park, a circus just didn’t compare. Since the vast majority of guests that Holiday season were visiting DISNEYLAND for the very first time, they were wowed by the uniqueness of everything else in the park. They weren’t interested in what appeared to be just a plain circus. The circus didn’t return the next year, though DISNEYLAND did try to buck the trend by offering more elaborate Christmas offerings, like the DISNEYLAND Christmas Bowl. The seasonal attractions still didn’t move the needle in 1956 either. DISNEYLAND would eventually just accept this attendance trend for over 40 years until the late 1990’s.
With the arrival of Disney California Adventure fast approaching, the park decided to go all in on Christmas. Surely the park could break the December curse and make Christmas a more attended season. The first elements were to add seasonal versions of beloved attraction. The Country Bear Jamboree added a Christmas show. it’s a small world Holiday soon followed. To cap off the Christmas offerings, the park decided to do something it hadn’t ever done before- offer nightly fireworks during the entire Christmas season. It was a risky venture, but Believe… in Holiday Magic would do what nothing else could- it made Christmas a blockbuster season at the DISNEYLAND Resort, with just one week being lesser attended than the others.
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Once DISNEYLAND became a success, Walt Disney sought out ways to improve his Magic Kingdom. He quickly realized that the more cash he could bring in, the more improvements he could make. Unfortunately, much of the acreage surrounding DISNEYLAND had been snapped up by outsiders who were making money off of the park. Walt Disney discovered that a way to quickly capture more money for the Park was to get guests to stay in the park longer.
A tradition was beginning in which Southern California locals would spend the morning and afternoon in the park, then leave around 5PM or so and have dinner on the way home, most of the time at Knott’s Berry Farm’s famed chicken dinner restaurant. At first, DISNEYLAND tried its own hand at fried chicken dinners, served in Frontierland. That wasn’t too successful at keeping people in the park longer, so DISNEYLAND decided to beef up its nighttime entertainment offerings. Live music was offered on various stages throughout the park, including on the Mark Twain, on Main Street at Carnation Gardens and in Tomorrowland.
Name talent on the Mark Twain, including Louis Armstrong and Monette Moore, who had retired to Anaheim.
Big band entertainment at Carnation Gardens on Main Street.
Even Walt Disney got in on the fun.
Special events were held, such as Date Nite at DISNEYLAND and Dixieland at DISNEYLAND. These events brought in thousands of guests who stayed until past 1AM.
The nightly fireworks show was originally a sticking point between Walt Disney and his brother Roy. Roy and his accountants saw the fireworks show as a waste of money. Why spend thousands of dollars every night on a fireworks show when the guests would come to the park anyway? Walt Disney saw it as a little extra gift for his guests. Walt Disney won out and eventually won over the accountants, who saw restaurant revenues literally skyrocket overnight. The nightly fireworks became a DISNEYLAND tradition.
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“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls- we invite you to turn your attention to the sky high above Sleeping Beauty Castle. Where, if you believe and wish hard enough, you too will see the magic of Tinkerbell as she lights this evening’s performance of Fantasy in the Sky!”
Beginning in 1958, the skies above DISNEYLAND would brighten each summer night at 9:30PM with what Walt Disney referred to as a ‘kiss goodnight’- the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks. Mr. Disney came up with the idea of having a nightly fireworks show as a way to give his guests a ‘kiss goodnight,’ a special gift from him to thank them for spending their day at his Magic Kingdom. An attempt to recreate the title sequence from the DISNEYLAND television show, the fireworks featured a retired circus aerialist who flew above the castle as Tinkerbell.
The Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show would last for over forty years, finally getting replaced in 2000 by Believe… There’s Magic in the Stars.
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The Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare program. It was started in Florida as a way for the company to quickly finance hotels after it realized that demand far outstripped its supply of rooms. In 2010, the Disney Vacation Club finally opened its first West Coast operation at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel.
Offering wondrous views of Disney California Adventure, the exclusive rooms were an instant hit with Disney guests, quickly selling out.
The hotel wing wasn’t originally supposed to be Disney Vacation Club’s first west coast location. In the mid 1990’s, Disney had announced that its first west coast DVC Hotel would be Disney’s Newport Coast Hotel, located on a scenic cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Newport Beach.
It would have been a marvelous property located just a few miles south of DISNEYLAND. Despite its planned proximity to DISNEYLAND, the company considered it to be a freestanding Resort, the third such resort built after Disney’s Vero Beach and Disney’s Hilton Head resorts. The two freestanding resorts proved to be difficult to sell. The company had to offer discounts and heavily promote the fact that ownership points purchased at the two locations could be used for stays at DISNEYLAND and Walt Disney World resorts. Despite Newport Beach’s nicer location and premium views, Disney grew skittish about opening up freestanding resorts. The Newport Beach property was sold to Marriott Hotels, who opened up Marriott’s Newport Coast Hotel.
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Over the years, Walt Disney and his imagineers have had many dreams. Most of those dreams never made the leap from drawing board to reality. Nowadays, DISNEYLAND typically tries to keep a lid on its future plans, though occasionally word of a future project slips out. By the time the park puts up a sign announcing a project inside the theme park, it is usually because the project has already been approved and broken ground. That wasn’t always the case.
Guests who purchased souvenir maps in the late 1950’s saw plans for “Liberty Street”, an entirely new land that would be built between Main Street and Tomorrowland. Of course, the project was never built for various reasons, but one could forgive Disney for inserting an unapproved future project on a souvenir map, right? Certainly they wouldn’t promote such a thing inside the park, right? Well they totally did.
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The big project that excited Walt Disney the most in the mid-1960’s was his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow- EPCOT. EPCOT was not a theme park or a normal subdivision- it was supposed to be a real, living city. “Disneyland East”, as he called it, would be a copy of his original DISNEYLAND, used as a “weenie” to attract East Coast residents to Florida so that he could show them EPCOT.
Sadly, Mr. Disney’s EPCOT would never get built. His brother Roy was never a fan of the project and it was the first thing Roy canceled after Walt’s death. “Walt Disney World” would be built to Roy’s specifications, not Walt’s.
EPCOT would be forgotten by the company, but not the guests. Guests were constantly barraging guest services at Florida’s Magic Kingdom Park with complaints about the absence of EPCOT. Luckily for the company, people never really understood that EPCOT was supposed to be a real city, not a theme park. Company management told Imagineering to drop whatever it was doing and come up with something that could be passed off as “Epcot”. Eventually two separate theme park ideas- Future World and World Showcase were combined to create Epcot Center. Sadly, Walt Disney’s dream of EPCOT would never come to pass.
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