July 17, 2009

Forever twenty-nine

Disneyland's twenty-fifth anniversary came twenty-nine years ago today. In my mind, it was the Park's greatest year. A time when Disneyland truly understood why it had been created and what it offered the world.

The Magic Kingdom then had what Walt called "that thing—the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement—I knew when I was a kid." Whatever that thing was, Walt found it in Marceline, Missouri. He said that more things of importance had happened to him in Marceline than he imagined ever could. What kinds of things could have happened in that small town to make such an impression on him? Even today, the population is only around 2,500.

Walt put that feeling into words at Disneyland's dedication. Age and youth. Fond memories. Challenge and promise. Those simple, timeless things became the hub around which Disneyland grew.

Now that it's grown into what it is today, of course, simple, timeless things are a lot harder to find anywhere, not just in Anaheim. That's why birthdays are so important. They're times to reflect and refocus on those timeless things, and Disneyland's birthdays are no exception. I think that's why Disneyland gave buttons or ribbons like this one to the Cast working those days: to celebrate what it was, and to rededicate itself to being the Happiest Place on Earth, the place where whatever that feeling of happy excitement is could always be found.

Finding simplicity and timelessness is easier when you know what you're looking for. Disneyland: The First Quarter Century provided some examples back in 1980:
A child examines the hitching posts that line an 1890 street and asks, "Mommy, what kind of parking meters are these?"

An elderly gentleman on the same street smiles happily and tells a bystander what he likes best about Disneyland—"I can jaywalk here!"

A young man aboard a "Mississippi" sternwheeler on a moonlit night seeks an introduction to a girl by asking, "Is this your first trip aboard?"
Some people today might scoff at those kinds of things as naive longings for a past that never was. But Walt found them in Marceline, and they were at Disneyland when I wore this ribbon. I saw them. If you were that child, that elderly gentleman, or that young couple watching the pin lights twinkling from stem to stern as the Mark Twain pulled away from her landing, I'll bet that you saw them too.

On July 17, we're all entitled to celebrate that feeling of happy excitement we knew as kids who grew up in the Disneyland that used to be. So happy birthday.

And many happy returns.


Anonymous said...

As a former cast member I could not have said it better.
The simple magic is still there. Even though today's guests (2009)would never admit it, the "simple" old magic that used to be state of the art is still the base and backbone of the Ol' magic Kingdom.

The charm of Main Street USA, the corny speil on the Jungle Cruise still work. I was last at Disneyland a few months ago, while waiting for Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room (The FULL offical name by the way) I watched as even young children were amazed as tiki gods came to life during the preshow. The adults that think they have seen it all even laughed at the 1960's gags. When I worked at Disneyland (1990-1997) We still had things like Circlevision and Carnation Gardens. Park guests would take the time to visit an attraction that took them on a tour of our great nation. At night I would see young kids dancing alongside senior citizens in Carnation gardens. It was charming and represented what this counrty is all about....Just like the magic and spirit of Disneyland.
Just as Walt had intended.

Yellows said...

Well said, anonymous(e)! Thanks and welcome. Always great to meet another former Disneylander. Are you in the Alumni Club?