50th anniversary of Disneyland, California

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 July, 2005, 12:00am

A five-minute primer on an issue making headlines

All together now ...

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday dear Disneeeee, Haaappy birthday to you!

Nice of you to notice. Well, really, how could you not? It's not like Disneyland lacks the self-promotion or advertising budget to let you know that the Magic Kingdom theme park hits the big 5-0 today.

Fifty years of frolicking with Mickey, Donald and Goofy

and ... who were the other four dwarves?

Sigh. You're really not up on your Disney characters, are you? The fun and frolics nearly ended before they began. Its opening day - on July 17, 1955 - was a disaster. The 65-hectare park outside Los Angeles was called 'Disney's Folly' because the landscaping wasn't finished, some rides didn't work, the tarmac had been laid the night before and hadn't solidified. Ten years later, 50 million visitors had taken a stroll down its nostalgic Main Street.

Wow, talk about a turnaround.

Yeah, old Walt sure knew how to kick it up a gear. A TV show to familiarise Americans with the theme park's favourite characters and some very canny marketing ensured its success.

So, what birthday celebrations are planned?

Never a company to do things by halves, Disney isn't satisfied with a mere day or week or even month of celebrations. Oh no, Disney is throwing an 18-month party. Celebrations kicked off on May 5 and will continue to early November next year.

I do love a good party. What treats can we expect?

Well, if you hop on a flight to Los Angeles, you can take part in the wonderfully understated 'The Happiest Homecoming on Earth', with its fireworks, show spectaculars and the reopening of Space Mountain. At Orlando, Florida, you can take in the 'Happiest Celebration on Earth' with its Cinderellabration live show transported from Japan and Lucky the Dinosaur robot. In Disneyland Paris, there is the new Wishes Fireworks Show and the Parisien relaunch of its Space Mountain. Or you could wait a few more weeks and visit Hong Kong's shark's-fin-less version.

Really? A Hong Kong Disneyland?

Don't be obtuse. We all know Disney's Hong Kong theme park - billed as 'the next 50 years of Disney' - opens on September 12 on Lantau. Tickets went on sale on the internet on July 1, but you've already helped pay for it. Taxpayers footed a $22.45 billion to build the Magic Kingdom and its infrastructure - 90 per cent of the total cost. Magical ...




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