Welcome back to another edition of Disney Parks History! Can you believe we’re already on to June? If you missed the May version, you can check that out here. Otherwise, we’re going to dive into June park history, which includes three park openings, a park re-opening, and even a quick peek at some long-gone favorites.
1956: Disneyland Skyway opened, transporting guests between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland using a gondola lift-style system. The attraction closed temporarily shortly after opening to allow for construction of the Matterhorn. When it reopened, the Skyway carried guests straight through the mountain. The attraction permanently closed in 1994, and most of the structure was removed. However, the Fantasyland Skyway station remained until recently, when it too was removed to make way for construction of the new land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
1958: Disneyland’s Sailing Ship Columbia, a full-scale replica of Columbia Rediviva (the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe), opened on Rivers of America. The three-masted, 110-foot-long ship features 10 canons and two mounted swivel guns plus a below-deck museum.
1958: Alice in Wonderland debuted in Disneyland’s Fantasyland.
1959: Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System, and Submarine Voyage opened at Disneyland as part of the first major expansion project for the park. Walt Disney planned an extensive, nationally televised celebration that included then Vice President Richard Nixon. Check out this Disney Parks Blog post for pictures of the event and correspondence between Walt Disney and the Nixon family.
1963: Enchanted Tiki Room opened at Disneyland in what was one of Walt’s first large-scale audio-animatronic attractions. This Disney classic features over 200 birds, flowers, and tiki-god statues performing in a Polynesian-style musical program including music written by the famous Sherman Brothers. And don’t forget your Dole Whip! Since Dole sponsors the attraction, you can even bring the iconic snack in the ‘Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Room’.
1972: If You Had Wings, an Omnimover dark ride, opened in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. The attraction was sponsored by Eastern Airlines, and therefore featured some of their flight destinations, including New Orleans, Mexico, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. Back when the park used tickets for each attraction, If You Had Wings was one of the few that didn’t require a ticket. The space now houses Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which utilizes elements from the original ride system and floorplan.
1972: Main Street Electrical Parade, the longest running parade in Disney theme park history, premiered at Disneyland for the first time.
1975: In celebration of the United States Bicentennial, America on Parade debuted at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The parade paid tribute to famous historical moments and figures like the invention of the car and Ben Franklin.
1975: Walt Disney World’s Mission to Mars opened, replacing Flight to the Moon. As part of the attraction, guests visited the mission control center before being seated in their spacecraft for their journey to Mars.
1976: Disney’s first water park, River Country, opened near Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground on Bay Lake. Themed after an old-fashioned swimming hole, the park welcomed guests for 25 years before closing permanently. Photos of the abandoned park have surfaced over the years, giving fans an eerie glimpse of the ruins. But based on recently filed permits, it sounds like Disney might finally have something new in mind for the location.
1977: Five years after its Disneyland debut, Main Street Electrical Parade premiered at Magic Kingdom.
1984: Laserphonic Fantasy, the predecessor to IllumiNations, debuted at Epcot.
1988: Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort officially joined the Contemporary and Polynesian resorts on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon. Burt Reynolds was on hand to cut the ribbon for the opening ceremony.
1989: Typhoon Lagoon opened, featuring one of the largest wave pools in the world and a shipwrecked boat, “Miss Tilly”, perched atop Mount Mayday.
1995: When you think of Disney, you probably don’t think of an escaped alien stalking guests, breathing down their necks, and splattering blood all over them. But that’s exactly what the special effects were designed to simulate when ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter opened in Magic Kingdom. Though the attraction was eventually replaced by a more family friendly Stitch’s Great Escape, it gained a cult following of fans who we’re disappointed to see its short reign of terror at the Magic Kingdom come to an end.
1998: DisneyQuest, an indoor interactive theme park, opened in Downtown Disney.
1999: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh replaced Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Walt Disney World.
2002: Journey into Imagination has seen a few different iterations over the years. The most recent version, Journey into Imagination Featuring Figment, opened back in June 2002. While it’s not a fan favorite compared to the original version, I do think it’s cool that they pay homage to some of the other fictional Disney scientists from movies like Flubber and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
2007: Nearly a decade after closing the original Submarine Voyage, the rethemed attraction, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, opened with a Finding Nemo overlay.
2008: Shortly after Toy Story Midway Mania opened at Walt Disney World, the Disneyland version opened in Disney’s California Adventure park.
2009: After years of sitting vacant, the freshly renovated Disney Vacation Club Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa began welcoming guests.
2010: World of Color premiered at California Adventure. The 22-minute performance features 1,200 water fountains, explosive pyrotechnics, fog effects, lasers, and more.
2012: After a five-year expansion project that added 20 new attractions and shows, Disney celebrated the grand reopening of Disney’s California Adventure theme park. The final phase culminated in the opening of two immersive areas, Buena Vista Street and Cars Land.
2016: On a rainy day in June, Shanghai Disney Resort officially opened to the public. After 5 years of construction and over $5 billion in costs, the resort included a theme park, two hotels, plus dining, shopping, and entertainment facilities.
2016: Frozen fever finally took up permanent residence in Epcot’s World Showcase with the debut of Frozen Ever After and Meet Anna and Elsa at Royal Sommerhus.
That’s it for this month! Did we touch on any of your former favorite attractions? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll see you next month!