Earlier this month, Epcot celebrated its 35th anniversary with commemorative freebies, exclusive merchandise, and a special version of the nighttime spectacular, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. And earlier this year, Disney announced a barrage of projects slated for completion by the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021. If all the buzz had you thinking back to how the parks changed over the years, you’re not alone. We’re testing out a new monthly series where we step back in time to take a look at the history of the Disney Parks beginning with all things October.
1971: Walt Disney World Resort officially opened. At that time, it included Magic Kingdom Park and three resorts – the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Fifteen of the opening day attractions are still around today. You can see them listed here.
1971: Just a few weeks after Walt Disney World Resort opened, the Electrical Water Pageant debuted. The floating, lighted parade continues to amaze guests on a regular basis.
1982: Epcot, originally named EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) Center, opened as the second theme park at Walt Disney World. Born out of Walt’s dream of an ever-evolving utopian city, EPCOT Center was designed to demonstrate human advancement, from cutting-edge technology to international culture.
1988: Caribbean Beach Resort opened with beautiful tropical island theming.
1991: SpectroMagic, a fiber-optic-filled nighttime parade premiered in Magic Kingdom. It would last on and off for nearly 20 years.
1992: Splash Mountain officially began treating guests to a five-story plunge in both Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland.
1994: Euro Disneyland changed its name to Disneyland Paris.
1995: Magic Kingdom held the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, a one-night event on Halloween. Back then, a ticket to the party set you back less than $20.
1996: In honor of Walt Disney World’s 25th birthday, imagineers added a massive pink birthday cake overlay to Cinderella Castle.
1998: Fantasmic! debuted at Hollywood Studios combining fireworks, lasers, and other special effects into one spectacular nighttime show.
1999: Journey into Your Imagination, the second version of three similarly themed rides, premiered at Epcot.
2001: Journey into Your Imagination makes the list again. It closed a mere two years after opening in 1999.
2003: Wishes debuted at Magic Kingdom, beginning its 13-year reign as the nightly fireworks spectacular.
2005: Robert Iger became CEO of The Walt Disney Company and has pushed the parks, particularly internationally, to new levels ever since.
2006: The Year of a Million Dreams promotion began at Disney parks, where cast members were tasked with awarding one million dreams over the course of the year to unsuspecting guests.
2006: The Seas with Nemo and Friends soft opened in Epcot.
2007: Dreams came true for kids envisioning their own light saber battles with the opening of the Jedi Training Academy.
2011: Monorail Peach was added into service and remains the newest monorail of the twelve currently in operation at Walt Disney World.
2011: Free in-room wireless internet debuted at select Disney Resorts.
2012: A full year after in-room Wi-Fi rolled out, Disney’s Hollywood Studios became the third park to offer free Wi-Fi to guests.
2013: New international soda flavors arrived at Club Cool in Epcot. But don’t worry, to this day you can continue to prank unsuspecting guests with the delightful taste of Beverly.
2013: The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian opened as the 12th resort in the Disney Vacation Club program.
2013: Talking Magician Mickey wowed guests when he made his debut at Town Square Theater in Magic Kingdom.
2014: Technology continued to advance as MagicBands allowed for on-ride photos to automatically link to My Disney Experience accounts.
2014: Fans of Haunted Mansion (me, me, me!) rejoiced when Memento Mori, a gift shop themed after the famous attraction, opened in Magic Kingdom.
2016: Hurricane Matthew forced a day and a half of closures at Walt Disney World for only the fourth time in Disney history.
2006 Bonus: When I started researching for this article, the very first thing I stumbled across was this historic blog update here on TouringPlans which nearly had me in tears. October 19, 2006. Desktop computers have been reportedly installed in rooms on the 11th floor of the Contemporary tower. They currently allow access to the internet, concierge services, and other hotel related features free of charge. It reminds me of those diary entries people make in movies when the world is ending and civilization is dying. Just goes to show you how far we’ve come in the last few years!
Don’t forget to join us next month for November’s edition of This Month in Disney Parks History.