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This Month in Disney Parks History: April

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We’re back with our monthly segment showcasing the history of Disney Parks and Resorts. It turns out April is a pretty exciting month in the world of Disney. The month has seen its fair share of events, including some major park openings. So let’s get started checking out Disney Parks History for the month of April.

1974: Treasure Island, situated on Bay Lake between the Contemporary Resort and Ft. Wilderness Resort, opened to guests for wildlife viewing. It would later gain zoological accreditation and change names to Discovery Island. After Animal Kingdom opened, the attractions and programs moved to the new park. Since then, the area has been mostly abandoned.

1983: Tokyo Disneyland opened with headlining attractions such as Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Skyway, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Snow White’s Adventures. It was the first Disney park to open outside of the United States.

1991: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant premiered, transporting guests back in time to a drive-in from the 1950s.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Photo Courtesy of Disney

1992: Disneyland Paris, originally known as Euro Disney Resort, opened as the second Disney park outside of the United States. As a result of government and media coverage warning of traffic, congestion, and overcrowding, attendance was light at opening. Add a recession on top of that, and Euro Disney was off to a rough start. It wouldn’t report a profit until 1995.

1994: All Star Sports Resort opened in phases, the first of which was the Surf’s Up section in April 1994.

1994: The very first Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival began its inaugural five week run. It was presented by Better Homes and Gardens and featured an additional 165,000 annual plants.

1995: A freak Florida snowstorm resulted in the opening of Disney’s Blizzard Beach, a water park themed around a melting ski resort. Summit Plummet, the feature slide, broke speed slide world records when it opened.

1998: If you’ve seen news of Animal Kingdom celebrating its 20th anniversary later this month, this one should come as no surprise. The largest Disney park debuted on Earth Day, promoting a message of conservation. It also served as an outlet for one of Walt Disney’s ideas even though it debuted long after his death. He had originally envisioned for Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise to feature live animals, and that’s what Animal Kingdom was finally able to provide.

1998: Fans of the Enchanted Tiki Room might remember when the Under New Management version debuted in 1998. It featured Iago (from Aladdin) and Zazu (from The Lion King) and ran for over a decade before reverting back to the original version in 2011.

2001: Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House) began accepting guests for a one-of-a-kind resort experience – the ability to view animals roaming just outside the hotel on private savannas.

2001: Who wants to be a Millionaire – Play it! opened at the height of the TV game show craze. Ready to learn a new fun fact about me? I made it into the top 5 as a kid! Anyone else know where your gastrocnemius is? This girl did!

2001: SpectroMagic replaced the Main Street Electrical Parade, but the change was temporary. The Main Street Electrical Parade was back less than a decade later.

2004: Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters premiered in Tokyo.

2006: Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast opened in Disneyland Paris. At one point, a version of this attraction was in every Disney park.

2006: Animal Kingdom added Expedition Everest to its list of attractions, and yes, Disco Yeti was fully functioning in regular A-mode at the time!

2007: Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor opened and has been making fun of ‘that guy’ (a special guest from the audience) for over a decade now. Have you ever been chosen?

2007: El Rio del Tiempo reopened as Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot.

2011: Official groundbreaking of Shanghai Disney Resort took place, and the opening ceremonies included Mickey Mouse, who was aptly dressed in a Chinese costume for the special occasion.

2015: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort received an update with the official opening of the villas, bungalows, and Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

2016: The inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon – Dark Side kicked off at Walt Disney World.

2016: In what would become an ongoing joke over the lack of attractions at Hollywood Studios, guests said goodbye to Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and other Streets of America attractions. Hopefully the upcoming Toy Story Land will make everyone forget Hollywood Studios’ awkward teenage phase.

2017: Walt Disney World officially announced a gondola system, which will connect Epcot and Hollywood Studios to Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and the soon-to-be Riviera Resort.

That’s all we have for this month. If you have any fun memories from any of these long gone attractions or shows, tell us about them in the comments below!

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Liz Mangan

Liz Mangan got her start in the trip planning business at the spry young age of five by color coding her mom’s Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with highlighters and post-it notes based on what she wanted to see and do on their upcoming trips. Over the last two decades since then, she’s enjoyed spending her spare time helping others plan their Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort vacations.

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