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This Month in Disney Parks History: May

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If you’re an avid Disney fan (and let’s face it, you are if you’re reading this), then you probably know that Disney frequently describes the timeline for opening new areas with phrases like, “Opening Spring of 20XX”. And when they’re trying to launch those new areas before peak summer crowds hit, that means May is quite the busy month for Disney Parks. Let’s take a look at some of those notable May happenings in this month’s installment of Disney Parks History.

1966: it’s a small world opened at Disneyland after successfully premiering at the 1964 World’s Fair. Plenty of Disney legends were involved in the creation, including artist Mary Blair and the Sherman Brothers, who wrote the song we all know and love. Check out this Disney Parks Blog post to see how it looked as part of the World’s Fair, and have fun singing it for the rest of the day!

1973: Tom Sawyer Island opened in Magic Kingdom park. It’s a great place to escape the crowds and explore through caves, a windmill, bridges, and more.

1977: Space Mountain opened in Disneyland and was the second version of the attraction in a Disney Park. It’s seen a few different variations over the years, including a Star Wars overlay called Hyperspace Mountain.

1983: We only recently received the New Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom, but Disneyland’s version of the New Fantasyland expansion premiered decades ago in May of 1983. Check out the before and after picture from this Disney Parks Blog post, which shows how the park was able to update the theming for a more immersive experience.

1987: The first Disney Dollars were sold at Disneyland.

1989: Disney-MGM Studios opened. The entertainment industry theme for the park originated during the planning of an Epcot expansion and gained traction when Universal Studios began work on their own studio-themed amusement park. With the recent closing of the Great Movie Ride, none of the original attractions from opening day remain.

1989: Pleasure Island opened, providing guests with a variety of adult entertainment options. Does anyone else remember the Comedy Warehouse, Adventurers Club, or celebrating ‘New Year’s Eve’ there every night?

1990: Sorcery in the Sky Fireworks premiered at what is now Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Who wouldn’t love a giant inflatable Sorcerer Mickey perched above the Chinese Theater and shooting fireworks from his hand?

1991: Hollywood Studios gained another attraction with the addition of Muppet*Vision 3D. It was one of Jim Henson’s final projects before his abrupt passing.

1992: Disneyland added the original Fantasmic!

1994: Wilderness Lodge, a resort inspired by National Park lodges, opened along the waters of Bay Lake.

2003: In what was a precursor to MagicBand technology, Pal Mickey was introduced at Walt Disney World. The plush Mickey Mouse provided guests with their own personal tour guide, often giving them information based on their location in the park.

2003: A baby elephant by the name of Tufani was the first elephant born at Animal Kingdom. Six more baby elephants have been born at the park since then.

2004: Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa opened.

2005: After becoming a favorite at California Adventure, Soarin’ opened in Epcot. And to think, it almost never became a reality. We have Mark Sumner and his Erector set to thank for this one!

2005: Disneyland celebrates 50 years! Disney theme parks across the world added new attractions, parades, and entertainment as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth.

2008: Toy Story Midway Mania opened at Hollywood Studios. (Nothing says vacation like discovering the true competitive nature of your loved ones!)

2012: After years of delays, postponements, and design changes, the first section of Art of Animation resort opened. Finding Nemo suites premiered in May, with Cars, Lion King, and Little Mermaid following throughout the end of summer.

2012: Snow White’s Scary Adventures closed at Walt Disney World to make room for Princess Fairytale Hall, a princess meet and greet.

2014: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opened. It’s hard to believe this attraction is four years old and still getting hour plus lines!

2015: Paint the Night Parade and Disneyland Forever Fireworks debuted as part of Disneyland’s 60th celebration.

2016: Nearly 30 years after they premiered, Disney Dollars were discontinued. Even though they’re no longer available for purchase, they’re still a valid form of payment at most Disney Parks locations and won’t expire.

2017: Pandora – The World of Avatar officially opened at Walt Disney World. With its opening, the incredibly immersive land won over the hearts of many previously wondering, “Why Avatar?”.

2017: Fans of the classic Tower of Terror watched on in disbelief when the re-themed Disneyland attraction opened as Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

2017: Happily Ever After, Magic Kingdom’s new nighttime spectacular, premiered as the replacement for the long running Wishes.

That’s it for this month. Do you have fond memories of any of these historic Disney events? Feel free to share 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.

One thought on “This Month in Disney Parks History: May

  • I love Disney history. I hope to see more blog articles like this and also ones that cover the history of parks and attractions


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