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This Month in Disney Parks History: September

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Well ladies and gentlemen, can you believe this post completes the year-long series of monthly history posts? I think it’s only fitting that the series culminates with one of my favorite months in the Disney Parks – September. Fall decorations, Food and Wine festivities, Halloween parties (complete with a special firework spectacular, parade, and candy), and so much more! But it’s not always sunshine and roses for the Disney parks in September, especially in Florida where September is peak hurricane season. So if you want to read more about the ups and downs of September Disney Parks History, let’s get going!

1955: Within two months of the park’s grand opening, Disneyland welcomed its one-millionth guest.

1979: The Frontierland attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, opened in Disneyland, introducing guests to the wildest ride in the wilderness! Walt Disney World’s version opened a short time later.

1980: The Mickey Mouse Revue, an opening day attraction of Magic Kingdom, closed. The Fantasyland attraction featured an audio-animatronic Mickey conducting an orchestra. After closing, the attraction was moved and reassembled in Tokyo Disneyland.

1984: Morocco became the tenth World Showcase Pavilion in Epcot. It was the first pavilion added to the original layout and the only pavilion sponsored by a foreign government.

© Disney

1986: Captain EO, a 3-D film featuring Michael Jackson, premiered at Epcot. It opened in Disneyland a few days later.

1996: The Universe of Energy reopened, featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye – The Science Guy, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, and stupid Judy Jamie Lee Curtis in Ellen’s Energy Adventure.

1998: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride officially closed in Walt Disney World. It was replaced by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and if you look closely, you can see some areas where Disney added design features to pay homage to the original opening day attraction.

1999: Hurricane Floyd, which struck the Bahamas with Category 4 status, forced the first-ever closure of Walt Disney World resort. The hurricane never made landfall in Florida, but it slowly ran parallel up the East Coast of the United States before making landfall in North Carolina as a Category 2 storm.

1999: Euro Disney announced plans for its second gate, The Disney Studios, to open in the Spring of 2002. The park, now called Walt Disney Studios, is receiving a multi-year expansion with three new lands based on Marvel, Frozen, and Star Wars. It’s expected to roll out in phases with the first one beginning in 2021.

1999: IllumiNations Reflections of Earth began soft openings. After nearly 20 years of wowing guests, the nighttime spectacular will end its run next year. We go on, to discover new frontiers.

2001: Tokyo DisneySea officially opened at Tokyo Disney Resort. Opening day attractions included 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull.

2001: Both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort closed on September 11 due to the unfolding attacks. At Walt Disney World, which had already opened for the day, attractions, restaurants, and shops closed, and then cast members calmly evacuated the parks. Disneyland parks, which hadn’t opened due to the time difference, remained closed for the entire day.

2004: Hurricane Frances forced Walt Disney World Resort to close for only the second time in its 30+ year history.

2004: Walt Disney World Resort closed for the second time in less than a month (and only the third time in park history) due to a hurricane. Hurricane Jeanne caused major impacts along her track, and I’ll always somewhat self-centeredly remember it as the hurricane that looped around just to ruin my first (and only) Disney Cruise.

Jeanne Track (from Wikipedia)

2005: Hong Kong Disneyland Resort held its grand opening to mixed reviews. Over the years, they added a hotel, more attractions and lands, and new dining and shopping options. A recently announced overhaul should provide continuous improvements through 2023.

2006: Tower of Terror opened in Tokyo DisneySea. Unlike the U.S. versions, this one has no tie-in to The Twilight Zone series. It focuses on the disappearance of the hotel owner, antiquities collector Harrison Hightower III.

2006: The cost of parking at Walt Disney World theme parks increased to a whopping $10 per car per day. I’m almost tempted to compare this to current fees using wages from then and now as another point of reference. Almost. Maybe tomorrow.

2007: Epcot’s O Canada! movie in the Canada Pavilion premiered an updated version of the 360-degree film now hosted by Martin Short.

2008: The inaugural Expedition Everest Challenge took place. The runDisney event, which was a mix between a 5K race, scavenger hunt, and obstacle course, was held at night in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The challenge ended after the 2015 race, and many speculated that it was axed due to the Pandora: World of Avatar construction.

2008: Pleasure Island closed, and with it, one of my favorite entertainment experiences – The Adventurer’s Club. While the shops and restaurants in the area remained open, dance and comedy clubs closed for good. The recently reimagined area, now known as The Landing part of Disney Springs, features some great restaurants and shops like The Boathouse and Morimoto Asia.

2009: Disney announced a new promotion: Volunteer and get free admission! Volunteers from participating organizations received a one-day ticket to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland in 2010.

2012: Get your dinglehoppers ready! The final wing of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opened with the completion of “The Little Mermaid” section. The section added over 850 guest rooms to the 1,100 family suites themed after Cars, Finding Nemo, and Lion King.

2013: Princess Fairytale Hall opened in the former location of Snow White’s Scary Adventure. At the new meet and great location, guests choose to meet either Cinderella and a visiting princess or Rapunzel and a visiting princess.

2014: Studio Backlot Tour, which had been around since opening day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, closed. The attraction’s content was greatly trimmed down over the years. However, it was one of the few attractions left that still had that movie studio vibe.

2015: After years of construction, additions, and upgrades, Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney officially became Disney Springs, a one-of-a-kind shopping, dining, and entertainment destination.

2015: Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, an aviation-themed lounge based on a character from the Indiana Jones films, opened in Disney Springs. The bar features nods to Indiana Jones, The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, Adventureland, and even the former Adventurer’s Club.

2015: Morimoto Asia, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s pan-Asian eatery, opened as part of the continued improvements to Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs area. The menu features Morimoto’s take on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean dishes.

2017: Yet another hurricane (Irma) forced the closure of Walt Disney World. It would mark the fifth time the parks closed due to a hurricane, the second closure in less than a year, and the second time I would evacuate mid-Disney vacation. Did I mention I love September at Disney?

That’s it for this month folks, and thanks so much for joining me on this monthly adventure! If you’d like to read more Disney history on a regular basis, let us know in the comments below. If there’s interest, we can keep it going, maybe by diving deeper into a different topic each month.

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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.

2 thoughts on “This Month in Disney Parks History: September

  • I have really enjoyed this series and would love to see it continue!

    • Thanks Dawn!


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