I remember (it wasn’t that long ago, after all!) reading about special events coming up at Walt Disney World when I was too far away to even daydream about making plans to get on a plane and attend them. Going to the Magic Kingdom on the day of its 40th Anniversary Celebration was really my first chance, as a local, to experience something in the parks that will only take place once without having to plan a vacation around it.
The day before the event, I read online about how it would be necessary to line up outside the Magic Kingdom starting at 6:00 am to get one of the distributed wristbands if I was interested in getting a shot to buy any of the limited edition anniversary merchandise, like the pins or the Vinylmation. I toyed with the idea of heading down there early on my own and letting my husband and daughter sleep in a little and get there in time for rope drop, but in the end, the thought of waking up that early and standing in several long, boring lines didn’t seem palatable to me. I salute the people who did and scored the merchandise they wanted, but in the end, it just didn’t seem worth it to me. I’d rather be able to get a good night’s sleep the night before, then walk around and enjoy the park instead of spend a lot of time in lines. Doubly so if that means I can avoid the stress and painful “are they still going to have that pin available by the time I get to the front of the line” anticipation.
As it happens, we got a bit of a late start and ended up just missing rope drop by the time we got there, parked, and made our way to the Magic Kingdom. We did get there early enough to receive free commemorative buttons just after we went through the turnstiles and entered the park. There were also special guidemaps available, with cast members nearby asking people to please only take one each. (I saw many people ignoring this request, which is probably why the special guidemaps were all gone by the time we left just before 3:00 pm.)
From what I’d read about the special events taking place for the anniversary, the next thing we wanted to do was find a place to sit on Main Street to wait for the character procession. I figured that would be more fun to have a front row seat for than the speeches and sing-along immediately afterward on the castle forecourt stage. We found an empty bit of curb and sat, though I only realized later, when it would have been impossible to find another place to sit, that we had the sun directly in our faces and it would affect my pictures. (Big frowny face for that, but I’m mostly just happy to have been there at all.)
When the cavalcade started, we got to hear music from earlier anniversaries, like the 10th and the 25th anniversary celebrations, and a large variety of characters followed the celebration banner. Here are some pictures I took of the cavalcade (there are more in my Flickr set):
When the last characters had gone past us, we headed toward the Hub so that we could hear the speeches and participate in the sing-along. Meg Crofton and a current Disney cast member who was working in the park on opening day back in 1971 (I’m sorry that I can’t remember his name!) both made speeches, and then the Dapper Dans came out and led us all in a sing-along of “When You Wish Upon A Star”. It was really nice to be in a crowd that large with all of us singing together, especially singing a song with such Disney significance.
After that, I have to say, it sort of morphed into a regular, if crowded, day at the Magic Kingdom. I need to add that we slipped out just before the parade (my husband wasn’t feeling well, and we were all tired from a long week and from being stressed out by the crowds) so I don’t know if the parade was different for the celebration, and we also obviously didn’t see the special coda that was announced for the end of Wishes. Those were, however, the only 40th Anniversary events as far as we could tell. (Unless you count the special merchandise sales lines, or the celebration cupcakes they were giving away. We didn’t get cupcakes, as the line looked long and sort of miserable.)
The park itself was perfectly navigable, as long as you were smart about using fastpasses for the rides which offer them and didn’t mind just giving up on the very crowded Fantasyland entirely.
We did walk over to the Contemporary before we left the Magic Kingdom area entirely. I was curious if any of the limited edition merchandise would be available in the shops there, and we did actually end up finding a limited edition shirt in a women’s small, which will sort of fit my daughter (though it will be a little long). They were also handing out anniversary buttons in the lobby of the Contemporary, as it (along with the Poly and Fort Wilderness) was also 40 years old yesterday.
So there is our slightly truncated experience of the 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Magic Kingdom yesterday. If you would like to the see the full set of pictures I have posted from our day yesterday, here is a link to the set on Flickr.