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The Happiest Celebration on Earth

An overview of Disney's anniversary events

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Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams picture

Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams is one of the new features for Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration.

Disney 2005. Used with permission.
When the man best known for bringing the world Mickey Mouse and groundbreaking animated features first proposed building a grand-scale "family park where parents and children could have fun--together," critics lambasted his idea as "Disney's Folly." Indeed, when Disneyland first opened on July 17, 1955, it was something of a disaster. The landscaping was sparse, the asphalt wasn't completely cured, rides weren't functioning, and the buzz was fairly grim. But a determined Walt Disney learned from his mistakes and polished his beloved park until it became a lustrous gem.

Fifty years later, Walt Disney's bold vision has more than withstood the test of time. Disneyland and the company's global chain of what are now known as theme parks are more than just vacation meccas; they're cultural landmarks, incubators for technological and industrial innovations, and trendsetters for everything from retail merchandising to hotel design. Firmly entrenched in our collective conscious, a trip to the Disney parks is a rite of passage for children and families. And they're places to which we return so that we can reconnect with our past and forge new memories.

It only makes sense, then, that the company would be pulling out all the stops for a 50th anniversary blowout. In the wake of Walt Disney World's successful multi-month promotions built around the Florida resort's 25th anniversary, the millennium, and Walt Disney's 100th birthday, the company is presenting "The Happiest Celebration on Earth," an 18-month festival that kicked off on May 5, 2005.

The focus is on the California original of course (where the event is alternately known as the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth"), but the resorts in Florida, Japan, and France are joining in the celebration as well in an unprecedented worldwide, multi-location fete-a-thon. As part of the festivities, all of the parks are debuting new (and, in some cases, improved) attractions, shows, and features. And in the case of Hong Kong Disneyland, the company is unveiling an entire new park.

Next page: The Happiest Celebration on Earth at Disneyland Resort, California

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