By Jim Fox
It’s ironic that
Walt Disney – the mastermind behind Mickey Mouse — was afraid of mice.
Disney spent his life imagining a “magical dream” come true of creating theme parks as “happy places” for families to visit.
They’ll be blowing
out the candles on Oct. 1 to mark 50 years since the opening of Walt Disney World
There will also be
theme park memories for the 40th anniversary of Canada’s Wonderland, in Vaughan,
north of Toronto, on May 31.
Mickey and Minnie
Mouse will welcome guests in their new EARidescent costumes.
Walt closely supervised the development of Disneyland in California in1955 while his brother Roy took over to complete Walt Disney World as a tribute to Walt after his death in 1966.
The dream was to create an innovative “destination resort” that would appeal to all ages.
Soon after it opened, my wife Barbara and I honeymooned in Florida to see what all the hype was about.
We were dazzled by this it’s-not-your-Coney Island-style amusement park beyond the Mad Tea Party giant spinning cups’ ride and the Jungle Cruise.
A passport cost just $5.75 for the opening of Walt Disney World. (Jim Fox photo)
It wasn’t pricey then with general admission at $3.50 and for us almost adults $5.75for admission, 11 park adventures and monorail rides and all transportation.
The opening featured the Magic Kingdom park and the Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Village and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground as well as two golf courses.
Within the kingdom were Fantasy, Tomorrow, Frontier and Adventure l ands along with Liberty Square and Main Street businesses and souvenir outlets.
Now the resort still has the four theme parks, two water parks, an expansive shopping and dining complex, 27 themed resort hotels and two more golf courses.
Legendary attractions include “It’s a Small World” where boats cruise past a “jubilant chorus” of life-sized costumed child dolls from around the globe.
There’s also EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a pet project of Walt’s that combines Future World and World Showcase.
Special anniversary lights will make Spaceship Earth resemble a starry night at Walt Disney World.
Its pavilions highlight the customs and food of 11 countries including Canada.
Over the years, added were the Disney-MGM Studios, Pleasure Island nightclub-themed park with theatres, Typhoon Lagoon water playground, Animal Kingdom zoo and Disney Vacation Club time-share accommodations.
Disney liked to say it’s “the happiest place on earth,” and, yes kids, you can bring your parents.
To find out more: disneyworld.disney.go.com/en_CA
Canada’s Wonderland gave the country its first major roller-coaster-and-thrills theme park.
Now marking its
40th anniversary, there were 30 rides that first year and it remains Canada’s
largest theme park.
The retro wooden Mighty
Canadian Minebuster was one of the five original coasters when Canada’s
It now has 17 coasters, making it one of the top three destinations of its kind in the world.
Five of the coasters were operating when the park opened: Dragon Fyre, Ghoster Coaster, Mighty Canadian Minebuster, Thunder Run and Wilde Beast.
Minebuster was one of three wooden coasters and remained in service for 29 years.
It was modelled after Shooting Star, a coaster at the smaller Coney Island amusement park in Cincinnati.
Crowds turned out on the 1981 opening day at Canada's Wonderland.
For kids, there was Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera and the tamer Ghoster Coaster, a junior wooden ride, and now there’s Planet Snoopy and KidZville.
The Kingswood Music Theatre debuted in 1983, Splash Works in 1982 and in 1997, Drop Tower, later renamed Scream Zone.
Its star attraction is Yukon Striker, featuring a 90-degree drop into an underwater tunnel and called the world’s longest, tallest and fastest dive coaster at 130km/h.
The park now has more than 200 attractions including 77 rides and Splash Works. canadaswonderland.com
It’s tough to plan a celebration when you’re stuck in the middle of a pandemic.
But the shows must go on and if not there in person, Walt Disney World and Canada’s Wonderland have numerous virtual visits and videos online on YouTube and elsewhere of events in their parks.
There are also numerous roller coaster videos on social media as the white-knuckle thrill seekers wait to get back into the parks.
Disney’s event is called the “World’s Most Magical Celebration,” and runs for 18 months.
Events named so far include Cinderella’s Castle decorated with ornaments, a special anniversary crest and gold bunting. At night, the castle will appear to be covered in pixie dust.
Mickey and Minnie’s costumes will feature varying shades of EARidescent purple and teal fabric.
Each park icon will become a “Beacon of Magic” as they receive a new look via projection technology for the occasion.
At night, the Tree of Life will appear to be covered with glimmering fireflies and “special new touches” will come to Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror.
EPCOT will have new lights that will shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, “connecting to one another in a symbol of optimism resembling stars in a nighttime sky.” The iconic structure’s permanent new lighting will continue beyond the celebration as a defining feature of the park.
The super-fast and scary Yukon Striker brought the latest in coaster thrills to Wonderland.
Canada’s Wonderland had wanted to mark the anniversary with a new attraction, Mountain Bay Cliffs, where visitors can experience the exhilaration of cliff jumping from a variety of heights into the water below.
There was also to be the Beagle Brigade Airfield, a plane ride for kids, but no further special events have been announced.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca