Magic Kingdom 40th Anniversary: Remembering the Magic

By: Jennifer Romano

Where were you on October 1st, 2011? I visited the Vacation Kingdom of the World on this date.  Where is this Vacation Kingdom, you may ask?  Walt Disney World!!!! Specifically, the Magic Kingdom was my destination last Saturday.  Come with me as I relate our adventure about meeting fellow Disney aficionados and spending time in the happiest place on Earth.

Our journey began Friday morning as I packed our luggage and prepared myself for a day of teaching.  It was hard to stay focused on the tasks at hand when Disney World is just a mere ten hours away.  After work, my husband picked me up, and I jumped into the car.  He did slow down just a little so that I could safely hop in!  Then, we were off to begin our weekend of excitement.  Friday evening was filled with driving, and we eventually stopped at a hotel near Tallahassee, Florida.   Our challenge was to wake up early enough to drive the four hours remaining to Orlando so that we could make it to the Magic Kingdom for at least an hour before rope drop. Now, to accomplish this goal, we had to leave our hotel at 3:00 am.  It was very difficult to wake up this early, but the 40th anniversary was at stake, so we were able to drag ourselves out of bed, re-pack the car, and commence with the rest of our journey.

Finally, we arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 7:45 am, parked the car, and made our way over to the turnstiles.  Since this was the 40th anniversary, we anticipated a crowd, especially since Disney had created so much limited edition merchandise for this celebration.   There were people everywhere, so we knew that our chance of getting this limited edition merchandise was not going to be very high.  However, as Disney fans, we are a hopeful sort, so our day wasn’t tarnished in the least by this revelation.

After making it through the turnstiles, we waited with much anticipation as the time neared for the welcome show to begin.  The Mayor exited the Train Station, and he greeted all of us as the dancers told us Good Morning!  They were dressed in their patriotic outfits, and a 40th anniversary banner was tied to the railing outside of the Train Station.  After the welcome show, the usual controlled chaos began as we all tried to jockey for position to enter the Magic Kingdom.  As we entered, castmembers gave us each a pin-on button that commemorated the 40th anniversary.  In addition, we each received maps that had both a retro-design as well as the current map of the Magic Kingdom.  I have included a picture of the button and the map below!

Vintage Art Work - Park Map Cover

Vintage Art Work - Park Map Inside


40th Anniversary Commemorative Button

After we walked down the middle of Main Street U.S.A, we decided to find our spots for the presentation that was going to take place on the Cinderella Castle stage.  This presentation began with some music from the Main Street Philharmonic, followed by a procession of characters, balloons, and signs representing Magic Kingdom anniversaries of the past.  The Tencennial, 15 Years of Magic, Mickey Mania, and Remember the Magic were all represented.  In addition to signs representing these time periods, the music from each one of these former celebrations played in a medley during the character cavalcade.  After all the characters danced down Main Street, many of them made their way onto the Castle stage, where the Disney World Ambassadors and Meg Crofton, the President of the Walt Disney World Resort, shared some of their own memories about the Magic Kingdom.  Meg Crofton mentioned that even though Walt Disney did not ever step foot in this Magic Kingdom, he walked it many times in his imagination.  All of the speakers reflected on the importance of the Magic Kingdom and how much it has grown and changed over the years from just one park and three resorts to a true vacation destination.

The Fairy Godmother in front of Cinderella Castle

All the Characters on Stage at the 40th Anniversary Presentation

As the presentation concluded, the Dapper Dans sang “When you wish upon a Star, “ and then I started to tear up.  This is such an emotional song for me, and I just couldn’t help but get emotional when the Dapper Dans sang as the Fab Five, all of the Disney Princesses, and the Fairy Godmother shared the stage with them.  After the song, fireworks erupted from behind the castle, streamers shot out of air cannons, and pixie dust spread over the crowd.  The presentation was well worth the wait, and I am glad that I woke up at 3 am to make it to the park to enjoy it.

During the day at the Magic Kingdom, we tried to ride as many original 1971 attractions as we could, and we saw many people who decided to dress in their 1970’s best to celebrate this anniversary.  At 5:30 p.m., we visited the Sunshine Tree Terrace to participate in a meet up for Retro Day at WDW.  Travis Munson sponsored this event, and throughout the day, we met some fellow Disney fans as well as some Internet celebrities, including Lou Mongello from the WDW Radio Show Podcast, Tom and Sarah Bricker from the Disney Tourist Blog, and the Peterman family from the Relocated Tourist Blog.   It was wonderful to meet these folks in person because we so enjoy reading about their adventures on their respective websites.

After a quick dole whip and a viewing of the Tiki Room with our retro group, we visited the Plaza for dinner and then found a spot to watch Wishes. This was no ordinary fireworks show because it included some extra special pyrotechnics in honor of the 40th anniversary.  The perimeter fireworks were just amazing, and they lit up the night sky as only Disney can.  After a very long, exhausting day of celebrating, it was finally time to call it a night and return to Pop Century to sleep for a few hours before we would have to travel all the way home the next day.  Basically, we drove 20 hours to spend about 15 hours in the Magic Kingdom, and it was definitely worth it.  I can’t wait until Epcot’s 30th anniversary next year so that we can do it all over again.  Enjoy all the pictures that I have attached!  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Cinderella Castle

Snow White & Prince Charming

Characters holding signs representing Celebrations through the years


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