I’m so honored to be part of this group celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland, a place near and dear to my heart. While I was never fortunate enough to visit while I was a child, I started going with friends while I was in college. Many visits later, I got to experience it with Brian. In fact, he proposed to me at the Wishing Well! I have loved taking my family to both Walt Disney World and to Disneyland Resort on a number of occasions, and some of our happiest family memories are at the Disney Parks.
I chose to feature 1971 in the history of Disneyland because it’s the year I was born. It was also the year that Starbucks was founded, so you can tell I’m in good company. More relevant perhaps, 1971 was also the year that Walt Disney World was opened (with Magic Kingdom and two resort hotels), which means there is not a lot to be found about Disneyland from that year! All eyes and “ears” seemed to be in Florida in 1971, quite understandably. The only real fact I could find about Disneyland in 1971 is that attendance dipped from 10 million the year before to 9.3 million – I bet the rest of them were heading to Orlando! Despite being down overall for the year, an attendance milestone was reached in 1971: the 100,000,000 guest! That’s right, 100 MILLIONTH.
Here’s a fun video I found on YouTube of a family’s trip to Disneyland in July of 1971, about a month after that 100 millionth visitor:
A few notable changes at Disneyland Resort that year:
The cast of Walt Disney World prior to the grand opening. October 15, 1971 Photographer: Yale Joel Life photos hosted by Google
On our recent trip to Walt Disney World, I was glad to get a picture of the kids with the Roy O. Disney & Minnie Mouse statue at Magic Kingdom. I had recently learned that Roy spent the last five years of his life making Magic Kingdom a reality, so obviously it was a special place for him. You see, when Walt died in 1966, Roy postponed his retirement in order to oversee the new facility, and he named it in honor of his late brother.
Walt Disney World opened to visitors on October 1, 1971, but the grand opening celebration took place later that month.
“May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place … a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together.” – Roy Disney *Photo from Disney Parks Blog
Roy finally retired right after the grand opening, and then sadly died just two months after the grand opening ceremony and five years after his brother.
So 1971 was a tremendous milestone year in Disney history for good and sad reasons, even though the focus was largely away from Disneyland Resort that year.
The dreams that Walt and Roy put into action continue to inspire people today. Walt’s creative vision, together with Roy’s business sense, set the stage for many years to come. It’s an inspiring example of what people can do to make the world a better place.
Follow along as we continue to count down the 60 days to 60 years of Disneyland, culminating with the anniversary on July 17!