To celebrate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, we arrived at the Grand Californian Hotel a day early, on May 4, 2005. Disneyland, as we expected, was closed that day (sorry, folks, mouse out front should have told you), so we planned to spend it by the pool or by visiting Disney’s California Adventure [now Disney California Adventure Park] to see the new Pixar parade. We checked in a little before 9 a.m., and to our surprise we were given FREE tickets to Disneyland! It was a media day, and all guests of the three Disney hotels were provided complimentary (and unannounced) entry! The place was practically empty, except for a sea of stars:
Steve Martin was there dedicating a theater. Tim Allen was there dedicating the new Buzz Lightyear ride. Kelsey Grammar was standing in line at Indiana Jones. Julie Andrews was giving interviews on Main Street. Art Linkletter was over at DCA checking out the latest rides. Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Wayne Gretzky, John Stamos (who actually owns the original Disneyland sign—he has it in his yard) and the rest of ABC’s lineup were riding rides, eating cotton candy, and wearing little gold mouse ears. Also, churros.
The next morning we went down to the park entrance about about 90 minutes before opening, because, apparently, our idea of “early” and society’s idea of “early” are not the same thing. Seriously, we had no idea: The plaza between the two parks was jam-packed. It was like Mardi Gras, but with shirts. People were dancing and singing and complaining. It was awesome. We went in the park and managed to get fairly close to the castle.
Art Linkletter came out and addressed the crowd. He talked about the original opening day at Disneyland, which he worked in a similar capacity, and about his friend Walt Disney. LeAnne Rhimes came out and sang a song that Richard Marx (yes, that Richard Marx!) wrote for the event. Christina Aguilara followed with a song. Julie Andrews came out and spoke. An orchestra played. The popular ‘Come Home’ commercial (below) was continued, with the little boy that was “missing” running from the castle, afraid that he was too late, only to be joined by all the Disney characters, straight from the ad. BUT. IN. REAL. LIFE. Stitch arrived on his motorcycle. Genie fresh from his camel. The whole gang was there.
After that the large curtain covering the front of the castle was dropped to reveal the final touch, a Mickey Mouse icon in gold with the number ’50’ written inside it, which we didn’t photograph for some weird reason.
The remainder of the day was normal, aside from the new merchandise and insane crowds.
The new parade and fireworks show were both, respectively, amazing. They both covered a lot of Disney history—the parade covered the movies and the fireworks covered the park (also, literally).
Over at DCA the Pixar gang had its own new parade, which was basically Toy Story meets American Bandstand. It’s got a good beat. I can dance to it. I give it an 80.
We stuck around until Saturday morning and managed to pull ourselves away in time to make the two hour drive home, change our clothes and go to work, which was less fun (obviously).
The whole experience was fantastic. I highly recommend it.