On October 16th, 2023 the Walt Disney Company celebrated their 100th anniversary, an amazing accomplishment. Few companies make it through their first year and even fewer make it to 10 years so to celebrate 100 years is no small feat.
When I heard about Disney’s 100th anniversary, I was so excited. October 16th just happens to also be my birthday – no wonder I am such a big Disney fan, I share my birthday with their anniversary!
Looking back at various celebrations, I knew that Disney would do something spectacular for their 100th anniversary. But where would be the most likely place for them to celebrate? The answer had to be in Disneyland California. Disney themselves had announced that the Disney100 celebration would be in California.
It made sense, it is the park that Walt Disney himself built in 1955. The park that Walt actually walked down Main Street USA. I get that Disney didn’t start as a theme park company; they started as an animation studio all the way back on October 16th, 1923. But the Disney Studio in California is fairly limited in space and not really open to the general public (save for a limited tour for D23 members). With such a big fan base, Disneyland would be the best place to do something special.
So, I started making plans for a birthday trip to Disneyland California. It is nearly impossible to get a room in the Villas at Grand Californian, but the Villas at Disneyland Hotel would be opening shortly before the official Disney100 anniversary would occur.
Ultimately I was lucky enough to find another DVC Member who owned at The Villas at Disneyland Hotel and swapped points with me, so I could make my birthday trip a reality!
When Disney announced plans for their 100th anniversary, they said it would start in January 2023 but did not announce an end date. Many speculated it would last at least 18 months, similar to the length of time that the WDW 50th Anniversary lasted – although with the actual anniversary being in October 2023, it could last even longer. But at the very least, 18 months would mean the celebration would end in June 2024.
Platinum Minnie was still in Disneyland but Platinum Mickey was replaced by a huge Mickey Pumpkin for Halloween
Disney winds down Disney100 before the actual anniversary
As the date of our trip approached, I heard some bad news, Wondrous Journey the fireworks show for the Disney100 would end on 8/31/2023 in favor of the Halloween Screams fireworks. Wondrous Journey might come back after the holiday season. I’m not quite sure why Disneyland can’t do both, Disney World has Happily Ever After on nights they don’t have Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Then, worse news as the actual anniversary approached, Disney was taking down some of the decorations from Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland. It didn’t stop there; the Magic Happens parade would end on 10/15/23.
But was that actually a bad thing? Magic Happens wasn’t a Disney100 parade, maybe Disney was going to surprise us with a special parade for the actual 100th anniversary or introduce a brand new parade. Surely, they were going to do something, right?
Disneyland Paris announced they were going to do be doing something special on 10/16/23 – it couldn’t possibly be just at Disneyland Paris, it had to be at one of the US parks as well right?
With Paris being 9 hours ahead of California, I was already able to watch the Disney100 Ceremony at DLP before World of Color One started at Disneyland California on 10/15/23. It was amazing – they brought out 100 characters to celebrate. Disneyland California was going to do something similar – I was sure of it.
Disneyland on Disney’s 100th anniversary
On the morning of 10/16/23 – I woke up early to rope drop Disneyland California. I was confident there would be something – at least a special map and maybe a quick stage show to recognize the 100th. Probably some specially dated merchandise – because if anything – Disney loves making money and a dated shirt would certainly sell out.
As I got there, I was shocked to find that Disney did absolutely nothing. The maps had a pumpkin, there was nothing in the app to indicate that they were doing a special parade. The Emporium had no special dated merchandise, just the same old Disney100 merch.
The entire day went by like it was just any other Monday at the park.
I was so disappointed – and then I got angry. Disney didn’t announce the end of the Disney100 at Disneyland California. They didn’t say Wondrous Journey was ending, it just stopped appearing on the schedule. They didn’t say they were taking down the decorations. They just did it – and in fact they were still advertising the Disney100. It was everywhere on their marketing, including the main website and the Disneyland app when you opened it. I know Disney doesn’t owe us anything, but it is their 100th anniversary and they’re still marketing the hell out of it – they should have at least left the decorations up for an extra week.
The Disneyland Website and App both advertise the Disney100 celebration on the front page as of 10/25/23.
I had spent months planning a trip for the actual Disney 100th anniversary on 10/16/23 and Disney decided to do nothing. Cast Member’s said they were having a special 24-hour party for employees only; which is great – I think CMs deserve to have a celebration too, but they should have done something for the parks in the US.
Even a small gesture like offering everyone free buttons that said Disney100 10/16/23. When you consider that for Disney+ Day they give out buttons and hats, and Animal Kingdom’s 25th anniversary had special maps, dated merchandise, and a ceremony in the morning it starts to put into perspective how terrible this is.
I wasn’t the only one surprised – many guests shared the sentiment that they specifically planned a trip to Disneyland on 10/16/23 to celebrate the 100th anniversary and were surprised that Disney did absolutely nothing. The parks were extremely crowded that day as well, there were plenty of others who came that day for the actual 100th.
To further add insult to injury, that day I ended up with 5 Lightning Lane Select Experiences; in other words, I experienced five issues with rides being down (in the screenshot below, I had already used one)! It seems the park, while “only” being 68 years old heard they were turning 100 and decided they needed to act like they were 100 years old and all crap out.
While I can’t say I had a terrible day – after all, I was at Disney! I will say I was really disappointed – this was a big miss on Disney’s part. Disney will only turn 100 once – and while I understand money is tight for Disney and they don’t want to do anything extravagant, they could have easily done something small, even dated merchandise which would have made them money. Disneyland Paris was able to do something; why not Disneyland and Disney World?
Maybe I was naive to think that Disney would do something special for their actual 100th anniversary in Disneyland. Despite it being crowded, I didn’t see a lot of vloggers in Disneyland on 10/16. Somehow they knew nothing was going to happen – maybe I shouldn’t have expected anything.
But this seems like the new Disney – we all blamed Bob Chapek for Disney’s problems and were cheering when he was sent packing and Bob Iger returned. However, it doesn’t feel like things have really changed. I’m not sure if they are so out of touch with their customers that they didn’t think to do anything special or if it just comes down to not caring.
Disney has already been feeling the slowdown domestically, bookings for their resorts are down, and attendance is down overall. I thought that this data would cause them to reflect and ask themselves why people aren’t coming to the parks as much and maybe change things to attract more consumers. DVC was actually called out for the first time in their earnings report for having lower-than-expected sales.
I think Disney should be worried – Not only do they have no response to Universal’s Epic Universe opening in 2025 but they aren’t doing enough to attract new customers or keep their existing ones. As DVC members, we’re a captive audience, most of us will be back year after year, or if we sell our contracts, someone will replace us and be there year after year. However, I think Disney assumes we’ll always go to their parks, eat their food, and buy their merch. If they’re not careful, they could easily be unseated as the top tourist destination in Orlando, and DVC could simply be accommodations for us to go to the “other” parks.