It's Disney100 week!
On Friday, The Walt Disney Company will kick off its 100th anniversary celebration at the Disneyland Resort. Disneyland is opening a new dark ride and debuting two new nighttime spectaculars, and we will have coverage of the openings and celebrations for you all week.
If you're a bit lost with all the recent Disney celebrations, however, this one is the for the anniversary of the start of what is now The Walt Disney Company, rather than the opening of any Disney theme park. Walt and his brother Roy founded Disney Brothers Studio in Los Angeles on October 16, 1923, after Walt's Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, with collaborator Ub Iwerks, went bankrupt. The Disney Brothers Studio became Walt Disney Studio in 1926, when the company moved to its new headquarters on Hyperion Avenue in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake. (There's a Gelson's supermarket on that site today.)
Disney's first productions were the Alice Comedies series, followed by several Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts for Universal Pictures. When Walt discovered that Universal owned the rights to Oswald, he and Ub Iwerks in 1928 created a replacement - Mickey Mouse.
The following year, the company changed its name again, to Walt Disney Productions, which would remain the company's legal name until 1986, when it became The Walt Disney Company. But for decades, pretty much everyone has called the company by one name - Disney.
If you are keeping track, in 2001, Walt Disney World celebrated the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney's birth with the 100 Years of Magic celebration (which lasted until 2003). And we probably should just go ahead and set our calendars for the 100th birthday of Mickey Mouse in 2028, as Disney continues its string of centenary celebrations.
Right now, Walt Disney World is wrapping up its 50th anniversary celebration, which continues through March 31. That's part of the reason why Disneyland gets the lead role for the kick-off the company's 100th. (Even Disney is reticent to celebrate two anniversaries at once.) But expect to see references to Disney100 and the 100 Years of Wonder at Disney Parks around the world in the year ahead.
For more about Disney's theme parks, including reader rankings of their attractions and trip advice, please visit our Plan Your Disney Parks Vacation page.
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What has always stood out for me is that Disney's parent company, has maintained ownership for a century. With all of the major studios and so many other corporate models changing ownership the same way kids of my generation used to swap trading cards, Disney has managed to be held by the same company. I find that remarkable.
The never-ending parade of anniversaries is certainly getting monotonous. Each one just gives Disney an excuse to launch new "limited edition/exclusive" merchandise, tweak a couple of shows/attractions, and try to claim the current celebration is unique from its predecessor when it's not. The problem is that people keep falling for this schlock, and continue to visit despite very little substantial occurring and the "celebrations" more or less ubiquitous with each other.
WDW50 was supposed to be this massive deal, and while it was disrupted by the pandemic, it was very much "business as usual" in the parks. I would much rather Disney celebrate major additions when they actually happen instead of trying to wrap them into some nebulous 18-24 month celebration of a random anniversary they pulled out of a hat.
Russell: "The problem is that people keep falling for this schlock ..."
Me: Why is that a "problem" and who is to say it's "schlock"? And you're really going to dismiss 100 years of operations as a "random anniversary"? How often do you yell at the neighborhood kids to stay off your damn lawn?
I don't think a company's 100-year anniversary is "random", but it feels less important when they celebrated Disneyland's 60th, WDW50, and a bunch of other annual celebrations that seemingly never end. I also question why the 100th anniversary of a company founded as an animation studio needs to be celebrated in its theme parks - I can see why you create fancy title cards for your feature films and put out press releases announcing the importance of the occasion, but extending it into the theme parks seems contrived.
The parks have barely been "normal" over the past 25 years because of the constant celebrations going on, and the endless celebrating minimizes the importance of a truly landmark anniversary, particularly when an "anniversary" is celebrated for more than a year. In the end, each of these celebrations is another marketing ploy to get people to visit more frequently even though there's very little different from the previous visit.
Obviously people constantly falling for and buying all this schlock is why Disney is galvanized to continue these non-stop celebrations. If people came to their senses and realized that all of these anniversaries are just a ploy to part them with their money for the latest limited edition made-in-China pin or other tchotchke, perhaps Disney would stop, and actually limit the celebrating to truly landmark and important occasions, and maybe keep them to a few months.
I agree TH. It's remarkable how long Disney has lasted.
I think it's OK to be confused by all the anniversaries. I think it's OK to celebrate the one's that excite you. It's mostly merch and food which is constantly updated and rotated anyways. That may be why it doesn't seem odd to me.
If you are interested in some industry context, Warner Bros. also is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Universal Pictures celebrated its 100th in 2012, as did Paramount. Columbia's 100th was either in 2018 or is next year, depending upon how you consider its founding. And Fox started in 1915, then merged with 20th Century in 1935 before Disney bought it in 2019.
100 years is a big deal for sure but Disney's parade of anniversaries and celebrations have ruined it. There's not much to get excited about this and I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks they've overkilled it!
Russell: "... all of these anniversaries are just a ploy to part them with their money ..."
Me: So is every Universal Orlando billboard. You gonna dump on them too, or is your ire only aimed at Disney?
@TH - I don't track every Universal billboard, but the ones I recall don't advertise perennial celebrations touting some unending anniversary as if the "baseline" version of the park isn't worth a visit. Universal does put on events from time to time, but it's not a revolving door of celebrations from one year to the next making the previous year's one seem less important.
Disney Parks provide such amazing experiences even when they're not celebrating an anniversary or some other special event. However, because there's always something going on that if you're not going during one of those events, you feel as though you're getting a substandard experience. Disney should celebrate the parks more frequently in their "normal" beauty, and not rely on anniversaries, events, and other celebrations to boost interest/attendance.
If only Disney had in its canon some concept for celebrating on dates which are not, in fact, an actual anniversary. Something like... everyday is your "unbirthday" or something.
If only... /s
I heard from a reliable source that the imagineers have been hard at work for a huge announcement …
…. It’s gonna be a restroom renovation like you’ve never seen before featuring a laughing goofy with every flush and get this …a new app to make your vacation planning complete called .. ExcuseMe .. no more bathroom lines and guaranteed front of the line upgrade if you pay $ for ExcuseMeFast! … and it’s coming soon in 2026 !!!
Russell: "Universal does put on events from time to time, but it's not a revolving door of celebrations from one year to the next making the previous year's one seem less important."
Me: Maybe because they can't. Also you never answered that "lawn" thing.
The "lawn" thing I see more as a reality check that some Disney fanatics (I'll refrain from using the term "Drones" because I know it bothers you) need to make. What's ridiculous to me is that so many of these people whine and complain about Disney, their policies, lack of maintenance, and the constant argument that "Walt would never have done that". However, for all that talk, those same people are the ones that are first in line to get the newest limited edition merch, showing up hours before rope drop when a new celebration begins, and spend thousands of dollars on food, lodging, and tickets when visiting the parks. The hypocrisy oozing from these folks is so thick it can be cut with a knife, and the less fanatical guests seem to follow that lead in gobbling up everything Disney sells. As with our political discourse, you just can't be "meh" or straddle the aisle on Disney, you either have to love it 100, or hate it to the point where Universal gets every penny of your Orlando vacation spending.
I just want the market to have a "come to Jesus" moment and realize that Disney only sells what people will buy, and that if the freaks out there that spend every waking moment eating, drinking, sleeping, and spending every last penny (and then some) on Disney came to the realization that they actually have some power over the market, perhaps they could inject a dose of reality into the sea of comatose followers.
It's gotten to the point where even those of us who try to take an objective view of Disney are accused of being bought by the company when trying to offer a balanced critique (see my Starcruiser articles), because so many out there cannot stop gushing about everything Disney and the feeling that when Disney tells them to jump, the only acceptable response is "how high".
And it turns out, joining my sister and her family for a trip to Disneyland in March so can experience this!
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I wouldn't be surprised if that 50 medallion on Cinderella Castle is changed to a 100.