As the Walt Disney Company enters its 100th year, let’s look back at a handful of memorable and magical moments from across the company’s theme park history.
1. Disney debuts the Cake Castle - October 1st 1996
One of Disney’s most divisive design choices to date, Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary saw Cinderella Castle get a VERY unique makeover, which was sure to satisfy just about any sweet tooth.
Overnight, Cinderella’s Castle was transformed into a giant pink cake, complete with layers of frosting and candles. While it may have left some parks fans feeling conflicted, the infamous Cake Castle is now beloved by many and will forever remain one of the most memorable moments in Walt Disney World’s history.
2. Disney California Adventure opens in Anaheim - February 8, 2001
2001 saw the OG Disney park get its much-anticipated sister park, Disney California Adventure. The park’s opening sparked some initial hesitation from fans who felt the park was slightly more adult-centric than Disneyland next door.
Today, however, Disney California Adventure serves as an equally beloved addition to Disney’s global park line-up thanks to attractions such as Radiator Springs Racers, as well as the picturesque scenery of Pixar Pier.
3. Expedition Everest opens at Animal Kingdom - April 7, 2006
Offering an exciting shake-up to Animal Kingdom’s mid-2000s ride lineup, Expedition Everest’s towering exterior helped stir up anticipation for this one-of-a-kind attraction.
With an impressive $100 million price tag, parks fans were eager to learn what this brand-new attraction would entail. Today, the ride remains one of AK’s most popular attractions for its immense thrills.
4. Festival of Fantasy Parade debuts at Magic Kingdom - March 9, 2014
Having replaced the long-running Celebrate A Dream Come True parade, Festival of Fantasy debuted as an extension of the stories from within 2012’s exciting New Fantasyland expansion.
Sending hearts soaring with its colourful delights, Festival Of Fantasy quickly became one of Disney’s most beloved additions to its global entertainment lineup.
5. Disneyland celebrates its 60th anniversary - May 22nd, 2015
Arguably the reason why expectations for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary were so high, Disneyland’s 60th is remembered by many as one of Disney’s most wonderful celebrations to date. Having spawned the much-adored Paint The Night Parade, Disneyland’s 60th was a truly magical celebration of everything parks fans love about Disney.
6. The Earffel Tower removal - April 29, 2016
As if the loss of Sorcerer’s Hat wasn’t already hard enough! Disney fans will likely recall the day that Hollywood Studios’ beloved Earffel Tower was torn down. Removed to make way for Toy Story Land, the Earffel Tower had become an iconic piece of the Walt Disney World skyline and its disappearance was a big talking point among the Disney fan community.
7. Tower of Terror closes in Disney California Adventure - January 2, 2017
While Tower of Terror’s actual closure on January 2nd sparked much dismay amongst Disney parks fans, the fall-out from the initial announcement that arrived in the summer of 2016 was perhaps more prominent in Disney parks history.
Parks fans were DEVASTATED to learn that the iconic Tower of Terror would be closing its doors forever to make way for a Marvel-themed attraction. However, the disappointment wouldn’t last long, as Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout has continued to impress fans ever since it took its rightful place in the Disney California Adventure skyline.
8. Pandora: The World of Avatar marks a turning part in theme park innovation - May 27, 2017
Considered to be Disney’s response to Universal Studios’ highly successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Pandora - The World of Avatar signalled a shift in Disney’s focus as it served as the first official entry into Disney’s ever-growing line-up of immersive themed lands. Instagram feeds were changed forever when the floating mountains debuted at Animal Kingdom back in 2017.
9. Bob Iger returns - November 21, 2022
In a move that rocked Disney fans everywhere, late November 2022 saw Bob Chapek ousted as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, with ex-CEO Bob Iger stepping in to take his place. The move came as a huge shock, with parks fans everywhere curious about what this sudden leadership change could mean.
What are some of your most memorable moments in Disney Parks history? Let us know by leaving us a comment below or on our Facebook page.