Last weekend Walt Disney World celebrated it’s 40th anniversary, and leading to the anniversary date, the web was all a tither about what the events planned for the day would be. Disney was very secretive on what they had in store, and die-hard fans like myself were hopeful to see something big and exciting. Unfortunately, by all reports (I was unable to attend in person) the day fell short of expectations. Sure, there was parades, speakers, merchandising, anniversary buttons and pins, and special park maps; but it seems like 40th anniversary message was lost somehow. It almost seemed like the event was an after thought, spurred by the demand to have some sort of celebration.
For myself, I had high hopes that 2011 would be a big celebration year for Disney World, ripe with promotional campaigns similar to the “Year of a Million Dreams”, and focus on the 40th anniversary throughout Magic Kingdom. When news of the “Magic, Memories and You” campaign surfaced in 2010, I was ecstatic. I thought “this is it, this will be a celebration to remember”. But sadly, no, it didn’t pan out to be what I thought it could have been. I know I didn’t want to see the castle donned in pink icing like it was in 1996, but outside of the 40th anniversary merchadise (which, by the way, I love!), there will little in the park even mentioning the anniversary year. I wanted to be overdosed with park nostalgia. I needed that nostalgia! Instead, I was greeted with the usual Disney charm, and talk of the Fantasyland expansion more than anything. Which was fine, but yet lacking somehow.
Then I got to thinking, why are we so upset with the lack of focus on the 40th anniversary? I think it has to do with expectations. For the online Disney blogger community, I’ve noticed that most bloggers are in the 35 - 45 age range. We are a base of fans that grew up with Walt Disney World. Many of our childhood memories are engraved with experiences at Disney World. We all have, at some point, experienced birthdays, family vacations, high school and college graduations, young love trips, weddings and honeymoons, a glimpse of the park through our child’s eyes, happy celebrations, and sad times at the park. For some of us, like myself, who turned 40 this year it was a milestone year. Now an adult with adult responsibilities - career, children, aging parents, home ownership, so too is Disney World. The park is no longer the immature first grader on the block. People look to the Magic Kingdom to be the wise one, the tone setter, and the responsible parent of the parks. It’ll always be the first place we want to see when we get there, and the last place we want to see before we leave. Our lives have paralleled that of the Magic Kingdom and we expected to see some big recognition of that. But the reality is, it's just the 40th anniversary of the park's opening. Just that and nothing more.
So, yes, I’m disappointed, but my disappointment stems from my expectations. I can’t fault Disney World for that. Now we have 10 more years to look forward to the 50th anniversary ,which if the 25 year celebration was any indication, should be a blow-out event of epic proportions! I just wonder if the WDW Radio gang can stay up for 50 hours at that age!