Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Golden Age of Disneyland

Disneyland is perhaps the most celebrated, and certainly the most iconic amusement park on planet earth. More than 16 million guests of all ages walk through those gates each year, to live the dream that Walt promised on opening day - that Disneyland would be "a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."

Last week, Disneyland commemorated its 58th anniversary. It has enchanted guests for nearly 60 years. I decided that to celebrate the occasion, I would look back on all 58 years of park history and single out Disneyland's best year. Obviously I haven't been around to experience all 58 years of Disneyland, so this choice is subjective. I will be choosing the best year based on what attractions were present in the park, thus, what year was the most ideal to visit Disneyland. Let's begin.

In the 1960s, the park was just beginning to come into form. The cherished It's A Small World came in 1966. New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean appeared in 1967. The Haunted Mansion came in 1969. However, the only true thrill ride in the park was the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and by 1969 it had already been around for a decade. In addition to the Matterhorn, 1959 had also brought about my all-time favorite ride, the Submarine Voyage. Disneyland had only just begun pandering to its older guests by the end of the 60s.

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, which opened in 1963
Well, the 1970's were probably the biggest decade in Disneyland history. Long-haired males were finally allowed into the park, following the lifting of the ban that tried to keep hippies out. To start things off in 1970, the "yippies" invaded Disneyland, forcing the riot squad to show up and close the park early. In 1972, a copy of Disney World's Country Bear Jamboree appeared in Bear Country. Though Splash Mountain wasn't to be seen for many years, Tom Sawyer's Island and Frontierland now offered more than just hayrides and live animals.

America Sings replaced the Carousel of Progress in 1974, so the Carousel Theater was being put to more use than ever. As we all know, Tomorrowland is currently in desperate need of renovation. But in the mid-1970s, Tomorrowland was in its prime. Following the moon landing in '69, the popularity of space age technology and culture was in full swing.

The Rocket Jets soared above Tomorrowland. The Peoplemover was as vibrant as ever. The awesome Adventure Thru Inner Space was still in operation, and would remain so until 1985. Tomorrowland was still relevant, and still futuristic. Imagine a time when Tomorrowland truly felt like an advanced world, and not a dilapidated remnant of what the 80's would consider futuristic. So we can easily say that Disneyland's prime was sometime after 1974.

Unfortunately, the beloved Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland disappeared in 1977. It was said to be one of the most popular rides in history, and Walt Disney's personal favorite ride. Being one of the most classic and inventive attractions in Disneyland's history, the day the Mine Train shut down was a dark day in Disneyland. So I suppose we can determine that Disneyland's best year was between 1974 and 1977. But how to narrow it down further?

It seems that yet again, Space Mountain is the game changer. Space Mountain debuted in 1977, between the short window of Mine Train's closing and the birth of the 1980's. With this, it stands to reason that 1977 was indeed, the best year in Disneyland history.

Let's recap:

•Tom Sawyer's Island
•Country Bear Jamboree
•Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland
•Mike Fink Keel Boats
•Rivers of America

•Vonroll Skyway
•Motor Boat Cruise
•Storybook Land Canal Boats
•King Arthur Carousel
•Captain Hook's Galley

•Submarine Voyage
•America Sings
•Rocket Jets
•Adventure Thru Inner Space
•Mission to Mars
•Space Mountain

Adventureland and New Orleans Square
Swiss Family Treehouse
•Jungle Cruise
•Enchanted Tiki Room
•Pirates of the Caribbean
•Haunted Mansion

So there you have it folks! Whether it's 1977, or 2013, Disneyland will always be a special place. Let's hope the next 58 years are just as magical.

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