Disney100: What is it Celebrating?


Ellie Petrick, Editor

On January 27, 2023, The Walt Disney Company kicked off their 100 year anniversary. The celebration is primarily in the Disneyland theme park in California, including both Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney in the party. Meanwhile, across the country, Walt Disney World is celebrating its 50 year anniversary. 

The company was officially started October 16, 1923. The official D23 website states, “[Disney] had made a cartoon in Kansas City about a little girl in a cartoon world, called Alice’s Wonderland, and he decided that he could use it as his ‘pilot’ film to sell a series of these “Alice Comedies” to a distributor.” The company continued producing short cartoons, adding iconic characters such as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to their roster. 

As the Walt Disney Company progressed came the emergence of some of their classic and iconic characters. Characters such as Mickey Mouse were made out of a necessity for a central character to base their cartoons around. The company kept making short cartoons until 1934, when Walt Disney announced to his animators his intention to make an animated feature film called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. More feature films and cartoons were to follow. 

It wasn’t until July 17, 1955 that Disneyland, the first Disney park, was opened to the public. Despite the popularity and success Disney is known for today, the opening day was a complete disaster. “The Rocket to the Moon, Peter Pan and Dumbo the Flying Elephant rides were all closed.” according to History’s article on the opening day. A theme park like this had never been opened before, and people were so excited that the expected crowd of 15,000 had turned out to be over 28,000. Some people had even scaled a fence to try to get in. 

As of 2023, Disneyland will be celebrating it’s 78th anniversary. It is the home of the Disney 100th anniversary as well, with both Disneyland itself and Disney California Adventure (DCA) having unique celebrations. Both parks are decorated for the 100th anniversary, but the real crowning jewels of the celebrations are the entertainment. 

Two new shows have been added to the parks, one in each. Disneyland gained the projection and firework show Wondrous Journeys, while DCA debuted their water and fire show World of Color – ONE. It’s with these two shows that Disney has been trying to share their message for the 100th year celebration.

“World of Color – ONE celebrates the rich storytelling legucy begun by Walt Disney a century ago,” describes the official Disneyland Resort website. Using characters from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel, the show boasts what the Disney company has become. The show is about the change one person can make, painting a story of Walt Disney starting his company to beheamoth that the Walt Disney Company has become. 

Wondrous Journeys takes a similar approach to marketing the celebration. The main place to watch the celebration is on Main Street, U.S.A., but you can also watch the celebration in New Orleans Square, as they use the water of the Rivers of America as a water feature in the show. The show presents a blend of many beloved Disney songs, including a beautiful mash up of How Far I’ll Go, Belle, Go the Distance, and Out There. The show is about dreaming, about reaching for the stars and opening the door to another 100 years of the Walt Disney Company.

When Disneyland opened, the first day was called “Black Sunday” because everyone viewed it as a nightmare. Now, Disney is a staple in the world of entertainment. 

With the 100th Anniversary celebration, Disney has been working on marketing it as a celebration of dreaming and taking the first step in a chain of reactions that could make something great. They’ve been marketing the Disney100 celebration with the tagline “100 Years of Wonder”. Whether Disney has lived up to this ideal for these 100 years is a question, but it’s undeniable that Disney has progressed far past what it initially was. 

Whether it is agreed that Disney had embodied these ideals, it is what Walt Disney wanted for his company. D23’s website shares the following Walt Disney quote from the opening day of Disneyland, “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America—with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”