Today is the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Magic Kingdom. First of all, a big shout out to friend-of-the-site Walt Disney, for waiting until October to open his theme park. Weather-wise, September was brutal, but today was astonishingly comfortable. It was around 72 degrees with low humidity at 9:45am, compared to 84 degrees with 70% humidity (a “RealFeel of 107 degrees) the week before.
If you subscribe to the “crowd calendar,” you would see that Magic Kingdom is the “least recommended Park” and the overall crowd level has been bumped up to above average to account for much heavier expected crowds at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Let’s see what we’re dealing with.
Here we are arriving at 8:40am. I told you it was going to be crowded. This is worse than most summer mornings. A couple more looks:
Here we are in line in the last picture. The regular pre-show viewing area inside the turnstiles is completely full and no one else is being admitted. We’ll have to wait until after the pre-show to get through. Looking behind us:
Looking right into the sun, but you can tell how many people have arrived just between 8:40am and 8:50am.
Other than a banner and the Mayor of Main Street mentioning the fact that it was the 40th anniversary a couple of times during his normal spiel, the preshow was exactly the same as any other morning.
Mickey and friends arrive on the steam train along with the family of the day. I suppose if you could choose which day to be family of the day, this would have to be one of your top choices. Though the 43rd anniversary has a bit of a ring to it.
Here we are headed into Magic Kingdom behind a ton of people.
And even more people behind us. Here are some “crowds” for those of you who have been trying to say the last month has been “crazy crowded.”
Headed up to the Castle Forecourt area with everyone else. There’s a small 40 year anniversary banner hung on the Castle and a podium out front, but no other special decorations. The crane is gone though.
You never really know how Disney is going to play these one-off Parades. I decided to set up shop here on the curb to our right. I figured this had a decent enough view of the stage (and a little bit of elevation) and a good view of what I assumed was going to be the Parade route.
We’re not the only ones headed this way.
As good as you would think Disney would be at crowd control, they are really terrible at it. Or I should say, they aren’t particularly good at keeping those that have “played by the rules” comfortable. I always arrive early and stake my claim in a favorable position. From that point forward, I had to defend my position against people trying to push to the front. Even worse, you have the people slyly pretending to hang out in the middle of the street and then try to step up on the curb in front of you when Disney cast members come by and tell everyone to get out of the street. A very tense 45 minutes!
There is absolutely nowhere for any of these people coming toward us to go. The crowd is already at least eight thick everywhere. Disney was trying to walk people down toward the Castle and then move them up through an opening and then behind the crowd and into Fantasyland, but that didn’t work very well. Most people have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re trying to go. There was probably a cast member pointing over this way to Fantasyland and behind the crowd for the Parade, but people instinctively move to open space. They should have roped off this area long ago and had people move behind the crowd or around through Tomorrowland Terrace into Tomorrowland. Anyway, with the help of people nearby, I was able to fortify my position.
This is the allears.net contingent and the rest of the media-pass people moving toward the scaffolding in the middle of the Castle Hub for a better view of the ceremony. Despite your author collecting well over 100,000 visitors in September (not including any forum traffic), he has never applied for any sort of special privileges. While it would be nice for me personally to sit back with the media and trot out right before the start of the presentation with absolutely no hassle whatsoever, that experience would be entirely irrelevant.
Surprisingly and to their credit, the presentation began right on time at 9:45am. A big thank you to Disney for scheduling the ceremony early in the morning. I would have really hated to wait there another hour or two for an 11am presentation like the Star Tours ceremony that I ended up waiting five hours for.
They introduced the Main Street Philharmonic, which performs throughout the day on Main Street, as the name implies:
They played a few songs to fill some time – Zip A Dee Doo Dah and maybe something from the Littler Mermaid. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention.
Attention turns behind us for the “character cavalcade” as the Philharmonic finished up their set. There are always a ton of rumors surrounding events like this, which I find to be extremely unfortunate. I hate rumors, especially when they are so unsubstantiated. According to the internet, we are supposed to see a bunch of rare characters. At one point, 150+ characters were supposed to be involved. What ended up happening, was a procession of most of the normal characters you would see at Magic Kingdom on any normal day. Nothing special. If you believed the rumors, you would have been disappointed with the characters that actually appeared. If the rumors turned out to be true, the surprise would be greatly diminished. I remember the opening of Star Tours where George Lucas ascended from beneath the stage to the surprise of about twelve people. Had we not known George would be there, it probably would have been entirely awesome. The fact that we were expecting it made it much less so.
Since we’re in the hub, the characters are going to march down Main Street and then split off into two groups, one group headed to the left and the other in front of us to the right.
Here’s a look at who marched by.
A fine collection of characters, but nothing special. You could say the same thing about the Philharmonic. Always nice to see, but they’re nothing out of the ordinary.
The characters congregated on stage.
A look at the characters that walked down the other side of the Hub. Woody and Jessie were positioned off camera down below.
As usual with this sort of Parade, the group watching on Main Street followed the Parade to the stage. You can see how far back I am.
The Magic Kingdom ambassadors introduced Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World and soon, the whole world. She gave a nice speech about Walt’s legacy.
A look at the crowds. This area was jam packed for the presentation. Can’t beat kids on top of parents’ shoulders either:
Ms. Crofton introduced Phil Holmes, who collected e-tickets at the Haunted Mansion when Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971. He worked all the way up to Vice President of Magic Kingdom over to the course of his career. It’s an amazing story and he really stole the show. I imagine I could have listened to his stories for hours and been completely enthralled. He talked about what the Magic Kingdom was like on opening day, recalling how important those E-tickets were to guests and how he took great pride in presenting the best possible show. After talking about how nerve racking the opening was, he talked about how his superiors told him to worry about the show first and what ticket guests were handing him later. This led to the best line of the day, “So if you got on Haunted Mansion on opening day for an A-ticket….you’re welcome.”
After Mr. Holmes finished up, the Dapper Dans led a singalong of “When You Wish Upon A Star.”
And in true Disney fashion, they concluded the presentation by shooting streamers at the audience and fireworks into the sky.
Overall, it was just fine, but you certainly didn’t miss anything if you spent the morning elsewhere.
We’ll try to deal with this mob of people and take a walk around the Magic Kingdom.
This is the line for 40th anniversary cupcakes at Main Street Bakery about 15 minutes after the ceremony concluded, or 10:30am. It’s all the way out the door and back to Uptown Jewelers. It would only get worse later in the day. Disney Parks Blog has a look at the extremely rare version of the cupcakes here: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2011/10/limited-edition-40th-anniversary-souvenir-you-just-have-to-eat-at-walt-disney-world-resort/. Let me give you a hint – making 120 cupcakes for a crowd of 100,000 isn’t a good business model and will lead to people that are very unhappy. We’ll take a better look at the much more common cupcakes in a little bit.
I headed over the Confectionery for a shorter, air-conditioned line.
It took a good 25 minutes to get to the front of the cupcake line at the Confectionery. It would have taken more than an hour at Main Street Bakery. For a cupcake. Amusingly, I didn’t even want a cupcake. Just a picture of a cupcake for the Internet. The gentleman behind me was also in line for a cupcake. Just a cupcake. We laughed about how long the line was taking and how this process should be much easier and much quicker. People couldn’t decide what color of frosting they wanted. They wanted a color that wasn’t currently available. They couldn’t choose the right topper. It was just ridiculous. And their checkout system had ground to a halt, on top of everything else. BUT THE FUNNIEST PART…is that they “literally” ran out of cupcakes right before they got to me. The girl in front of me purchased the last one they had. I wasn’t too devastated because the girls in front of me let me take some pictures of their cupcakes (it’s not what it sounds like or should I say, it is), but the guy behind me was understandably miffed. How they could underproduce mass-produced cupcakes is beyond me. The Main Street Bakery was supposedly restocking in a half hour, but that didn’t help the 50 people in line behind me.
Here they are – not very exciting.
Space Mountain at 35 minutes around 11:05am.
And over to Fantasyland.
Okay, one Fantasyland construction picture.
it’s a small world already up to 20 minutes.
And a line “out the door” at Haunted Mansion. 35 minutes.
Okay, so even more ridiculous than the “cupcake situation” was the “merchandise issue.” Disney decided it would be a good idea to issue exactly 1,500 very cute, “I was there” 40th anniversary pins. When demand was probably around 100,000.
This was the mass of people waiting to purchase them outside Diamond Horseshoe. This is actually several lines, confusing things further. There’s a line to meet each of two artists, along with a general merchandise line, and the pin line. Disney issued pin wristbands beginning at 6am at the Magic Kingdom entrance, guaranteeing anyone who received a wristband two pins. Then there is this “standby line” for any leftovers. Quite stressful to be standing here for a few hours I imagine. There is really no formal line, so you have to deal with people sneaking in line too. Not that big of a deal if there was an unlimited number, but every single person that cuts in front of you makes the chances of receiving a pin that much smaller. They also sold out of 40th anniversary t-shirt in less than 15 minutes this morning at the Emporium. Terrific planning, Disney.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad right before 11:30am. This is when wait times are really going to build as more and more people arrive and get in line. Waits have peaked around 50 minutes so far today.
Currently 40 minutes at Splash Mountain. It hit 60 later in the day, compared to 15-20 minutes yesterday.
Pirates of the Caribbean up to 20 minutes. The current wait time is 35 minutes. There is probably additional demand since it is sort of a classic, even if it didn’t open until 1973 and basically made the construction of Thunder Mesa and the Western River Expedition impossible. We won’t hold that against Pirates though.
Yes, this is getting crowded.
There were some questions about the Mickey Pretzels at the Frontierland Pretzel Wagon. Here’s the menu:
Mixed reviews on the Mickey Pretzels. I haven’t had one yet. Probably should have grabbed one today but there were 20 people in line.
Another look at the crowds outside Diamond Horseshoe waiting for merchandise and artist meets. I actually wanted to meet one of the artists at 1pm, but had no interest in dealing with this. Just ridiculous. And I’ve got all day to waste too, so it isn’t like I would even be spending precious vacation time waiting in line.
I would imagine no one was happier to see the weather report today than this guy dressed up like a character (or something) from the Adventurers Club. I’d tell you my opinion on the whole thing, but it would be even more devastating than stating my real opinion of IllumiNations.
A ton of people watching Dream Along with Mickey.
A lot of people haven’t even entered the main part of the Park yet. Sorry, dark picture. Bright day.
I really hope the line for Stitch isn’t 40 minutes long.
The Room For 1 More event people seem to have really gotten the short end of the stick. Their “exclusive” merchandise was widely available at Magic Kingdom the following day as pictured above, Disney scheduled an event for $285 less the night before that actually took place at the Haunted Mansion, and all of the artists that appeared at the event were appearing at the Magic Kingdom today.
Much longer lines than we’re accustomed to seeing at Town Square.
A last look at the incoming crowds.
Just getting busier…and busier.
The 40th anniversary ceremony was okay. The Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade at 3pm was exactly the same as it always is. The fireworks will probably be a little better, but I’m not going to brave it. Hard to say if anything was worth it with the massive crowds and lack of 40th anniversary merchandise. No excuse on the cupcakes. I can’t imagine waiting 30 minutes for one only to find out that they somehow didn’t have any. And that actually ended up happening to me, even if I didn’t really want it! Anyway, if you were looking for a crowded day to compare your not-crowded days in September, here you go.