You’ve probably seen “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” the new commercial commemorating Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. Here’s the link in case you missed it:
Banners and the “Beacon of Magic” illumination that we were promised for the event are shown in the commercial, but there isn’t much else. The song chosen is Aladdin’s “A Whole New World,” which is weird given that there isn’t much new set to open for this event, except from a postponed Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, you know, the ride that debuted at Disneyland Paris in 2014 and was set to debut at EPCOT in 2020. Other attractions scheduled for the 50th anniversary have been blocked, delayed, or even canceled, most notably TRON Lightcycle Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, but Disney hasn’t met a ride opening deadline in Florida in many years, so we expected them to be late anyhow.
Before we start blaming the pandemic for this, keep in mind that during the outbreak, Universal Orlando Resort finished the VelociCoaster, a large-scale roller coaster with no animatronics. With the exception of being largely indoors, in gravity buildings that were nearly completed before a park in Orlando closed in March 2020, this isn’t dissimilar to what TRON or Guardians of the Galaxy are. Smaller, regional theme parks also finished several of its rides that were in the works at the time, with many of them opening this summer.
Regardless, it’s not for the broken promises of additional attractions that I’m writing this. I’d be willing to overlook the delays in major additions if there was something, anything, commemorating Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. There is now no museum, no major ride renovation, no nostalgia-laden advertising, and no press release that even acknowledges the past.
What struck me about the commercial, which is commemorating a historic 50th anniversary, is that it makes no reference to the Vacation Kingdom of the World’s illustrious history and heritage. There is no mention of Walt Disney and his last great dream, nor is there even a nostalgic glance at old film of park visitors and characters. They took the time to include 16 “hidden” references in the video, although none of them are unrelated to Disney movies. By the way, we are not commemorating the 50th anniversary of Disney films on October 1st.
Here’s an example of a recent Disney Parks commercial that thoughtfully tapped into your emotions and recollections of the past:
This isn’t even an anniversary advertisement; it’s merely a brief comeback of an old parade. Disneyland Resort, on the other hand, has a long history of appreciating what visitors enjoy about the park, dating back to their 50th anniversary.
Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration was not filled with new attractions either, but it did appreciate the park’s great legacy. At the Main Street Opera House, a video starring Steve Martin recapped the previous five decades, which was complemented by a serious and well-curated historical exhibit. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, The Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and other classic attractions were also refurbished and given new life. This technique has proven to be so successful that Disneyland has repeated it numerous times, culminating in a phenomenally successful Diamond Celebration in 2015 and decades of nostalgic products sold since 2005.
Along with the original song, “Remember the Magic,” advertisements for Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary embraced nostalgia as well:
Smaller amusement parks are even better at evoking these emotions than Disney World, all while commemorating significant anniversaries. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Knott’s Berry Farm, and to commemorate the occasion, there will be a new attraction that pays homage to a long-gone one, as well as resurrected meet-and-greet characters from the past and picture chances for long-gone attractions. These aren’t extravagant gifts; they’re merely kind and demonstrate that you care.
What makes a 50th anniversary so memorable is that guests who have visited during the 50 years are still with us and can return to commemorate this historic occasion. Many people have visited Walt Disney World over the years, and it’s not only folks who are active on social media. There are millions of people who have emotional attachments to memories formed at these parks and resorts, recollections that predate the current management’s attention span and marketing plan. Small, thoughtful gestures that appeal to our memories mean something to us, the most loyal and devoted of guests, and demonstrate that you care about more than simply their money. A golden anniversary is not the time to treat your audience like numbers; it’s the moment to embrace their sentiments for your business and build a relationship with them by demonstrating that you understand what they value.
With only 126 days till October 1st, 2021, we are hoping for something, something to demonstrate our thanks for returning guests and the tremendous exploits accomplished in 1971 and beyond.
We’re begging The Walt Disney Company to pay attention to this huge milestone before it’s too late. On a 50th birthday celebration, there are no do-overs.