35 Years of Magic at Disneyland Yesterland

The big day was July 17. The big year was 1955.

28,154 guests attended the press event for the opening of Walt Disney’s Disneyland. Around 90 million people watch on ABC television—when the population of the United States was just 166 million.

Since then, every July 17 has been recognized as the anniversary of Disneyland (even though the park didn’t open to paying guests until July 18). And every anniversary year that could be divided by five without a remainder had a special significance as a milestone—5, 10, 15, 20 25, 30, and...

“35 Years of Magic”
Disneyland in 1990

Sure, it was primarily a marketing event. But it was more than that. There was a spectacular new parade. Two new live shows played on the Videopolis stage. And guests could win valuable prizes; in fact, one guest won a new car every day.

No new permanent attractions opened in 1990. But for most guests, Splash Mountain was still a new attraction, having just opened the previous summer.

Guests arriving at Disneyland in 1990 could not miss that the park was 35 years old. Logos heralding the year-long party were everywhere.

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland
1955-1990

An elaborate structure at the park entrance announced the milestone. As if that wasn’t enough, “35 Years of Magic” marched across the turnstile canopy in both directions.

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland
“35 Years of Magic” at the turnstiles

The logos weren’t limited to the entrance. Even the Coca-Cola Tomorrowland Terrace Stage was decorated with a “35 Years of Magic” topper.

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland
Tomorrowland Terrace Stage

Upon entering through the park’s turnstiles, each guest received a commemorative 35th Anniversary “Dream Machine” ticket. A scratch-off area on the ticket would reveal if the guest had won anything.

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland
The “Dream Machine”

For major prizes, the guest would need to proceed to the “Dream Machine” at the Hub to pull a lever to find out what the prize would be.

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland
A closer look at the “Dream Machine”

The “Dream Machine” was a gaudy contraption. Lucky guests won Disney videos, plush toys, posters, coins, collector pins, or Mickey Mouse watches. Even luckier guests shared in a million dollars in U.S. Saving Bonds or won tickets on Delta Air Lines. One very lucky winner each day won a shiny new GEO automobile. Winning a new car would make for a memorable Disneyland visit!

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland
Pull the lever at the “Dream Machine”

The illustration below from the Spring 1990 issue of Disney News shows what happened if someone won a car. The guest would pull a lever, not yet knowing what the prize would be. A car would rise up festively from within the “Dream Machine,” accompanied by lights and confetti.

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland

To make this spectacle possible, a hole had been excavated at the Hub. A subterranean hydraulic lift mechanism allowed the top the “Dream Machine” and the car to rise up.

Alas, winners were not allowed to drive their new car down Main Street in a triumphant display of success. In fact, the same car would rise from the “Dream Machine” every day. Winners would take delivery at their local Chevrolet-GEO dealer.

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland
Dick Tracy

For 1990, Videopolis in Fantasyland changed from a teen dance venue to an outdoor musical theater for stage shows.

One Man’s Dream, a musical about the achievements of Walt Disney, opened December 16, 1989. Although well received, the show had a short run, closing forever on April 29, 1990.

The Walt Disney Company’s big summer movie release for 1990 was Touchstone Pictures’ Dick Tracy, starring Warren Beatty, Madonna and Al Pacino, and directed by Warren Beatty. Why continue the excellent One Man’s Dream when you can have synergy with a movie release? On June 15, 1990, a new live show, Dick Tracy Starring in Diamond Double-Cross, opened on the Videopolis stage and ran through the end of the year.

35 Years of Magic at Disneyland
Party Gras Parade

The highlight of 1990 at Disneyland was the park’s new daytime parade.

Please continue this article about “35 Years of Magic” by visiting the Yesterland entry for the Party Gras Parade (updated July 18, 2008).


Click here to discuss this page on the Yesterland Discussion Forum at MiceChat!


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© 2008 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Last updated July 16, 2009.

Scan of “35 Years of Magic” logo from Disneyland 1990 Souvenir Guide: © Disney.
Photograph of “35 Years of Magic” at entrance: 1990 by Chris Bales.
Photograph of “35 Years of Magic” decor over turnstiles: 1990 by Chris Bales.
Photograph of “35 Years of Magic” at Tomorrowland Terrace: 1990 by Chris Bales.
Photograph of “35 Years of Magic” “Dream Machine” at night: 1990 by Chris Bales.
Photograph of “35 Years of Magic” “Dream Machine” detail: 1990 by Chris Bales.
Photograph of “35 Years of Magic” “Dream Machine” lever: 1990 by Chris Bales.
Scan of Dick Tracy art from Disney News, Summer 1990: © Disney.
Scan of “35 Years of Magic” “Dream Machine” artwork from Disney News, Spring 1990: © Disney.
Photograph of Party Gras Parade Minnie Mouse balloon: 1990 by Chris Bales.