Yester World
20 Special Anniversary Surprises!

20 Yesrs Walt Disney World logo

For the 50th anniversary of the October 1, 1971 opening of Walt Disney World, Yesterland looks back at its 20th anniversary.

The Walt Disney World marketing campaign for the year following that 1991 anniversary pushed the message of “20 spectacular reasons to visit this year.” Newspaper and magazine advertisements included a list of “20 surprises.”

Here is that list from a February 1992 supplement to Good Housekeeping magazine—and some comments from the perspective of 30 years later.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, October 1, 2021



SpectroMagic: The Magic King­dom’s all-new night­time spec­tac­ular show­cases lights and music in an extrav­a­gant parade.

20 Special Anniverary Surprises at Walt Disney World (1992)

Surprise in the Skies

Surprise in the Skies: A brand-new aerial show at Epcot Center features fabu­lous kites, ultra­light planes, and day­time fire­works.

20 Special Anniverary Surprises at Walt Disney World (1992)

Muppet*Vision 3-D

Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D: An abso­lutely delight­ful movie with a host of special effects.

Little Mermaid Show: A live show at the Studios, star­ring char­acters from the ani­mated film.

Beauty and the Beast: The char­acters from the new, ani­mated Disney release come to life on stage.

20 Special Anniverary Surprises at Walt Disney World (1992)

Surprise Celebration Parade

Surprise Celebration Parade: An extra-special anni­ver­sary parade wends its way down Main Street every day at the Magic King­dom.

Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club: The New England sea­side of the late-19th century is hand­somely recreated at these two ele­gant resorts.

Disney’s Port Orleans: The sights and sounds of New Orle­ans’ French Quarter are re-created at this new, moder­ately priced resort.

20 Special Anniverary Surprises at Walt Disney World (1992)

The Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs: The beastly clan from the hit tele­vision show makes daily appear­ances at the Studios.

10  Sorcery in the Sky: The skies above the Studios light up each night with a flashy show of fire­works.

11  Pleasure Island New Year’s Eve: Every night is New Year’s at Pleas­ure Island as music, fire­works, and confetti light up the night.

12  “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” Movie Set Adventure: A unique play­ground where the grass is 30 feet tall and giant insects make for great climbing fun at the Studios.

13  Baby Manatee: See this ador­able new­born mammal at Epcot Center’s The Living Seas.

14  Disney Vacation Club: The newest lodging oppor­tu­nity at Walt Disney World offers vacation ownership of a wide assort­ment of villas.

15  Sci-Fi Dine In: A new restau­rant at the Studios lets diners sit in 1950s convert­ibles and watch clips from classic science fiction movies.

16  New Golf Courses: Osprey Ridge and Eagle Pines offer guests great new chal­lenges on 36 holes.

17  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The four popular turtles are on hand for a musical perfor­mance and an auto­graph session each day at the Studios.

20 Special Anniverary Surprises at Walt Disney World (1992)

Minnie Moo

18  Minnie Moo: See a real black and white cow that bears the natural markings of a Mickey Mouse head—complete with ears. She is on display at Mickey’s Star­land.

19  Disney’s Dixie Landings: The rural South comes to life at this new, moder­ately priced resort where guests stay in Plan­ta­tion and Bayou rooms.

20  Dark Wing Duck: The newest member of the Disney After­noon makes daily appear­ances at Mickey’s Star­land.

The marketing strategy includes magazine supplements, such as the Newsweek supplement (Fall/Winter 1991) below.

20 Special Anniverary Surprises at Walt Disney World (1992)

Travel journalist Stephen Birnbaum died at age 54 on December 21, 1991, just as the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney World was getting underway. He had launched his Disney-authorized guides in 1981. Disney Editions still publishes a new edition every year, with “Birnbaum Guides” as the author. The latest is Birnbaum’s 2022 Walt Disney World: The Official Vacation Guide.

20 Special Anniverary Surprises at Walt Disney World (1992)

The list of “20 Special Anniversary Surprises!” and the accompanying images are from the Good Housekeeping supplement (February 1992) above. The rest of the supplement excerpted content from Stephen Birnbaum’s 1991 Official Guide to Walt Disney World, even using the same fonts and style.

Here’s what the page with the list looked like:

20 Special Anniverary Surprises at Walt Disney World (1992)

Eight of the 20 “surprises” were at Disney-MGM Studios, which became Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2008. Four were at Magic Kingdom Park. Two were at Epcot. Six were beyond the three parks. None were at Disney’s Animal Kingdom because that park didn’t open until 1998.

Let’s take a look at all 20 from the perspective of 20 years later.

  1. SpectroMagic This replacement for the Main Street Electrical Parade premiered October 1, 1991. It was the primary nightime parade at the Magic Kingdom in the 1990s and 2000s, although the Electrical Parade replaced it for 22 months around the turn of the millenium. After the Electrical Parade replaced it again in June 2010, SpectroMagic never returned.
  2. Surprise in the Skies: This daytime show took place on and above World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot Center. The show featured boats, kites, paraplanes, hang gliders, giant balloons, and fireworks. It debuted September 30, 1991. It only lasted 12 months.
  3. Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D: The 3-D movie opened at Disney-MGM Studios on May 16, 1991. It’s still running today.
  4. Little Mermaid Show: Voyage of the Little Mermaid, a show with puppets and live actors, opened at Disney-MGM Studios in January 1992. It continued to run until the park closed for four months in 2020 because of the covid pandemic. The park reopened, but the show is still “temporarily unavailable” more than a year later.
  5. Beauty and the Beast: The live Beauty and the Beast premiered at Disney-MGM Studios on November 22, 1991, the same day that the animated feature Beauty and the Beast opened on movie screens throughout America. The popular stage show first played at the original Theater of the Stars, next door to the Hollywood Brown Derby, until that stage was demolished to make way for Sunset Boulevard in 1993. The show used a temporary stage in the backlot area until it could move to its current home, the 1,500-seat Theater of the Stars near the end of Sunset Boulevard.
  6. Surprise Celebration Parade: Featuring giant balloons, this was the afternoon parade at the Magic Parade from September 1991 to June 1994.
  7. Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club: These two deluxe resorts, designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern, opened in November 1990. The Yacht Club evokes a New England seashore hotel of 1880s, while the Beach Club is based on “stick-style” seaside cottages of the 1860s and 1870s.
  8. Disney’s Port Orleans: This 1,008-room moderate resort, opened in May 1991, is now called Disney’s Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter.
  9. Dinosaurs: The sitcom Dinosaurs ran on ABC—before Disney owned ABC—from April 1991 to July 1994. The executive producer was Brian Henson, son of the late Jim Henson. The Sinclair dinosaur family delivered comedy and contemporary social commentary. Disney-MGM Studios was the perfect place to promote new TV shows and movies that were not branded as Disney.
  10. Sorcery in the Sky: This fireworks show, with spectacular pyrotechnics from the roof of the Chinese Theatre at Disney-MGM Studios, premiered in 1990. When Fantasmic! opened at the same park in 1998, Sorcery in the Sky was canceled.
  11. Pleasure Island New Year’s Eve: From 1990 through 2005, Pleasure Island treated every night like New Year’s Eve, complete with a street party and a fireworks show.
  12. “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” Movie Set Adventure: Based on the hit 1989 Disney comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, this play area behind New York Street at Disney-MGM Studios opened December 1990. It closed April 2, 2016, to make way for Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
  13. Baby Manatee: On September 13, 1991, Lorilei, a 16-year-old manatee at The Living Seas at Epcot Center, delivered a healthy calf, Chester. He was four feet long and weighed 71 pounds at birth. Sadly, Chester died in March 1997 after he was moved from one tank to another at The Living Seas.
  14. Disney Vacation Club: Disney’s first timeshare resort, originally named Disney Vacation Club, opened in December 1991. The resort is now called Disney’s Old Key West Resort, while Disney Vacation Club is now the brand name for Disney’s collection of 16 timeshare resorts.
  15. Sci-Fi Dine In: This clever table-service restaurant opened April 1991 at Disney-MGM Studios. It’s still a popular eatery—and it’s still showing the same film clips.
  16. New Golf Courses: The Osprey Ridge and Eagle Pines golf courses, designed by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye, respectively, opened January 1992. In March 2007, Disney announced plans to replace the two 18-hole golf courses. This resulted in the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, the Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando, and the Golden Oak community of multi-million dollar homes.
  17. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Yes, there was a time when the “heros in a halfshell” put on a live show on New York Street at Disney-MGM Studios. The Turtles were not a Disney property, but they were so popular at their peak in the early 1990s that Disney brought in these stars of the animated series on CBS. Cowabunga.
  18. Minnie Moo: A farmer in Minnesota sold a Guernsey cow with a “Perfect Mickey” on her side to Walt Disney World in 1990. Guests could visit Minnie Moo in Grandma Duck’s Barnyard at the Magic Kingdom. (There was a different Minnie Moo at Disneyland.)
  19. Disney’s Dixie Landings: This 2,048-room moderate resort, opened in February 1992, is now called Disney’s Port Orleans Resort - Riverside.
  20. Dark Wing Duck: The animated Disney Afternoon television series Darkwing Duck was popular through much of the 1990s. Its title character was part of Mickey’s Magical TV World Show at Mickey’s Starland (which later became Mickey’s Toontown Fair and closed February 2011).

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Updated November 4, 2022

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