This Month in Disney History: July

How Disney Became Synonymous with Patriotism

July 17, 1955: Disneyland opening day parade, Anaheim, California.
(Photo by Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

The Disney story of coming from humble beginnings and building dreams through hard work is the essence of ‘the American way’, and visitors can see the clear love and idealism Walt Disney had for his country in the many references to America at each of the theme parks. We hope these pieces of trivia reignite hope and joy in your heart today and remind you why you’re proud to be an American.

July 17, 1955

Opening day of Disneyland, with then actor, and future U.S. President, Ronald Reagan presiding over the festivities! The first theme park built by Walt Disney, on what was formerly an orange grove, revolved around five themed lands which were later replicated at Disney World in Orlando: Main Street, U.S.A., Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland. Main Street, U.S.A. and Frontierland were created specifically to honor America, with reminders of its pioneering start seen in Frontierland, to Main Street with its romanticism of the early-20th century small-town, reflecting Walt’s childhood. All of the lands however embody the same ideals that Walt championed – work hard and you can make your dreams come true, everyone is welcome, and Disney is a happy place.

July 2, 1967

In 1967 the WEDWay (for Walter Elias Disney) PeopleMover opened at Disneyland Resort in Tomorrowland, on an elevated track which would take guests in small trains in a circle around Tomorrowland. The PeopleMover was even initially viewed as a serious prototype for intercity public transportation. Although the Disneyland attraction closed, another was added July 1, 1975 to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and known as Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, still operating today.

July 17, 1996

The Walt Disney Company announced plans for Disney’s California Adventure park on this day in 1996, though it would not open until February 2001, to be located next to Disneyland in Anaheim. The park is designed after the history and culture of California, to celebrate the fun and adventure of California overall by means of Disney, Pixar and Marvel characters. California Adventure now has eight lands: Hollywood Land, Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, Avengers Campus, Pacific Wharf, Pixar Pier, Paradise Gardens Park, and Grizzly Peak, with 32 total attractions.

July 3, 2008

In July 2008, the Premiere of Disney’s Celebrate America seasonal fireworks show took place at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Orlando. The 15-minute show honors the traditions, music and spirit of the United States with new pyrotechnics, lighting, and familiar songs celebrating America and freedom as fireworks take off before your eyes.

July 1, 2009

This was the day the Hall of Presidents attraction reopened at Walt Disney World Resort after a hiatus for extensive renovations to update its audio and visual effects and systems. The Hall of Presidents features all 44 United States Presidents and includes a stage show featuring Audio-Animatronic figures, of which Abe Lincoln was the very first to ever be fully completed!

July 28, 2016

The Disney Parks Blog announced in July 2016 a new live show, “The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History,” showing fall of 2016 at Magic Kingdom Park. Gathering outside the Hall of Presidents in the park would be Muppets: Sam Eagle, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, and James Jefferson, town crier of Liberty Square, to tell historical tales as only they can, with humor and their own unique take on the founding of the United States of America.

July 3, 2020

Premiering this day exclusively on Disney+ is long-awaited Broadway show, “Hamilton,” which had originally been scheduled for theatrical release but was shifted to streaming due to the coronavirus pandemic. The news was especially exciting to the vast audience that had never seen the stage version, as it was always sold out and ticket prices soared. Now viewers can enjoy the entire show, for the first time, for simply the price of their Disney+ subscription. Who’s spending their Independence Day enjoying a rap battle about the founding fathers? All of us!

Although Walt Disney has been described at times as too idealistic, his admiration for America and view of what it could be has always been visible and warms the hearts of millions of guests at the parks, and viewers of Disney films and shows, each year. What are your favorite moments from July in Disney history? Sending patriotic and positive vibes your way this Independence Day weekend from our homes to yours.

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