As Disneyland celebrates its 60th diamond anniversary celebration, we look back at some notable days in the park’s history.
In its 60 year history, Disneyland has had only four unscheduled closures:
In 1963, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
In 1970, due to an anti-Vietnam riot in Los Angeles instigated by the Youth International Party.
In 1994, for ride and park inspection after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
In 2001, after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
That’s just 4 unscheduled closure days out of 21,900 days!
Disneyland Cast Member Ginger’s Story
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the Walt Disney Company quickly closed its stateside theme parks that day, reportedly out of concern that the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts might also be on the terrorists’ target list.
In Florida, guests had already filled the parks at Walt Disney World by 10am, but on the West Coast, due to the time difference, the Disneyland Resort simply did not open that day.
“Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Magic Kingdom is now closed. Please follow the direction of the nearest Cast Member.”
Turning on her television, Disneyland cast member Ginger saw the morning news reporter’s faces change as they received the news that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. As she prepared for her early shift, she watched in horror as a plane hit the second tower.
Shortly after, a friend called, begging her not to go to Disneyland. She said she had heard that Disneyland was going to be bombed.
At her home near Disneyland, Ginger headed out to the park. Arriving early, she found that work crews for custodial, landscaping and construction were all at work, preparing the park for the day’s guests, as well as a major press event scheduled for the Friday opening of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Play It. Star Regis Philbin was to fly in from New York.
Across the esplanade, another cast member had ridden his bicycle through the backstage gate, showered and dressed, and was puzzled to find everyone from his office in the break room, watching television. Joining them, he watched the tragedy in New York unfold, until word came in that Disneyland would not open that day. Everyone on hand was pressed into service, calling anyone on the schedule to let them know they were not to come in.
At the Hollywood Gate, Ginger got word about the closure. Her new task for the day was to clear the work crews who were already in the park. She then hurried back to the gate to turn back arriving cast members who hadn’t gotten a message. Many of the young people hadn’t heard the news, and couldn’t understand how Disneyland could be closed. Ginger found herself telling the same sad story over and over again.
One cast member who was woken up by a phone call at home later recalled that the enormity of the situation sank in only after he was told that Disney had closed all their theme parks. The events on the East Coast seemed unbelievable at first hearing; the decision to close the Disney theme parks was much more immediate.
Over at Disneyland, the young man with the bike was busy making phone calls, when word suddenly came through park radios to evacuate all buildings. A report had been received that planes were headed toward the resort. After hurrying through the building, ensuring that every office was cleared, he joined his co-workers and waited in their pre-designated evacuation area. After a tense wait, the all clear finally came through.
As the sun rose higher in the California sky, a sense of eerie calm settled over the Disneyland Resort. The only activity was at the hotels, where stranded guests were handled with Disney’s famous hospitality. A crew from the park was diverted to handle immediate needs, and characters were sent out in force to entertain the children who couldn’t understand why they had to stay at the hotel all day, as their parents huddled around television sets.
Taking her first break of the day, Ginger recalled that she had a disposable camera in her locker. She had purchased it to take photos of the last Sunday’s final performance of The Country Bears in Critter Country.
Picking up the camera, Ginger headed over to Disneyland. Her first stop was Town Square, to see if the flag had been moved to half-staff. She was pleased to note that this had, indeed, been done.
Although the sun was shining brightly, there was a deafening silence, due to the fact that Main Street was deserted. Even the familiar park music had been turned off. Ginger would later describe it as the happiest place on earth on the saddest day she could ever remember being there.
(Article and photo source: TheLaughingPlace.com)
Two Girls and a Mouse Tale
by Elly Collins & Caroline Collins
Ever wonder what it’s like to work for Disney???
We worked at WDW for a year in the Disney College Program and have written a book about what it’s like to be a cast member working for Disney.
We’ve included advice on how to successfully get into the DCP program, including some of the actual phone interview questions, how to have a successful internship, and how not self-term before your program ends. Our book is filled with lots of behind-the-scene stories of the magic of Disney.
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Book Link: Two Girls and a Mouse Tale