Disney Dedication Plaques

Today, I want to talk about an often overlooked detail that can be found in all eleven Disney parks, the Dedication Plaques. Usually located somewhere near the front of the park, these plaques offer words of inspiration and sets the tone for your adventure to come. They are all signed by the reigning top executive(s) at the time of the park’s opening.

Most people never see these plaques, and in reality, that’s okay. Your adventure really isn’t going to be altered significantly if you skip this little detail. But on the other hand, it is a nice way to be welcomed to the park and start your day.

Disneyland opened to invited guests on July 17, 1955. Even though many predicted the park would fail, others knew this was an important event. An array of VIPs was invited. Movie stars, the Mouseketeers, California Governor Goodwin J. Knight, and even Walt’s competition, Walter Knott (of Knott’s Berry Farm) were in attendance. Sometime in the late afternoon, Ronald Reagan announced to the TV cameras in a hushed tone, “And now, Walt Disney will step forward to read the dedication of Disneyland.” Then, the 53-year-old Walt stepped forward and read the following:

To all who come to this happy place:
– WELCOME –

Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past “¦ and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America”¦ with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

July 17, 1955

Ronald Reagan

Walt Disney at Disneyland July 17, 1955

Walt Disney at Disneyland July 17, 1955

Today, this plaque can be found at the south end of Main Street at the base of the flag pole.

Disneyland Dedication Plaque

Disneyland Flagpole

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971; however, the actual dedication took place several weeks after this date. Because of the fiascos encountered with Disneyland’s opening, it was decided to postpone the “official” opening of Walt Disney World to make sure everything was running smoothly before inviting the world to see this new and magical land. The dedication was a three-day event beginning on Saturday, October 23, 1971 and culminating with Walt’s brother Roy reading the dedication plaque on October 25th. The festivities were taped and broadcast “in living color” on NBC a few days later on October 29th. The 90-minute TV special was called “The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World.” Roy died shortly after the opening of Walt Disney World on December 20, 1971. He was 78.

Here are Roy’s words:

WALT DISNEY WORLD is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place … a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn – together.

Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971

Roy O. Disney

Roy O. Disney and Mickey Mouse

Magic Kingdom Dedication Plaque

Like Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom dedication plaque can be found at the base of the flagpole on Main Street.

The next park to open was EPCOT Center on October 1, 1982. Similar to the Magic Kingdom, Disney management decided to postpone the “official” opening to provide the park with a break-in period. The three day Grand Opening Celebration ran from October 22nd to the 24th.

EPCOT Center Dedication Festivities

The Epcot dedication plaque is located outside of the park in front of the ticket booths — once again, at the base of the flagpole. Card Walker, the CEO at the time, read the dedication plaque. The plaque reads:

To all who come to this Place of Joy, Hope and Friendship
WELCOME

Epcot is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative vision. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.

May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.

E. Cardon Walker
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Walt Disney Productions
October 24, 1982

Epcot Dedication Plaque

Epcot Dedication Plaque

Card Walker

Epcot took three years to build and at that time was the largest construction project on earth. It is estimated that the Disney Company had spent $1 billion on the park by opening day.

In the late 1970’s, the Oriental Land Company approached Disney with the idea of building a Disneyland-type park in Tokyo. Since most of Disney’s capital was already tied up with the building of Epcot, it was decided to let the Oriental Land Company finance and own the park and pay licensing fees to Disney. And since Imagineers were in short supply as they were busy with Epcot, the Oriental Land Company used Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom as a “shopping cart” and selected which attractions they wanted. For the most part, the rides selected would end up being carbon copies of the original. The only two unique attractions to be built at Tokyo were “The Castle Mystery Tour” and “Meet the World” – the latter already being planned for the Japan Pavilion at Epcot. The Oriental Land Company also insisted on bringing “The Mickey Mouse Review” to Tokyo. Stretched to its limit, Disney decided it would be easier to close the attraction in Florida and move it to Tokyo rather than build a second rendition.

Tokyo Disneyland opened on April 15, 1983. Card Walker also dedicated this park. The dedication plaques, written in both English and Japanese, can be found beneath the Partners statue located on The Hub. The plaques read:

To All Who Come To This Happy Place
– WELCOME –

Here you will discover enchanted lands of Fantasy and Adventure, Yesterday and Tomorrow. May Tokyo Disneyland be an eternal source of Joy, Laughter, Inspiration, and Imagination to the peoples of the world. And may this magical kingdom be an enduring symbol of the spirit of cooperation and friendship between the great nations of Japan and the United States of America.

April 15, 1983
E. Cardon Walker
Chairman of the Board
Walt Disney Productions

Tokyo Disneyland Dedication Plaques

Tokyo Disneyland Dedication Plaques & Partners Statue

When Michael Eisner was brought to Disney in 1984 by Roy E. Disney (son of Roy O. Disney) and the Bass Brothers, he was charged with developing the underutilized Florida property. When he saw the plans for “The Great Movie Ride” being considered as a future attraction for Epcot, he decided to build a third theme park around this ride. Thus, the idea for the Disney/MGM Studios was born. In addition to rides and attractions, the park would contain real film and TV production facilities were guests could witness the magic of movie-making. The Disney/MGM Studios opened on May 1, 1989 and was dedicated by Michael Eisner. The dedication plaque can be found at the end of Hollywood Boulevard. Here are Michael’s words:

The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood – not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was – and always will be.

May 1, 1989 Michael Eisner

Disney/MGM Dedication Plaque

Director's Statue at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Seeing the unqualified success of Tokyo Disneyland, Eisner decided the Company could strike gold again in Europe — only this time, Disney would own the foreign park. Disney pitted the countries of Spain and France against each other, seeing which would offer the more lucrative deal. In the end France won out.

No expense was spared and the most beautiful and elaborate Disneyland-type park of them all was built just outside of Paris. In addition, five themed hotels and a campground flanked the park. Euro Disneyland opened on April 12, 1992. However, due to a recession and other factors, attendance at the park and the hotels did not meet projected goals. At one time, the Paris resort was losing $1 million per day. The gold of Tokyo was not to be repeated in Paris.

Things have since turned around, but only after a major infusion of cash from outside sources. Today, the Disney Company owns 39% of what is now called The Disneyland Paris Resort.

Michael Eisner dedicated the park and the dedication plaque written in both French and English can be found at the base of the bandstand located on Town Square. Here are Michael’s words:

“To all who come to this happy place, welcome.”

Once upon a time… A master storyteller, Walt Disney, inspired by Europe’s best loved tales, used his own special gifts to share them with the world.

He envisioned a Magic Kingdom where these stories would come to life, and called it Disneyland.

Now his dream returns to the lands that inspired it. Euro Disneyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart… with a hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration for all the world.

Michael D. Eisner
Chairman, The Walt Disney Company
12 avril 1992

Disneyland Paris Dedication Plaque

Disneyland Paris Band Stand

When the Magic Kingdom was the only park at Walt Disney World, guests would stay on property for 2 to 3 days. When EPCOT Center opened, guests extended their visits to 4 to 5 days. And when the Disney/MGM Studios opened, guests were staying 6 to 7 days. So if followed that if Disney opened a fourth park in Florida, guests would stay for 8 to 9 days – and spend more money. With this logic in hand, Disney’s Animal Kingdom joined the Walt Disney World roster of parks. Unfortunately, guests did not extend their vacations. It seems that one week is the limit for most people.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998. Once again, Michael Eisner dedicated the park. The dedication plaque here is perhaps the most un-ceremonial of all. A simple stone is engraved and found in The Oasis beneath bushes just past the turnstiles. The plaque reads:

DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.

Dedicated this 22nd day of April, 1998
Michael D. Eisner

Disney's Animal Kingdom Dedication Plaque

Disney's Animal Kingdom Dedication Plaque

The next park to open was Disney’s California Adventure. But not before Disney pitted two cities against each other to see who would pony up the better deal.

Jack Wrather was a good friend of Walt’s and built and owned the Disneyland Hotel across the street from Disneyland. In 1989, the Disney Company was finally able to negotiate a deal to purchase the Wrather Corporation, thus giving Disney clear title to the hotel. Included in the deal were the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose which were located in Long Beach. Disney proposed building DisneySea, a park based on the oceans and seas of the world in Long Beach adjacent to the Queen Mary. They also proposed building a park next to Disneyland in what was then the parking lot. Thus, the two cities were locked in a contest to see which could offer Disney the most perks.

Some say that Disney never seriously considered Long Beach and only used them as leverage to secure a better deal from Anaheim. True or not, Anaheim won out and Disney’s California Adventure began to rise. Disney subsequently sold the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose.

Having suffered substantial losses in Paris, Disney’s California Adventure would be a far less ambitious project. Many “off-the-shelf” rides were purchased from outside companies and dressed up with Disney flourishes. But these flourishes were not enough and the park was a critical and financial failure. People were incensed that admission to Disney’s California Adventure cost the same as Disneyland, yet offered little more than carnival rides. Today, Bob Iger (Disney’s current CEO) is pumping $1 billion into the park to bring it up to Disney standards.

Disney’s California Adventure was dedicated by Michael Eisner on February 8, 2001. The dedication plaque was located in Sunshine Plaza beneath the Golden Sun. However, this area is currently under reconstruction and no plaque is visible at this time. There are rumors that the park will be rededicated once all of the construction is complete, but this remains to be seen.

The old dedication plaque reads:

Disney’s California Adventure

“To all who believe in the power of dreams”¦ welcome! Disney’s California Adventure opens its golden gates to you. Here we pay tribute to the dreamers of the past”¦ the native people, explorers, immigrants, aviators, entrepreneurs and entertainers who built the Golden State. And we salute a new generation of dreamers who are creating the wonders of tomorrow”¦ from the silver screen to the computer screen”¦ from the fertile farmlands to the far reaches of space. Disney’s California Adventure celebrates the richness and diversity of California… its land, its people, its spirit and, above all, the dreams that it continues to inspire.”

Michael D. Eisner
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company
February 8, 2001

Disney's California Adventure Dedication Plaque

Golden Sun

The plans for DisneySea did not go to waste. The Oriental Land Company was interested in building a second park in Tokyo and the concept of a “sea” based park fit right into their plans. Tokyo DisneySea is arguably the most fantastic park Disney has built to date. I often tell people you can pay your admission, never ride on one attraction, and you will still get your money’s worth. The park is beautiful and stunning – interesting and exciting – and filled with more details than you can imagine.

Unlike Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure whose main entrances face each other, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea sit back to back. Tokyo DisneySea even features a large ship, the USS Columbia, which might remind some of the Queen Mary which would have been included in the Long Beach version of this park.

USS Columbia

Like Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea is completely owned by the Oriental Land Company and pays licensing fees to Disney. The park opened on September 4, 2001.

The dedication reads in both English and Japanese:

Welcome, one and all to a world where Imagination and Adventure set sail.

Tokyo DisneySea is dedicated to the spirit of exploration that lives in each of us. Here you chart a course for Adventure, Romance, Discovery and Fun and journey to exotic and fanciful Ports of Call.

May Tokyo DisneySea inspire the hearts and minds of all of us who share the water planet, Earth.

September 4, 2001
Michael D. Eisner
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company

Tokyo DisneySea Dedication Plaque

When details for Euro Disneyland were being negotiated with the French Government, a second park to be built by Disney became part of the deal. Scheduled to open in 1996, another Disney/MGM Studios was designed for France. But due to the financial losses incurred during the initial years of the resort, the second park was cancelled in mid-1992. Eventually, a much smaller park, the Walt Disney Studios Park, would be built and opened on March 16, 2002.

The Walt Disney Studios Park is the least attended of the eleven Disney parks. To rectify this, Bob Iger has pumped significant money into the project over the last seven years. This has resulted in new attractions with growing attendance and more favorable reviews.

The dedication plaque is located at the base of the Partners statue just beyond the Front Lot section of the park. It reads in both French and English:

WALT DISNEY STUDIOS

“To all who enter this studio of dreams… welcome. Walt Disney Studios is dedicated to our timeless fascination and affection for cinema and television. Here we celebrate the art and the artistry of storytellers from Europe and around the world who create the magic. May this special place stir our own memories of the past, and our dreams of the future.”

Michael D. Eisner

Walt Disney Studios Park Dedication Plaque

Walt Disney Studios Park Dedication Plaque

Hong Kong Disneyland is a joint venture between the Disney Company and the Government of Hong Kong. It is located on landfill on Penny Bay on Lantau Island. The park opened on September 12, 2005.

During the first several years of operation, the park did not meet its projected attendance. Much of this had to do with the fact the park was lacking in attractions. Many called Hong Kong Disneyland a “half-day” park. But once again, Bob Iger is investing in the resort and new attractions have opened and others are slated to come online in the near future. Attendance is now on the rise.

The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort features two hotels and room for several more. In addition, the land was designed so a second theme park could easily be added when the time is right. Hong Kong Disneyland caters to Southeast Asia, Australia, and India.

The dedication plaque is located on Town Square just beyond the band stand. It reads in both English and Chinese:

Hong Kong Disneyland

“To all who come to this happy place, welcome.”

Fifty years ago, Walt Disney introduced the world to enchanted realms of fantasy and adventure, yesterday and tomorrow, in a magical place called Disneyland.

Today that spirit of imagination and discovery comes to life in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Disneyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart – with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration, and an enduring symbol of the cooperation, friendship and understanding between the people of Hong Kong and the United States of America.

Donald Tsang
Chief Executive
Hong Kong S.A.R.

Michael D. Eisner
Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company

Dedicated this 12th day of September, 2005

Hong Kong Disneyland Dedication Plaque

Hong Kong Disneyland Band Stand

Shanghai Disneyland is now under construction and is slated to open sometime in 2016. Phase One will include a Disneyland-type park, an entertainment district, two themed hotels, recreational facilities, a lake, and associated parking and transportation hubs. Land has been set aside for two additional parks and more hotels.

It’s my belief to wait at least a year before experiencing a new Disney park. This allows the company to fine-tune the operation and hopefully, add a few new attractions that didn’t quite make opening day. So it’s my intention to visit Shanghai Disneyland sometime in late 2017. Check back with AllEars at that time and I’ll have another dedication plaque to share with you.

So there you have it, the dedication plaques from all eleven Disney parks. As I said at the beginning of this article, the words here will not have any significant impact on your visit. But they do remind us that it took many dreamers to create the wonderful parks we enjoy and so often take for granted. So I repeat what so many of the plaques said:

To all who come to this happy place, welcome.

12 Replies to “Disney Dedication Plaques”

  1. Great info!!! I have pictures of two different versions of the EPCOT Center and then EPCOT dedication plaques so they did change, I can email them to you if you want.

    Also, do you have info on the new re-dedicated California Adventure, I know they moved the plaque and I think kinda re-did it with Bob Iger.

    Craig

  2. Another great blog, Jack!

    Throughout the whole thing I could only find ONE typo that sneaked through:

    Near the beginning…..

    “…California Governor Goodwin J. Knight, an even Walt’s competition, Walter Knott (of Knott’s Berry Farm) were in attendance.”

    Instead of “an even Walt’s Competition”, I think you meant “AND” (not “an”).

    Keep up the great work!

    Your pal,

    Dan

  3. Wow Jack! Your blog about the various Disney park dedication plaques was really great to read. I’ve been a disney fanatic for most of my life, even getting to achieve my dream of working for the company while in college. I was most interested reading about how some projects initially failed to perform, but have begun to succeed under new leadership and capital. I feel like I’ve learned more in the ten minutes reading your blog than I have reading whole books!

  4. i have read & reread all the plaques @ wdw but the one at the animal kingdom. always something new to “STOP & SMELL THE ROSES ” 🙂

  5. Jack,
    It’s funny how Eisner had seven plaques to Walt’s one. Wasn’t Card Walker the gentleman who came up with the “Green Side Up” philosophy mentioned by the Imagineers sometimes?

    Jack’s Answer:

    I think “green side up” was coined by Dick Nunis. But he was the same era as Card.

  6. So here’s my random question. Does Paris have two Partners statues? And if there’s not one in Disneyland Paris, why not?

    Jack’s Answer:

    Paris only has one Partners statue and it is located at the Studio. I have no idea why the Imagineers decided to locate it here rather than at Disneyland.

  7. Great article, as always.

    Is that the original EPCOT Center dedication plaque? That appears to be the newer logo at the top with “Epcot” instead of “EPCOT”. Was the plaque redone at some point?

    Jack’s Answer:

    I noticed this too. However, if you look, when the name Epcot is used by itself, it uses upper and lower case letters. But for EPCOT Center, it uses all uppercase. Both are used on the plaque. I assume this is the original, but I can’t give you a definitive answer.

  8. I love the line: Here age relives fond memories of the past … and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future

    When I walk into Magic Kingdom I feel like I’m 13 again, walking into the park with my parents and brothers. Such fond memories. I will ALWAYS be a kid when I step foot onto the property, which is probably why I enjoy visiting so much. No where else, with exception of my childhood home, takes me back to those days of imagination and youth.

    Not sure how others feel, but that feeling alone is why I visit. Thank you Disney!

  9. Of course growing up in Southern California, I’ve always been acutely aware of the Dedication Plaque at Disneyland, since I was a pre-teen.

    It stands to reason that on my first trip to Walt Disney World, Florida in 1988, I made a point of reading the Dedication Plaque at Magic Kingdom. For some reason, It never occurred to me to look for a Dedication Plaque at Epcot. As you know, In 1988, Magic Kingdom and Epcot were the only two parks at Walt Disney World.

    By the time Animal Kingdom opened, I was living down here, and managed to be at the park on the official opening day, realizing a long-held dream of attending the grand opening of a Disney Park, and I read the Dedication Plaque that day.

    During the day, walking a path, I made eye contact with Roy E. Disney walking toward me. I smiled and gave the “thumb’s up” sign. It was a near perfect day at the park, as they didn’t know what the capacity would be, and closed the front gate with the park way under capacity.

    I am embarrassed to say that in the 20 years I have lived in Orlando, I never even saw the Dedication Plaques to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios until this past year. Boy, did I feel sheepish.

    Great blog about such an important and often overlooked detail of the Disney Park experience.

  10. Jack loved this.

    You have pulled it out of the bag once again – and as much as i have never really thought about dedication plaques you have made this a really interesting topic.

    Next time we visit we will be sure to check them out. So many times we visit and look at the parks but dont really see – you help us to see.

    Thank you

    Caz

  11. hey jack
    i always take some time during my day to read these plaques and remember how much hard work and dedication it took to make everything i see before me happen. It really is amazing what someone can create with as Walt said “faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust.” can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

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