Ranking Disney World’s Anniversary Celebrations (And Where the 50th Stands So Far)

With Disney World’s 50th Anniversary approaching quickly, we’re reminiscing on celebrations for past milestones!

It’s almost time!

Disney has hosted some massive anniversary events over the years, but which one is the best?

Today, we’re sharing our ranking from worst to best…AND we’re letting you know where we think the 50th Anniversary stands.

10th Anniversary

Disney’s first major anniversary celebration was for the 10th year in 1981. During what Disney World called the “Tencennial” they had special entertainment, including parades, music parties with characters, and a stage show featuring the Kids of the Kingdom.

Characters and cast members gather in front of Cinderella Castle, with giant No. 10 highlighting the resort’s 10th anniversary. [The Walt Disney Company]
There was also a special 10th Anniversary TV special presented by Kraft that followed the musical journey of a fictional family on their trip to Walt Disney World. Other than that, there wasn’t quite as much going on for this particular celebration, so it ranks at the bottom of our list.

©Disney | The Tencennial Parade

20th Anniversary

Number 4 on our list is Disney World’s 20th Anniversary! This 15-month event was dubbed the “Year of Surprises” and was highlighted with a brand new daytime parade, featuring a surprise Grand Marshal family each day. SpectroMagic debuted at night, replacing Main Street Electrical Parade, so there were entertainment options throughout the day!

Giant Disney character balloons were the featured element of the afternoon parade. | ©Disney

New shows were also added to EPCOT’s World Showcase Lagoon, along with some giant Jack-in-the-box characters in front of each pavilion and some massive inflatable characters along the World Showcase Promenade. In addition, Mickey’s Magic Show premiered at MGM Studios!

Mickey’s Magic Show at MGM

25th Anniversary

For the 25th Anniversary in 1996, the tagline was “It’s Time to Remember the Magic.” It kicked off on September 30th with a media event (although not quite as big as the one for the 15th Anniversary, more on that in a minute) and featured the infamous birthday cake Cinderella Castle decorations.

The infamous cake castle! | ©Disney

As part of the celebration, Disney’s BoardWalk and BoardWalk Inn opened to the public on October 1st, and Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) expanded to add World of Disney on October 2nd.

Disney’s BoardWalk is a great place for dining and entertainment!

Several attractions, entertainment, and rides premiered throughout that time as well. The Remember the Magic Parade, The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A Musical Adventure, and IllumiNations 25 all began during that era. Also, both Mickey’s Toontown Fair and Captain EO opened!


15th Anniversary

You may be wondering how TWO other celebrations could’ve possibly topped the 25th Anniversary, and we have two words for you: Free. Car. Throughout the 18-month 15th Anniversary celebration, Disney gave away prizes all day long, including a NEW car daily!

©Disney | Mickey and Minnie during the parade!

The tagline was “Celebrating 15 years of magic with prizes every 15 seconds” and that’s exactly what Disney World did! Guests won prizes like cruise vacations, video cassettes, and tickets to WDW as they entered the park, while one lucky guest each day was awarded a new car from General Motors, either a Chevrolet Cavalier or an S-10 pickup truck. Now THAT’S a giveaway!

It was a very popular promotion! | ©Disney

The 15th Anniversary also kicked off with a massive press event, the likes of which have never been recreated in Orlando. 10,000 members of the media were invited for 5 days to Walt Disney World to see everything the resort had to offer. It even included a TV special hosted by Bea Arthur and Betty White!

Charlie Ridgway sets up an interview with members of the Walt Disney World publicity department during WDW’s 15th anniversary. | ©Disney

35th Anniversary

And finally, the winner of the BEST anniversary celebration at Disney World yet…the 35th Anniversary, otherwise known as the “Year of A Million Dreams!”

FastPasses during the Year of a Million Dreams

This over-the-top party began in October 2006 and featured even MORE giveaways than the 15th! Guests were able to win everything from tickets to FastPasses to Mickey ears. The luckiest ones might even snag a stay in the coveted Cinderella Castle Suite!


A plethora of entertainment options premiered at that time, including the Disney Dreams Come True Parade, Dream Along With Mickey, Let’s Have a Ball, and Woody’s Cowboy Camp. You could also dance along with the High School Musical Pep Rally or the Main Street Family Fun Day Parade!

The Dream Along With Mickey stage show ran for a while!

Three new attractions opened, all of which were themed to popular Pixar films. The Seas With Nemo & Friends took over The Living Seas at EPCOT, while Finding Nemo — The Musical made its debut in Animal Kingdom with an original soundtrack. The Laugh Floor Comedy Club, which would later be known as Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, came to Magic Kingdom‘s Tomorrowland. 

The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Where Does the 50th Anniversary Rank?

Well, considering that the 50th Anniversary celebrations haven’t officially kicked off yet, it’s difficult to give them a ranking. So far, we know that the 18 months of fun will be highlighted by new entertainment like Harmonious, Disney KiteTails, and Disney Enchantment, plus the new ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is one of the new attractions coming to the France Expansion area!

We’ll also get the opening of La Creperie de Paris and enjoy the newly-open Space 220, and Mickey and his friends will get special costumes just for the occasion to wear in their new cavalcade. Besides that, we’ll see unique decor around the parks, like the Fab 50 gold character statues (here’s our guide to find them ALL!), Cinderella Castle accents, and the Beacons of Magic lighting packages on each park icon.


And that’s not all — we’re getting some updates around the resorts and a few dining offerings to celebrate. But is that enough to top our list? Well…not quite.

California Grill is getting a special dining experience.

When we’re pitting the 50th Anniversary up against the others, we’d probably put it in 4th place right now. (I mean, they had some HUGE giveaways at the 35th and the 15th! It’s hard to top that!) But the good news is that there is plenty of space for this upcoming event to move up the ladder. There are likely going to be extra celebrations (and hopefully more attraction openings!) that haven’t yet been announced, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

We’ll have to wait and see how things go!

Stay tuned to AllEars for all the coverage on the 50th Anniversary and all that it has to offer! We’ll be here for all the big news!

Click Here to Learn More About the 50th!

Which anniversary celebration was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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