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Walt Disney World Cast Members Share Opening Day Memories

(left to right) Charles Ridgway, Forrest Bahruth, Heather Will-Browne, Darlene Kennedy, Kevin Myers.

On October 1st, 2011 I had the immense privilege to interview four Magic Kingdom opening day cast members. Each brings their own interesting stories and passion for making the magic.

Author Charles Ridgway, former Director of Walt Disney World Public Relations and Disney Legend for four decades of service to “the Mouse” (Hometown: Chicago) – Before moving from California to head the Walt Disney World publicity staff, Charlie Ridgway worked for Walt Disney himself at Disneyland in Anaheim, where he hosted media interviews and set up photo shoots with Walt and Mickey. When the Magic Kingdom first opened, Ridgway says, there was still some tweaking and problem solving to do. The parking lot trams “didn’t have enough power to go up the hill to the Ticket and Transportation Center arrival area,” he recalls. “There was lots of construction yet to go, wires hanging, walls not finished.” And he remembers the Flag Retreat ceremony brought to the Magic Kingdom from Disneyland: each evening a flock of pigeons flew in a white cloud from Town Square to Cinderella Castle and back. “Walt liked to say at Disneyland, ‘If you have pigeons and balloons, you can’t go wrong.’ Park officials eventually ended the tradition out of concern for the birds and the environment.

Three more below the jump:

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Magic Kingdom Turns 40 and Life Goes On

(click to embiggen)

The 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom was punctuated by big moments at the start and end of the day with long lines for everything in between. Since Disney has chosen to ignore the anniversary in favor of a more bland promotional strategy, my expectations for the October 1st activities were quite low. Indeed, up to 3 days before the event I was told there wouldn’t even be a press event. But at the last minute, things came together and it was actually a decent show.

The morning started early for guests looking to line up for merchandise. Which had its own transportation challenges since there is no transport from the TTC at 6AM. If you entered early enough in the day you got a special map like the above and a 40th anniversary button. Both very nice. Both were essentially gone by 3pm. (click to embiggen)

Video highlights of the morning and more photos below the jump:

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