The Happiest Homecoming on Earth was the eighteen-month-long celebration (May 5, 2005 through September 30, 2006) of the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland theme park, which opened on July 17, 1955. The Happiest Celebration on Earth commemorated fifty years of Disney theme parks, and celebrated Disneyland's milestone throughout Disney parks all over the globe.
Disneyland's 50th anniversary was July 17, 2005, but the celebration was launched on May 5, 2005 in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Disneyland Park was actually closed to the public on this date, the first planned closure of the park in decades for a special media preview. Disney allowed guests staying at the three Disney owned hotels to become "extras" for the all the media filming going on, though they only were notified by a letter delivered in the middle of the night, so they had no advance notice.
The Happiest Homecoming on Earth ceremony officially began with a dedication from then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner. The ceremony included fireworks; speeches from Julie Andrews (official ambassador for the 50th anniversary celebrations), and Art Linkletter (original TV anchor for the opening day broadcast); a performance of "When You Wish Upon A Star" by Christina Aguilera; and LeAnn Rimes singing the 50th anniversary theme song "Remember When", composed by Richard Marx. A video conference featured celebrities at the Magic Kingdom (the only live video conference, with Wayne Brady, actor and former Walt Disney World Resort cast member), Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and the construction site of Hong Kong Disneyland.
Before the Ceremony, at a media presentation in Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland Resort president Matt Ouimet announced the new attractions Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sully to the Rescue and Turtle Talk with Crush.
The actual day of Disneyland's 50th Dedication Day/Press Preview was an event marked by fans' enthusiasm. The first person to enter the park that day was Madison Steigerwald, a 16-year-old girl from Old Greenwich, CT. She and her grandmother, Mary Madison, began to line up at 3 p.m. the day before. Due to the thousands of fans that continued to line up through the night, Disney California Adventure Park was opened and housed everyone until the next morning. A second line formed outside the security checkpoints as thousands more arrived in the final hours before the park opened. Disneyland Park opened at 7:00 a.m., although it took several hours to admit the crowds that showed up that morning.
In 2004, Disneyland Resort President Matt Ouimet and hundreds of cast members posed for an aerial photo above Disneyland, with each person holding a nine square foot photograph of a Disneyland cast member. When seen from above the placards formed an image of Mickey Mouse, making it the largest photographic mosaic ever created. This initiated the Happiest Faces on Earth in which over thirty giant mosaics of Disney tableaus were displayed at locations around Disneyland and California Adventure composed of photos submitted by guests from the past fifty years. All the mosaics were created by California artist Roy Feinson.
Many classic Disneyland attractions re-opened in 2005 after lengthy refurbishments, such as Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, the Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain. A new fireworks show, Remember... Dreams Come True, replaced the former Believe... There's Magic in the Stars. Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams replaced the Parade of Stars and featured elaborate floats with lighting that allowed daytime or nighttime performances. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters opened in Tomorrowland (at a ceremony with Tim Allen, the voice of Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear), and a new parade featuring Pixar characters, Block Party Bash was featured at Disney California Adventure Park. Comedian and ex-Disneyland cast member Steve Martin opened the Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years exhibition and film, in which he features with Donald Duck. The original attractions which opened with the park also had one of their ride vehicles painted gold for the celebration. The park also contained 50 Hidden Mickeys, golden Mickey Mouse heads with "50" displayed in the middle, sometimes disguised as part of the surrounding theme.
Other refurbishments took place around Disneyland with many areas being re-painted and refurbished to their former glory. The second phase of the re-paint of Tomorrowland commenced after the base silver and blue scheme was laid. Main Street USA and Sleeping Beauty Castle were repainted, and the castle was specially decorated for the celebration. The celebration brought record numbers of guests to the parks, numbers unmatched since the fall of 1996, when mass crowds flooded the park to catch a glimpse of the Main Street Electrical Parade before it went into permanent retirement.
In the second half of the celebration, in 2006, Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sully to the Rescue opened at Disney's California Adventure. On July 7, 2006, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest had its world premiere on the Rivers of America, as did the first film in the trilogy in 2003. On the same day of Dead Man's Chest premiere, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction officially reopened after lengthy refurbishments to include characters from the movie trilogy in the attraction's storyline. The 50th anniversary celebration at Disneyland ended on September 30, 2006, and was succeeded by the Year of a Million Dreams. The idea was somewhat revised for the Disneyland Diamond Celebration promotion that was used for the 60th anniversary 10 years after the kickoff for the homecoming
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, the official anthem song was written by Richard Marx, and was performed for the first time live by Grammy-winning artist LeAnn Rimes. The song reflects on how one can never be too old to enjoy life and childhood dreams one has had. The song was played immediately after the “Remember... Dreams Come True” fireworks spectacular presented throughout the 18-month anniversary celebration at Disneyland.
Beyond simply celebrating the 50th Anniversary at Disneyland alone, festivities were held at all Disney owned Theme Parks and cruise throughout the world.
The Walt Disney World Resort introduced at least one new attraction or show at each of its four theme parks:
The Disney Magic sailed to the West Coast in the summer of 2005, where it offered 12 one-week cruises from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera with port calls at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán and Cabo San Lucas. Afterward, the ship returned to its original Caribbean itinerary alongside the Disney Wonder.
Walt Disney World Resort advertised the celebration by noting that the Florida property imported popular attractions or shows developed for Disney's other parks around the world.
Three Walt Disney World Resort attractions recently have been duplicated at four of the other Disney parks, and the Disneyland Resort has inspired an attraction found in Japan.