Disneyland's Birthday Bash May Set Records

Times Staff Writer

At one minute after midnight on July 17, while the rest of Orange County is snoring, Disneyland will be soaring with its long-awaited 30th birthday bash, which is expected to bring record one-day revenues and attendance to the Magic Kingdom.

Although the park has been celebrating its 30th anniversary all year with special events and $12 million in giveaways, Wednesday--the actual day that Disneyland opened 30 years ago--will mark the culmination of what one amusement industry consultant called, "the most successful promotion in the history of the theme park business."

Without adding a single new attraction, Disneyland is enjoying its all-time best year.

On Wednesday, the park will stay open 24 hours, during which park officials expect an estimated 20,000 visitors paying $30 admission for a special celebration between 12:01 a.m. and 8 a.m., and possibly more than 60,000 visitors paying the regular $16.50 admission during the remainder of the day. Thousands of Wednesday's special event tickets have already been sold through Ticketmaster.

Single-day gate admissions at Disneyland could exceed $1.5 million that day, industry executives estimate, making it one of of the largest 24-hour gates ever recorded by an amusement park. Disney officials no longer release attendance figures, but a spokesman said that the park expects it could break the single-day mark of 82,000 guests set back in 1969.

Virtually every major attraction in the area has reported improved business this summer and many observers credit the Disney celebration for boosting local tourism. But the biggest beneficiary has been the Magic Kingdom itself, which spent more than a year carefully plotting the celebration and is now reaping benefits in the form of attendance that continues at a record-breaking pace. Disney officials are confident that nearly 12 million guests will visit the park this year, breaking the old record of 11.5 million.

"You've gotta give them credit," said Steve Clark, president of Management Resources Inc., a Tustin consulting firm. "This whole year, Disneyland has been right on the button from a marketing standpoint."

Since the beginning of the year, Disneyland has given away more than 200 cars (40% of which have been won by people too young to drive), 2,000 watches, 20,000 stuffed animals and 200,000 admission tickets, according to Bob Roth, a Disneyland spokesman. Even Disneyland's local competitor, Knott's Berry Farm, marvels at those numbers. "I don't think that any park has ever given away the kind of prizes that Disney has this summer," said Jim Hardiman, a Knott's spokesman.

Giving Away Cars

On Wednesday the park plans to give away between four and six Chevrolets during the first eight hours it is open. Disneyland will also feature evening-long entertainment in the form of rock bands and a special 4 a.m. Electrical Parade down Main Street.

During the special late-night celebration, each guest will receive a meal ticket (good for a hamburger, French fries and soft drink) and a limited edition lithograph of Disney characters by Charles Boyer, a Disney artist. (Because the lithographs are unsigned and in such high volume, their retail value is estimated at $10 each, according to Jerry Mueller, who collects and sells animated art at Museum Graphics in Costa Mesa).

At 2:30 p.m., the park will be rededicated in a ceremony that will culminate when 30,000 balloons are released, while, overhead, planes skywrite "Happy 30th Birthday."

Extensive Media Coverage

Hundreds of television, radio and newspaper journalists will cover the celebration. Willard Scott of the "Today Show" will broadcast weather reports live from Disneyland, and other live-talk shows from the Magic Kingdom will be seen in Great Britain, Mexico and Canada. An estimated 30 domestic television stations are planning live coverage of the event, Roth said.

Virtually all of Disneyland's 8,000 employees are expected to work "sometime during the 24-hour period," Roth said. The park plans on keeping all attractions open for the entire 24 hours and will sell special buttons that day only that say: "I Was At Disneyland's Birthday Party, July 17th.".

The usual cleanup of Disneyland that takes place between midnight and sunrise will be squeezed into a half-hour period between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Tuesday. "We'll do as much as we can," Roth said.

Roth credits part of the success of Disneyland's 30th birthday to the over-the-hill association that many people have with the age of 30. "It's a turning point in a person's life," he said. "Now that we're 30, people want to see if this place is still wild and fun like it's supposed to be."

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