On this day in 2005, an eighteen-month long celebration for the 50th anniversary of Disneyland officially began in all Disney parks (although the Anaheim park's true 50th birthday wouldn't be until July 17).
The Happiest Homecoming on Earth ceremony started with a dedication at Disneyland in California from Michael Eisner (at that time CEO of Disney) - "The dawn of the theme park industry rose from one man's dream."
The special ceremony also featured fireworks, and speeches from Julie Andrews (official ambassador for the 50th anniversary & star of Disney's Mary Poppins) and Art Linkletter (one of the original TV anchorman for Disneyland's TV debut in 1955). Singers Christine Aguilera (one time Mouseketeer) sang "When You Wish Upon a Star" and LeAnn Rimes performed "Remember When" - the official 50th anniversary theme song (penned by Richard Marx).
A video conference enabled connections from all Disney theme parks around the world (Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, and the construction site of Hong Kong Disneyland). The only live feed - via Walt Disney World in Florida - was hosted by Wayne Brady.
In Florida, all 4 theme parks debuted new attractions:
Magic Kingdom's It's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean received face-lifts and a temporary stage show called "Cinderellabration" debuted in front of the castle.
Soarin' and a Hong Kong Disneyland Preview Center both opened at Epcot.
Disney-MGM Studios featured Lights, Motor, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and Disney's Animal Kingdom temporarily exhibited Lucky the Dinosaur (a free-roving audio-animatronic figure).
At Tokyo Disneyland, the Rock Around the Mouse stage show (a tribute to rock 'n' roll and California culture) debuted.
Over at Disneyland Resort Paris, their Space Mountain received a makeover and Wishes (a fireworks show via Disney World) debuted.
During the course of the 18 months, more attractions and special shows were added to many parks and by September 2005 Hong Kong Disneyland became the 11th Disney park in the world to take part in the 50th anniversary. (Even the Disney Cruise Line celebrated with a first-ever West Coast itinerary.)
The Happiest Celebration on Earth ran until September 30, 2006.
Click HERE for more May 05 Disney history.