ANAHEIM, Calif. -- During a two-day event that put the spotlight on its original park here, the Walt Disney Co. brought in the company's top brass and celebrities Julie Andrews and Art Linkletter to announce details of the 50th anniversary celebration of Disneyland in 2005.

"All our theme parks for the first time will join in for one celebration that will be the biggest in our history," said Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

The 18-month event, which kicks off May 5, 2005, is dubbed "The Happiest Celebration on Earth."

A fall advertising campaign promoting the anniversary at the Disney parks is in the planning stages. In January, the company plans to unveil separate campaigns for the individual parks, highlighting new attractions and features.

At Disneyland, where the campaign is called "The Happiest Homecoming on Earth," the aim is "to motivate the people who've been here during the last 50 years to visit us again," said Linda Warren, executive vice president of marketing. Some 500 million people have visited Disneyland since its opening.

Each night of the festivities, the Sleeping Beauty Castle will be the centerpiece of a fireworks show that will feature Disney characters.

New features planned for Disneyland in 2005 include:

• Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams, a 30-minute display with one of the largest casts of Disney characters ever assembled. The parade will feature floats with dancing fountains, confetti blasts, puppetry, acrobats, dancers and singers. There will be two performances each day.

• In Tomorrowland, the reopening of Space Mountain with redesigned "rockets." In addition, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, an interactive "space mission" will be unveiled.

• An exhibition of the 50 years of Disneyland history, including a new film with recently discovered footage of the planning of the park. The film will be shown in the Main Street Opera House.

• At California Adventure, the Block Party Bash, which is being described as "a huge tailgate party" with Disney and other characters, including the Muppets and characters from the animated movies "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life" and "Monsters, Inc."

• As previously announced, the repositioning of Disney Cruise Line's Disney Magic to Southern California for the first time. The vessel will sail from Los Angeles on 12 seven-night sailings to the Mexican Riviera. Pre- and post-stay packages are available at Disneyland Resort hotels.

Some attractions will be shared between Disney parks as a part of the anniversary celebration. Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for example, will feature the opening of "Soarin" at Epcot, based on the Anaheim park's popular attraction at California Adventure.

"Cinderellabration," a musical from Tokyo Disneyland that re-enacts Cinderella's royal coronation, will take place starting in 2005 at Cinderella Castle.

"Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" will feature cars, motorcycles and Jet Skis and is modeled on a show at Walt Disney Studios in Paris.

It will open at Disney-MGM Studios next year.

Other features debuting at the Florida parks in 2005 include:

• At Epcot, an exhibit and scale model of Hong Kong Disneyland, which is expected to open in late 2005 or early 2006.

• Expedition Everest, an attraction based on a runaway train on a new 200-foot snow-capped Himalayan mountain.

• At Disney's Animal Kingdom Park, the debut of Lucky the Dinosaur, which will make its debut walking the streets of Dinoland, USA. The character is the first-ever Audio-Animatronics creation from Disney and was introduced at California Adventure recently.

This year, the highlight at Disneyland is the new Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at California Adventure. The attraction, almost identical to the one that opened in 1994 at the Disney-MGM Studios in Florida, is based on a "lost episode" of the "Twilight Zone" TV series and involves riding an "elevator" down a shaft as the building is struck by bolts of lightning.

To contact reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].

Universal, too, has an anniversary

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Universal Studios Hollywood is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with new attractions.

The first, "Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula," opened May 8. "Van Helsing," a walk-through attraction in which participants encounter Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, among other monsters, recreates Transylvania's supernatural world.

It is based on the movie "Van Helsing," directed by Stephen Sommers, the director of the "Mummy" movies.

Meanwhile, on June 25, the theme park is scheduled to unveil "Revenge of the Mummy -- The Ride," a thrill ride based on the "Mummy" films.

Park promoters call it "the world's first psychological thrill ride" and say it is more than just a roller coaster, that it taps into people's deepest fears, including fear of the dark, of insects and of heights.

Participants are brought into a terrifying Egyptian underworld; propulsion systems thrust riders forward, backward and forward again while computer-generated imagery is used to startle them.

The ride also is slated to open at Universal Orlando May 21.

Universal Studios Hollywood is open daily. Admission is $49 for adults, $39

for children under 48 inches tall; children under age 3 are admitted free.

More information is available at L.D.R.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI