Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Disney Decade: A Result of a Magical Partnership

By Brittany Bell

If you were a Disney fan in the 90s, odds are you get a bit nostalgic when talking about the Disney Decade. The 90s were an amazing time for Disney history and growth. The partnership of then CEO Michael Eisner and President Frank Wells included ambitious plans for the company with major additions to the Disney Parks and Resorts, new developments, celebrations, and attractions popping up everywhere. Want to relive the 90s and one of the most magical times in Disney history? Let’s take a step back in time and revisit the Disney Decade in today's new article…

Walt Disney World

Then CEO Michael Eisner (center) and President Frank Wells (right) look over the model of the Disney Swan and Dolphin

In January 1990, then CEO Michael Eisner and President Frank Wells announced plans to expand the Walt Disney World theme parks as well as add a fourth park in the coming years. EPCOT Center (now Epcot) was slated to open a new pavilion from the Soviet Union, and 16 new attractions were planned for the Disney-MGM Studios. Let’s check out some of the major additions made to the Walt Disney World theme parks that Eisner and Wells were talking about...

Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort under construction

Architect John Tishman, Micheal Eisner and Frank Wells pose in front of the gigantic Swan statue

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin opened in January 1990 and June 1990, respectively.

Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club open in November 1990.

The recently closed Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure opens in late December 1990.

Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D premieres in April 1991.

Beauty and the Beast stage show premieres at MGM-Studios on November 22, 1991.

Splash Mountain opens in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom on July 17, 1992.

MGM-Studios adds to its attraction list with the opening of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in 1994.

Blizzard Beach, Walt Disney World’s second water park, opens April 1, 1995.

Tomorrowland reopens in 1995 after a complete refurbishment.

In 1996, Cinderella Castle gets a “sweet” (and thankfully just temporary) makeover to celebrate Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary.

Downtown Disney officially opens under its new name in November 1997.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom opens on Earth Day 1998.

Fantasmic! opens at MGM-Studios in Fall 1998.


Roy E. Disney, Michael Eisner, Ronald Reagan, Art Linkletter, Robert Cummings, and Frank Wells at Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration

While its sister on the East Coast was celebrating its 20th anniversary, Disneyland started out the Disney Decade with its 35th anniversary in 1990. Though the 90s weren’t as busy for Disneyland as they were for Walt Disney World, the West Coast still had its fair share of new attractions, including a new land, and was gearing up for what would be a second park that would debut in 2001...

Fantasmic! opens in Frontierland on May 13, 1992, 6 years before it debuted at MGM Studios.

Mickey’s Toontown, a new land, opens at Disneyland in January 1993. Opening day attractions included Chip ‘n Dale Tree Slide and Acorn Crawl, Gadget’s Go Coaster, Goofy’s Bounce House, Jolley Trolley, Mickey’s House, Minnie’s House, and “Miss Daisy,” Donald’s Boat.

1994 saw the closure of the Disneyland Skyway.

The still wildly popular Indiana Jones: Temple of the Forbidden Eye opens in Adventureland on March 3, 1995.

In July 1996, Disney announces plans to build a second theme park at Disneyland on the site of the existing parking lot.

New Tomorrowland opens in 1998 along with the new Rocket Rods, Astro Orbiter, and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.

The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse closes and reopens as Tarzan’s Treehouse in early 1999.

Tokyo Disneyland

Mickey Mouse, President Toshio Kagami of Oriental Land Company, CEO Michael Eisner, Roy Disney and Minnie Mouse celebrate the opening of Tokyo DisneySea

Disney’s first international park, Tokyo Disneyland, began its second phase during the 1990s. From opening day on April 12, 1984, the park attracted large numbers of visitors, which still holds true to this day. And, like Disneyland, the 90s saw the plans being laid for the Tokyo DisneySea Project. Take a look at some of the bigger developments that came to Tokyo Disneyland during the Disney Decade…

Splash Mountain opens in Tokyo Disneyland in October 1992, one day before it opened at Walt Disney World.

Splash Mountain inspires an entire land in Tokyo Disneyland that was later named Critter Country.

Toontown opens at Tokyo Disneyland in 1996 after being inspired by the Toontown in Disneyland California.

Though the intention to build Tokyo DisneySea was announced in 1988, plans for the park didn’t truly materialize until the 1990s.

Disneyland Paris (EuroDisney)

Michael Eisner and Roy E. Disney at the official opening of EuroDisney, April 12, 1992

Disney’s second international park opened on April 12, 1992 under the name EuroDisney. However, with opening day numbers barely reaching 50,000 guests, EuroDisney had a crisis on their hands and began to update the park immediately...

Euro Disneyland opens on April 12, 1992.

The Disneyland Hotel opens along with EuroDisney in 1992. It was the first Disney hotel to be buildt at the entrance to a park, and went on to inspire Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta, and the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, all of which are located at or in a park entrance.

After financial struggles, EuroDisney begins a complete rebrand and is renamed to Disneyland Paris.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril opens in 1993.

Just like Walt and his brother Roy, the Michael Eisner and Frank Wells team created one of the most magical times to be a Disney Park fan. What I’ve just shown you is a small overview of some of the amazing things that came to the Disney Parks in the 1990s, but you can already see how the partnership of Eisner and Wells had Disney back on top of its game. Unfortunately, Frank Wells passed away suddenly in 1994, and so did Michael Eisner's counter-balance. However, the momentum of their partnership was already set in motion and lead to the incredible Disney Decade. Lucky for us, many of the results of this period are still around to enjoy today and have created some of the most magical places on earth.


Brittany Bell grew up in Lewiston, Maine, about 45 minutes away from Portland. She is currently studying Public Relations and Journalism at Boston University, and hopes to one day work for the Mouse himself. She grew up in a Disney-loving home, and would watch Sleeping Beauty on repeat as a little girl. Her first trip to Walt Disney World was in the summer of 2000, at four years old. Ever since then, Brittany and her family take annual trips to the World, and have no intention of vacationing anywhere else. Her favorite places in Walt Disney World are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Grand Floridian, and the Magic Kingdom. She can’t go without seeing Fantasmic! at least once each vacation, even though she chokes up a little at the final scene. Brittany is fascinated by how one man’s dream became an empire—one that makes dreams come true every day.

Before she became obsessed with Frozen and Queen Elsa, her favorite Disney characters were Princess Aurora and Mulan. She loves everything and anything Disney, from the parks, to the movies, to the Broadway musicals. In the near future she hopes to participate in the Disney College Program and work as a “friend of a princess”.

You can find all of Brittany's articles here.

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