An Original Idea for 1991 – 30 Years Ago at Disneyland

1990 had been a memorable, event packed year for Disneyland. Kicking off on January 11, the 35th birthday of the park had driven attendance (and profits) to new heights. It was only natural that the powers-that-be at the top of the Walt Disney Company wanted to continue that success.

But it must have been difficult to explain to them that there was no major birthday to promote, no new attraction under construction, and that everyone was pretty exhausted from the major promotion that had taken place through 1990. I have often imagined the meeting (or memo) with the admonition, “Come up with something bold. Something fresh. Something ORIGINAL.”

And that is just what they did. The promotion throughout 1991 was “Disneyland: The Original.”

This postcard is about the best representation of the look of the promotion. As far as I can recall, and based on recent research, there were no actual events or activities that supported this theme. There were no celebrity cavalcades, or television specials, or lavish media events with people who had worked with Walt Disney to explain how or why Disneyland was “The Original.”

The closest we got to any explanation was waiting on the back of the postcard, for anyone who reads the pre-printed information. This one said:
“In July of 1955, Walt Disney unveiled a new concept in entertainment. And, although it has served as a model and inspiration to theme parks around the world, DISNEYLAND, the original, has retained its unique charm and magic and is truly “the happiest place on earth.” (You did see the words “Disneyland, the original” buried in that word salad, I trust.)

So there was no actual promotion. 

But there was merchandise.

And why not? Where there’s a logo, there’s a t-shirt.

And where there’s a t-shirt there’s a button.

And on and on it goes: pins and pennants and license plates and refrigerator magnets and anything else they could slap that logo on, they did.

The problem with this promotion is that it didn’t mean anything. There wasn’t something about the park that was driving this; it was trying to drive the park.

Fortunately, within a few months there would be new activities, and a summer full of fun, followed by the holiday season. None of it seemed particularly original, though.