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Disneyland 50th anniversary celebration begins with ceremony in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland kicked off an 18-month celebration of its 50th anniversary in a heartwarming ceremony in front of the park's iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle on May 5, 2005.

To an audience of invited guests and media, as well as regular park visitors there to mark the occasion, a collection of hosts and performers welcomed visitors "home" for the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth" on a special stage in front of a newly decorated Sleeping Beauty Castle (see story: Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland gets royal makeover for 50th anniversary celebration).

Bob Iger, CEO-elect of the Walt Disney Company, as well as current Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner, spoke of the milestone of Disneyland's 50th birthday and how Walt Disney's legacy was kept alive by the continuation of his original park.

During the ceremony, Grammy Award winner LeAnn Rimes performed Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration theme song "Remember When," composed by songwriter Richard Marx (see story: LeAnn Rimes chosen to sing "Remember When," theme song for Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration). Later, Grammy Award winner Christina Aguilera performed a rendition of "When You Wish Upon A Star."

Art Linkletter, who on television covered the opening of Disneyland on July 17, 1955, once again returned to Disneyland and served as host as he spoke in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, talking of memories of Walt Disney and the importance of families to Disneyland.

The ceremony also included a live feed from the celebrations in front of Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom; comedian Wayne Brady, who was hosting at Walt Disney World, spoke with Linkletter over the feed.

Finally, to conclude the ceremony, Honorary Disneyland 50th Anniversary Ambassador Julie Andrews, who starred in Walt Disney's classic film Mary Poppins, introduced and narrated a segment that would "welcome home" everybody to Disneyland. With a score specially written for Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration, composer Alan Silvestri conducted a live orchestra situated at Plaza Gardens.

Then, as in a conclusion to widely-broadcast television commercial for Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration, a series of Disney characters "arrived" at Disneyland after their travels from various points around the world. Stitch from Lilo and Stitch rode in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle on a motorcycle followed by policemen, Genie and Iago from the film Aladdin rode in on a camel, and Mickey Mouse and Goofy rode to the castle in Herbie the Love Bug. Dumbo and Cinderella followed.

After the main characters had arrived, the young actor from the Disneyland television commercial ran to Julie Andrews on the main stage in front of the castle, and the two declared the Happiest Homecoming on Earth ready to start after everyone had arrived "home" to Disneyland.

With fireworks launched from the castle and doves released, a parade of Disney characters streamed out in front of the castle and Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration officially began.

The Happiest Homecoming on Earth celebration will last for 18 months (see story: Disneyland celebrates its 50th anniversary with new rides, parade, and fireworks show).

Click here for Disneyland's 50th anniversary kickoff ceremony pictures

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or the Walt Disney Company. © 2005 The Disneyland Report.

The Disneyland Report - Disney News and Secrets!