I love old commercials. It’s always fun to re-watch ones I remember from when I was a kid or discover ones that are “new-to-me”. I’ve been watching tons of Disney commercials during quarantine, a fact that’s actually caused me to take the entire time that we’ve been home thus far to work on this post because I keep getting so distracted just watching commercials. Disney Parks have had some entertaining and heartfelt commercials over the years, plus others that are downright scary.
If you think of any commercials that should be mentioned, definitely leave a comment and let me know! I can think of a couple off the top of my head that I do really love that I’ll probably include later. (The entire Disney Side campaign is really awesome and this post doesn’t even touch on the Year of a Million Dreams, so we have room for updates!) But for now, here are some of my favorite Disney commercials that are getting me through quarantine…
Eastern Airlines (1971)
First of all, if I saw this commercial as a kid, I would absolutely not want to go to Walt Disney World. This ad originally aired during the televised grand opening celebrations for the Walt Disney World Resort in 1971 to promote Eastern Airlines, which sponsored some of the Magic Kingdom’s attractions back then. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw this commercial was when I went down a YouTube rabbit hole while drunk in college and it gave me nightmares then, I can’t imagine seeing this as a kid and having this convince me to bug my parents about getting on a flight to Orlando.
I have so many questions. Why are the characters being totally shady and not helping this little girl? Who thought having the Mad Hatter NOT be a face character would be a good idea? The Walrus from Alice in Wonderland existed at one point as an in-park character? Why? Are there in-park character oysters? (*Leaves the Magic Kingdom and heads to The Boathouse…*) What’s with the narrator’s voice at the end of this? It’s so foreboding and monotone…My one takeaway from this: The Big Bad Wolf is my favorite and I think the most underrated Disney villain and we could really use more of him in the parks.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort/U.S. Steel (1971)
The design of the Contemporary is something that fascinates Disney fans to this day, and you often hear about how the hotel was designed like a set of drawers so the rooms could be taken out and replaced during refurbishments. This has often been disputed as the intention was never to regularly remove the rooms (and I believe that isn’t even possible now the way the building has settled) but it’s still really neat to see this commercial showing how the resort was designed and how futuristic the concept was in 1971.
Walt Disney World Delta In Flight Video (1986)
By 1986 Delta had replaced Eastern Airlines as the official Airline of Walt Disney World and they showed this cheesy in-flight video to prove it! Most of Disney’s promotional pieces from the 80s were pretty grand spectacles like this one (just look at the opening ceremonies for Disney MGM Studios) and I just love them. Everything is so much simpler now (albeit probably more practical and well done) but the scale of these dance numbers planned throughout the parks in the 80s for short commercials like this is just something I always get a kick out of.
“I’m Going to Disney World!” (1987)
I’m not the most knowledgeable person about sports in general, but who doesn’t love these commercials? I wasn’t sure which one to feature in this post because they’re really all so good and I don’t really have a particular connection to any specific team or anything, so let’s just go with the first one! It’s been a tradition since 1987 that the Super Bowl MVP gets to star in the “I’m Going to Disney World!” commercial and take a whirlwind trip to the parks to celebrate. The first of these commercials debuted in 87 with Phil Simms, and I have a whole post on the history of this Disney tradition here…
EPCOT Center (1989)
I wish I was alive in the 80s. My favorite thing about this commercial is that it doesn’t really even seem like a theme park. Sure it shows some rides and things you’d probably associate with a theme park, but if I were a random, non-Disney person in 1989 I’m not sure what I’d make of this. I obviously didn’t get to experience everything in this commercial firsthand, but it’s a cool piece of history to see what Epcot was like in the late 80s and I definitely have some nostalgia for the attractions shown here that I do miss (looking at you, Captain EO).
Spaceship Earth is also one of my favorite things at Walt Disney World, and I can never get enough of Mickey being on top of it (though I think it’s kind of weird that they don’t show the ride inside Spaceship Earth in pretty much any ad for Epcot I think I’ve ever seen? That’s weird, right?)
“What A Year to be Here” (1990s)
This is not necessarily my favorite commercial but it needed to be included in this post for the nostalgia trip because it focuses pretty heavily on three of my favorite attractions that no longer exist- The Maelstrom, Captain EO, and Body Wars. I still watch Captain EO sometimes on YouTube, and you know all the songs are on my Spotify.
Walt Disney World (1990)
When I was in high school, I once had to complete this marketing project that was basically an unexpected sales pitch of sorts. I forget what the exact assignment was, but we had to take one audience and sell them a product that they presumably wouldn’t be interested in, but obviously work the pitch so that they’d get it. Of course, I did my project on Walt Disney World, and this commercial reminds me so much of how I got the point across.
So many people don’t realize how much there is to do in Disney, or even that the other parks outside of the Magic Kingdom are part of it if they’re that out of the loop. For such a short spot this commercial does a really great job of showing the variety of things to do along with the size of the Walt Disney World Resort that for the casual visitor (especially 30 years ago) was probably unexpected. I’m a firm believer that Disney is a better experience as an adult, so when I talk to adults who are hesitant to go because they hadn’t been as kids, I just want to show them this commercial (even though it’s dated and cheesy, but hey, Mickey on Spaceship Earth, right?!)
Walt Disney World (1992)
What a trip this one is. My favorite thing about this is not even the fact that it’s so disjointed like something my 13 year old self would make on Windows Movie Maker, but it’s the odd choice of things they decided to showcase. I guess they were probably going with whatever was new at the time, but how wild is it now to think that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were one of the ‘reasons to vist’ in 1992?!
“Wake Up Call” (1995)
I’m definitely partial to the Disney Parks commercials from the 90s since these were part of my childhood. This one was first shown as one of the previews in the 1995 VHS release for Cinderella, and the one below came before the feature presentation on the 1996 VHS of The Aristocats.
My Vacation (1996)
These ads from the 90s with kids just being excited about a Disney vacation were my jam back then and probably in some way contributed to my becoming such a massive Disney nerd as an adult.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom (1997-98)
This is easily my favorite Disney Parks commercial- It’s about my favorite park and it’s just so much fun. I love that the dragons are such a prominent part of the commercial since that never came to fruition (p.s. keep an eye out to see where else you can spot them next time you’re in the park). I also think this commercial and most of the early marketing for Disney’s Animal Kingdom has such a different vibe than what the park has today so it’s interesting to see how they were promoting it to an audience that hadn’t yet experienced it.
“Little Souvenir” (2002)
LOL what even. The funny thing is I definitely saw this commercial when I was…10…and I did not understand any of it. I probably thought it was the lamest commercial Disney had ever made at the time, but now…LOL. This does make me appreciate all of the different marketing strategies Disney has used over the years, and since this commercial Disney Cruise Line has probably become more popular among adults (and those without kids) just because the ships are usually so packed with families the adult-only areas are typically really quiet and relaxing.
Walt Disney World (2005)
This commercial is hilariously dated (do you see this CGI?!) and also depressing because it’s really one of the first glimpses we had at the new attractions that debuted at the parks in 2005, one of which was Lights, Motors, Action!, where I worked on my second Disney College Program and which closed in 2016. I had no real connection to the show before I worked there, but since working there and since it’s now gone I always like seeing older promotional materials from when it was new to Walt Disney World. (It’s still in Paris though, or at least the original show that’s slightly different from the Florida version is, so I’ll have to make the trip someday!)
“Darth Vader Goes to Disneyland” (2011)
This campaign was everything to me back in the day. Its popularity started a whole merchandise line with t-shirts of Darth Vader on some of the rides and I was here for it. Plus, how fun is this commercial?!
Walt Disney World (2013)
All you need to know about this one is that in before, during, and after my Disney College Program this made me cry…a lot. I always love Disney commercials that focus a lot on Cast Members, especially when they show this scope of how many different roles there really are around the resort, and this one in particular hits differently because it aired right as I was beginning the application process for the DCP and it was still being used in some capacity when I finished my program a couple of years later.
“MyMagic+ You’ll Want to Use it Everywhere” (2014)
This is the dad joke of Disney Parks commercials. It’s nowhere close to my favorite, but it’s still kind of hilarious because of how cringy it is. It honestly feels like they got a bunch of dads with MagicBands together and were just like “Ok, make a commercial,” but that’s what makes it entertaining to watch. Also I can’t say anything because there was a time where I actually had my phone set up to be unlocked via MagicBand…
Walt Disney World Resorts (2015)
I LOVE this. It’s so cheesy and salesy, but so, so good. I really miss the old school advertising Disney used to do where everything came with some choreographed dance number around the park, and I think this captures that energy while updating it for today’s audiences. It kind of reminds me of the 2013 Disney Parks Christmas Parade (the best of the Disney Parks Christmas celebrations, at least in recent years if you ask me). The opening number for that parade in 2013 with Neil Patrick Harris singing and dancing down Main Street is just so much fun, and this one with Canadian singer/stage actor Nicolas Dromard really gives off similar vibes and it’s easily one of the my favorites.
“The Little Duck” (2018)
Second favorite Disney Parks commercial right here. There are so many things I love about this, aside from the obvious that it plays with your emotions and is completely adorable, I love that it relies on a comic book and our association with Donald as opposed to simply showing off what’s in the park. With Disney’s characters and IPs they obviously have the ability to do something like that, but it works so well and the whole commercial really just feels like you’re watching a short before a Pixar movie. 10/10 would watch again.
Let me know if any of these commercials are your favorites, or if I missed one that you always remember in the comments!