The time has come to celebrate Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, and to commemorate the milestone, the resort has added content for “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.” This includes the “Beacons of Magic” across all four parks, new nighttime spectaculars, a new look for Cinderella Castle, and more. Included as part of the festivities are the Disney Fab 50 character statues displayed in all four parks.
Time and time again, we hear that one of the reasons people vacation with Disney most is for the characters. One of the things that is hard to argue when it comes to comparing Disney with the competition is that Disney fans have an extremely strong connection with Disney-created and owned characters — more so than in most other cases. For that reason, displaying beloved character statues around the parks as part of the celebration is a nice touch.
I like the sentiment, but if the celebration is about Walt Disney World, I wish that more of the statues were dedicated to Walt Disney World creations or iconic attractions rather than characters from the movies. That’s not to say they’re not featuring some iconic Walt Disney World characters, like Figment and Orange Bird, but I would like to see more characters featured from that realm.
In Magic Kingdom, rides don’t get more iconic than the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. I would have loved to see a Hitchhiking Ghosts statue or perhaps Redd the pirate with her own statue. They did a good job having all of the chosen characters somehow relate to Magic Kingdom, but I think it would be a nice touch to have ride characters featured as prominently as the characters from Disney films. I know this one is far-fetched, but my favorite attraction in Magic Kingdom is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. It might be a bit weird to have a statue of any of those characters, but it would be an awesome deep cut for us Disney nerds.
Over in Epcot, as I mentioned, they do have the iconic character of Figment featured. But why not have a bit of a throwback and honor something that a lot of Disney fans miss? The ride might be gone, but that’s no reason to completely erase the history of Maelstrom from the Norway pavilion. I’m sure a lot of Epcot fans would appreciate a three-headed troll statue.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, basically everything is connected to a movie or show, so it’s hard to choose a character that is simply attraction-related. In the realm of movies and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, my head immediately goes to “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” but I may be in the minority here. If it were up to me, I’d want a statue of Wayne Szalinski. A more likely choice (that I’m surprised isn’t featured) would be any of the Muppet characters. They’ve been a big part of Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a long time, and I would have expected them to be honored with a statue.
In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I’d love to see an opening-day attraction honored, like a character from It’s Tough to be a Bug (considering that attraction actually opened before the movie) or Dinosaur. Perhaps a much more controversial choice, and frankly, it would require rethinking all of the statues, I would love to see former Imagineer Joe Rohde honored, considering his immense contribution to that park. Of course, it would be weird to have one actual person honored among fictional characters, but I think you get my point.
The character choices that were made feel safe, for the most part. I say, let’s get more adventurous and truly honor Walt Disney World with the statues instead of simply honoring Disney movies. In some cases, like Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot being featured in Epcot, they’re looking ahead to the future at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. But just as importantly as looking to the future, I say let’s take a look back at the past as well. After all, we fell in love with Walt Disney World over the past 50 years. Not the next 50 years to come.
My guess is that one of the prerequisites when selecting characters was choosing those who were immediately recognizable. But I think perhaps having more selections that make you stop, think, and learn more about Walt Disney World’s history would be a great way of honoring it and truly appreciating its past 50 years and the whole reason we’re celebrating.
Overall, narrowing down 50 characters from the thousands that Disney has to choose from is no easy task. I like a lot of the choices that were made, but I simply wish that more of them honored Walt Disney World specifically.
What do you think? Are there any characters that you think should have been featured and weren’t? Or do you have any favorites among the statues that are on display? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.