Everything you need to know if you’re looking into the Celebrating Disney 100 Tour at Disneyland:
When Disneyland announced a new guided tour happening to celebrate the Disney100 anniversary, and I had plans to visit Disneyland not long after that, I knew it was something I had to try.
I love guided tours – obviously I’m a huge Disney nerd in general, but I also really love all of the history, behind the scenes info, etc. I’ve done a number of guided tours at both Disney World and Disneyland (not to mention all the books I’ve read) so needless to say I’ve learned a lot.
When booking a tour like this I always have a few questions in my head – will I already know most of what we’re told on the tour? Will we experience anything exclusive that you couldn’t do otherwise? Will this be worth it for me, or will I end up feeling like I could have been the one giving the tour?
Luckily I was traveling with a friend who is becoming a bigger Disney fan every day (I can’t take all of the credit for this, but maybe most of it). I had already shared some of my favorite Disney history facts with him, but I knew there would probably be a good amount that would be new for him. So I was excited to experience the new Celebrating Disney 100 Tour!
The basics of the Celebrating Disney 100 Tour
Days/times tour is available: the tour is currently offered every day, with a number of starting times between 9am-1pm.
Length of tour: The whole tour is about two hours (not including the parade viewing later).
Cost: the cost is around $110 per person, though it may vary by season. Discounts may also be available for certain guests.
Location: Both Disneyland and California Adventure (tour begins in Disneyland)
What is the Celebrating Disney 100 tour?
Disneyland describes the tour this way: “Discover fascinating stories of The Walt Disney Company from the past and present with a guided tour of iconic locations throughout the Disneyland Resort.”
What happens on the Disney 100 tour?
There are a few elements of the tour: a large portion of it is a guided walking tour through Disneyland and California Adventure, where you learn about the history of the Disney company from a cast member. You also visit the Animation Academy where you get a quick talk with an animator before a drawing lesson. There’s a photopass photographer to take your picture in front of the castle, and finally you get reserved parade viewing included.
Walking tour of Disneyland and California Adventure
Our tour began with check-in, which occurred near guest services in Disneyland park. Once we arrived we got a name badge and a headset to set up so we could hear our guide throughout the tour.
Not long after that we were off! Even though we were in Disneyland, we actually were starting the tour in California Adventure so we walked across the way to that park.
The guide didn’t talk while we were walking (only when we stopped), but music would play through the headset during the transitions. It was always music that related to that part of the tour, so it was kind of fun to have something to move to.
The tour progresses chronologically through the history of the Disney company, starting (of course) with 1923. So it made a lot of sense to be in California Adventure for the beginning since the entrance to that area is themed around some of the 1920s and 1930s of Disney history.
We stopped in several spots here to talk about things like the start of the company, the history of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the invention of Mickey Mouse, the debut of Snow White, etc.
At this point we stopped for our Animation Experience (more on this below). Following this, we had a bathroom break and the opportunity to purchase water or snacks before heading on to Disneyland.
In Disneyland Park it only makes sense to hear about the beginnings of the theme park and Walt’s vision for that! As we walked through the entrance and under the plaque, our headsets had Walt’s opening day speech playing.
If you are familiar with the theme park history, you’ve probably heard a number of these stories before – how Disneyland’s opening day had way more people than they anticipated (counterfeit tickets were even a thing back then!), they were working to finish the park right up until opening time, that it was so hot and the asphalt hadn’t set yet, so women’s high heels sunk into the tar.
From here we went into the lobby of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, where we heard more about the development of the parks and then Walt’s death. Between our wonderful tour guide’s words and some of the clips played through our headset, I actually teared up quite a bit at this point.
Once recovered from that emotional moment we went back outside and through prat of Fantasyland, where our guide talked about some of the more recent events of the theme park, including how the company has incorporated outside properties.
This portion of the tour ended with a bit about what’s to come for the future – mentioning some of the planned rides and attractions, such as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Because as Walt said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Though the tour was over, our event wasn’t done – and I still want to tell you about the Animation Experience!
The Animation Experience is actually a visit to the Animation Academy, which is a permanent attraction in California Adventure that any theme park visitor can go to and participate in. They wanted to make it a little more special for the tour, so we went in the back entrance and had about 20 minutes with the artist before the drawing class began.
She went over the eras of Disney films, starting with the early films in the golden era, moving through the wartime films that were produced during WWII, and so on. She then did a small Q&A, though I’m not sure anyone in our group was really prepared with any great questions!
The regular group was then brought in to fill up the space, and we began our drawing class. If you haven’t done this experience before, they teach you how to draw a Disney character in about 20-25 minutes. There are many different characters you might be able to draw. Normally they display the characters for each time slot on a board outside, but the one that happens during the tour is a surprise.
She then announced we were drawing Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove, which was exciting for many reasons! My friend was thrilled because that is his favorite Disney movie, so it seemed perfect. I’ve drawn a number of characters before but this one was new to me so I liked that too.
While the actual drawing experience isn’t necessarily exclusive to the tour, it was a nice advantage to be able to sit in the front row. We stayed until everyone else had left, and then our guide collected our drawings so we didn’t have to carry them around.
And we had a nice little magical Disney moment – my friend was so excited about The Emperor’s New Groove and was talking to the artist afterward, telling her how much he really enjoyed the experience (side note, he was a little bit grumpy going into it because he kept saying he was bad at drawing and didn’t really want to do it). But he was amazed by it at the end! After their conversation she then gave him her drawing of Kuzco which really made his day.
Photos at the Castle
Another advertised highlight of this tour is the chance to take photos in front of the castle while it’s decked out for the Disney 100 celebration.
A photopass photographer comes to take photos of your group. For me this was actually kind of the biggest let-down of the tour. The photographer was decent, but I’ve had photopass cast members before who really went above and beyond to take some great shots. These were pretty typical castle photos.
You still have people in the background and all of that. If anything it actually felt like we had to wait longer than we would have just on our own at a different photopass stop by the castle, because our whole group needed to get their pictures taken (so you’re talking about maybe 10-12 families, and we ended up at the back of the line).
While we were waiting to take photos, special commemorative pins were given out. However they hadn’t brought enough with them for everyone so we didn’t receive ours at that point – they told us to ask about it when we came back later for the parade viewing.
We did learn while we were there that the castle was decorated with the 100th celebration colors, and that the imagineers had invented a new paint color for the occasion that shimmers in the sun (unfortunately we didn’t really have much sun during our trip!).
Reserved viewing for the Magic Happens Parade
Once your tour is over, you’re still not quite done – you’re invited to come back later for a special reserved viewing area of the Magic Happens Parade. While we were visiting, the parade occurred at 1:30pm.
This gives you a front row seat without having to wait around, and the area really does give you a fantastic view.
If you haven’t seen the Magic Happens parade, it’s really excellent. I’m iffy on parades (they’re not always my favorite and not usually something I’ll wait around for a really long time to see), but this was one of the best I’ve experienced.
Our spot was down on Main Street by the flag pole, and since the parade starts at the other end of the park we didn’t really need to get there early since we had plenty of time. Once we arrived they gave us our drawings back from the animation academy, as well as an exclusive cookie. Honestly, this cookie was more like a brownie! It was huge and chocolatey and delicious.
Before the parade arrived there was some great entertainment right there in front of us from the Disneyland Band, as well as Cruella de Vil. She was fantastic and so funny!
And then we were able to just watch the parade without any real obstruction from our reserved area. The took the ropes down right before the parade started and we had all gotten spots right by the curb so we were set to go. The parade is a lot of fun – be sure to look for Merlin, he really is the star of the show!
My personal Celebrating Disney 100 tour review
I’ve given some of my thoughts above, but tried to stick to more of a general overview for anyone interested in doing this tour – but now I’ll get into some of the nitty gritty of my personal thoughts and experiences with it.
I realize that I write a Disney blog and read a lot of books, but I also know there are other Disney fans like me so I think it’s worth mentioning that I already knew a lot of the information from this tour.
The approach to providing that information also modeled the Disney 100 Exhibition that we had seen in Philadelphia just a few months before. A lot of the information was the same and presented the same sort of way. This makes sense, but even my friend felt like he knew a lot of the information already just from visiting one Disney exhibit.
I did appreciate some of the facts and knowledge they provided about the parks themselves and how they related to the history of the Disney company, so I wish they had focused a little more on that. For example, as we entered California Adventure our tour guide pointed out that the bridge upon entering the park transports you from the 1920s to the 1930s, and you can see this in the subtle changes in theming and architecture. They also pointed out that there is a billboard in California Adventure with a train on it, and that train is supposed to represent the one that Walt took from his home in Kansas City to start his company in California.
There were a few facts that I thought were ones you don’t hear all that commonly, or things that were new to me. Some of these included:
- The multi-plane camera (which I have actually seen at the Disney Archives) was actually used to make Disney films up until The Little Mermaid.
- The last Disney attraction that Walt himself was able to dedicate to It’s a Small World, when it was brought to Disneyland in 1966
- We were told that Cinderella was Walt’s favorite film (though I’m not sure of the source of this information)
- Star Tours was the first attraction at Disney based on an outside property (though they had already collaborated with George Lucas to make Captain E.O.)
I was a little disappointed by the animation portion of the tour, because I didn’t think it was anything particularly special or unique. Anyone can attend Animation Academy and do a drawing class, and the time with the animator was pretty basic information. It was nice to have a front row seat though.
The parade viewing (not even part of the tour) was definitely worth it though! The location was fantastic. Another thing I really enjoyed was some of the little moments during the tour, when they played recordings and gave some info about Disney history while you were actually looking at it right in front of you. There were a few moments that were emotionally moving.
I don’t have any need to do a tour like this again, but I’m glad I did it once – particularly with a friend who needed to increase his Disney knowledge a bit!
FAQs about the Celebrating Disney100 Tour
Do you go behind the scenes in this tour?
No, every part of the tour is out in the public area, so you don’t have access to anything that you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. The one very slight exception to this is that when we went to the Animation Academy experience, they took us in through the exit doors which you wouldn’t normally be allowed to do.
Do you go on any attractions as part of this tour?
No, there are no rides with this tour. You do the animation academy drawing class, but otherwise the rest of the tour is walking and talking.
How does the Disney 100 Tour compare to other tours?
The only other tour I’ve done at Disneyland is Walking in Walt’s Footsteps, which has been replaced/renamed with the tour “Walt’s Main Street Story” (which is now half the time and more expensive than the original tour).
The main differences between Disney 100 and Walt’s Main Street Story:
- You get more theme park info during Walt’s, vs. more general Disney company history at Disney 100
- You visit Walt’s apartment during the Walt’s tour (no behind the scenes in Disney 100)
- Disney 100 is a bit longer
- Disney 100 has parade viewing and Walt’s does not
- Walt’s tour costs about $50 more
From what I know and my experience with the original Walt inspired tour, I think that unless you’re pretty new to the history of the Disney company, you’re better off doing Walt’s Main Street Story instead of Celebrating Disney 100. You get a more special, exclusive experience with Walt’s Main Street tour and the ability to go to Walt’s apartment. That being said, if parade viewing is really important to you then you might want to do Disney 100 instead.
Disneyland also has a holiday guided tour. The content of that one seems like a very different experience since it’s focused on the holidays and the seasonal transformation of the parks. It does also include reserved parade viewing and a ride on It’s a Small World.
What is the seating like for the parade viewing?
The parade viewing area is in a really excellent spot – you’re right in the middle of town square, towards the flag pole but directly across from the train station. There are no chairs set up, but there was a bench or two in the area and you could easily sit on the curb or ground as it wasn’t overly crowded. The Magic Happens parade is quite popular, so having this great viewing area that you don’t have to wait around for is a really nice bonus.
Do you get any exclusive items from this tour?
You get a name badge at the beginning of your tour. Then at the end of the tour you are given an exclusive Disney 100 pin with Mickey on it in front of the castle, and a large exclusive cookie.
Is the Celebrating Disney 100 Tour worth it?
Like anything, this will vary. It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want some sort of very in-depth history with little known facts and the chance to go behind the scenes, then you won’t really find it worth it. But if you want a general overview of Disney history along with some fun Disney activities like the animation class and the parade viewing, you’ll have a great time. For me personally, the parade viewing make it worth it but without that I don’t think I would have been pleased with the money I spent for the tour.
Have you done a guided tour at Disney? Would you be interested in doing the Celebrating Disney 100 tour?