Disney in 1980 | Everything that Happened

Last Updated on: February 18th, 2024

Disney 1980 Movies ShowsThe Walt Disney Company has a rich and lengthy history with decades of amazing movies, shows and park experiences. To commemorate Disney’s 100th birthday this year, I am spotlighting the company’s history year by year in this new ‘Disney by the Years’ series.

Here is a quick rundown of everything that happened in the world of Disney in the year 1980. I hope you find this lookback in time helpful and entertaining.

Disney 1980 Company Headlines:

1980 marked a notable change at the top of Walt Disney Productions. In June, Donn Tatum retired as Chairman and CEO of the company and longtime executive Card Walker was named Chairman. Walker subsequently named Walt Disney’s son-in-law, Ron Miller, President and COO.

Disney 1980 Movies Headlines:

In 1980, Disney released several movies, including:

As was custom at this time, Disney also re-released a number of classic movies to theaters in 1980:

In February 1980, The Black Hole was nominated for two Oscars (Cinematography and Visual Effects).

October 1980 was the first time Disney released movies on videocassette. Among the first batch of releases are: The Black Hole, Mary Poppins, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Pete’s Dragon.

Also notable in 1980 was the movie rights purchase and early development of the movie TRON, which required significantly more up-front work and buy-in due to the groundbreaking nature of the movie.

Finally, new Disney President and COO Ron Miller made a very under-the-radar move in 1980, that would pay off big time at the conclusion of the decade. He purchased the movie rights to a book titled Who Censored Roger Rabbit, which obviously would become the blockbuster hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988.

Disney 1980 Parks Headlines:

Disneyland Headlines:

  • Disneyland celebrated the resort’s 25th anniversary in July. 
  • Also, in 1980, the first Make-a-Wish trip to Disneyland was granted.

Disney World Headlines:

  • Development of EPCOT Center was full steam ahead in 1980 with the park’s open in just two years. One of the more notable EPCOT headlines in 1980 was landing Eastman Kodak as the official sponsor of the Imagination Pavilion.
  • In February, the beloved Fort Wilderness Railroad officially closed. The attraction hadn’t operated on a full time basis for years for safety and maintenance reasons, but in 1980, Disney decided to permanently pull the plug.
  • The popular audio-animatronic show Mickey Mouse Musical Revue closed in the Magic Kingdom in September. It was packed up and shipped to the new Tokyo Disneyland resort and was eventually replaced by Magic Journeys later in the 1980’s.
  • Finally, in November, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened in Magic Kingdom. This was a slightly-modified version of the popular ride that debuted in Disneyland a year earlier.

That’s all for 1980. Stay tuned for in-depth looks at additional years in the very near future!

About the Author

Craig Smith
I am founder and editor of DisneyNews.us. My passion for all things Disney goes pretty far back to my first trip to Walt Disney World in the mid-80's. I have since returned to the magical place more than 20 times. I started this site when I came to the realization that I spent a significant portion of my day reading articles about Disney and watching Disney content with my 8-year old, so it made sense that I would start sharing some of what I read and see and building a little community around it. Other interests include 80's nostalgia, vintage toys, video games, LEGO, Star Wars and tech gadgets. Other sites include DMR and VideoGamesStats.com.