The 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:
- February 8 – Midnight Madness
- April 17 – The Watcher in the Woods
- June 25 – Herbie Goes Bananas
- June 25 – The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark
- December 12 – Popeye
As was custom at this time, Disney also re-released a number of classic movies to theaters in 1980:
- March 7 – Lady and the Tramp
- May 23 – Mary Poppins
- October 10 – Song of the South
- December 19 – The Aristocats
In February 1980, The Black Hole was nominated for two Oscars (Cinematography and Visual Effects).
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 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!