This Week in Disney History: May 17-23, 2020

There’s always a great, big, beautiful tomorrow at The Walt Disney Company, because every day is tied to a milestone in the heritage and rich history of a company that has been entertaining millions of people every year. Published every week, this interesting series features highlights from all the divisions of The Walt Disney Company. Let's see what happened this week:


May 20, 1973 - Tom Sawyer Island and the Liberty Belle debut at Magic Kingdom Park
Who’s ready for adventure? Board a log raft and head for the island in the middle of the Rivers of America, where the young rapscallion from Mark Twain’s novels inspired a fun-filled Frontierland hideaway. Dirt trails and rustic bridges lead to landmarks like the stalagmite-filled caverns of Injun Joe’s Cave, the giant waterwheel of Harper’s Mill, and Fort Langhorn, an early frontier settlement.

Circumnavigating the island is the Liberty Square Riverboat, an authentic recreation of a 19th century sternwheeler like the ones that paddled down the Mississippi River. Originally named for Richard F. Irvine, a Disney designer and executive, the ship stands 47 feet tall and has 4 decks for Guests to explore, plus take in picture-perfect views of Tom Sawyer Island, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain.

It opened as Magic Kingdom Park’s second riverboat after the “Admiral” Joe Fowler debuted in 1971, and the two ships sailed the Rivers of America simultaneously until 1980. After an extensive 1996 refurbishment, the Richard F. Irvine was renamed the Liberty Belle.

Also this week in Disney history:

May 17
1964 - “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair” debuts on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color
1991 - Disney’s Port Orleans Resort opens at Walt Disney World
1991 - Touchstone Pictures releases “What About Bob?”
2004 - Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa opens at Walt Disney World

May 18
1951 - “Plutopia” (Pluto cartoon short) debuts
1995 - Disney acquires a 25 percent interest in the California Angels baseball club
2003 - Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” premieres at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles
2009 - Wayne Allwine, Disney Legend and voice of Mickey Mouse, dies at age 62

May 19
1934 - “Gulliver Mickey” (Mickey Mouse cartoon short) debuts
1960 - “Pollyanna,” Hayley Mills’ first film for the Walt Disney Studios, is released
1971 - Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes open at Disneyland Park
1984 - Pvt. Donald Duck received an Honorable Discharge from the United States Army (after being drafted in a 1942 short)
2000 - Walt Disney Pictures releases “Dinosaur”
2007 - The world premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is held at Disneyland Park

May 20
1973 - The Plaza Swan Boats open at Magic Kingdom Park
1996 - Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf opens at the Walt Disney World Resort
2011 - Star Tours - The Adventures Continue opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

May 21
1948 - The animated short “Donald’s Dream Voice” debuts
2001 - The world premiere of Touchstone Pictures’ “Pearl Harbor” is held in Hawaii

May 22
1998 - DisneyQuest soft opens to guests in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World
1998 - Rocket Rods, “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” Astro Orbitor and Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port open as part of a renovated Tomorrowland at Disneyland Park

May 23
1922 - Walt Disney incorporates Laugh-O-Gram Films, his first cartoon company in Kansas City
1983 - A renovated Fantasyland opens at Disneyland Park, including the new attraction Pinnochio’s Daring Journey
1997 - Light Magic debuts at Disneyland Park
2001 - The Magic Carpets of Aladdin opens at Magic Kingdom Park
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