Two days before the 24-hour kickoff party for the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, Disneyland hosted a merchandise event where people could pre-order certain items for the 60th Anniversary. Some things were exclusive, while others were offered as pre-sale to the big hullabaloo on May 22nd. You can view the complete catalog here: Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event catalog. The cost to attend was $100 per person.
Now, before I get into my full experience, many people might ask, “Why would someone pay money to spend even more money?” The answer would likely vary from those in attendance. Some folks are out to make a quick buck on eBay, while others were there as a once-in-a-lifetime spending spree. As for my wife and I, it was a matter of exclusivity, comfort, and convenience.
Anyone who’s attended a 24-hour event at Disneyland can tell you that it gets jampacked. Given that this particular occasion was to celebrate the 60th Anniversary, we anticipated the crowds would reach capacity quickly. As such, our goal was to get the things we wanted without having to wait in 1-hour+ lines.
Arrival and Registration
Registration for the Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event started at 7:00 am on May 20th. It was held at the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall. As Southern California residents, we opted to go a bit later to avoid traffic. This decision turned out to be a smart one as the drive was smooth all the way to the hotel.
Upon entering the Exhibit Hall at around 10:30 am, we were shown to the registration table. They had everything lined up and ready. The majority of attendees had arrived much earlier, so there was no waiting whatsoever. We were presented with a bag full of information, vouchers and some high quality swag as well.
The information packet contained all the particulars about the event including the itinerary, guidelines, silent auction process, and a list of newer merchandise not shown in the online catalog. We also received a lanyard with an event pass. This pass was absolutely stunning and attracted a lot of attention. My wife and I got second looks while walking around Disneyland during the three days of our stay.
There were also vouchers to obtain four different perks. The first was a PhotoPass to get a free commemorative picture. Second was a pin trading card, which you could use up to six times per guest. The third was for a treat, which was to be distributed the following day (May 21) at 1:30pm. Lastly was a voucher to obtain an “Exit Gift.” This was redeemed at the end of the final day after the “Dreamers and Doers” Panel Discussion at the Magic Kingdom Ballroom.
As for the swag, let me just say that the $100 we spent per person was easily worth the items we received. There were two gifts inside our bags: an exclusive pillow and Arribas Bros crystal paperweight. As of the date of this writing, the pillow was selling for $100 on average through eBay. The crystal had a starting bid price of $120. If my wife and I sold both, we could at least double our money.
Upon reading that they included a pillow, one might assume something cheap. This is not the case. The pillow is crafted really well and its front design emulates the first admission ticket to Disneyland. Flip it around to the back and it has Walt Disney’s famous quote: “To All Who Come To This Happy Place, Welcome!” As you can see by the pictures, the detail is outstanding and is absolutely perfect for any home.
The Arribas Bros crystal paperweight is a thing of beauty. This high quality piece is etched with Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the words “Disneyland Resort 60 Diamond Celebration” with the date of the event: May 20-21, 2015. In my opinion, this alone merited the price of admission.
One of the first things we did after registering was go to the event store. Some of the limited edition items had not sold out and there were other things available that we wanted to pick up for friends and family. Many people were in line, but nothing close to what we encountered on May 22nd. We saved a ton of time by buying stuff at the event store.
The merchandise pickup area for pre-sale items was smooth. We only waited about 10-minutes before having a cast member get our bags of goodies. Everything was packaged up nice and neat. The only issue was the inspection of certain high-dollar goods such as paintings and cels. This caused a slight delay, but wasn’t really a big deal.
A number of artists were on hand to sign their works. This group included Manuel Arribas, Tyler Dumas, Susan Foy, Dana & Melanie Harvey, Hiko Maeda, Tim O’Day, Cody Reynolds, Javier Soto, Kurt Raymond, Tim Rogerson, and Adam Throgmorton. As you can tell, there were a lot of artists missing. Nevertheless, it was nice that these people made time to autograph their respective pieces.
Pin Trading and Silent Auction
Event coordinators set up a pin trading area inside the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall. Dozens of tables were available so people could sit down and relax. It was also an opportunity to inspect your newly acquired merchandise. The décor was done up quite nicely. There were projections all around the room and in the back was an arrangement of vintage Disneyland ride vehicles.
Speaking of the rides, the display was quaint. The list of attractions being represented were Autopia, Space Mountain, Matterhorn, and a open truck from Main Street, USA. All in all, it was a nice touch.
As for the projections, a feeling of warmth came over me to see Disneyland icons all around the hall. The signature image was Sleeping Beauty Castle with fireworks. It was cool how they used higher intensity yellow lights to symbolize an explosion. Space Mountain, Mark Twain Riverboat, it’s a small world, Jungle Cruise, Tarzan’s Treehouse, and Star Tours were all depicted.
Each corner of the room had a pin trading station. Boards were displayed containing a variety of pins you could exchange up to six times using the aforementioned voucher. Some of the pins were really nice, while others were not so great. There were a number of Walt Disney World pins, which I didn’t expect or desire. In any case, the selection was good and they exchanged the boards at various intervals. This provided an opportunity to find something you really wanted.
In a surprisingly delightful twist, my wife and I discovered the boards each had an unique pin that came with a special gift. We had gone up to one and I noticed a design for the “Village Haus” restaurant. My wife selected it and the cast member told her that she chose the winner. This particular pin came with a commemorative box from Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary. We were very happy and made our experience much more memorable.
To the side of the trading area was a display of merchandise for the silent auction. A number of rare and unusual goods were on display. Unfortunately my camera was having issues and I do not have photographs. Nevertheless, the things on display included a complete set of Diamond Anniversary pins, unique Vinylmation dolls, leather purse, and other works of art. We didn’t bother placing any bids as the prices were geared towards the 1-percenters.
Disneyland Resort Ambassador Program Panel
Besides it being Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary, this year also marks the 50th Anniversary of the Disney Ambassador Program. To honor this unique occasion, they had a special Disneyland Resort Ambassador Program Panel at the event. Basically, it was a number of past and present Disneyland ambassadors who spoke about their experiences. Two current ambassadors played host and on the panel were seven former cast members who worked at the resort dating back to the 1960s. In fact, one of them (Connie Swanson) actually interacted with Walt Disney in person. Everyone had interesting tales to tell, but Connie had the most interesting stories because of Walt. I was able to shoot video, which you can watch below:
This panel discussion took place at the Magic Kingdom Ballroom. There were four opportunities to see it, which was convenient. Each of the ambassadors brought pieces of the past to display. It was like walking down memory lane. It was wonderful to see the uniforms, memorabilia, pictures, and other mementos showing how Disney spread its brand across the globe during the past five decades.
Like the pin trading area, the ballroom was illuminated with fabulous projections on the walls. It was really cool to see all the artwork of the Disneyland Ambassador Program. Each decade had its own individual style. The stage was nice, but pretty straight forward. Just nine director chairs, two tables, a blue curtain backdrop and a cutout in front.
“Disneyland Dreamers & Doers” Panel Discussion
The highlight of the merchandise event was the “Disneyland Dreamers & Doers” Panel Discussion. It took place toward the end of the second day at 5:30pm and lasted an hour. On stage were a number of Disney luminaries who shared their experiences working at the Happiest Place on Earth. The following is a list of people shown in the picture below (from left to right):
- Tom Morris (WDI, Imagineer)
- Stan Freese (Talent Booking and Talent Director, Disneyland)
- Marilyn Magness (Director Creative Entertainment)
- Tim O’Day (Moderator, Author)
- Kim Irvine (WDI, Art Director)
- Don Dorsey (Production Consultant)
- Shari Allen (Mickey Mouse Club, Mouseketeer)
- Bobby Burgess (Mickey Mouse Club, Mouseteer)
Before the discussion began, the Dapper Dans came out on stage and sang. This was a fun surprise for audience members, including myself. It was truly delightful to see them perform. In the video below, you can watch them go through a variety of musical numbers paying homage to Disneyland attractions. As you can tell by the reaction, everyone thoroughly enjoyed this spectacle.
Tim O’Day had moderated the panel discussion. He asked each person about their history working for Disney. I won’t go into detail of the whole affair, but here are a couple of questions posed: “What does Disneyland mean to you” and “What is your proudest moment?” To see video of them answering, you can check out the following clips from the Parks and Cons YouTube channel:
Once the “Disneyland Dreamers & Doers” Panel Discussion ended, the audience was greeted outside the Magic Kingdom Ballroom with their Exit Gift. The final voucher was exchanged for a bag containing a Mickey Balloon popcorn bucket. It was totally awesome to get one of the most highly sought after souvenirs of the Diamond Celebration. My wife received a red one and I got a blue bucket. This meant we only needed the purple version to complete the trifecta (which we purchased the following day).
So, was it worth it?
The answer to this question is completely subjective. Looking at it from an economic perspective, a price tag of $100 per person is rather steep. However, the swag alone can easily sell for double the amount on eBay if so desired (although we will be keeping ours). Plus, if you factor in all the pre-sale exclusive merchandise, a person could potentially make a handsome profit.
Furthermore, I’ve been to another merchandise event in the past (Mahaloween 2014) and wasn’t sure if it was worth the cost. Having said that, I firmly believe the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event was an absolute value by comparison. The two panels were both entertaining and informative. My wife and I had a great time at each. Moreover, we saved a ton of time by avoiding lines to purchase items at the 24-hour kickoff on May 22nd. There were only a few specific things we couldn’t get during the two days.
If someone were to ask whether or not to attend a merchandise event, I can only say that this one was well worth it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences and may it be helpful the next time you consider going in the future.