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As The Walt Disney Family Museum unveils its new exhibit, All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains, we look back at some rarely seen photos and a very special moment in Disney train history.

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On May 10, 2005, at 7 a.m., a ceremony took place before Disneyland opened for the day. On the occasion of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, about 100 people gathered at the New Orleans Square Station of the Disneyland Railroad to honor animator and Disney Legend Ollie Johnston, one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, for how he inspired Walt Disney with his love of trains. Ollie inspired Walt to build his backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Walt’s love of giving people rides on this little steam train in his backyard eventually led to the building of Disneyland.

After the speeches that early May morning, Ollie was presented with a plaque from the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Then everyone heard a toot of a steam whistle and up pulled a gleaming steam train. Ollie at first thought it was a Disneyland engine, then his son Ken leaned down and said, “Dad, that is your engine.” Ollie then realized it was his beloved Marie E. and he started to cry. And then so did everyone else.

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I then told Ollie that the Marie E. needed a real engineer to drive it around Disneyland and asked if he would like to do it. “Boy, would I!!” was his answer. He climbed up into the cab of the Marie E. with the help of the amazing Disneyland Railroad crew and they strapped him in with seatbelts borrowed from one of the old Matterhorn bobsleds.

At 94 years old, Ollie expertly engineered his Marie E. — the only outside train ever run on the rails of Disneyland — three times around Disneyland to the cheers of everyone there.

It was said that of all of the year-long events celebrating Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, the morning of May 10 was by far the most special.

- John Lasseter

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This memory told by John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, recalls a very special moment in Disney train history. It’s one of many train tales being celebrated in All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains, a new exhibit at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, Calif. On view through February 9, 2015, this comprehensive exhibition explores the influence that railroading had on Walt Disney’s life and work. It also tells the story of how his railroading legacy lives on to this day in Disney films and theme parks around the world.

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The arc of this exhibition doesn’t start and end with just Walt, though. All Aboard explores the interest and passion for railroading of Walt’s friends and staff, including Ollie Johnston. The Disney Legend was able to make his Disney railroad dreams come true at Disneyland before he passed away in 2008.

A Celebration of Disney Trains at the Walt Disney Family Museum by Jeffrey Epstein: Originally posted on the Disney Parks Blog

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I’m happy to report that earlier this week, two prestigious organizations honored Disney Parks projects with multiple industry awards.

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On Tuesday, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) announced their annual Thea Award winners. Among the honorees, TEA announced that “it’s a small world” at Disneyland Park, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, is the recipient of the Thea Classic award, honoring attractions that have withstood the test of time and have endured for 20 or more years. TEA said in their announcement that the attraction “continues to captivate audiences around the world with pure charm, melded with a profound message deceptively hiding in a simple and astonishingly catchy song … This timeless classic continues to engage generation after generation. Surely “it’s a small world” is the very definition of a Classic.”

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Also, Bistrot Chez Remy, the new French restaurant at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris that is inspired by the Disney?Pixar film “Ratatouille,” is the winner of the Award for Outstanding Achievement – Themed Restaurant. “It is a truly charming and thematically thorough dining experience, where oversized objects are reused in every possible way to create tables, chairs, architectural elements, and props … [E]verything is very well-conceived and delivered to create an illusion that is both convincing and coyly self-aware. The exterior of the attraction looks like a typical Parisian café, but on closer inspection, one realizes that this is the world of Paris from the film, where there are no straight lines – a perfect blend of fiction and reality. This venue exhibits thoroughness, conceptual clarity, dedication to narrative detail, and exceptional finish.”

Wilderness Explorers Opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Finally, Wilderness Explorers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, an interactive experience that combines badge collecting, guest interaction and learning about the natural world, is the winner of the Award for Outstanding Achievement – Interactive Park Attraction on a Limited Budget.

“Disney has incorporated storytelling and gaming to create an experience that is intimate and personal in its connection to the guests, yet wisely recognizes that technology would be a distraction and remove guests from nature. Guests are given a role in the story – becoming a Wilderness Explorer – that was a poignant, aspirational story of a core identifiable character from the Pixar film. This intersection point between film story world, live animals and the beautiful habitats within Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a huge part of why this attraction is effective … This unique attraction is worthy of honors as much for its craft as for the authenticity and cleverness of implementation within a unique park environment.”

TEA is an international non-profit association representing the world’s leading creators, developers, designers and producers of compelling places and experiences. Thea Awards will be given out at an awards ceremony at the Disneyland Hotel on March 21, 2015.

On Wednesday night, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Associations (IAAPA) awarded their Brass Rings Awards for Live Entertainment Excellence and “Once Upon a Time” at Tokyo Disney Resort won for Best Multimedia Spectacular.

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IAAPA is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities and attractions, and is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the attractions industry. The IAAPA Brass Ring Awards mark achievements of excellence throughout the global attractions industry.

Congratulations to all who worked to create and bring these wonderful projects to life!

Disney Parks Honored with Several Industry Awards by Thomas Smith: Originally posted on the Disney Parks Blog

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