Writer’s note: Alt-Disney now concludes its special series marking this month’s 35th anniversary of the great Disneyland strike of 1984.
The Mouse House’s image needed a little refurbishment in the aftermath of the Disneyland strike of 1984. With cast members back to work in mid-October that year, the theme park’s 30th anniversary provided a timely opportunity to reboot.
In 1985, Disneyland’s iconic Harbor Boulevard sign dropped its “Happiest Place On Earth” slogan for a new one promising “The Best Is Yet to Come.”
To celebrate, a Gift Giver Extraordinaire Machine doled out free passports and Mickey and Minnie Mouse plush toys and wristwatches to the 30th, 300th and 30,000th park-goer at the main entrance gates. The truly lucky walked into Disneyland and came home with one of 400 brand-new cars given that year thanks to a partnership with General Motors.
On Feb. 18, 1985, a two-hour television special on NBC celebrated the Mouse House milestone with musical performances by Donna Summer, David Hasselhoff and the Pointer Sisters (feeling that ’80s nostalgia yet?). A TV-news reporter filed a story from the festivities and teased that construction on a new Tomorrowland attraction bringing George Lucas and Disneyland together would begin in September.
In other words, a year after 1,800 workers went out on strike.
But bitter resentments lingered inside the park. Workplace grievances against management soared. Borrowing from the exclusive, upscale Club 33 restaurant in New Orleans Square, cast members fashioned themselves “Club 22” for going the distance during the 22-day strike.
The settlement introduced a two-tier pay-and-benefits system that disadvantaged new hires and a two-year wage freeze for everyone else. “I think management wants you to come in, do two years and leave,” an anonymous worker told the Los Angeles Times. “It’ll give them a firmer grip over employees.”
Disneyland President Richard Nunis also hoped suppressing labor costs would allow for new attractions to solve another problem: sagging attendance numbers.
Star Tours debuted in 1987.