Today I found out how the “I’m going to Disneyland/Disney World” saying got started.
In January of 1987, CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, and his wife were having dinner with Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager. Rutan and Yeager had just recently become the first to fly an aircraft around the world without re-fueling or stopping. At a certain point in the dinner, Eisner’s wife, Jane, asked Rutan and Yeager what they were going to do now that they’d achieved this momentous milestone. The response she got was, “Well, we’re going to Disneyland.”
Jane Eisner thought this would make a great slogan in an advertising campaign and suggested it to her husband, Michael. Michael Eisner liked it and decided that Disney would use this slogan in a commercial following Super Bowl XXI, in 1987 in which the New York Giants defeated the Denver Broncos 39-20.
The athlete they got to star in this commercial was the quarterback for the Giants, Phil Simms. During the game, Simms completed one of the better performances by a quarterback in Super Bowl history, going 22 for 25 in pass completions for a total of 268 yards. Even more remarkable was the fact that two of the three incomplete passes were good throws, dropped by the receivers. He also set the record for most consecutive pass completions in a Super Bowl game. For this outstanding performance, Simms was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXI and offered $75,000 by Disney to appear in their commercial, with his part filmed directly after the game. During this, he was to say “I’m gonna go to Disney World!” with alternate takes having him say “Disneyland” instead of “Disney World”.
Disney then followed this up with making three more such commercials in 1987, following other major sporting championships. These included hiring: yachtsman Dennis Conner, after winning the America’s Cup; NBA star Magic Johnson, after the Lakers won the NBA Finals, and MLB player Frank Viola, after the Twins won the World Series that year.
For the record, many of the athletes and others who have uttered those words for Disney really do go to Disneyland or Disney World shortly after doing the ad spot. Disney gives them an “MVP” all-expense paid trip, flying them on a private jet to Disneyland or Disney World and then puts their family up in a suite for the duration of their vacation. They also are made the Grand Marshall of a parade and take part in various events for Disney during their stay.
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- In 1988, Gretchen Carlson became the first non-sporting champion to be hired to say this now famous advertising phrase, after she won the 1988 Miss America contest.
- Before being the first to fly a plane around the world non-stop and without re-fueling, Dick Rutan was an Air Force lieutenant during the Vietnam War. He completed over 325 combat missions, which was among the most flown by anyone during the Vietnam War. During his service, he was awarded five Distinguished Flying Crosses, sixteen Air Medals, a Silver Star, and a Purple Heart.
- The original design for the Voyager, the aircraft they designed to fly non-stop around the globe, was first drawn on a napkin by Dick’s brother Burt, during a lunch meeting in which they discussed designing a plane to fly around the globe non-stop.
- The previous record for longest non-stop flight without re-fueling was 12,532 miles. Rutan and Yeager shattered that record, flying their craft 24,986 miles. The flight took 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds. When they landed, they had only a 1% of the original fuel remaining. During their flight, they maintained an altitude of around 11,000 feet and speed of around 116 miles per hour. For taking off, they used a 15,000 foot runway and needed 14,200 of those feet.
- The Voyager’s record was later broken by the GlobalFlyer in 2006, which went 25,766 miles in just 76 hours and 45 minutes.
- Among the awards Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan were given for their achievement was a Presidential Citizens Medal, a Harmon Trophy, the FAI De la Vaulx Medal, a Longstreth Medal, and a Collier Trophy.
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