The year was 1987. Ronald Regan was the current President of the United States. Big bangs and bleach spotted jeans were in. Michael Eisner signed an agreement with the President of France to construct Disneyland Paris. And 25 days into the new year, the New York Giants beat the Denver Broncos in a 37-20 victory at the Rose Bowl in Southern California. Thus began a tradition that brings Disney fans joy every time we hear it.
“When you wish upon a star” plays in the background. As we fade into the shot, we see Phil Simms, the Giants’ winning quarterback, and the announcer asks the question, “You just won the Super Bowl. What are you going to do next?” Phil’s response: “I’m going to go to Disney World!”
How did this all get started? Well, we can all thank Jane Eisner, wife of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, for the coining of the phrase. In January of 1987, the Eisners attended the grand opening of Star Tours at Disneyland. They were seated at dinner with Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who the previous month had piloted the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or refueling. Jane soon asked the pilots what they had planned next. Their response was simple. “Well, we’re going to Disneyland.” After telling her husband of the phrase, which she believed would be a great advertising campaign, it took only a few weeks to get Simms to agree to star in their newest ad. Simms was reportedly paid $75, 000 for his appearance.
Since that year, dozens of stars have used the phrase to finalize their victories. American Idol winner David Cook proclaimed it to the world after America voted him the Season 7 winner. Bruce Springsteen ended his Super Bowl XLIII halftime show with it. After breaking the Major League Baseball homerun record, Barry Bonds announced that he, too, was going to Disney World. It was even declared by Will Smith on an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” after winning his first basketball game.
This year, the world watched as the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV. At the conclusion of the game, Disney fans waited on the edge of their seats for the coveted phrase. Aaron Rodgers delivered it successfully just as he had successfully delivered the football most of the evening.
In true Disney fashion, it is a campaign that has stood the test of time. From famous celebrities at the peak of their career to kids in a neighborhood pick up game, “I’m going to Disney World!” is an exclamation that will never get old.