All the way back in 2015 — which seems like a lifetime ago — Disneyland celebrated its 60th Anniversary. The celebration began in May 2015 and ran all the way through September 2016. To celebrate The Happiest Place on Earth, The Walt Disney Company announced a new initiative to reward local Anaheim kids who gave back to their community. The program was called the “Happiest Class on Earth” program and was supposed to last 10 years.
However, Disney has decided to backtrack on the 10-year plan and ended the program, effective immediately.
The “Happiest Class on Earth” program gave Anaheim sixth graders who did charity work a ticket to Disneyland. The program has been incredibly popular since it began. According to Disney Public Relations:
Since 2016, more than 13,000 sixth graders at 51 Anaheim elementary schools have given back to their schools and local communities through this program and have been invited to celebrate their achievements at the Disneyland Resort. Last year, Anaheim students raised over $24,500 to support various causes, collected 3,379 pounds and over 4,000 cans and boxes of food items, put together 1,792 toiletry items for local people in need, collected 288 bags of waste from 22 park cleanups, and donated over 6,900 articles of clothing and blankets, just to name a few of their outstanding efforts!
Many school officials were incredibly disappointed to hear that Disney had backed down from its 10-year commitment to the “Happiest Class on Earth” program. In a report from The Orange County Register:
Anaheim educators said they are grateful for all those donations and services, but would have liked Disney to keep its 10-year promise to Anaheim’s sixth-graders.
“This was such a big promotional campaign by Disneyland. All the kids knew about it. And we appreciate we got the chance for some students,” said Frank Donavan, superintendent of the Magnolia School District, which has nine schools in Anaheim, including Walt Disney Elementary.
“But it’s unfortunate they didn’t at least phase it out,” he said. “They are not keeping their commitment.”
While many of the kids who participate in the program live extremely close to Disneyland, many cannot afford to go to the theme park, with the prices being as high as they are. But as with many decisions Disney has made recently, the company is citing the pandemic as the reason for ending the program. Per The OC Register:
A Disneyland Resort official called it a business decision following the year-long COVID19-related closure of Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks. “As a result of the pandemic, we had to make many difficult decisions related to our business and unfortunately ending this program was one of them.”
Disney had a similar program in place for a long time at Walt Disney Elementary in Anaheim — named after Walt himself after he visited the school –, but that program was folded into the “Happiest Class on Earth” program and is also ending.
Disney Officials have said that they will launch more free-ticket and charity programs in the future, but they have not given any details on what those programs will be or when they will start.
Are you sad to see Disney end a program that positively affected so many young children? Let us know in the comments!