Did you know that from 1955 until 1990 both Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola were sold at Disneyland and Walt Disney World? Coca-Cola now dominates the Disney market being sold exclusively in the domestic parks, but Pepsi’s past sponsorship and presence had a huge impact on the creation of the Disney parks we know and love today.
While preparing Disneyland for opening day in 1955, a decision had to be made between constructing more restrooms or more water fountains. Plumbers had recently gone on strike limiting the manpower to build both in time for the park’s opening. Walt responded by simply saying, “People can buy Pepsi-Cola, but they can’t pee in the street.”
Before the 1964 World’s Fair, the Pepsi Board of Directors only trusted one man to create an attraction they felt would fit their brand, and that was Walt Disney. Walt and his team at WED Enterprises (now Disney Imagineering) created the now iconic “it’s a small world” attraction. Obviously, “it’s a small world” went on to be not only one the most popular pavilions at the World’s Fair but also one of the most beloved Disney parks attractions.
In 1967 Disneyland opened their private club, Club 33. Some have assumed the name Club 33 derived from the originally 33 sponsors of the park, one of which was Pepsi-Cola. Oddly enough another one of the 33 original sponsors was Coca-Cola.
There were 23 opening day attractions in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. One of them was the Country Bear Jamboree. Pepsi sponsored the attraction until 1981, and the script even featured a nod to the Pepsi slogan. Until 2012 just as the show was starting the Master of Ceremonies Henry said, “Just refrain from hibernating, and we’ll all enjoy the show. Because we got a lot to give.” It is believed that this line was in reference to Pepsi’s old slogan, “You’ve got a lot to live. Pepsi’s got a lot to give.” During Pepsi’s sponsorship, they even created a Country Bear Jamboree inspired drink cooler. Next door to the Country Bear Jamboree is Pecos Bill’s Café, which was also sponsored by Pepsi-Cola until 1981.
Pepsi aired multiple commercials in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. A quick search on YouTube brings up Pepsi commercials filmed inside Disneyland going back to the 1960s. For many people, Coca-Cola and Disney are now so closely associated with each other that this imagery is just bizarre.
Jumping forward to 2016 when Disneyland Shanghai opened. Many guests immediately noticed that the park sold Pepsi products exclusively, juxtaposing the other Disney parks around the world. While this really has no bearing on the domestic parks it was odd once again seeing the Disney brand next to the Pepsi logo, as it was something that hadn’t been seen in over 25 years.
While the domestic parks now exclusively sell Coca-Cola, the history between Disney and Pepsi remains intriguing. I personally prefer Coca-Cola products, but I hope you found the connection between Pepsi and Disney as fascinating as I did.