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Disney’s Not the Only One Celebrating 100 Years, But Not Everyone’s Willing to Throw a Party for the Others

hollywood sign
Credit: Canva

The Walt Disney Company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the celebrations that began in late 2022 are still going strong. But Disney’s not the only one celebrating a milestone birthday, as 2023 is a landmark year for other entities as well. But not everyone with cause for celebration feels like putting on their dancing shoes and partying the night away.

Disney logo graphic design celebrates 100 years with new details

Credit: Disney

Disney Turns 100

This is a banner year for Disney as the company celebrates 100 years of wonder, of magic, of imagination, of ingenuity. Disney is celebrating 100 years of wonder that began with the imagination inside the brilliant mind of the great visionary genius, Walter Elias Disney, when he was very young. Walt’s imaginative prowess and creative abilities would blend and lend themselves to the inception of The Walt Disney Company–first called Disney Bros. Studios–on October 16, 1923.

Celebrations began in late 2022 across the company, and the festivities haven’t stopped yet. There are even events planned well into 2024 that aim to celebrate Disney’s 100th anniversary, and as of the time of this post, there’s no word on any definitive cessation of the celebratory events.

walt disney animation studios classic shorts Mickey mouse disney plus disney100 mickey mouse minnie building a building

Credit: Disney

And we like that idea a lot.

Disney’s in Good Company

But Disney’s not the only entity celebrating 100 rotations around the sun since its inception. The year 2023 is a landmark year for others as well, including Warner Bros. Discovery, another entertainment giant incepted in 1923. Initially called Warner Brothers Classics of the Screen, Warner Bros., founded by four brothers–Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner–is a few months Disney’s elder, as it was incepted on April 4, 1923.

The Kraft Heinz Company began as Kraft Foods in December 1923 and as such, will celebrate its 100th anniversary at the end of the year. Owner and manufacturer of global brands like Heinz, Oscar Mayer, Maxwell House, and Philadelphia (as in cream cheese), Kraft Heinz has grown into one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies.

The Centenarian Icon

In addition to food companies and entertainment behemoths, a famous icon is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, but unlike Disney, not everyone is in a partying mood when it comes to this 100th, which makes sense because no one intended for it to last for a century.

In stark contrast to every facet of The Walt Disney Company’s offerings, this centenarian is devoid of glitter, pomp, and the associated circumstance. Simply stark white and standing 45 feet in height, the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles has served as a beacon for the city–a beacon that serves as one of the few constants in a world rife with continual change.

hollywood sign

Credit: Canva

Over the years, the sign has been refurbished, remade, rewritten, and virtually every other kind of “re” available. It’s quite unremarkable, plain, and lacking frills of any kind–against the backdrop of glamour and stardom. Yet it’s still the most photographed location in Los Angeles and one of the most recognizable icons in the world.

But what should be cause for celebration–the 100th anniversary of the construction of the sign–is mysteriously not in 2023. Los Angeles is often party central, but this year, the mood is somber, and the historic icon has gotten no fanfare. And it’s all because Los Angeles is feeling fairly sour.
100th birthday balloons

Credit: Canva

Per The Washington Post, Los Angeles is in a somewhat foul spirit of late, especially when it comes to things related to moviemaking, stars, actors, writers, and film. A majority of 2023 has been marred by strikes–first Hollywood writers, then Hollywood actors and writers, and now Hollywood actors. The end of the WGA strike in September didn’t seem to boost anyone’s mood either.
In addition to the solemn and frustrated mood related to the film industry, the focus of the city’s leadership has been on combatting homelessness in the city, and they’ve called on Los Angeles to play its part in the fight–namely with its resources. As such, picking up the tab on lavish celebrations for a stark white makeshift billboard of sorts seems a bit strange, sad, perhaps inappropriate.
An already in-place debate over whether the sign should be lit up as it once was has only been compounded by recent disagreements over how exactly Los Angeles could or should celebrate the icon.
hollywood sign

Credit: Canva

Therefore, the only celebratory event planned for the famed Hollywood sign was a small honor at best–a simple ceremony held on October 31, a day that council members proclaimed “Hollywood Sign Day.” Never mind that it’s already known to the entire population as “Halloween.”
According to those who know the sign and the area beneath it best, muted celebrations and a commemoration minus any related fanfare seem to continue a pattern wherein the sign and the city share a similar saga–one defined by–as the caretaker of the sign’s grounds puts it–“soaring ambition, crumbling decadence, and constant reinvention.”
How unfortunately, egregiously poetic.
“The Hollywood sign is important to the entire fabric of Los Angeles,” said Jeff Zarrinnam, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, which is responsible for the sign’s maintenance. “It is the symbol of Los Angeles, it is the symbol of California, it is the symbol of America. It is our Statue of Liberty.”

A Milestone Birthday. No Cake. No Presents.

There were plans for a grand celebration of the occasion. But those things had to be shelved.

“The sign’s backers had grand plans to celebrate its once-unexpected centennial: a gala, a film festival, a miniature model to be carted around the city,” says Reis Thebault with The Washington Post. “At the very least, they hoped to illuminate the sign once more. But most of those ideas have been tabled or delayed. The lighting issue, in particular, is a ‘political hot potato.'”

100th birthday cake faded

Credit: Canva

A political hot potato, as the suggestion of illuminating the icon–even six times a year–was the subject of wild debate, especially from those living in the city below the sign.

At the minimalistic ceremony at City Hall on Tuesday, Council member Nithya Raman made an official proclamation as citizens and fellow council members cheered and clapped. “The sign has been a defining feature of Los Angeles since before any of us here today were born, and to imagine our city without it is truly impossible,” Raman said.

champagne and hollywood sign

Credit: Canva

The proclamation was made quickly as it was scheduled between other, more pressing items on the council’s agenda. The only semblance of fanfare in the council chambers was a cake with pink frosting and the number “100” affixed to the top of it.

And even the tiny ceremony could avoid being overshadowed by current events, as Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Council president, noted in his own version of a tribute to the sign, saying:

“Let’s hope that we’re all celebrating Hollywood Sign Day today by urging all of our friends in labor and management to continue to negotiate and get this deal done,” referring to the ongoing Hollywood actor strikes.

Sag-aftra national day of solidarity wga strike

Credit: Facebook/SAG-AFTRA

Quite a different commemoration for the landmark than the one enjoyed by every part of The Walt Disney Company. Perhaps year 200 will be more fitting.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!