A MAN AND HIS DREAM
“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” — Walter E. Disney, July 17, 1955.
In this crazy times we need more men like Walt to teaching us how to dream again…
The concept for Disneyland began when Walt Disney was visiting Griffith Park in Los Angeles with his daughters Diane and Sharon. While watching them ride the merry-go-round, he came up with the idea of a place where adults and their children could go and have fun together, though his dream lay dormant for many years.
While people wrote letters to Disney about visiting the Disney Studio, he realized that a functional movie studio had little to offer to visiting fans, and began to foster ideas of building a site near the Burbank studios for tourists to visit. His ideas evolved to a small play park with a boat ride and other themed areas. The initial concept, the Mickey Mouse Park, started with an 8-acre plot across Riverside Drive. He started to visit other parks for inspiration and ideas. His designers began working on concepts, though the project grew much larger than the land could hold. With the report, Disney acquired 160 acres of orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim, southeast of Los Angeles in neighboring Orange County.
Difficulties in obtaining funding prompted Disney to investigate new methods of fundraising, deciding to create a show named Disneyland. It was broadcasted on then-fledgling ABC. In return, the network agreed to help finance the park. For its first five years of operation, Disneyland was owned by Disneyland, Inc., which was jointly owned by Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney, Western Publishing and ABC. In addition, Disney rented out many of the shops on Main Street, U.S.A. to outside companies. By 1960, Walt Disney Productions bought out all other shares, a partnership which would eventually lead to the Walt Disney Corporation’s acquisition of ABC in the mid-1990s. In 1952, the proposed project had been called Disneylandia, but Disney followed ABC’s advice and changed it to Disneyland two years later, when excavation of the site began.Construction began on July 16, 1954 and cost $17 million to complete. The park was opened one year and one day later. U.S. Route 101 (later Interstate 5) was under construction at the same time just north of the site; in preparation for the traffic Disneyland was expected to bring, two more lanes were added to the freeway before the park was finished.
Disneyland was dedicated at an “International Press Preview” event held on Sunday, July 17, 1955, which was only open to invited guests and the media. Although 28,000 people attended the event, only about half of those were actual invitees, the rest having purchased counterfeit tickets. The following day, it opened to the public, featuring twenty attractions.
The temperature was an unusually high 101 °F (38 °C), and because of a local plumbers’ strike, Disney was given a choice of having working drinking fountains or running toilets. He chose the latter, leaving many drinking fountains dry. This generated negative publicity since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening; disappointed guests believed the inoperable fountains were a cynical way to sell soda, while other vendors ran out of food. The asphalt that had been poured that morning was soft enough to let ladies’ high-heeled shoes sink into it. A gas leak in Fantasyland caused Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland to close for the afternoon. Some parents threw their children over the crowd’s shoulders to get them onto rides, such as the King Arthur Carrousel. In later years, Disney and his 1955 executives referred to July 17, 1955 as “Black Sunday”.
After the extremely negative press from the preview opening, Walt Disney invited attendees back for a private “second day” to experience Disneyland properly.
Disneyland Park consists of eight themed “lands” and a number of concealed backstage areas, and occupies approximately 85 acres. The park opened with Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland, and has since added New Orleans Square in 1966, Bear Country (later Critter Country) in 1972, and Mickey’s Toontown in 1993. In 1957, Holidayland, opened to the public with a 9 acres recreation area including a circus and baseball diamond, but was closed in late 1961. It is often referred to as the “lost” land of Disneyland. Throughout the park are ‘Hidden Mickeys’, representations of Mickey Mouse heads inserted subtly into the design of attractions and environmental decor. An elevated berm supports a narrow gauge railroad that circumnavigates the park.
Even dreams can be built
Disneyland was not supposed to have happened. Walt Disney was in charge of the creative side at the Disney Bro’s Studios, but his brother Roy E. Disney was in charge of the money. When Walt explained his vision for Disneyland, Roy said there was no way to fund it and no way to make their money back. Neither brother would back down – because the studio owned the trademark to the name “Walt Disney”, Roy even threatened to sue Walt’s ass if he formed a division or company in his own name to build the park. Walt didn’t take that and privately founded WED Enterprises (Walt’s initials) under his own name, not the studios.
He hired animators and engineers from the studio (paying their wages out of his pocket) to work on the side at WED, but still had no funding. Eventually, Walt was able to convince large companies to pay for some rides that were to be displayed at big technology fairs of the day. Walt then shipped the attractions back to California and began to piece together his park over a dusty orange grove, in a forgotten SoCal city. Only after companies like Pepsi and GM funded the attractions, did the studio come on board – eventually turning WED enterprises into Disney Imagineering.
Thank you Walt, for never believing others’ disbelief.
The train station stands alone at the parks main entrance location which will become Main Street U.S.A.The men and cars are in the future main parking lot.The Mickey Mouse flower garden is directly in front of the men.
Marc Davis, Walt, and Blaine Gibson looking at one of the first audio-animatronic characters for the new Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in July 1966. Walt had asked Marc, one of the “Nine Old Men” master animators from the studio and Blaine, an animator-turned-sculptor, to become Imagineers and continue doing what they had done before – animating characters – but now in three dimensions. Pirates of the Caribbean, which Davis had dubbed “the wildest crew that ever sacked the Spanish Main”, opened in February 1967 at Disneyland, but sadly Walt did not live to see it. He died in December, just five months after this photo was taken.