One day Walt Disney had a vision. It was a vision of a place where children and parents could have fun together. The more Walt dreamed of a “magical park,” the more imaginative and elaborate it became.
As Walt Disney sat at a bench, at an amusement park, watching his daughters play, he noticed how ragged and filthy the small amusement park was. He also observed people’s reactions to different rides, and noticed how children’s parents had nothing to do. They would be anxious to go home, while their children were still having fun, and playing.
This is where Walt was conjuring, and planning a new type of amusement park; one that would be clean, and would have attractions for parents and children together. This was Walt Disney’s idea, which eventually turned to be Disneyland.
Walt once said:
“What this country really needs is an amusement park that families can take their children to. They’ve gotten so honky tonk with a lot of questionable characters running around, and they’re not to safe. They’re not well kept. I want to have a place that’s as clean as anything could ever be, and all the people in it [his park] are first-class citizens, and treated like guests.”
Years before Disneyland was constructed, Walt was thinking, generating, and creating everything in his mind. He traveled the United States, and visited buildings of Americas most prolific inventors and creators, such as Thomas Edison’s Workshop, the Wright Brothers Bicycle shop, and the home of the Dictionary magnate Noah Webster. While visiting these places, he was formulating and dreaming of a “Mickey Mouse Park” with a western village, Main Street, and more, these ideas would eventually form Disneyland.
On the opening day of Disneyland, Walt stood in his apartment, above the fire station on Main Street, and looked out the window to see the crowds pour through the gates.
Sharon Baird, a mouseketeer, said this:
I was standing next to him at the window, watching the guests come through the gates. When I looked up at him, he had his hands behind his back, a grin from ear to ear, and I could see a lump in his throat and a tear streaming down his cheek. He had realized his dream.
Right after Disneyland opened, Walt said: “We’re gonna kick ourselves for not buying everything within a radius of ten miles around here.” He could visualize the growth around Disneyland.
Walt would often visit Disneyland a few times a week. Although, many times he would visit late at night, when no one was there. Often times he would spend the night in his apartment in the fire station, on Main Street. When he came before the park opened, he would make sure the park was clean, and talk with the cast members.
Walt always wanted to know everything that was going on in the park. He knew about everything. He knew where water pipes were, how tall buildings were, he knew how the park ticked.
One time Walt visited the park, and noticed things were a little sloppy. He found the maintenance engineer of the park, and told him “I want this place painted”. The engineer agreed, and said “We’ll do it over the weekend.” “No, I want it finished a painted by morning,” ordered Walt. Dozens of painting crews painted through the night, and finished before the park opened.
Even though Walt Disney wasn’t able to see how his park prospered and grew into the 21st Century, his legacy still lives on with us. Throughout Disneyland and throughout the entire world, he will always be there.
The original plans for the park were on 8 acres next to the Burbank studios where his employees and families could go to relax. Although, World War II put those plans on hold. During the war, Walt had time to come up with new ideas, and creations for his magical park. It was soon clear that 8 acres wouldn’t be enough.
Although, Disneyland was expensive. Walt once said “I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral.” So Walt turned to Television for his financial support. “Walt Disney’s Disneyland” television series offered a glimpse of the future project. This brought the idea of Disneyland into reality for Walt and the American people.
Construction for Disneyland began on July 21, 1954, a meager 12 months before the park was scheduled to open. From that day forward Walt Disney’s life would never be the same.
Some 160-acres of citrus trees had been cleared and 15 houses moved to make room for the park. The area was in semi-rural Orange County, near a freeway that would eventually stretch from San Diego to Vancouver.
When the real designing came around, Walt was met with inevitable questions. How do you make believable wild animals, that aren’t real? How do you make a Mississippi paddle ship? How do you go about building a huge castle in the middle of Anaheim, California? So, Walt Disney looked to his movie studio staff for the answers. The design of Disneyland was something never done before. There would be five uniquely different lands.
Walt had planed out all the lands, to every detail. Main Street, U.S.A., the very front of the park, was where Walt wanted to relive the typical turn of the century city Main Street. He said:
“For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of grandfather’s youth.”
Walt made Main Street U.S.A the entrance to a “weenie,” as he called it. He said:
“What you need is a weenie, which says to people ‘come this way.’ People won’t go down a long corridor unless there’s something promising at the end. You have to have something the beckons them to ‘walk this way.’”
Walt also had planed for an “exotic tropical place” in a “far-off region of the world.” Called Adventureland. Walt said, “To create a land that would make this dream reality, we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa.”
Frontierland was made to relive the pioneer days of the American frontier. Walt said:
“All of us have a cause to be proud of our country’s history, shaped by the pioneering spirit of our forefathers. . .Our adventures are designed to give you the feeling of having lived, even for a short while, during our country’s pioneer days.”
Fantasyland was created with the goal to “make dreams come true” from the lyrics of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Walt said:
“What youngster. . .has not dreamed of flying with Peter Pan over moonlit London, or tumbling into Alice’s nonsensical Wonderland? In Fantasyland, these classic stories of everyone’s youth have become realities for youngsters-of all ages-to participate in.”
Fantasyland would feature a large Sleeping Beauty Castle, and a Fantasy Village.
Tomorrowland was created as a look at the “marvels of the future.” Walt said:
“Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. . .The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.”
Although, Walt had trouble working on Tommorrowland. He said that “right when we do Tommorrowland, it will be out dated.”
Walt Stayed close to every detail of the Park’s Construction, and he visited the site in Anaheim several times a week. Progress went sporadically despite exasperating obstacles.
The Rivers of America, carved out of sandy citrus grove soil, refused to hold water. The answer was finally found in a bed of native clay: an inch layer on the river bottom formed a pad as hard as cement. Although, minor set backs did follow, progress did continue.
Plants were planted throughout the park, emptying nurseries from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Detail was made; if Walt Disney didn’t like what his studio designers came up with, he’d do it himself. An example of this is Tom Sawyers Island. He thought his designers had “misunderstood the idea” so Walt took home the plans and the next day had it designed the way it appears today.
Bit by bit, Disneyland got ready for Opening Day. The staff worked around the clock to get ready. The Mark Twain was being moved, deck by deck, down the Santa Ana freeway to get to Disneyland on time. Finally, everything seemed to come together. The “magical little park” was really a $17,000,000 “Magic Kingdom.” Walt’s dream had come true and Disneyland was ready to open.”
Opening day, was a day to remember. Six thousand invitations to the Grand Opening had been mailed. By mid-afternoon over 28,000 ticket holders were storming the Magic Kingdom. Most of the tickets were counterfeit.
Walt Disney was 53 when he dedicated Disneyland Park. It was a memorable ceremony. There in Town Square, Walt could look around and see the fulfillment of his hopes, dreams, and ambitions in the form of a spectacular entertainment kingdom.
Although, Opening Day was a terrible disaster. A 15 day heat wave raised temperatures up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, due to a plumbers strike, few water fountains were operating in the hot weather. Asphalt still steaming, because it had been laid the night before, literality “trapping” high heeled shoes. After opening day, the heat wave continued, and almost wiped out the park.
Beside the terrible opening day conditions, the park did eventually pick up. By 1965, ten years after opening day, 50 Million visitors had come through the gates.
Here is the original broadcast of opening day on youtube.
Even though Walt Disney wasn’t able to see how his park and his company prospered and grew into the 21st Century, his legacy still lives on with us. Throughout Disneyland and throughout the entire world, he will always be there.
Back in 1953, he had the Stanford Research Institute conduct a survey for a 100-acre site, outside of Los Angeles. He needed space to build rivers, waterfalls, and mountains; he would have flying elephants and giant teacups;a fairy-tale castle, moon rockets, and a scenic railway; all inside a magic kingdom he called “Disneyland.”
Location was a top priority. The property would have to be within the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and accessible by freeway. It would also have to be affordable: Walt’s pockets were only so deep.
The search for the best spot finally ended in the rural Anaheim, California with a purchase of a 160-acre orange grove near the junction of the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) and Harbor Boulevard.
This weekend I went to Disneyland for it’s 55th anniversary of it’s opening day, July 17, 1955.
I got in line to buy the limited edition plates, cup, and popcorn bag. All of which are ceramic and limited to only 1,955 pieces each.
Here are the 3 ceramic pieces that I purchased:
The Popcorn bag ceramic replica
The Artists, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily signed all of my pieces that they designed.
They were really nice guys. I really wish I had more time to chat with them but there was a line out the door as well as I wanted to get the 55th anniversary ears before they ran out. But they were nice enough to snap a photo with Michelle and I
the print above is a photo I got from the internet. He actually signed mine in the lower right corner. He was another guy I would of loved to chat with.
After we left there we went to the store next to the opera house to buy the ears.
My mom bought me this a surprise. Isn’t it awesome!!?
After the gallery and signing, we had until noon to do whatever we wanted. At noon they had the re-dedication ceremony.
When they had Walt’s voice play on the speakers with the opening speech it brought tears to my eyes. I have no idea why I like Disneyland so much but it has a special place in my heart. I can remember when I was a kid during the late 80′s watching old footage of Walt on the Disney Channel. I loved to watch Walt explain all the different attractions and technology. I had no idea that Walt had died. When my dad told me that Walt Disney died, I can remember how sad I was. I actually cried. I didn’t know at that time that Walt had passed way before I was born. It affected me as if he had died right when my dad told me. I think I have a special spot for Walt because I understand what his vision is/was. I get it entirely. When I go to Disneyland I feel at home. When I go into the park I say good morning to Walt by looking at his window in his apartment and saying “good morning Walt” and I do the same when I leave at park closing but I say good night. I hope that if the rumors are true that his ghost roams Disneyland, that I get to see him and thank him for creating such a wonderful place for all of the world. I know he may not of liked CA adventure but I think he could appreciate the hard work that has gone into that park to bridge the entertainment gap for today’s youth.
So until 4 we went on a few rides and it was interesting, the rides were not that long of a wait.
For example we went to the Haunted mansion around 1:00 which is usually one of the longest wait times and look at how long we waited:
Even space mountain was only 25 minutes. After we ate lunch and did a few more rides, we went back to main street for the singing of happy birthday to Disneyland.
They had so many characters out and dancing it was amazing.
Here are a few fan made videos commemorating Disneyland’s 55th mile stone.
They even had rare footage from construction and opening day playing in the Main street Theater: (Photos from Micechat)
I wish that they come out with a DVD of that footage, I would love to have it!!!
I got to hear the opening speech twice from Walt in the park which was very special to me. It was so much fun being a part of that day in Disneyland history. We enjoyed ourselves and I really am glad that I got to go. It is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. It is also something that I will get to tell my grand children about when I am old. I plan on going to the park on its 100th anniversary. Provided I live that long lol (I hope so). I would be 70 lol
Unfortenatly we were only there 2 days but I have no complaints. We even got to see the new show World of Color! Which in my opinion is one of the best shows that I have seen in a long time.
It was a magical day on the 17th and I am glad we got to go. Something I live by and you should to is:
“When you wish upon a star, Makes no difference who you are, Anything your heart desires, Will come to you..
If your heart is in your dream, No request is too extreme, When you wish upon a star, As dreamers do…
Fate is kind, She brings to those who love, The sweet fulfillment of, Their secret longing..
Like a bolt out of the blue, Fate steps in and sees you through, hen you wish upon a star, Your dreams come true”
Disneyland is proof of that.. may all your dreams come true.. one of mine did on July 17th, 2010. I have always wanted to go on opening day… Now I can mark that one off my list. Now my goal is to make the 100th anniversary..
Thanks for reading,
Photo credits: Gorrillas don’t blog (great old Disneyland photos), Daveland, and google images. All other images are property of VividlyVintage.com