It’s hard to even imagine that (once upon a time) and sixty-five years ago there was a world absent of the magical place we call Disneyland, but Walt Disney first opened the gates to his kingdom on July 17th, 1955. In that comparatively short time, this fabulous domain has brought immeasurable enjoyment, wonder, whimsy and a lifetime of memories to millions upon millions of astounded visitors.
Odd question, but what exactly is Disneyland? The definitive way to describe it is with two words… Walt Disney. How can a place be defined by a man? Well this particular man was the sole visionary who would mold Disneyland into being. His ambition alone made it turn from a dream into a reality, and he oversaw every detail of its operation during its first eleven years. Walt Disney has been gone for over five decades now, but his spirit is still felt in every corner of Disneyland to this day.
Walt Disney’s kingdom is a magical mixture of the old and the new. On the one hand it is an icon of our popular culture and an American institution, and at the same time it is one of the most remarkable examples of modern design and planned urban development ever to be conceived and realized. Disneyland is a land apart from the real, a romantic journey into the historic past, a footstep into the remarkable worlds of our collective childhood imagination, a living showcase of mankind’s greatest scientific discoveries, a celebration of nature’s wonders and an entertainment enterprise like no other place in the entire world. In short, Disneyland is nothing less than The Happiest Place on Earth.
According to Walt Disney, in his own words, the dream behind Disneyland began at a lonely park bench when his two daughters, Sharon and Diane, were very young. The seed was planted during one of many frequent Saturday outings. As was the norm, Walt was left on the sidelines eating a bag of peanuts as his kids had all the fun without him. As they rode the merry-go-round an ingenious idea popped into his head. “I felt that there should be something built, some sort of amusement enterprise built, where the parents and the children could have fun together.”
But before this notion of a family park burst upon the scene of our popular culture, common amusement parks were typically poorly run establishments that were unsafe, dirty, disorganized, overcrowded and lacked good taste. Today we realize that this was not the ideal place for children, yet it was primarily children who delighted in this spectacle as most adults could easily see well beyond this fabricated sort of phoniness. Walt would best express this sentiment in his 1940 animated classic, Pinocchio. During one of the most dramatic moments in the film, Pinocchio journeys to Pleasure Island where he encounters a frightening carnival midway full of underlying nightmares, candy-coated in bright lights, cheap thrills and forbidden delights. It was evident even then that Walt was beginning to imagine what it would be like to create a new brand of amusement park that went against all these stereotypes: a place that would be well-designed, safe, clean, friendly and above all else, a place for the entire family to share in the experience and have fun together.
In the 1930’s Walt Disney and his studio became a household name, resulting from a string of animated cartoon productions that were both groundbreaking and a commercial phenomenon. During this period, Walt Disney received countless letters from his eager fans requesting tours of the remarkable animation studio that gave birth to Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, the Silly Symphonies and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Walt wondered if he could take these requests one step further and create a place where the public could literally step into the worlds of fantasy that he and his animators had created on film. As he envisioned it, this could be an amazing three-dimensional theatrical environment unlike anything the world had ever experienced before. It would be more than just an amusement park: it would be totally contained within a series of distinctively themed settings. In essence, it would be the very first themed amusement park.
And so, the dream behind the Magic Kingdom was sparked within Walt Disney’s imagination as a marriage between two concepts: a family park, and a place for the public to enter into the settings from his animated films as a three-dimensional reality. As far back as the 1930’s Walt began touring all manner of amusement parks, public gardens and famous tourist locales around the world, all the while taking mental notes for his future plans, but it would take many years and several obstacles would have to be overcome in order to turn this fantastic notion from a dream into reality. The idea would survive World War II, a major labor strike on the Disney Studio, a financial crises nearly resulting in bankruptcy and the countless and ever-present skeptics who told Walt he was crazy. But none of these setbacks would discourage the master showman, and the improbable dream remained firmly planted in his imagination for almost two decades. As it is well documented in his films, Walt was a decided believer in stick-to-itiveness.
During this extended gestation period between conception and realization, numerous other ongoing projects would shape the development of Disneyland. Walt Disney, ever the innovator, was constantly seeking out exciting new forms of entertainment, and many of these innovations would prove invaluable as the dream of Disneyland expanded. One of the greatest of these so-called, grand experiments, would be the animated feature, Fantasia. Although Walt’s original concept for this film would never be fully realized, this musical anthology was originally conceived as an all-new form of entertainment that would exist as an ongoing and ever-changing theatrical event, combining the experience of a live symphonic concert with the magic imagery of Disney animation. Specially equipped theaters would play the musical score in what was coined Fantasound, which was a primitive yet effective stereophonic surround sound system, and every few months the animated program, along with its musical accompaniment, would be updated or replaced with new ideas in a rotating theatrical program. Unfortunately for Walt, Fantasia was so unusual and ahead of its time that it was a box office flop upon its initial 1940 release, never blossoming into the living canvas that he intended it to be, but the very notion of an entertainment experience that could continuously be molded, restructured, added to and improved, never left Walt and it may have been one of his primary motivations for creating Disneyland.
Walt Disney had a fascination with steam trains that can be traced all the way back to his Midwestern boyhood, so it is no surprise that this enthusiasm for railroading would somehow figure into his early plans for Disneyland. In fact, many say that the notion of having his very own full-scale railroad was the primary reason why Walt wanted to build Disneyland. Years before Disneyland became a reality Walt has had own miniature railroad in the backyard of his Carolwood Ave home in Beverly Hills. At the suggestion of his family doctor, Walt decided to take up a hobby to help him relax and better deal with the stresses of the studio. In his spare time he not only assembled his own model train by hand, but he built an entire layout of railroad tracks all around the rolling hills of his property grounds.
Walt’s long suffering wife Lillian was, to say the least, far from enthusiastic about having a miniature train covering the landscape of her backyard, so in accommodation Walt made sure to keep his railroad grounds as aesthetically pleasing as possible, making sure to build around his wife’s gardenia beds. He even would name his steam engine the Lilly Belle, in her honor.
The train was built to accommodate passengers who would ride atop the engine and on passenger cars. On many social occasions Walt would invite children from his neighborhood, as well as his close friends and studio associates, to ride onboard what he called the Carolwood Pacific Railroad.
One of Walt’s Key animators, Ward Kimball, shared this obsession for trains, and in fact, he had his own full-scale Grizzly Flats Railroad on the grounds of his large San Gabriel residence. Ward constructed his railway line and renovated his trains entirely by himself. His setup included two vintage steam engines with passenger cars, an antique fire barn and a small train depot that was donated by Walt after it was initially used as a set for the 1949 live-action picture, So Dear to My Heart. Together, the two railroading buffs would travel to the 1948 Chicago Railroad Exposition, and in later years Ward recalled how he never saw Walt happier than he was at the controls of those antique steam locomotives. Walt appointed Ward as a design consultant on the original Disneyland Railroad, which soon became an integral design element in the layout of his future family park.
Meanwhile, during the late 1940’s the Disney Studio began producing a series of films in live-action, an entirely new medium for a studio that had worked exclusively in the field of animation for over two decades. Throughout his early film career Walt Disney would primarily focus on improving the art of animation. He was never as excited by live-action as he was by animation. It was rarely utilized by the studio and usually only when it was superimposed with animation as a special effects technique.
In the years succeeding World War II, nearly all of the Disney Studio’s foreign box office revenues were frozen in overseas bank accounts. In order to capitalize on these tied up resources, Walt’s brother Roy convinced him to produce a series of live-action films in Europe, and Walt reluctantly agreed. Surprisingly, Walt would end up taking great interest in the development of these productions and gained a new appreciation for the live-action medium that would stay with him for the remainder of his movie-making career.
The behind-the-scenes production of these overseas projects would become an invaluable classroom to Disney’s creative staff. The first of these films was the classic Walt Disney adventure, Treasure Island, released in 1950. This was followed by a series of several other such period films, each faithfully recapturing the scenic atmosphere of a long ago time and place. Due to the fact that the Disney artists were more accustomed to working in the two-dimensional world of animation, many of the scenic designs for these pictures were realized through the same artistically inventive manner of storyboarding techniques often used in animation. Soon the Disney Studio staff developed an ingenious methodology for translating detailed sketches and drawings from storyboard concepts into full-scale, three-dimensional settings. Needless to say, this practice would soon be used in the planning and development of Disneyland as well. Also, many of Disneyland’s future attractions and architectural elements would take their inspiration from the historical themes and vivid imagery found in these now classic films.
Many of Walt Disney’s formative years were spent on a Missouri farm, and he carried a great appreciation and love of nature with him throughout his entire life. This remains evident today in the design and layout of Disneyland. This high regard for the world of nature is also apparent in many of Disney’s classic animated theatrical releases. In his push towards achieving a more realistic depiction of the animated movements, gestures, and overall behaviors of animals, the Walt Disney Studio would unintentionally become pioneers in what was the then, the previously untapped genre of wildlife documentary filmmaking. Walt had been sending his camera crews all around the globe for years to photograph animals as they appeared in there natural habitat for his artists to study. Although this extensive film library was initially compiled for the sole use as animation reference material, as Walt began to view this raw footage he realized he had found a unique, fascinating and educational new form of entertainment. This would lead to a groundbreaking series of Oscar award winning documentaries known as True-Life Adventures, which would again evolve into a major thematic inspiration during Disneyland’s conceptual development.
Around the same period, Walt also began toying around with an unusual concept for a traveling exhibition he called, Disneylandia. Since this project predates any other known reference to the word Disneyland, it can be speculated that the name of Walt’s future park had its origins from this earlier endeavor. It is unclear why the name “Disneylandia” and not just simply “Disneyland” came first, and even more remarkable is how the word Disneylandia has evolved into what is now the Spanish term for Disneyland.
Regardless, Disneylandia was likely devised as a way Walt could capitalize on yet another one of his spare time hobbies. Walt had always been fascinated with miniatures and had become adeptly skilled at constructing his own meticulously detailed model scenes. Over time he came up with an inventive concept for an entertainment venue that combined the art of model making with the ingenuity of what was then called “clockwork” animation. Inside what would essentially be coin-operated arcade machines, a series of nostalgic windows into America’s past would be presented as a collection of miniature tableaus, such as Granny’s Cabin, the General Store and the Minstrel Show, just to name a few. To add to the fun, each scene would spring into motion using a complex system of pulleys and wires. While the project was in development, Walt would commission talented song-and-dance man, and future costar of the popular Davy Crockett television series, Buddy Ebsen to stand in as a model for what was the very first three-dimensional animated human figure.
Walt had to reluctantly shelve the Disneylandia project after he realized the prohibitive cost to run and maintain these machines, but nonetheless, this unusual experiment would have a profound impact on the future planning and development of Disneyland. One notable contribution was found in the very themes and story ideas originally planned for this miniature venue, which would soon evolve into many full-scale experiences within the park. But an even more significant contribution was how it laid the groundwork for the innovative idea of crafting scenes containing three-dimensional figures that could seemingly be brought to life through mechanical automation. Undoubtedly, this became a key ingredient in the Disneyland formula, and in time this three-dimensional animation would evolve into a new entertainment medium that Walt would coin Audio-Animatronics. In the decades that followed, Walt Disney’s creative staff of Disneyland engineers and artists, more affectionately known as Imagineers, would push Audio-Animatronics technology towards incredible new levels of sophistication, incorporating realistic moving animals and human figures into many of the park’s most enduring adventures.
The first practical application of this new type of animation would appear in the 1954 Walt Disney Sci-Fi adventure, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, based on the classic story by Jules Verne. One of the most memorable episodes from the original novel would require an ambitious undertaking in movie making, calling for a full-size giant squid able to do battle with the crew of the submarine Nautilus. Engineer Bob Mattey was the mechanical wizard who created this tremendous sea creature, undeniably contributing to the film’s Academy Award for best visual effects of 1954. Walt Disney would use many of the same set designers and special effects artisans who worked on this picture to help develop many of Disneyland’s early attractions, including Mattey, who further developed the technology he used in 20K Leagues to create the amazingly lifelike mechanical animals that would populate Adventureland’s famous Jungle Cruise river ride.
From the beginning Walt took inspiration from his own film projects when developing ideas for his park. The current production "goings-on" at his studio during the initial design and construction of Disneyland not only provided stories and scenic concepts, but provided Walt with numerous props and set pieces that could be recycled for use in the various exhibits throughout the property. Many of these props are still found in the park today. Over time, Walt continued the practice of tying-in new attractions to his latest theatrical releases. This not only provided Imagineers with a constant wealth of new ideas, but it would also serve to keep the park fresh, up-to-date and relevant for modern audiences. Imagineers to this day continue the use of the Disney Studio’s latest animated and live-action productions as the conceptual foundation and prime inspiration behind many of the park’s new additions.
Amidst this plethora of creative Innoventions, Walt never stopped dreaming about his future plans. In the beginning Walt planned to build his park on an empty lot across the street from his Burbank studio near Griffith Park, yet another famous California attraction, but unfortunately, when Walt appeared before the Burbank city council they refused to grant him the permits he needed. Despite his proposal for a safe, clean and friendly park, he was not able convince the city officials that Disneyland would not welcome in an undesirable, seedy, carnival-like atmosphere into their district. This was all for the best, because by now all of Walt’s plans had far outgrown the sixteen acres available on this site. Undeterred, Walt would enlist the Stanford Research Institute to seek out an ideal new location. After an extensive survey across the entire region of Southern California they would eventually recommend a 150-acre site, surrounded by orange groves, in the small, quiet, rural community of Anaheim, thirty miles south of Los Angeles. After the location was chosen the project finally shifted into full momentum, and now only one obstacle stood between Walt and his dream… money.
By the 1950’s, Walt Disney Productions was a publicly owned corporation that had to answer to its investors, and despite all the enthusiasm and total faith he had in his dream, Walt was unable to successfully persuade his principle shareholders into believing that Disneyland was a marketable idea, leaving him with the frustrating dilemma of being unable to fund the project through the resources of the very company he founded. With no other option but to look elsewhere for financial backing, he enlisted the help of his brother Roy to seek out prospectable lenders. In his earlier dealings with these financiers, Roy realized that people who deal mainly in dollars and cents lack the imagination needed to visualize the type of amusement enterprise they were proposing. To remedy this, Roy asked Walt to recruit one of his artists to illustrate a detailed overhead map that depicted the type of park they were planning. In fact, at this point very few, if any, drawings of Disneyland existed and only a handful of studio employees were even aware of this top-secret project. But with the use of colorful illustrations and other visual aides, Roy felt that they might be better prepared to communicate their concept to bank executives.
As legend has it, Roy’s request for visual aides came to Walt on very short notice. On a Saturday morning Walt phoned up one of his most entrusted animators, Herbert Ryman, and asked him to come down to the studio. Ryman was actually a bit concerned about the nature of this call. He had no idea why he was being asked to come in on a Saturday, and wasn’t even aware that Walt was planning to build a park. In later years Ryman recalled what Walt said to him at that fateful meeting. “Herbie, I’m going to do an amusement park. Roy has to talk to the bankers and we’ve got to show them what we’re going to do.”
Then Walt enthusiastically began to rattle off all of his ideas to him, including the general layout and overall look of the park as he envisioned it. To hear him describe everything with such fervor excited Ryman as well, and he responded, “Well gee, I’d like to see it too Walt.” To which Walt replied… “You’re going to do it!”
Ryman reluctantly agreed to do the project only after Walt promised to stay and work with him. Walt further described in detail all of the many ideas that had been stored in his imagination for years. Ryman only had Walt’s verbal aide to guide him, as well as the basic instruction of… “I just want it to look like nothing else in the world, and it should be surrounded by a train.”
Of course Walt would also want to include a medieval storybook castle, an old-fashioned Main Street, a pirate galleon, a painted desert, a Mississippi steamboat, a pioneer village, an African jungle and metropolis of the future.
In the short span of just one weekend, the very first comprehensive layout of Disneyland was completed. With Ryman’s detailed map and a handful of other drawings and sketches in tow, Walt and Roy met with numerous bank investors and several other accredited lenders with their impressive pitch for the first ever themed amusement park. Only with great effort were they able to take out a handful of small business loans, which were just barely enough to keep the project from drowning. Despite all of his enthusiasm, nearly every lender Walt met with found his unprecedented idea to be far too out there and much too risky a business venture.
Despite everyone else’s lack of faith in his dream, the one place where Walt found total allegiance was among his own studio staff, and in turn he formed what he called the Disneyland Boosters and Backers Corporation. This was a decidedly visible funding effort devised in an attempt to make it obvious to investors that Walt’s own employees believed in his idea by investing their own money into it. But this was not sufficient enough to impress the Disney shareholders, who by now were demanding that Walt forgo the project entirely. As a last stitch resort, Walt cashed in his personal life insurance policy to self finance the formation of a brand-new corporation he would call WED enterprises. WED is an acronym for Walter Elias Disney. This arm of the Disney organization is better known today as Walt Disney Imagineering.
Initially, WED was be an entirely separate entity from Walt Disney Productions, formed exclusively for the designing development and construction of Disneyland. Because the name WED was entirely ambiguous, and a privately held organization owned by Walt Disney and not by the studio, the shareholders were no longer able to raise objections. It seems as though the more obstacles set before him the more determined Walt became, but such arbitrary tactics were only sufficient to keep his dream afloat and not nearly enough to see it rise to the surface. Walt would have to come up with another plan, and fast, but as usual he was up to the challenge.
At the dawn of the 1950’s, Walt Disney bore witness to a rising new social order, the American middle class, and instinctively he knew that this vast audience was hungry for his style of innovative family entertainment. Finally, the prospect of turning Disneyland into a reality was made possible with the help of yet another new entertainment medium... television. When executives at NBC first approached Walt with the concept of producing a television show, nearly every major studio in Hollywood balked at the very idea of producing programs for this fledgling new entertainment industry. But while others saw the small screen as a major threat to future box office dollars, Walt, being the visionary that he was, was able to see its true marketing potential. He believed that not only was TV the perfect way to promote his future theatrical releases, but it was also the ideal vehicle to introduce America to Disneyland.
Walt’s first venture into television was in December of 1950. In an hour long special entitled, One Hour in Wonderland. On the program Walt would showcase many favorite moments from his animated films, while simultaniously promoting the upcoming release of their latest animated feature, Alice in Wonderland. The show far exceeded the expectations of NBC, becoming a huge ratings success and the television event of the holiday season. As a result, all the major networks called upon Walt to produce a weekly series, but he was adamant about using the program to promote and help finance his park, so the DuMont network, CBS and NBC all backed away.
Ultimately it was ABC that would take a chance on the potential success of Walt Disney and his dream. In an effort to become a major ratings competitor, the then struggling fourth network agreed to help finance Disneyland with a series of guaranteed loans that would pay for well over one-third of its construction in exchange for a weekly series produced by Walt Disney, and a share in future revenues from the park once it was completed. The new series would also be known as Disneyland, and Disneyland the show not only saved ABC from bankruptcy, but became one of the most critically acclaimed series on television.
This innovative show is better known today as The Wonderful World of Disney, having endured several name changes over time, but the same basic format would always remain consistent. Over its future consecutive course of a remarkable twenty-nine seasons on the air, this award-winning anthology program entered the record books as the longest running primetime series in the history of network television. But even more significantly, when the Disneyland TV show premiered during the fall of 1954 it generated such a swell of nationwide public anticipation, that it placed the name of Disneyland the park on the tip of every American tongue even months before the project was completed. Thanks to television, Walt Disney now had all the financial backing and public support he needed to finally begin his unprecedented $17,000,000 construction project, and ground was broken in Anaheim in July of 1954.
Disneyland the TV show would be connected to the park not only by its title, but in its weekly format as well. On every episode Walt introduced America to the many themes and ideas that would soon be incorporated into Disneyland the park, and each program was presented from one of the themed realms that would also be found inside his future park. These realms, or “lands” were inspired by Walt Disney’s films, his personal interests and overall philosophies.
Coming to audiences from the exotic world regions of Adventureland would be many of the Oscar award-winning documentaries from the Walt Disney True-Life Adventure film library. Blasting off from Tomorrowland, audiences were introduced to the latest concepts in science, space travel and the atomic age, presented in an enlightening series of documentaries researched by the most notable scientific experts of the day. From Frontierland, America’s historic past would be revisited in a series of dramatic adventures based on the legendary heroes of the western frontier. Notably, it is from Frontierland that Walt Disney showcased the adventures of Davy Crockett in a three part miniseries that became an instant pop culture sensation leading to a chart topping theme song and an enormous merchandising campaign ushering in the unexpected comeback of the coonskin cap.
Last but certainly not least was the land nearest and dearest to Walt Disney’s heart, Fantasyland. From this magical realm he would reintroduce television audiences to their favorite Disney characters with his immense library of classic cartoon shorts and full-length animated features, all being showcased on broadcast television for the very first time. And in addition to this rotating weekly format, every few months Walt would feature special episodes to update viewers on the progress of his park under construction, offering an exclusive sneak preview of the amazing new lands and attractions planned for the big opening day scheduled for summer of 1955.
This ingenious promotional campaign came to its culmination with the Disneyland grand opening ceremonies which were broadcast on live television. A total of twenty-nine cameras were used to capture all the excitement, an unprecedented technical feat considering that the most cameras that had been previously used to cover a single live telecast was a mere three. An estimated ninety million people tuned into ABC that Sunday afternoon to watch as popular television talk show host Art Linkletter, actor Bob Cummings, and a young, pre-presidential Ronald Reagan co-hosted this frenzied ninety minute spectacle. Art Linkletter, who was a dear friend to Walt, agreed to host the program for scale wages, in exchange for the profits from the photo concession throughout the park over the next ten years. This turned out to be a shrewd business decision on Linkletter's part, as the park quickly became the most photographed location in the entire world during that profitable ten year period.
The hurried opening day event featured all of the dedication ceremonies held throughout the entire park, with several live musical performances and a first look at Disneyland’s exciting new attractions, all of which had by now become quite familiar to Walt Disney’s weekly television audience. At the base of the Town Square flagpole on Main Street USA, Walt Disney read the official dedication of Disneyland, dedicating his park to all that would come to this happy place. Today, his words are permanently engraved in bronze and positioned in front of that very same flagpole. As Walt delivered the dedication he was indeed beaming with pride. After many years of struggle, and against all odds, the greatest dream of a man who had spent his entire lifetime making dreams come true for others, had at last become a fantastic reality, a fantasy kingdom like no other place on earth for the entire world to share, but now that the dream had been realized, the early struggle for survival began. Disneyland had more than its fair share of growing pains to work out during its first wearisome weeks in the summer of '55.
Nearly everyone told Walt Disney that Disneyland would become a "Hollywood Spectacular... a spectacular failure." Although the master showman would eventually prove all of these naysayers wrong, in the beginning there was still plenty of cause for concern. When the grand premiere of Disneyland finally did arrive, it was far from glittering with pixie dust. In fact, Disney historians still commonly refer to that infamous opening day as… Black Sunday.
The temperatures would soar well over one hundred degrees, as did the patience of the nearly thirty-thousand invited guests, and just as many uninvited attendees who crashed the gate with counterfeit tickets. Thanks to a local union strike the sidewalks along Main Street were poured only hours before the park would open and women were forced to literally walk right out of their shoes as their high heels sunk into the steaming asphalt. The untimely strike would also plague the park with an unfortunate shortage of plumbing facilities, including a noticeable lack of drinking fountains. Add to that, there was a gas leak in Fantasyland, several attractions malfunctioned and had to be closed down, and the Mark Twain nearly toppled over after an inexperienced crew inadvertently overloaded the boat. The live broadcast was not without its miscues either, and even Walt Disney himself was caught off guard, on live camera, getting frustrated with the television crew.
Naturally, the press was ready to pounce on Walt after this opening day fiasco. The following day the news publications were filled with such scathing headlines as…“Walt Disney’s Dream is a Nightmare,” describing the park as the…“$17,000,000 people trap that Mickey Mouse built,” and seemingly unaware of the ongoing plumbers strike, yet another paper personally blamed Walt for his…“Cunning lack of drinking fountains,” leaving guests no other choice but to shell out more money for bottled drinks.
Walt knew better that to take any of these early criticisms too seriously. After all, he had been dodging the critics for years, and he knew that the only bad publicity was no publicity at all. So he immediately went back to work, spending every waking hour in the park in order to resolve all of these unforeseen mishaps. He studied traffic patterns, personally spoke with his guests, observed their reactions, and would experience every attraction over and over to see what could be improved. Within only a few months, Disneyland welcomed its one-millionth visitor and would quickly become one of the greatest Hollywood success stories of all time. Some say that Walt purposely chose the unlucky number of 1313 Harbor Boulevard to be the official mailing address of Disneyland to thumb his nose at all who had ever doubted him.
Never one to rest on his laurels, as soon as his park was up and running Walt sent his Imagineers right back to their literal drawing boards. During the park’s first operational year they would nearly double Disneyland’s ride capacity, playing catch up with an ever-increasing level of public demand for more to see and do. Every year Disneyland has continually grown and flourished, and major expansion projects and exciting new additions are constantly on the horizon. Walt Disney famously once said …“Disneyland will never be completed, as long as there is imagination left in the world,” and to this day his kingdom continues to evolve, reflecting current trends, but more often setting them.
Through the years, Disneyland has become much more than just a realm of mere amusement. This extraordinary land has earned a special place in the hearts and minds of all who have ever passed though its gates, from all corners of the world. Everyone who has experienced this timeless land of imagination has taken home with them a special collection of memories and impressions that last a lifetime.
Yet very few are truly aware of the main contributors to the dream come true that is Disneyland. They are, in fact, the many skilled craftsmen, architects, set designers, carpenters, mechanical engineers, horticulturalists, artistic directors, animators, costume designers, song writers, singers, actors and musicians, not to mention all of the ticket takers, popcorn vendors, street sweepers, gift shop merchants, dishwashers, and parking lot attendants who are all in the business of bringing happiness to the many thousands of guests who walk through Disneyland’s turnstiles each and every day. As Walt Disney also once said…“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make that dream a reality.”
Symbolically representing the man who started it all, a small lamp is left forever burning brightly in the second story window of the Main Street fire station located in Town Square. It sits inside what once served as Walt Disney’s personal on-site Disneyland apartment residence. This eternal light will never be extinguished as long as there is a Disneyland, because Walt will always be there, and he will always be felt there. Walt would certainly be amazed if he could see how his park has grown through the decades, and how his dream has not only spread to Walt Disney World in Florida, but to Disney theme parks in France, Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong. But the original Disneyland will always be a special place, Walt’s park, the place where the magic all began.