“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.” — Walt Disney’s Disneyland Dedication Speech on July 17, 1955
On this day in 1955, Disneyland officially opened its gates to guests for the first time. It’s fairly well known by now, but the day itself was actually a quite the disaster. The park, which was only supposed to opened to set amount of invited guests, was completely overcrowded and overwhelmed due to a large number of counterfeit tickets being sold (as well as some people even resorting to sneaking over the fences). Venders ran out of food, traffic was backed up for hours in the area, and drinking fountains ran dry (due to a local plumbers strike). On top of everything, it was over 100 degrees out and there are reports that women’s high heels were sinking into the aphalt. The asphalt had just been poured that morning in a last minute effort to finish the park on time. Walt would go on to refer to the day as Black Sunday, a name which has stuck to this day.
Luckily, despite scathing media reviews of the first day, this story went on to have a happy ending. After a strong re-do the following day, Disneyland would go to welcome 1 million visitors in its first ten weeks of operation. Furthermore, it went on to define the American theme park. Whether it is at Disneyland in California, or Walt Disney World in Florida, visiting a Disney park has become an American rite of passage for children of generations to come.
Most of you know the story already. Walt disliked the seediness of the typical amusement parks or piers of the time, and wanted to build a place where families, both adults and children, could have fun together. Taking inspiration from museums and various other parks around the world; Walt began to put together a plan to expand these ideas into what would eventually become Disneyland. He bought 160 acres or orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim, Ca and construction would begin in 1954. The fact that the park opened the very next year seems mind boggling today. A couple years ago, the conversion of Maelstrom to Froven Ever After at Epcot took longer than that and it was just a reskin of one ride; which used the exact same track layout and ride vehicles.
Perhaps the best thing I can say for Disneyland, is that Walt himself loved it. He spent much of his time there interacting with guests and looking over what he created. His passion showed every step of the way and its what separated Disneyland, and later Walt Disney World, from the rest of the pack. Walt had a dream and it made it come true. Not just for himself, but for every child and adult to this day lucky enough to spend time in his park.
So here’s to you Disneyland. Happy 63rd Birthday!