Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2013
Walt Disnes

Walt Disney

July 17, 1955: Disneyland in Anaheim, California opens. The media event was followed by the opening to the general public the following day. The specially designed spot for family fun was an idea long before it became a reality. Walt Disney’s father was involved in building for the great 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. That spectacular venue was a confection of white buildings constructed cheaply since they only had to last one summer. It was also where George Ferris first built his eponymous wheel.

The original idea for a fun park was small. “Mickey Mouse Park” would fit on eight acres. As Disney toured other parks and began designing his own, his plans grew. He obtained 160 acres for the park. He then began to earnestly gather funding. He partnered with the new television network, ABC. He provided programming and they helped to finance the park. Their interest was bought back by Disney after five years. On July 18, 1954 construction began with the cost running to $17 million (≈ $137 million in 2009 USD). US Route 101 (today called Interstate 5) was under construction at the same time. They added two lanes to accommodate expected traffic.

Sunday’s special “International Press Review” did not go well. Admission was by ticket only but many counterfeits were produced causing overcrowding. Disney had to choose between working drinking fountains and working toilets (there had been a plumbers strike) and he chose the latter. Many guests sweltering in the 101° F heat were forced to purchase soda. The asphalt paving had been finished only that morning and remained sticky. Vendors ran out of food. Things went so badly, Disney held a “second day” event for the press corps. The official name for this day is now “Dedication Day” according to Disneyland Park’s literature.

David MacPherson bought the first ticket to Disneyland’s public opening. He has been followed by over 515 million more guests. Today, Disneyland Park is only one of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The Magic Kingdom is in Orlando, Florida. There is a park in Tokyo, one in Paris, and another in Hong Kong. Disney also operates a cruise line. In 2007 there were more than 14.8 million visitors to Disneyland Park, second only to the Magic Kingdom where ≈ 17 million came to play. Tokyo had 13.9 million guests, 14.5 million visitors came to the combined Euro Disney sites, and 4.5 million visited Mickey in Hong Kong.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – all from Walt Disney

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1901. The family moved to a farm in Missouri in 1906 and it was there that the young Walt learned to draw. Walt and his older brother, Roy, opened a cartoon studio in California which produced the Alice Comedies. The Disney brothers brought in many talented artists to work for them. Their first true success was with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but there was a dispute over who owned the rights to the creation. Disney took his staff away from Universal Pictures’ control and opened the Walt Disney Company. Since he could no longer use his rabbit, he created a new character. This time, instead of Oswald, he developed a mouse to replace him and named the new little guy Mickey. The first animated short to feature his new little guy was Plane Crazy and was a silent film. It was not an unequivocal success and neither was his next attempt, The Gallopin’Gaucho. He added sound to the next short and Steamboat Willie became the hit he needed.

Also on this day: Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.
Martyrs of Compiegne – In 1794, sixteen women were killed as the Reign of Terror was winding down.

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on July 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

    This story is about the official opening. Prior to that when a 3-man union stopped constuction by picketing the main entrance on the south side, I devised a plan to get rid of them- a screaming Peterbilt semi-truck that scared the so-called picketeers(them with baseball bats). They ran from the scene, one doing a number one in his pants and another a number two in his pants. At that moment I signaled to a friend who had jumped the fence and had gone to where the light switches were. The Los Angeles started to fill with light-AND from car headlights from the cities within about 50 miles. I had planted watchers in that radius to turn on their headlights and start honking their horns when they saw Disneyland’s lights. Within in minutes there was enough light in the Los Angeles-area sky to be seen from Hawaii and Tokyo and Denver and St. Louis and Dallas and Mexico City. Those lights were an invitation to tour Disneyland. Not really finished and only the food booths open(the costumed Disney characters worked the food booths), 1,250,000 to 1,500,000 toured Disneyland in the next 24 hours- admission was free. The local media covered it so well that they did not want to cover the official opening. The people of the area had been part of something much bigger than the official opening- who cared? History had been recorded.

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