Built on 160 acres of former orange groves, the Disneyland in California was opened to invited guests on July 17, 1955. It is the only theme park, which was designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney. In the early 1950s, Walt Disney started designing a huge amusement park after he visited some amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and ‘40s. According to his initial plan, he wanted to build this park near his studios in Burbank to entertain his fans. But when he realised the proposed site was not big enough he hired a consultant to help him locate a suitable site.
Finally, they zeroed in on a site in Anaheim. Disney wanted the park to have both entertainment and educational components. After a year of rigorous construction, Disneyland was ready to be opened to the public. Finally in the summer of 1955, Disneyland was opened to guests with invites only. But the invites were counterfeited and instead of the expected 11,000 guests, 28,000 turned up. There were traffic jams, food stalls ran out of food, there was a water shortage, workmen were still planting trees and there was wet paint in places. The asphalt was wet and a steamboat capsized because of excess passengers.
Disney wasn’t aware of these problems, as he was busy with the live coverage of his theme park. The ninety-minute live coverage was named ‘Dateline Disneyland’ and was hosted by the likes of Ronald Reagan, Bob Cummings and Art Linkletter.
When Disney got the report of the mishappenings the next day, he and his staff took swift action and corrective measures. The press was specially invited the next day to witness the actual Disneyland.
Since the time it has opened, Disneyland has undergone many renovations and major expansions. The new additions include ‘New Orleans Square’, ‘Bear Country’, ‘Mickey’s Toontown’, ‘Disney California Adventure Park’. Disneyland boosts of 650 million visitors since it opened till date. In 2013, it was the third most visited park in the world.
At present, there is a Disneyland in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong as well. Walt Disney died in 1966, but he left behind this cultural legacy, a magical world, which is a source of joy to everyone who visits it.
Text by Tasneem Dhinojwala