Disneyland: July 17, 1955
Walt Disney’s new theme park officially opens in Anaheim, California after more than a year of construction. Originaally conceived as a “magical little park” to be built on several acres across the street from his studio complex in Burbank, Walt’s dreams and plans outgrew the available land requiring an extensive search that placed the new “Magic Kingdom”, officially known as “The Happiest Place on Earth” into the sleepy suburb in Orange County – transforming nearly 100 acres of former orange groves into a world of fantasy and make-believe celebrating our nation’s past and future. The five themed lands include Main Street, U.S.A., a vision of turn-of-the-century Americana where the gas lamp makes way for the electric lamp; Adventureland, where Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures come to life in tropical jungles and guests can go on their cruise across many of the exotic rivers of the world; Frontierland, celebrating the vast American frontier and the westward expansion and guests can step back in time to board a Mississipi steamship; Fantasyland, home to many of Walt’s film characters, as well as his Mouseketeers, and guests can step into the stories and fly with Peter Pan or take a non-sensical trip to nowhere in particular; and Tomorrowland, a vision of the fantastic, far-off future of 1986 and see what life might be like then! The Grand Opening celebration is televised on ABC, in their biggest live telecast to-date, and hosted by Walt Disney, Art Linkletter, Ronald Reagan, Bob Cummings, the Mouseketeers, and features California Governor Goodwin J. Knight during the official dedication. (As the park expands, new lands will later be added including New Orleans Square, Bear Country – later called Critter Country, and Mickey’s Toontown. The park will also inspire Walt to seek out land in the eastern U.S. ultimately inspiring The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, and later3 other Disneyland-style parks: Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland [which opened 50 years after the Anaheim original, and is the first international park to recreate Disneyland’s more intimate scale, and used the original blueprints to recreate Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. midwestern style and the more intimate Sleeping Beauty Castle, vs. the more elaborate and imposing Cinderella Castle found in both the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland]. It’s thanks to Disneyland that we have all of the other Disney-created theme parks, water parks and attractions in those same cities – Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney Studios Paris, Disney California Adventure and Tokyo Disney Seas; and of course all of those wonderful resort hotels and other adventures).
Many people often quote Walt Disney as saying “it was all started by a mouse” thanks to the prolific film career Walt had prior to moving in to family-based 3D entertainment. But with that in mind, I change the idea to say “it was all started in Anaheim”. Happy 55th Disneyland! Without you, none of the rest of the Disney universe would exist today.