One day Walt Disney had a vision. It was a vision of a place where children and parents could have fun together. The more Walt dreamed of a "magical park," the more imaginative and elaborate it became.
The original plans for the park were on 8 acres next to the Burbank studios where his employees and families could go to relax. Although, World War II put those plans on hold. During the war, Walt had time to come up with new ideas, and creations for his magical park. It was soon clear that 8 acres wouldn't be enough.
Finally in 1953, he had the Stanford Research Institute conduct a survey for a 100-acre site, outside of Los Angeles. He needed space to build rivers, waterfalls, and mountains; he would have flying elephants and giant teacups;a fairy-tale castle, moon rockets, and a scenic railway; all inside a magic kingdom he called "Disneyland."
Location was a top priority. The property would have to be
within the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and accessible by freeway.
It would also have to be affordable: Walt's pockets were only
Although, Disneyland was expensive. Walt once said "I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral." So Walt turned to Television for his financial support. "Walt Disney's Disneyland" television series offered a glimpse of the future project. This brought the idea of Disneyland into reality for Walt and the American people.
Construction for Disneyland began on July 21, 1954, a meager 12 months before the park was scheduled to open. From that day forward Walt Disney's life would never be the same.
Some 160-acres of citrus trees had been cleared and 15 houses moved to make room for the park. The area was in semi-rural Orange County, near a freeway that would eventually stretch from San Diego to Vancouver.
Walt had planed out all the lands, to every detail. Main Street, U.S.A., the very front of the park, was where Walt wanted to relive the typical turn of the century city Main Street. He said:
Walt made Main Street U.S.A the entrance to a "weenie," as he called it. He said:
Fantasyland would feature a large Sleeping Beauty Castle, and a Fantasy Village.
Although, Walt had trouble working on Tommorrowland. He said that "right when we do Tommorrowland, it will be out dated."
Walt Stayed close to every detail of the Park's Construction, and he visited the site in Anaheim several times a week. Progress went sporadically despite exasperating obstacles.
The Rivers of America, carved out of sandy citrus grove soil, refused to hold water. The answer was finally found in a bed of native clay: an inch layer on the river bottom formed a pad as hard as cement. Although, minor set backs did follow, progress did continue.
Bit by bit, Disneyland got ready for Opening Day. The staff worked around the clock to get ready. The Mark Twain was being moved, deck by deck, down the Santa Ana freeway to get to Disneyland on time. Finally, everything seemed to come together. The "magical little park" was really a $17,000,000 "Magic Kingdom." Walt's dream had come true and Disneyland was ready to open."
Opening day, was a day to remember. Six thousand invitations to the Grand Opening had been mailed. By mid-afternoon over 28,000 ticket holders were storming the Magic Kingdom. Most of the tickets were counterfeit.
Walt Disney was 53 when he dedicated Disneyland Park. It was a memorable ceremony. There in Town Square, Walt could look around and see the fulfillment of his hopes, dreams, and ambitions in the form of a spectacular entertainment kingdom.
Although, Opening Day was a terrible disaster. A 15 day heat wave raised temperatures up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, due to a plumbers strike, few water fountains were operating in the hot weather. Asphalt still steaming, because it had been laid the night before, literality "trapping" high heeled shoes. After opening day, the heat wave continued, and almost wiped out the park.
Beside the terrible opening day conditions, the park did eventually pick up. By 1965, ten years after opening day, 50 Million visitors had come through the gates.
Even though Walt Disney wasn't able to see how his park and his company prospered and grew into the 21st Century, his legacy still lives on with us. Throughout Disneyland and throughout the entire world, he will always be there.