Building 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.
When the real designing came around, Walt was met with inevitable questions. How do you make http://justdisney.com/images/Disneyland/plans.jpgbelievable wild animals, that aren’t real? How do you make a Mississippi paddle ship? How do you go about building a huge castle in the middle of Anaheim, California? So, Walt Disney looked to his movie studio staff for the answers. The design of Disneyland was something never done before. There would be five uniquely different lands.
Walt had planned 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 small town Main Street. He said:
- “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of grandfather’s youth.”
At the end of Main Steet, the Castle provided a “weenie,” a visual point where guests would be drawn in. This effect is acheived in all the lands. Walt commented about this:
- “What you need is a weenie, which says to people ‘come this way.’ People won’t go down a long corridor unless there’s something promising at the end. You have to have something the beckons them to ‘walk this way.'”
- Walt also had planed for an “exotic tropical place” in a “far-off region of the world.” This area devoted to Walt’s True-Life Adventure movies would be called Adventureland. Walt said, “To create a land that would make this dream reality, we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa.”
- Frontierland was made to relive the pioneer days of the American frontier. Walt said:
- “All of us have a cause to be proud of our country’s history, shaped by the pioneering spirit of our forefathers. _ . .Our adventures are designed to give you the feeling of having lived, even for a short while, during our country’s pioneer days.”
- Fantasyland was created with the goal to “make dreams come true” from the lyrics of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Walt said:
- “What youngster has not dreamed of flying with Peter Pan over moonlit London, or tumbling into Alice’s nonsensical Wonderland? In Fantasyland, these classic stories of everyone’s youth have become realities for youngsters-of all ages-to participate in.”
Fantasyland would feature a large Sleeping Beauty Castle, and a Fantasy Village.
Tomorrowland was created as a look at the “marvels of the future.” Walt said:
- “Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. _. .The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.”
One fascinating method Walt Disney used in the design of Disneyland is the way it is set up. Walt Disney used his skills as a Movie Producer to create the park. The first scene is the ticket booths, guests move under the railroad tracks to Main Street, the carefree environment. Then, to a central plaza, a Hub, from which the other four lands were spread.
As Disneyland is spread out like a movie, Cast Members were taught that preserving the look and feel of the “show” was top priority. Development of a training program for these employees, or Cast Members, was also specially developed for the Disneyland Project. Arsdale France was put in charge of this. He created “Disneyland University” and taught most of the Cast Members for opening day. His assistant Dick Nunis helped in the unique approach for this new work.
During the years of 1954 and 1955, the studio was very busy. Disneyland added to the toll. With all the fantastic enviornments Walt wanted to create, he needed his own special team to help him with the Disneyland project. He had an entire studio full!
However, he still needed a team that would be just in charge of making new things at Disneyland. So, under his own personal payroll, Walt made a separate company for the Disneyland project, WED, an acronym for Walt’s initials, Walter-Elias-Disney. (In the 1980’s the name was changed to WDI, Walt Disney Imagineering.)
Opening Day was a terrible disaster. A 15 day heat wave raised temperatures up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, due to a plumber’s strike, few water fountains were operating in the hot weather. Asphalt was 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.
Disneyland, however, has done better than it’s first year. By 1957, over 10 Million guests had already visited.
Disneyland has changed much since it’s opening of 1955. When it first opened, the park was barren, there were hardly any plants as there are now. Trees were new, and not fully grown.
Attractions, and even Lands have been changed too.
It’s safe to say, that Disneyland will continue to grow, and change far into the future. Disneyland is still growing, with the upcoming opening of Disney’s California Adventure, in February of 2001.
Walt Disney’s view of Disneyland:
“When we opened Disneyland, a lot of people got the impressions that it was a get-rich-quick thing, but they didn’t realize that behind Disneyland was this great organization that I built here at the Studio, and they all got into it and we were doing it because we loved to do it…I first saw the site for Disneyland back in 1953, In those days it was all flat land – no rivers, no mountains, no castles or rocket ships – just orange groves, and a few acres of walnut trees.
“We did it, in the knowledge that most of the people I talked to thought it would be a financial disaster – closed and forgotten within the first year…We believed in our idea – a family park where parents and children could have fun- together…Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.
“It has that thing – the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement- I knew when I was a kid.
“Disneyland is a show…Disneyland is the star, everything else is in the supporting role…Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
Disneyland through out the years