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The Magic Years
Disney through the eyes of teens
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Adrienne Krock, editor
Disneyland Today: "Opening Day and Beyond"

To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America… with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

- Walt Disney, July 17, 1955.

Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901, and moved to Marceline, Missouri when he was four. Marceline was a major inspiration for Walt throughout his life. As he grew older, he began to produce cartoon characters in short animated films. The most popular of these characters later became known as Mickey Mouse. Walt always had a special dream for animating, as well as a dream of creating a theme park that families could enjoy together. This dream later became known as Disneyland.

The more Walt began to elaborate on the idea, the more wondrous it became. Walt decided that Disneyland should be built in a 160-acre orange grove south of the Los Angeles area, in Anaheim, because it was easily accessed by freeways and not too expensive.

Blueprints for Disneyland Park were being designed in Disney's studio, but designers found it nearly impossible to change Walt's imagination realm into a reality. This changed when art director Herb Ryman produced within 48 hours an elaborate drawing of Walt's theme park. Herb's drawing was so impressive that ABC-TV executives in New York assisted in financing Walt's plans.

Disney announced that Disneyland would open to the public on July 1955. This allowed only 12 months to construct the park. Inside sound stages at Walt's Burbank Studio, structures of the Mark Twain steamboat, giant tea cups, flying elephants and jungle animals slowly began to develop. Walt remained extremely close to his original idea for the park, as the Rivers of America were being carved and numerous exotic trees and buildings replaced the orange grove. It was beginning to look like the race against time would be won, and that Disneyland would be ready for opening day.

Opening Day at Disneyland - Promotional photo © Disney
Opening Day at Disneyland - Promotional photo © Disney

Disneyland did indeed open to the public on July 17, 1955 on what was 160 acres of citrus trees. Although 6,000 invitations were mailed out, on that day, 28,000 ticket holders arrived on the site, mostly with counterfeit tickets.

Inside the park, paint was still wet on many buildings, the Mark Twain Riverboat was often awash by river water from an overload of guests, numerous rides broke down, and women's high heels sunk into the newly laid asphalt of Main Street. Though the park confronted many problems, opening day was a success and within seven weeks, a million visitors had entered the realm of dreams and imagination.

On opening day, Disneyland had a mere 21 attractions compared to the 60 we enjoy today. The original five lands included Main Street USA, the land that contained the nostalgia Walt knew as a boy. Main Street featured the Disneyland Railroad, and numerous Main Street vehicles, which made their way from Town Square towards the hub. Adventureland saluted the stories and films that fired youthful imagination, and included the Jungle Cruise. Frontierland celebrated the heroes of folklore, and contained the Rivers of America and Mule Pack. Fantasyland was the enchanted realm of imagination and dreams that contained the rides dedicated to Walt's Animated features. Finally, Tommorowland previewed the development of the future and included the Autopia and Space Station X-1.

Walt Disney at Sleeping Beauty Castle - Promotional photo © Disney
Walt Disney at Sleeping Beauty Castle - Promotional photo © Disney

But as Walt announced on opening day, "Disneyland will never be complete as long as there is still imagination left in the world." As the number of attractions in the park increased, the park revamped and added more lands . Adventureland was given a simple South Seas ambiance until 1995, when the land was rethemed as a jungle outpost with the addition of Indiana Jones Adventure. Frontierland underwent a dramatic change as well with the addition of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on the old Painted Desert in 1979. Fantasyland was renovated in 1983 with an authentic Bavarian village charm. Tommorowland was rededicated in 1998 with a classic perspective of the future that people from the past, such as Galileo or Da Vinci, might have envisioned.

In 1966, New Orleans Square, with a touch of Southern romance, was the first new land added to Disneyland. Since then, Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion have opened there. In 1972, the cul-de-sac southwest of Frontierland was christened Bear Country, hosting the popular audio-animatronics show, Country Bear Jamboree. In 1989, the addition of Splash Mountain meant rabbits, geese and crocodiles joined the Bears, and the area was renamed Critter Country . The most recent land addition was Mickey's Toontown in 1993. This land brought the cartoon environment of Mickey's neighborhood and hometown to a three-dimensional reality.

Disneyland Park is now 46 years old. That small dream Walt Disney once envisioned has grown into a vacation destination resort. The Disneyland Resort sprang up on a 160-acre orange grove in Anaheim now contains two amusement parks, three hotels and a shopping and dining district. Disneyland Park will always be a classic in the minds of many who have grown to love the imagination- filled park. Disney's California Adventure and Downtown Disney are the newest additions to the resort, and in time will undoubtedly grow to become as popular and as sentimental as Disneyland Park has been to many of us since opening day.

- Christopher


Christopher's Disney Trivia: On opening day, Walt Disney aired a 90-minute television special about Disneyland. This special included numerous guest stars such as: Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, Danny Thomas, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Irene Dunne, Jerry Lewis, Fess Parker, Buddy Ebsen, the Mouseketeers, Governor Goodwin Knight, and Ronald Reagan.


Have any questions, comments or suggestions for future columns? Drop me a line at coolkids@mouseplanet.com. I'd really enjoy hearing from you!

Opening Day

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hi!
My name is Christopher.

I am thirteen years old and live with my family in Southern California. I am currently a high school student, and an avid fan of Disneyland Resort. Other than visiting the "Happiest Place On Earth," I have numerous hobbies, the most significant of which is acting.

Acting has always been a major hobby of mine. I have been participating in numerous plays, movies and productions all of my life, and hope to eventually accomplish my dreams of becoming a famous actor. Some of my recent works include productions of The King and I, Shakespeare- Enough Already, and Ebeneezer. Other than acting, I enjoy playing the alto saxophone for my high school jazz band, playing the keyboard / piano, listening to music (especially the Rent soundtrack), and visiting the Disneyland Resort.

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