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Disneyland Park History

Introduction

Disneyland Park is the centerpiece of The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim California. The Original Disney Theme Park holds a special place in the hearts millions around the world. Visited by millions of guests each year, Disneyland today is truly a magical place, the undisputed “Happiest Place on Earth”. Considered by many to be a masterpiece of civil engineering, innovation and imagination, “Walt’s Park” has been captivating and charming guests of all ages for over fifty years.

Disneyland opened July 17, 1955, with 18 major attractions. Today, there are more than 60 adventures and attractions. On Opening Day, Anaheim had five hotels and two motels with a total of 87 rooms. There were 34 restaurants in the city. Today, Anaheim boasts approximately 150 hotels and motels with more than 18,000 rooms, and well more than 450 restaurants. More than 500 million guests have passed through the gates of Disneyland since Opening Day. Over the past 54 years, Disneyland has hosted some of the 20th century’s most prominent dignitaries, including heads of state (counting seven U.S. presidents), sports figures and celebrities. The cultural and economic impact of Disneyland on the world is hard to deny.

Planning

Walt Disney said that the idea for Disneyland came to him while sitting on a park bench in Griffith Park, eating peanuts and watching his two young daughters, Sharon and Diane, ride the Merry-go-round. He envisioned a clean safe place where children and parents could have fun together.

Walt’s original plans for the park were for a mere 8 acres next to Disney’s Burbank studios. Walt envisioned a small park for studio employees and families, but his plans kept morphing, growing and changing. The first record of a public announcement of Disneyland is on March 27, 1952 printed in the Burbank Daily Journal. Walt and Roy formed Walt Disney Incorporated (later known as WED Enterprises), and set the wheels in motion with the City of Burbank. When Burbank denied the brothers request, the dream seemed nearly out of reach.

However, Walt was not one to quit and the more time that his imaginative mind had to think about the park, the number ideas for attractions, shows, and dining increased. The scale of the park quickly outgrew the confines of 8 acres, and it soon became clear a larger parcel of land was needed. Finally in July of 1953 Disney hired the Stanford Research Institute to study the Southern California area and advise on the best location for the park. By August of 1953, Anaheim California was identified as the perfect spot. The land was cheap and there was easy access via the newly constructed freeway. Walt and Roy mortgaged everything they owned, but fell short of raising the $17 million dollars that they had estimated they would need.

A plan was hatched and Walt hastily got together with Disney Legend Sam McKim. They stayed up all night and created the first map of Disneyland. The brothers presented the map and their idea to ABC Television Executives, Walt agreed to produce a weekly television show, called Disneyland, for ABC in return for the funding for the park. The show would be a weekly “travelogue” of Southern California’s newest destination, Disneyland. Segments would feature information on the progress of construction, detailed information about the different lands in the park, as well as animated and live action Disney features befitting of that weeks land/theme. After securing the ABC financing, WED Enterprises began purchasing land. They bought 160 acres of rural Anaheim orange groves, and on May 1, 1954, construction began. A nearly impossible deadline of July 1955 was set. That was when money would run out.

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