It’s been 65 years since the Happiest Place on Earth opened to the world. To celebrate, here are 5 facts you may not know about Disneyland’s opening.
If it failed, it would have become movie sets
Disneyland was expensive to build, and Walt needed more money for it. Roy Disney was the company’s financial leader and was responsible for finding all the funding they needed.. To convince lenders to hand over more cash, Roy told them that the project was low risk. His story was that even if the park proved unpopular, the park could close to the public and turn into movie sets. Frontierland could be used for westerns, Adventureland for adventures, and Main Street for turn-of-the-century stories. I’m not sure what they could have used the Fantasyland circus tents for, though.
July 17th was supposed to be a smaller party
Disney sent invitations to a selected number of people for the grand opening festivities. The park was meant to open to the public on the next day, July 18th. However, some industrious people forged tickets for the grand opening and sold them to friends. Others just hopped the fence. The total attendance on that first day ended up being about triple what Disney had planned.
Tomorrowland wasn’t very futuristic
The current version of Tomorrowland is always taking flack for being outdated. But the original wasn’t exactly futuristic, either. Attractions from 1955 include a museum about aluminum manufacturing, a display of state flags, and an exhibit about where our energy comes from. There were a lot of technology-related things. But the land was more about how we got where we are than about where we’re going. Part of the reason for this was that Walt had planned Tomorrowland as a phase 2 expansion. In early 1955, he decided to rush and include it for openning day, so it only had a few months of development.
Disney didn’t own a lot of IP when Disneyland’s planning started
Today, opening an attraction without an IP is rare. Headliner attractions are being built based on Star Wars, the Avengers, and Frozen. Old attractions are being rethemed. Pirates of the Caribbean at Shanghai Disneyland is totally different from the other Disney parks, and is based on the movie series. But in the early days of Disneyland’s planning, Disney didn’t have much to go off of. The first known document about Disneyland is from 1948, at which point Disney had only made about 15 movies. Aside from the package features, the only animated movies at that point were Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Bambi. This lack of IP within the company is one of the reasons early attractions weren’t always IP based.
Disney didn’t know they would need queues
This one seems really strange. When you got to a theme park, you expect to spend a lot of your day waiting in line. But when Disneyland was new and theme parks were young, designers didn’t fully understand the need for queues. Since they didn’t build queues, people clumped around ride entrances. This is one of the reasons that stories go around about parents who threw their kids over the crowd to get onto rides. They weren’t cutting in line, they were trying to find their way through the clump. It didn’t take long for the Imagineers to go back and fix the problem.