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Disneyland, Walt Disney’s metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism, opens on July 17, 1955.  The $17 million theme park was built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, and soon brought in staggering profits. Today, Disneyland hosts more than 14 million visitors a year, who spend close to $3 billion.

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Walt Disney, born in Chicago in 1901, worked as a commercial artist before setting up a small studio in Los Angeles to produce animated cartoons.

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In 1928, his short film Steamboat Willy, starring the character “Mickey Mouse,” was a national sensation.

Steamboat-willie

It was the first animated film to use sound, and Disney provided the voice for Mickey. From there on, Disney cartoons were in heavy demand, but the company struggled financially because of Disney’s insistence on ever-improving artistic and technical quality. His first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), took three years to complete and was a great commercial success.

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Snow White was followed by other feature-length classics for children, such as Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). Fantasia (1940), which coordinated animated segments with famous classical music pieces, was an artistic and technical achievement.

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In Song of the South (1946), Disney combined live actors with animated figures, and beginning with Treasure Island in 1950 the company added live-action movies to its repertoire.

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Disney was also one of the first movie studios to produce film directly for television, and its Zorro and Davy Crockett series were very popular with children.

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In the early 1950s, Walt Disney began designing a huge amusement park to be built near Los Angeles. He intended Disneyland to have educational as well as amusement value and to entertain adults and their children. Land was bought in the farming community of Anaheim, about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and construction began in 1954.

Construction meeting

MAIN SREET UNDER CONSTRUCTION (1955) Ð- Workers prepare to pour cement where the northern edge of Town Square meets Main Street USA.

MAIN SREET UNDER CONSTRUCTION (1955) Ð- Workers prepare to pour cement where the northern edge of Town Square meets Main Street USA.

In the summer of 1955, special invitations were sent out for the opening of Disneyland on July 17.

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Unfortunately, the pass was counterfeited and thousands of uninvited people were admitted into Disneyland on opening day.

Counterfeit Ticket

Counterfeit Ticket

The park was not ready for the public: food and drink ran out, a women’s high-heel shoe got stuck in the wet asphalt of Main Street USA, and the Mark Twain Steamboat nearly capsized from too many passengers.

Disneyland soon recovered, however, and attractions such as the Castle, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Adventures, Space Station X-1, Jungle Cruise, and Stage Coach drew countless children and their parents. Special events and the continual building of new state-of-the-art attractions encouraged them to visit again.  Check out the prices for the public opening the next day.

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In 1965, work began on an even bigger Disney theme park and resort near Orlando, Florida. Walt Disney died in 1966, and Walt Disney World was opened in his honor on October 1, 1971.

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Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom were later added to Walt Disney World, and it remains Florida’s premier tourist attraction. In 1983, Disneyland Tokyo opened in Japan, and in 1992 Disneyland Paris–or “EuroDisney”–opened to a mixed reaction in Marne-la-Vallee. The newest Disneyland, in Hong Kong, opened its doors in September 2005

The entire ABC television grand opening of Disney Land in 1955 can be viewed on Youtube.  Below is a short video about Walt Disney’s success.

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Walt Disney “It all Started With a Mouse

7 responses

  1. Sheryl says:

    I enjoyed reading about the opening of Disneyland and the history of Disney. Until I read it, I didn’t know much about the history–and had no clue when Disneyland opened.

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  2. magyarok27 says:

    Oh great now I’m gonna have the Micky Mouse club song in my mind all day! 🙂

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  3. First time I visited Disney World was in 1974. I came from KY. It was great! Today I live about 15 minutes away and never go. Who can afford it now? I think good old Walt is turning over in his grave.

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    • I know. We went in April after not going on bout 10 years. Very expensive. The things that I guess are nostalgic seemed very dated to me next to the newer attractions. Yes I think he would cringe as it is not what he truly envisioned. Some people love it. My boss who is over 60 goes annually and is a member of the vacation club. I don’t get it. I like variety in my annual vacations.

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