In 1932 the City of Burbank California turned down an idea by Walt Disney to build a family park on 16 empty acres of land near the Disney Studios. But fortunately this refusal didn’t stop Walt from dreaming
In August of 1953 after several months of searching for land, Walt purchased 160 acres of orange groves and walnut trees near Harbor Boulevard and the new Santa Ana freeway that would eventually become his dream park. To help him acquire funding for this project, Walt came up with a plan that would involve a new television series about the park. After being turned down by CBS and NBC, the weekend before his brother Roy was suppose to meet with ABC and pitch the idea, Walt went to see Herb Ryman. During this weekend, which has become known as the ‘lost weekend’, Walt talked about his idea and concepts for a family park as Herb drew what would become the first map of Disneyland.
Obviously the map helped because Roy convinced ABC that Walt’s dream was worth supporting and they agreed to loan the Disney Company $500.00 and guaranteed $4.5 million. In return ABC would receive one-third ownership in Walt’s new park and Disney would create a weekly television show for ABC. On July 16, 1954 construction began in Anaheim California on what would become one of the most iconic places in modern times. During this year, Walt himself hosted the ABC TV series which debuted on October 27, 1954. The show aired every Wednesday night at 7:30m on ABC and featured programs and specials about the realms of fantasy, adventure, tomorrow and the frontier. Viewers were also able to see construction progress and Walt reported on the progress of Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland and Tomorrowland’s construction. After one year of almost 24 hour a day construction, and a total investment of $17 million, the work was done and Walt’s park was ready to open
On July 17, 1955 at at 2:30PM Walt Disney opened the gates of Walt’s dream opened. At 4:30pm Walt christened Disneyland live on ABC with the following speech written by Winston Hibler:
“To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond 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 which have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Stars such as Thurl Ravenscroft, Ronald Reagan, Art Linkletter, and 28,000 park guests participated in and witnessed the biggest live telecast to date.
Five lands and eighteen attractions were open on opening day.
Disneyland has grown since 1955. Today there are eight lands that hold close to fifty attractions, a second park (California Adventure), three resort hotels, the Downtown Disney shopping and dining area and over 14,00 parking spots. With over 650 million guests since it opened, Disneyland has a larger cumulative attendance than any other theme park in the world.
Below for your enjoyment, and to help you celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the opening of Disneyland we have the complete 1955 Disneyland Opening Day ABC Broadcast.
[archiveorg 1955DisneylandOpeningDaycompleteAbcBroadcast width=640 height=480 frameborder=0 webkitallowfullscreen=true mozallowfullscreen=true]
TMSM Today in Graphic by Sherry Rinaldi DeHart
Images from Disney Parks, Disney Archives, archive.org