In today's world, it's hard to imagine Anaheim without Disney. But once upon a time, Disneyland was just an idea from one of the most visionary imaginations around--one Mr. Walt Disney. Here's a look at how Anaheim became home to the now global Disney Parks empire.
A Brief History of Disneyland in Anaheim
The Idea for a Film Set Amusement Park
Mr. Walt Disney began planning additional experiences to supplement his Burbank film studio in the 1940s. He initially set up a train ride tour at the studio’s backlot to amuse his employees and children.
Next, he visited amusement parks and carnivals to get inspiration as he mulled his plans for a theme park of his own. Disney wanted to create a magical park where families could become part of the wonderment they saw in movies.
In 1952, Disney formed WED Enterprises to build an amusement park next to his studio. The original WED group included designers and artists from Walt Disney's studio staff.
The Search for an Appropriate Piece of Land
Burbank city officials were hostile to the idea of an amusement park, and Disney sought another location. He chose to land in rural Anaheim for his park project. Because the land was so much bigger than the space available by the Burbank studio, Disney could expand his original idea and create a much grander park.
At that time, Anaheim was far from town and basically in the "middle of nowhere!" It mainly was farmed, and with so much space, Disney started dreaming.
Disney initially found it challenging to secure financing for his envisioned amusement park. Finally, however, ABC came through with funding in exchange for the rights to produce a weekly Disney TV program and a percentage of the new park's profits. The TV program was called Disneyland TV and promoted Disneyland to TV watchers, who he hoped to inspire to visit Disneyland.
Construction on the new theme park began in July 1954 and was completed a year later, in July 1955. On July 15, 1955, Disneyland hosted an impressive opening day gala, which ABC broadcast live. Nearly half of America watched the festivities unfold on TV. Disney invited eleven thousand people to the park on opening day, and thousands more tried to enter with counterfeit tickets.
The next day, visitors started lining up at 2:00 am to enter the brand new park. Disneyland welcomed one million visitors in its first ten weeks alone!
The Original Theme Park
Disneyland's first attractions included Main Street, U.S.A., designed to portray a Midwestern American town from 1900. Disney's hometown of Marceline, Missouri, inspired Main Street. Fantasyland was part of the original attraction.
The exotic jungle seen in movie sets inspired Adventureland. Frontierland's main attraction featured the Mark Twain Riverboat, while Tomorrowland presented Disney's hopes for the future.
Later Additions to Disneyland
New Orleans Square and Mickey's Toontown additions came next. Later named Critter County, Bear County features popular attractions such as the Bear Jamboree and Splash Mountain ride. Holidayland was in the lineup but only existed from 1957 to 1961.
Finally, Disney's California Adventure opened in 2001. Another addition, Downtown Disney, features shopping, entertainment, and dining.
Today, it is hard to believe Disney had trouble securing financing for Disneyland. Today's Disney empire includes theme parks throughout the world, a cruise line, a successful product line, and generates untold revenue. The original Baby Boomers who visited the park in the 1950s as children can now take their children and grandchildren to visit Disneyland. Guests still flock to see and enjoy the happiest place on earth.
Enjoy Southern California
Disney's imagination created a theme park in what was rural Anaheim. Today, the famous theme park has transformed the area into a bustling destination. If you are traveling to the area, be sure to stay at the Capri Hotel California and enjoy the magic.