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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Celebrating Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom: Happy Birthday, DISNEYLAND!

"Mickey and I started out that first time many, many years ago. We’ve had a lot of our dreams come true. Now we want you to share with us our latest and greatest dream. That’s it right here: DISNEYLAND."

-Walt Disney

"In 1955, an amazing man named Walt Disney dreamt of a Magic Kingdom."

-Julie Andrews

They said it wouldn't last 6 months; that the bizarre "Kiddyland" being built out in Anaheim would be gone and forgotten before the year was through and that its crazy creator would soon find himself in the poorhouse. Mr. Disney had heard it all; and yet he pushed forward. He believed in his biggest, riskiest and most expensive dream ever and knew that once he threw open the doors to his Magic Kingdom that the world would beat a path to its gleaming doors.

There are many stories about when Walt started dreaming about  DISNEYLAND. He says it was when he waited for his daughters to finish riding the Griffith Park carousel. His sister says it was long before that; back in Kansas City there was an amusement park they used to walk past as children but were never allowed to visit. She says he used to slow down and stare longingly past the front gates at the bright lights, colorful facades and exciting rides. She believes he was already dreaming of building his own wonderland, planning out a magical kingdom.

Regardless of where the original idea came from, by the early 1950's, Walt Disney was going full speed ahead to build his dream. He had to convince others that DISNEYLAND would be feasible. One of the biggest skeptics was his brother Roy. But Walt was very convincing and soon scraped together enough money to buy hundreds of acres of orange groves in a sleepy town south of Los Angeles that nobody had ever heard of- Anaheim, California.

Soon land was being cleared. Castles built. Rivers carved.

It was all getting built just as Walt dreamed it- as good as good could be. Imagineers said that Mr. Disney became a kid again on his numerous visits to the construction site; pacing out his plans, poring over blueprints and watching his greatest dream become a reality. The outside critics still called him a fool and predicted his failure, but as he watched his Magic Kingdom take shape around him, he was able to keep the negative thoughts out of his head. He had wished upon a star and his dream was coming true. Right before his very own eyes.

"I was standing next to Mr. Disney at the window, watching the guests come through the gates. When I looked up at him, he had his hands behind his back, a grin from ear to ear, and I could see a lump in his throat and a tear streaming down his cheek. He had realized his dream."

-Sharon Baird

And then the big day arrived....

Walt once confided in a friend that he had a recurring nightmare that began before DISNEYLAND opened and continued through the 60's, possibly for the rest of his life. He found himself running down a deserted Main Street, past abandoned shops and restaurants wondering where everyone was. A mournful cast member would notify Walt that nobody showed up that day; DISNEYLAND was a failure.  To his relief, this is what greeted him on opening day- July 17th, 1955:

"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 that have created America. With the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."

-Walt Disney, July 17, 1955

Before an audience of millions watching on virtually every television in existence at the time, Walt Disney introduced his Magic Kingdom to the world. History was made and the world soon began making its way to Anaheim to see the wonders of Walt Disney's dream come true. 

DISNEYLAND, a place that naysayers believed would be closed within six months will celebrate 60 years of magic next year. It remains a special place, unlike any other in the world; living proof that dreams can and do come true.

"Today, Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom has grown to become the happiest place on earth to millions the world over. A place where anything is possible. Where every dreamer may wish upon a star."

-Julie Andrews