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Friday, April 24, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: Building the Dream

1954 was a busy time at Walt Disney Productions. Not only did the construction of DISNEYLAND begin in Anaheim, but the studio's full slate of films continued to be produced, Mr. Disney's weekly television show began production and the legendary Mickey Mouse Club started pre-production. Despite all of these projects, Mr. Disney kept an eye on everything going on in his rapidly growing empire.

Onsite in Anaheim, Mr. Disney had a temporary tower setup in the park's hub area, where the "Partners" statue stands today. Walt would climb the tower so that he could see all of the construction going on around him. This allowed him to save time on his visits because he could get a look at his Magic Kingdom taking shape without having to tackle the vast acreage on foot.

Since the park had to open as soon as possible to get revenue flowing into the company to pay off the huge loans, Disney's Imagineers couldn't wait until the various structures and facilities were built out in Anaheim to start work on the wonders within the buildings. That's why most everything that would go into DISNEYLAND was being built out in the sound stages at the Burbank studio, 36 miles away.

Building things out in Burbank allowed the attractions to get tested and approved before they arrived onsite in Anaheim. This also let Walt supervise parts of the construction without having to trek down to the park itself. When the buildings in Anaheim were ready, the attractions would be disassembled, loaded onto trucks and hauled down from Burbank. Drivers on the 5 freeway often had to do a double-take as trains, ships and elephants inexplicably joined them on their commutes.

Mr. Disney loved supervising the construction of his amazing attractions. He saw himself as the advocate for his guests and he always had them in mind when inspecting the attractions and construction. Imagineers would live to hear him laugh with childlike glee as he inspected their work or tried out their attractions. They'd wince if he scowled and declared an attraction not good enough for "them."

Some visitors to the worksite would get a kick out of seeing Walt Disney crawling along the ground or walking around on his knees. Had Mr. Disney gone crazy? No, he was studying his park from the viewpoint of a kid. He wanted everything to be perfect and non-threatening from every possible angle.

As his Magic Kingdom started to spring up in Anaheim, the excitement was growing. Walt Disney's greatest dream was becoming a reality. Soon the world would be flocking to Southern California to experience Mr. Disney's magical adventures.