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Friday, April 10, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: Building The Team

It was finally go time for DISNEYLAND. On July 16, 1954 Walt Disney officially broke ground on his dream. Mr. Disney had already been laying out his plans for the park and arranging the team that would design and build his Magic Kingdom. It actually proved to be a bit of a challenge, but the ideal team was right under his nose...

Originally, Walt Disney brought in architects and designers to start drawing up plans. He quickly grew frustrated, since these people didn't seem to understand what he wanted. To explain the disconnect, let's take a look at a vintage postcard of Marceline, Missouri's Main Street:

This street was to be the inspiration behind DISNEYLAND's Main Street. But it was a plain looking, modest street that looks nothing like DISNEYLAND. The original designers were pretty much just literally interpreting what Walt said he wanted without giving it that Disney difference. Mr. Disney wanted his Main Street to be the front door of DISNEYLAND, providing reassurance to his guests that they had made a good decision to come out and visit this Magic Kingdom. Main Street needed to be a street that recalled the fondness of simpler times, not a slavish reproduction of them. Something had to change.

This early bump in the road encouraged Mr. Disney to try what had always seemed to work in the past- enlist existing employees who knew what he liked and entrust them to do the impossible. Architects could be brought in later to draft the final blueprints. Harper Goff was a brilliant set designer who had worked on various MGM films and Disney productions. He had never designed anything that lasted longer than a few months on a sound stage. Yet he found himself designing an entire Main Street- one that has lasted 60 years.

Ken Anderson was an animator, yet he soon found himself designing three dimensional interpretations of Disney's greatest films in Fantasyland. He later designed the Haunted Mansion. Not bad for a guy who saw himself as a mere artist.

Roger E. Broggie was a mere machinist who worked on odd jobs around the Disney Studios. He made Walt's multi-plane camera a reality and helped on various smaller projects. Could he build a fleet of trains? He certainly could and they are still operating today.

Bob Gurr came from outside the Studio, but he had been primarily designing cars. Walt entrusted him to design the miniature cars of the Autopia, and the Main Street vehicles. He later designed the sleek monorails. All attractions still loved by the public.

Harriet Burns was a "Jill of all Trades" who took on every project she was given with gusto. She had never put together a scale model of a mountain before, but she tackled it anyway. Walt Disney and millions of guests have enjoyed her work.

Once the right people were brought in, Walt's Magic Kingdom began to take shape. Walt learned to trust his instincts; his staff could make the impossible happen even if they didn't think they could. Walt's staff wanted to make him proud and took on seemingly impossible tasks to prove his faith in them. It is because of them that we have a DISNEYLAND. They helped Mr. Disney make his biggest dream come true.