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Friday, June 19, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: An Entertaining Plan

As DISNEYLAND's opening date drew near, Walt Disney began planning out the entertainment at his Magic Kingdom. At the time, most amusement parks treated entertainment as an afterthought. Amateurish and often bawdy, it was not the sort of entertainment that Mr. Disney wanted for his theme park. Since the eyes of the world would be trained on DISNEYLAND, Walt felt that only world class entertainment would be good enough. So he sought out the best and brightest acts.

Donald Novis, Betty Taylor and Wally Boag were top flight entertainers with experience in Hollywood. Walt originally thought that live television productions could originate from DISNEYLAND and the talented Wally Boag could host them. Those plans were put on hold due to a lack of funds to complete the DISNEYLAND Opera House on Main Street, which was just a facade until 1965. Wally Boag ended up becoming "Pecos Bill," who performed at his girlfriend Slue Foot Sue's Golden Horseshoe saloon. Every day, guests were treated to an amazing show performed by genuine Hollywood pros, an unheard of production that was free with park admission.

This amazing building would become one of Walt Disney's favorite places in DISNEYLAND. Originally, the stars were signed to short term contracts that would only last the summer. After DISNEYLAND was a huge success, the show was extended indefinitely, becoming the longest running live show in history.

Another big name hire was Vesey Walker, a renowned band leader who performed in Hollywood on many films. At DISNEYLAND he was given responsibility to hire the band who would also initially get short term contracts. Filled with talented Hollywood performers, it was also stacked with talent beyond what might be expected at a theme park. It was just the way Walt wanted it.