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Friday, July 17, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: July 17, 1955

It was the day everyone was waiting for- the grand opening of that bizarro "park" that Walt Disney was building way out in the middle of nowhere. For over a year, the public had literally watched DISNEYLAND sprout up way out in Anaheim, California and on July 17, 1955 the world would finally see what all the fuss was about. Nobody was more excited than the man who had been waiting his entire life to see his dream come true- Walt Disney.

For better or for worse, the park would open and the entire country would finally see what had just been little more than a dream a few years before. Many in Hollywood had doubted that this 'Magic Kingdom' would ever see the light of day. Even if it did open, they reasoned, it would most likely close within six months. Despite his enthusiasm, Mr. Disney still had the chilling thought in his head that nobody would show up and his dream would fail. So you can imagine his relief when he saw this sight at the front gates:

And this:

The public had turned out in droves to see the marvelous DISNEYLAND. Mr. Disney could be forgiven for clowning around with the first children to enter his Magic Kingdom.

Michael Schwartner and Christine Vess were the luckiest kids in the world; they were the first children to enter DISNEYLAND, meeting its King and becoming the first of many to enter its gates.

It is hard to know how proud and excited Mr. Disney was on that day. How does it feel to have your greatest dream come true? Not only was the park finally open, but thousands of guests showed up and fell in love with the place.

One vivid memory that many first day castmembers had was how confused many of the guests were that day. What was this place? Did they have to ride the attractions in the order they were on the map? Did they really get to ride on the boats? While things were chaotic, most of the opening day visitors were ecstatic to be a part of history.

And so was DISNEYLAND's head dreamer. Meanwhile at home, 100 million people watched the spectacle on ABC. It was the highest rated program up until that date. It is even more staggering to consider that Nielsen ratings estimated that nearly every working television in the entire United States was tuned to the live program. Instantly, millions made plans to see the wondrous park in person. Eventually people from every country on the planet would find their way to Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.

The greatest thing about The Story of DISNEYLAND is that it is still being told every day. And that is just as Mr. Disney planned. He knew and trusted that if he built it, they would come. And they still do 60 years later. That's why our story will continue- to paraphrase Mr. Disney himself, we still have a lot of story to tell.