Sunday, July 21, 2019
Saturday, July 20, 2019
Friday, July 19, 2019
Thursday, July 18, 2019
.... there would be no Disney.
The Original DISNEYLAND in Anaheim often gets overlooked, but the Walt Disney Company would not be the large multimedia empire it is today were it not for Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. When Walt Disney first presented the idea of a theme park to his company, there were many who doubted its viability. So many insiders felt that he was risking everything and they worried about their futures. In fact, if the company had thought to officially license the use of Walt Disney’s name prior to the 1950’s, DISNEYLAND might have never been built. Roy Disney agreed to go forward with the project as long as Walt formalized the use of his name in the company.
The big risk paid off handsomely. As it turned out, television was changing the economics of Hollywood and much larger studios were floundering to adapt. DISNEYLAND provided solid financial footing for the entire company, giving it the stability it needed to prosper and grow.
Without DISNEYLAND, Walt Disney Productions probably would have not survived the death of Walt Disney, becoming a division of another company at best or just a movie catalog at worst. Without DISNEYLAND, there would be no Walt Disney World, no still operating movie studio, no Pixar. While Disney didn’t create Marvel, it gave the company a stable source of financing that has enabled Marvel’s Cinematic Universe to reach ever higher heights. All because of the Magic Kingdom in Anaheim.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
“Once upon a time there was a Magic Kingdom made of hopes and childhood fantasies. A timeless place where every land was filled with wonder. A place where everyone who entered its gates would be given the gift of the young at heart, the power to wish upon a star and unlock its magic.”
“We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together.”
"Just imagine- if you were standing right here over 60 years ago, you'd be standing in the middle of an orange grove. One visionary man stood right where you are now, but instead of orange trees, he envisioned a Magic Kingdom. This man's name was Walt Disney. And his dream would be called DISNEYLAND."
“Yesterday, a man walked up to me and said, ‘Isn’t it a shame that Walt Disney couldn’t be here to see this?’ and I said, 'He did see this, that’s why it’s here.'"
“The greatest thing about DISNEYLAND is that its magic stays with you forever.”
“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."
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
“Think beyond your lifetime if you want to
do something truly great.”
Monday, July 15, 2019
“I first saw the site for Disneyland back in 1953, In those days it was all flat land - no rivers, no mountains, no castles or rocket ships - just orange groves, and a few acres of walnut trees.”
- Walt Disney
Sunday, July 14, 2019
Saturday, July 13, 2019
On this day in 1955, DISNEYLAND was just days away from opening. It was also Walt and Lilly Disney’s 30th Anniversary. To celebrate both the anniversary and show off DISNEYLAND to their friends, the couple hosted a huge party in the Golden Horseshoe.
Friday, July 12, 2019
There is literally nowhere one can go in DISNEYLAND without seeing a project that Walt Disney Imagineering’s first female Imagineer has worked on. Harriet Burns was originally brought in to work on the miniature houses in Storybookland, impressing Walt Disney with her ability to bring his visions to life.
No matter what challenge Walt presented her with, Harriet was able to accomplish it. One of her biggest responsibilities was to build elaborate models based on the sketches provided to her of proposed projects. Walt Disney often said that he didn’t trust the paper sketches he was provided, but he always trusted Harriet’s models, only approving the plans after he saw them. Harriet worked on attractions that remain popular to this day, including the Matterhorn, it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Enchanted Tiki Room.
Harriet Burns’ work is still enjoyed by millions of people every year in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I was fortunate enough to meet her and she told me that she loved hearing how the projects she had worked on were still loved by children and she felt privileged to have been a part of the team.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
When Walt Disney began building DISNEYLAND, he soon realized that he was going to run out of money before he had a chance to build the DISNEYLAND Hotel. Mr. Disney owned a choice parcel of land across the street from his Magic Kingdom that was perfect for a hotel and he started trying to get some of the major hotel chains to build there. They all declined; if DISNEYLAND failed, the hotel would fail too. Walt’s famous friends declined to build the hotel as well, including Bob Hope and Art Linkletter. Eventually Walt did find someone willing to invest in the DISNEYLAND Hotel- his friend Jack Wrather.
Jack Wrather was a Texan who had arrived in Hollywood to invest some of his family wealth in movies and television shows. He had partnered with another Texan- Helen Alvarez- to invest in production studios and television stations. Their shared business was mostly successful, though other investments in Jack’s portfolio weren’t huge moneymakers. Both Jack and Helen saw the DISNEYLAND Hotel as an opportunity to hit the big time.
By this time, Jack had married the former starlet Bonita Granville and he felt that the DISNEYLAND Hotel would cement his place in Hollywood. Others saw the hotel as a potential disaster, certain to drag Jack and Helen down if DISNEYLAND was a failure. Jack and Helen plunged forward, choosing to build a more modular hotel that wouldn’t be too much of a drag on them financially if things went south but could also be easily expanded if the demand was there.
Of course, DISNEYLAND was a huge success and Wrather’s DISNEYLAND Hotel became the most successful part of the Wrather-Alvarez organization. Jack would eventually buy out Helen and expand the hotel beyond his wildest dreams.
The DISNEYLAND Hotel became just as much a landmark as DISNEYLAND, revolutionizing the hospitality industry by catering to families. Previously, larger hotels and resorts catered mostly to business travelers and adult vacationers. The DISNEYLAND Hotel sought to provide amenities and features that entire families would enjoy. Eventually, the Walt Disney Company would acquire the Wrather Corporation and take over the DISNEYLAND Hotel.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
With park construction in full swing, Walt Disney began looking to the future. While DISNEYLAND was designed to be an amazing place, Mr. Disney knew that it would be the park’s staff who would bring the magic alive. How could he ensure that only the best people were hired and that they would all comply with his vision of DISNEYLAND? By establishing DISNEYLAND University, of course!
To accomplish this, Walt Disney brought in an expert who had experience putting together classes to train employees- Van Arsdale France. Mr. France sat down with Walt Disney to get his vision of what an ideal DISNEYLAND employee should be. Mr. Disney wanted his employees to be friendly and courteous. Since DISNEYLAND would be open to everyone, they had to leave their prejudices at the front gate. These were Walt’s personal guests, many of whom would be traveling from around the world. They needed to treat EVERYONE with the same courtesy and respect. Mr. France put together an amazing training program, parts of which are still used at Disney Theme Parks around the world.
Van’s classes were so successful that other companies adopted parts of them for their own training programs. Mr France would go on to hold other positions around the park, but it was his first position as the founder of DISNEYLAND University that created his legacy.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
In the early 1950’s, the City Of Anaheim was at a crossroads. Less than 2,500 people lived there and the impending “Cold War” was creating a permanent market for military equipment. The big firms that wanted to profit from providing that equipment were expanding in Southern California and Anaheim thought that it could possibly expand itself by catering to this new industry, both by providing space for offices and homes for employees. In 1952, however, Walt Disney arrived in town.
The City Of Anaheim had already approached land owners in the area to let them know that it wanted to leave its agricultural roots behind and become a bustling Southern California suburb by re-zoning their property for housing, which would allow them to make a handsome profit. Most everyone agreed and the process was in full swing until WaltDisney came to town with an idea- did Anaheim want to become just another stop between Los Angeles and San Diego, or did it want to host his Magic Kingdom, a showcase that would attract people from around the world? Despite not fully understanding what Walt Disney was planning to build, they chose to move forward. Now Mr. Disney just needed to convince the landowners to sell. They obviously did, but one seller gave DISNEYLAND much more than just her property.
Laura Dominguez owned a parcel of land that would eventually become New Orleans Square and the Rivers Of America. Her family had owned the land for quite some time and her children were born there. She could see the writing on the wall, however, and figured that it was time to sell the property. She agreed to Walt Disney’s price but had two conditions- the first was that a special tree be preserved on the property. The tree was a perfect fit for Adventureland where it was moved. The second was that Mr. Disney give her college aged son a job. Both conditions were accepted.
Possibly DISNEYLAND management felt that her son would only work at DISNEYLAND for a couple of years before moving on. Ron Dominguez, however, loved working at the park and worked his way up the ladder, eventually becoming the president of DISNEYLAND before retiring. A window was placed on Main Street in his honor, a clever nod to him being literally born and raised on the property.
Monday, July 8, 2019
While it might have looked like Walt Disney singlehandedly willed DISNEYLAND into existence, only using his intuition to choose a location, that was far from the truth. DISNEYLAND’s location was scientifically chosen by a consultant who would end up becoming a vital part of Disney history.
While Walt Disney had some requirements in mind when he sought an ideal location for his Magic Kingdom, he had no idea where to locate it. Harrison Price was hired to evaluate the various possibilities and settled on Anaheim, which would be the most affordable option that met Walt Disney’s requirements and would eventually become the population center of Southern California. As it turned out, Harrison Price was only slightly off; the population center would be four miles north in Fullerton.
Walt Disney was so impressed by Harrison Price’s work on finding a site for the Magic Kingdom that he quickly put him to work doing more analysis for the theme park that could be used to calm financiers and sponsors. Such work had never been done before in the tourism/amusement industry, yet Harrison took on the challenge. He created metrics to determine how many people DISNEYLAND might attract, how much those people might spend once they got there, how many hot dogs they would order and how many parking spaces they would need. Harrison’s metrics were amazingly accurate and became the foundation of industry metrics that are still used to this very day.
Originally, Harrison had worked as part of a larger consulting firm, but after his work on DISNEYLAND, his intellect and analysis became highly sought after that he chose to start his own firm (with Walt Disney’s encouragement) and took advantage of the boom in theme park construction and tourist enterprises that occurred after DISNEYLAND’s success. Harrison continued to do work with Walt Disney Productions, providing analysis of DISNEYLAND expansion, an early plan for a second theme park in Anaheim that Walt Disney was planning called “Disney California Living” and both Walt Disney’s Original Florida project concept and Roy Disney’s cut down Florida project that became Walt Disney World. Mr. Price would go on to do more work for Disney and other major themed entertainment players like Universal, MGM, Six Flags, Knott’s Berry Fark and Cedar Fair. His trailblazing work on DISNEYLAND, however, would be his greatest legacy.
Sunday, July 7, 2019
Saturday, July 6, 2019
Friday, July 5, 2019
When Walt Disney first began talking about his plans for a theme park, his biggest hurdle was trying to explain what his Magic Kingdom would be like. Would it be like a carnival or a fair? Maybe a recreational area? It soon became clear that Mr. Disney would need a visual guide to show financiers, bankers and others just what DISNEYLAND would look like. Pressed for time, Walt turned to the one person he felt was up to the task- Herb Ryman.
Herb Ryman wasn’t working for Walt Disney Productions at the time. After serving as the art director for several animated features, Mr. Ryman had grown restless and moved over to Twentieth-Century-Fox where he could design actual, practical sets. By the early 1950’s, Herb’s skillset had grown to become ideal for a project like DISNEYLAND. Walt Disney just had to convince him to join this admittedly risky endeavor. Herb was a bit skeptical when Walt first described the project to him and asked to see the plans. Of course, they didn’t exist outside of Walt Disney’s head; Herb discovered that Walt wanted HIM to create the first draft. Herb agreed as long as Walt Disney stayed to supervise. Thus began the “lost weekend” in which Walt Disney described the DISNEYLAND of his dreams and Herb got it all down on paper. That historic map is pictured below.
By the end of the weekend, Walt Disney had the map he needed and Herb Ryman was sold on the idea of joining DISNEYLAND, Inc. Herb would go on to design so many familiar icons such as Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Golden Horseshoe. A tribute to him is planted near the beloved castle that he designed.
Thursday, July 4, 2019
Admiral Joe Fowler was an American hero. Having majored in naval engineering, it was he who oversaw the construction of the United States’ warships during World War II, ensuring that they were built efficiently, structurally sound and finished on time. He retired from the U.S. Navy after the war, but his reputation for getting things done earned him an appointment from President Eisenhower to locate and remove wasteful spending from the military.
Admiral Joe Fowler, Pictured left
By 1954, Admiral Fowler was working in the San Francisco Bay Area as a project manager for a company building tract homes. His reputation for getting things done quickly, on time and under budget had made him highly sought after in the construction business. When Walt Disney flew up to meet with him, however, Mr. Disney was only looking for someone to oversee the construction of the Mark Twain Steamboat. By the end of the impromptu interview, however, Walt knew that he had found his construction manager for DISNEYLAND. If anyone could make sure that this complicated, never before attempted project would get done quickly, it was Admiral Fowler.
Admiral Fowler showing a visiting dignitary Disneyland’s next project.
Walt’s decision to hire Admiral Fowler was a great one. Fowler took control of the project and made sure it was ready to open by the summer of 1955. Admiral Fowler was so good at his job that he became known as “Mr. Can Do” around the park. Admiral Fowler would become the General Manager at DISNEYLAND and would turn so many of Walt Disney’s dreams into reality. It was because of this American hero that, as Mr. Disney once noted, anything was possible in DISNEYLAND.
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Long before Walt Disney moved out to California to follow his dreams, he was a young boy stuck in the Midwest without an outlet for his creativity. To his stern father, art and creative enterprises were a waste of time. How could a young boy in such a situation get the tools he needed to keep his imagination stimulated? In Walt’s case, he’d get them from a special aunt- Margaret Disney.
“Aunt Maggie” saw the spark in her young nephew’s eye and bought him plenty of sketch pads, crayons, pencils and other art supplies to help him nurture his burgeoning artistic talents. Even when Walt’s father discouraged it, Aunt Maggie would sneak him art supplies to encourage his creative endeavors. While Aunt Maggie would live to see Mickey Mouse, she would not see the opening of DISNEYLAND. While we might have still gotten a Magic Kingdom if she hadn’t intervened, Aunt Maggie’s simple gifts to her nephew sparked a creative streak in her nephew that directly led to him building DISNEYLAND. And the world was definitely better because of it.
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Not everyone who contributed to the success of DISNEYLAND knew that their hard work would eventually make the Happiest Place on Earth a happier place. In fact, some people would never even know that such a place as DISNEYLAND would ever exist, much less that they would contribute anything to it. One such person was John Rea.
(From Left, Kate, Margaret, Ella and John Rea)
John Rea was born in Canada in 1848. He found the cold weather to be bad for his health and made his way to Southern California and settled in El Cajon, where he eventually started up a lucrative business. He moved his Canadian sweetheart Margaret Wilkie to Southern California, married her and established their family. In the 1890’s, John decided to buy a ranch up north and try his luck at farming. The ranch was located in Anaheim, California and he gave it a name that should be familiar to anyone who lives in or has visited Anaheim- ‘Katella Ranch.’ You’ve most likely visited his ranch without even knowing it- John Rea’s Ranch would become DISNEYLAND.
While only one of John Rea’s orange trees would survive the park’s construction and was previously located on the grounds of the DISNEYLAND Hotel, he planted the large trees that would shield the bustling Main Street, U.S.A from the jungles of Adventureland. They are most visible from Main Street’s Town Square behind City Hall. John’s daughters, however, would provide the family’s most enduring legacy- their names are forever immortalized in the name of one of Anaheim’s busiest streets- Katella Avenue.
While their parents would not live to see DISNEYLAND, both Kate and Ella Rea would live long enough to see the Magic Kingdom, though it is not known whether they ever visited the park.
Monday, July 1, 2019
On July 17, 1955 Walt Disney’s greatest dream- DISNEYLAND- opened to the world. While it appeared that Mr. Disney had singlehandedly willed the park into existence, there were so many people who helped bring the park to life; even if they didn’t quite realize it. Walt Disney fully acknowledged the contributions of those who had helped him make his dream come true; as he once said-
“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
On this, DISNEYLAND’s Anniversary Month, we will feature the stories of the people who helped make Walt Disney’s dream come true, as well as those whose contributions continue to ensure that DISNEYLAND is and always will be the one and only “Happiest Place On Earth”.