Featured Attractions

Monday, July 8, 2024

Storytellers 1: Walt Disney Begins

On December 5, 1901, Walter Elias Disney was born to Elias and Flora Disney in Chicago, Illinois at 1249 Tripp Avenue. Of course, his parents could not have imagined that their newborn would arguably become one of the most influential persons of the newly begun 20th Century. He received his famous name from the family’s pastor Walter Parr, who had named his son after Elias.

Walt Disney joined a family with three sons- Herbert, Ray and Roy Disney. His big brother Roy Disney would become his protector and eventual business partner, helping him find the money to make his dreams come true. Elias Disney was constantly moving from job to job and city to city in an attempt to support his family. He bought farms, factories and other investments that never seemed to provide him with a stable income. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in a town the Disneys had likely never even heard of, John Rea was carefully farming walnuts on his ranch in Anaheim, California.

John Rea, his wife Margaret and his two daughters Kate and Ella had moved to the sleepy agricultural town of Anaheim from El Cajon. John Rea had named his ranch after his daughters, forming a new word- Katella. John Rea didn’t know it, but that baby born halfway across the country would grow up and realize his greatest dream on John Rea’s walnut ranch. Mr. Rea’s ranch was located on what would become Disneyland’s parking lot and Main Street, USA. In fact, the large trees that would be used to shield Adventureland from Main Street were planted by John Rea, most likely before Walt Disney was even born.

Ella and Kate left Anaheim so that they could attend college at UC Berkeley. Upon returning to Anaheim, Kate Rea would begin teaching at the city’s new high school in 1901. Both Kate and Ella Rea would live long enough to see their ranch transform into a Magic Kingdom, though they did not own the land when Walt Disney purchased it. Their names live on in the Disneyland resort area- Katella Avenue is currently the southern border of Disney California Adventure.

Meanwhile in Chicago, Elias Disney was quickly souring on the city. He felt that crime was out of control, so he decided to head to a more rural location where he could operate a farm of his own. Elias Disney’s decision to move the family to a farm would inspire the design of Walt Disney’s  Main Street USA in Disneyland.