Disneyland History

Disneyland history began with Walt Disney’s dream of a place where parents could bring their children and have fun together as a family. He had received letters from people wanting to visit Disney Studios in Burbank, and the facts about Disneyland include original plans to locate his fun park next to the studio so employees could bring their children, and visitors from the public could tour the studio. But he realized that the studio might interest adults, and not their children. So he needed another site, eventually settling on the suburb of Anaheim because it was within the Los Angeles metropolitan area and easily accessible by freeway. The official Disneyland history timeline began in 1953 with the purchase of an Anaheim orange grove, and construction began on what would become Disneyland Park in 1954.

One of the facts about Disneyland that may surprise many is the difficulty Walt Disney experienced in trying to fund his dream project. He looked to a novel new form of entertainment—television—and created the show Disneyland, which would eventually become the Wonderful World of Color series that many baby boomers grew up with. The television network (ABC) helped to finance the project. Stores and other shopping venues were located throughout the various areas of Disneyland (especially Main Street USA). These were primarily owned and operated by other companies, and this also helped in the initial funding.

The physical Disneyland history began with groundbreaking and construction in 1954. The park opened in July of 1955, only a year later. At the time, there were only twenty attractions. Today, the Disneyland rides and attractions total nearly 60—and that’s not including the rides and attractions at adjacent the California Adventure Park or the entertainment venues in the Downtown Disney District. Disney’s Hollywood friends in attendance included Ronald Reagan, Art Linkletter, and Bob Cummings. It was the first of many events to mark Disneyland history, and it was broadcast live on television.

Disneyland's history included a healthy dose of Cold War politics in the early years, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev was not granted his wish to visit the park in 1959. In the early 1960s, the Shah of Iran (then a United States ally) and his wife the Empress Farah were invited. Walt Disney and the Shah rode the Matterhorn roller coaster together, and that video is still available. Disney famously said that “Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world.” He wasn’t too excited about creating Tomorrowland because he thought it would be outdated by the time it was completed, but the goal to keep the park updated and fresh has become a focus here. Disneyland history is filled with what amounts to almost constant remodeling, updating, and expansion. In 1963, the Enchanted Tiki Room was opened, and was the first to feature audio-animatronics.

More facts about Disneyland include the 1982 change from books full of attraction tickets to the Passport, which was valid for unlimited rides during a certain time period—usually a full day. In 1999, the Fastpass was introduced. In 2001, the Downtown Disney District, Disney’s California Adventure, and the Grand Californian Hotel were opened, completing the transition from a one-park property with a single hotel into one of the most popular resorts in the world. In 2004, a visitor from Australia became the 500-millionth guest.

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