Today In History: Disneyland's Opening Day

Today In History |


Disneyland opened its doors to the public for the first time today in 1955. The 160 acre park cost about seventeen million dollars to construct. Disneyland is now one of the most profitable theme parks in the world. It averages fourteen million visitors a year and makes about $3 billion annually.

Walt Disney was born in 1901, in Chicago, where he made money as a commercial artist before starting his own studio in LA. He produced the first ever animated short with sound, Steamboat Willy. The title character would later be renamed Mickey Mouse.

Walt put a high premium on production quality, and pushed his studio to produce better and better work. This resulted in some financial problems. Financial problems that, obviously, resolved themselves. Disney had their first cinematic hit with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1938. The film took a grueling three years to animate.

What followed was a litany of box office mega-hits, with an exception here and there. Disney is now one of the largest media companies in the world.

Designing Disney

Walt started designing Disneyland in the early 50's. His original vision was a park that would educate as well as amuse. He purchased a plot of orange grove in Anaheim, California and began the park's construction in 1954.

Opening day was a bit of a fiasco. A prankster had distributed thousands of fake invitations. Disney let them in anyway, and the surplus of attendees taxed the park's resources beyond its means. The park ran out of concessions, a woman got her shoe stuck in Main Street USA's still-wet asphalt and the steamboat almost sank from overloading.

Nevertheless, the park was a hit. As the public flooded in, Disneyland grew to accommodate the boom in attendance. New rides were added and special event programming was expanded.

Disneyland was enough of a success to lead the company to begin construction on Walt Disney World, a larger park in Orlando, Florida.

Walt died in 1966, five years before Disney World opened. To this day, Disney World is still Florida's biggest tourist attraction.

Disneyland Tokyo opened in 1983 and Disneyland Paris, alternatively named EuroDisney, opened in 1992. A Hong Kong Disneyland, the most recent addition, opened in 2005.

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.