58 years ago, today, Disneyland opened and the world has never been the same. With the birth of Disneyland came the birth of the theme park industry. For those interested, here is the Opening Day broadcast on ABC in its entirety. If you have a little more than an hour to kill, I highly recommend watching. It’s so amazing to see just how different Disneyland was back then. By the way…when Disneyland opened to the public, admission was $1 for adults, $0.50 for children under 12.
Here is an interesting video that talks about what a disaster Opening Day was. It just goes to show that you don’t need to have a great opening to be successful.
Part of the reason Disney’s acquisition of ABC made a lot of sense is that ABC Television saved Walt’s dream of Disneyland by financing the park in exchange for Walt doing a Disneyland television show. The show first aired on October 27, 1954 and charted the progress of the building of Disneyland. My wife’s parents have told me, many times, how exciting it was when Disneyland officially opened. People were so excited that, as you see in the video above, they created counterfeit tickets for the July 17th opening. Originally, they were prepared for a few thousand invited guests and ended up with over 28,000.
Not only were there larger than expected crowds, but there was a plumbers strike in the summer of 1955. The strike was resolved. However, it wasn’t resolved fast enough for Disneyland to have all the plumbing working. On my first day of orientation as a Disneyland Cast Member, I remember hearing that Disney had the choice of working toilets or running fountains, but couldn’t have both for opening day. He wisely chose to have working toilets. To compensate for the lack of working water fountains, they had cast members go around with cups of water for the guests.
On top of that, there was a crazy heat wave that hit Southern California around the opening day. So, the asphalt didn’t have enough time to completely settle. The result? Women were literally walking out of their high heels going down Main Street U.S.A.
When you watch the television show (first video), you’ll notice that it was a little chaotic. Back in 1955, live TV was kind of a new concept. So, you’ll probably notice many glitches in the filming.
In spite of the problems of opening day, guests came away with a very favorable impression of Disneyland. After all, it was still a clean and safe place to bring your children. It was a new concept for folks back in 1955. So, with the already positive buzz built through the television show, guests were also raving about this place from the beginning. Disneyland reached 1 million guests on September 8, 1955 (less than 2 months after opening). The rest, as they say, is history.
Happy 58th Birthday Disneyland! Here’s to many more to come!