Disneyland Opens For The First Time To The Public In 1955

By | July 15, 2020

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(Getty Images)

On July 17, 1955, Walt Disney brought to life characters that children had only seen on the silver screen. With Disneyland, Uncle Walt didn't just create a space inspired by his animation but an entire world where new adventures could be had every day. The road to opening Disneyland was long and full of narrowly averted disaster, but it was worth it. The opening day featured some of the park's most well known attractions, rides that have gone by the wayside, and plenty of mishaps, but it was the beginning of something magical.

Disney Fever

In the 1950s Disney was firing on all cylinders. Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, and Peter Pan were all released within the first three years of the decade, and Walt was starting to think about expanding his empire. Letters poured into the studio begging for tours of the company, but what would people enjoy about seeing an animation studio?

After visiting Griffith Park with his daughters, Disney had an idea. What if Disney were a more fantastic place than a film studio? What if it were a place that children and adults could enjoy together? Walt traveled the world to inspect some of the biggest and most accommodating theme parks, including Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen as well as Playland and Children's Fairyland, both in California.

On his travels, Disney came to the conclusion that his park should be, above all, clean and family-friendly. In 1952, he received zoning permission to start building Disneyland right in the heart of Burbank.

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(Orange County Archives/Wikimedia Commons)

From Burbank To Anaheim

It turned out that Burbank was way too small to host a giant theme park that was already scheduled to expand before it was even under construction, so rather than scrap the plans, Disney decided to move the park 35 miles south to a 160-acre plot in Anaheim. Construction on the park began in July 1954, but the expanded area meant a higher cost for the park's production. Initially projected at just over $1 million, the price skyrocketed to $17 million, the equivalent of around $130 million today. To secure financing, Disney had to partner with the new TV network ABC, a partnership that's proved advantageous to this day. At the time, their involvement was just enough to keep the park afloat, and it allowed for some interesting press on opening day.