On this day in 1955, a crazy 63 years ago, Walt Disney’s dream “Disneyland” opened it’s gates for the first time! And as you’d expect, when opening something like this — something that was completely new and unfamiliar to the world — things wouldn’t go perfect. Far from it, actually…
So here are 12 insane facts about Disneyland’s opening day:
- July 17, 1955, was a media preview day, opened to invited guests and media, with the following day being open to the general public. Only around 12,000 or so invites were given, but over 28,000 people showed up due to many counterfeit tickets being used. (They wouldn’t use fingerprints until, you know, 55 years later).
- Getting in was such a hassle that “entrepreneurs” set up ladders around the walls of the park, charging small fees for people to climb up and over
- The temperature was stifling, reaching 101 degrees that week. That, plus a plumbers strike in the area put pressure on Walt Disney, as he had to make the decision between having running toilets and working water fountains. To keep it from getting completely messy, Walt chose running toilets — angering people who thought the lack of fountains was only to promote Pepsi, a sponsor of the park. It also didn’t help that the park ran out of food that afternoon too.
- There was plenty of water on the Mark Twain Riverboat, however. They didn’t initially limit the number of riders, resulting in way too many people boarding. Due to the weight, the boat was in danger of sinking and rocked from side to side as people moved — so much so that water was splashing onto the deck.
- Other attraction nightmares include nearly every car in Autopia being wrecked due to aggressive drivers… Frontierland’s stagecoach ride was closed due it being top heavy and tipping over… Peter Pan & Dumbo were still unfinished… and parents were tossing their children over the fencing to get them on the King Arthur Carrousel.
- Because the park was still getting ready on opening day, as the asphalt was still wet in several areas, women’s high heels (can you imagine going to a Disney park now in heels??) were sinking into the pavement in parts of the park.
- There were so many weeds along the water by the canal boats, Walt ordered workers to place signs with exotic names on them (in Latin!) to resemble a collection of foreign and rare plants.
- Celebrities were given schedules to arrive in 2 hour intervals, but most showed up all at the same time, causing chaos for fans of both the park and the stars. Among those attending that day included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Jerry Lewis, Art Linkletter, Danny Thomas, Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher and Bob Cummings, who the ABC cameras inadvertently caught kissing a dancer.
- ABC broadcast the event live, and with the park so crowded, people were tripping over the camera cables. When Walt began to read the Tomorrowland plaque, he stopped when a cameraman told him “I have no signal”. Adjustments were made, and Walt started over.
- In later years, the first day was commonly called “Black Sunday” by Walt and his team. The press was very negative about the first day, so Walt invited everyone back the next day to experience the park properly. People began to line up as early as 2am for the official public opening day.
- While July 17th was the media preview day and the first public day was July 18th, The Walt Disney Company officially recognizes July 17 as the official date.
- Opening day shops and attractions included:
- In Town Square: City Hall, Fire Department, Plaza Pavilion Restaurant.
- Main Street USA: Bank of America, Camera Center, Carnation Ice Cream Parlor, Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner, The Emporium, Horse Drawn Fire Wagon, Street Cars & Surreys, Main Street Cinema, Penny Arcade, China & Glass House, Story Book Shop, Santa Fe/Disneyland Railroad
- Adventureland: Jungle Cruise, Red Wagon Inn
- Frontierland: Chicken Plantation Restaurant, Davy Crockett Arcade, Frontier Trading Post, Golden Horseshoe Revue at Slue Foot Sue’s, Mark Twain Steamboat, Mule Pack, Stage Coaches
- Fantasyland: Canal Boats of the World, King Arthur Carrousel, Mad Tea Party, Merlin’s Magic Shop, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White Adventure
- Tomorrowland: Autopia, Circarama USA (featuring the film “A Tour of the West”), Monsanto Hall of Chemistry, Space Station X-1
BONUS TRIVIA… Ronald Reagan, then-actor later-POTUS, introduced Walt to the world by saying, “And now, Walt Disney will step forward to read the dedication of Disneyland.” Walt came forward and read written by Winston Hebler, “To all who come to this happy place… welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Are you ready to visit this legendary park? Magic on a Dollar Travel Planning can get you there — email firstname.lastname@example.org for details!