A Brief History of Disneyland

Disneyland is the Mecca of childhood dreams for many children all over the world. Theme park attractions such as colorful stage, street shows with dancing and singing fairy tale characters, exciting themed rides and games, special tours to movie sets of popular film, great food restaurants and accommodations mark the total family-friendly experience of Disneyland. Millions of tourists visit the theme parks of Disneyland in different parts of the world every year.

Idea of a Theme Park

Walt Disney came up with the idea of a theme park when he was visiting Griffith Park with his daughters Diane and Sharon. While watching his daughters ride the merry-go-round, he thought of an idea of building a place where both adults and children could enjoy and appreciate the games and rides.


Although many people have requested Disney for visiting the movie sets of popular films, Disney thought that a regular movie set would appear generally uninteresting to the regular moviegoer. This urging from the fans however developed the idea of a theme park that could recreate the fantasy seen in Disney movies.

The happiest place on earth

Building the “Happiest Place on Earth,” as Disneyland is known throughout the world, took a long time with the services of many highly skilled and creative people. To start with, Walt Disney went to the Stanford Research Institute and hired a consultant, Harrison Price who was assigned to determine the proper area to locate the theme park based on the area’s potential growth. Based on Price’s report, Disney bought 160 acres of land in Anaheim which was located in southeast of Los Angeles in Orange County.

The issue of funding was solved through a partnership between Disney and ABC Network. To raise funds for the theme park, Disney created a children’s show called Disneyland. In exchange for this, ABC Network partially funded the theme park project of Disney.

For the first five years, Disneyland the TV Show was owned by a corporation composed of Walt Disney himself, Walt Disney Productions, Western Publishing and ABC Network. In 1960 after it bought out Walt Disney and Western Publishing from the partnership, Walt Disney Productions bought out ABC Network’s share in the project. Enough funding was available by this time for construction to begin in July 1954. Exactly one year later, the Disneyland Theme Park opened to the public.

Black Sunday

A press conference was held on the day before the opening day. It was by-invitation only as well as the opening day festivities. However the event did not go as smoothly as planned. The “special preview” was plagued by problems of counterfeit tickets, newly built asphalt grounds, an unusually hot day and plumbers strike that left the water fountains dry.

The problem of counterfeit tickets caused the crowd to swell. The freshly poured blacktop was still soft and the women’s high-heeled shoes sank into soft park grounds. Food vendors ran out of food, a gas leak in Fantasyland caused theme park management to close down Adventureland, Frontierland and Fantasyland for the afternoon.

The unusual hot temperature made the people thirsty but since Walt Disney had running toilets instead of fountains there was no option but to buy Pepsi which was one of the sponsors from the kiosks. People were enraged and blamed Pepsi for deliberately taking advantage of the dry drinking fountains to sell more soda.

As Disneyland received bad press on that day, Walt Disney countered them by inviting special guests and friends in the media for a “second viewing” so they could enjoy the true Disneyland experience. After the viewing, Walt hosted a party at the Disneyland Hotel for them.


Because of all the problems that were encountered on that fateful Sunday, it will be forever referred as “Black Sunday” by Walt and his 1955 executives. Since that day, Disney has referred July 18 as Dedication Day and never mentioned July 18 as the opening day, even in the park’s publications.

From theme park to resort

The transition from theme park to resort began in the 1990s. Disneyland Park, Disneyland Hotel and the parking lot as well as the surrounding properties were marked for integration into a major vacation resort development. However the park’s management was hit by personnel problems and mismanagement issues which pushed executives to often shift and change people.

Finally in 2003, Matt Ouimet the former president of the Disney cruise Line took over the management of Disneyland resort. Together with Greg Emmer as Senior Vice-President of Operations, they both were able to turn around the problems regarding safety maintenance schedules and cosmetic maintenance.