WDFM Blog Club: Disneyland

Posted on Fri, 03/13/2020 - 16:06

Need something to do while you are stuck inside? Take a deeper look into the history of Disneyland with these articles to pass the time.


Sleeping Beauty Castle

One Saturday morning in 1953, artist Herb Ryman sat down in front of Walt Disney and started to sketch. He had two full days to create a visual concept depicting an idea of Walt’s: an amusement park that would appeal to both children and adults. Roy, Walt’s brother, was set to leave for New York that Monday—ready to pitch the project to financial backers—and Walt wanted Ryman to put pencil to paper in order to illustrate what his park might look like in reality.

“The one thing he insisted upon was that there be a very, very conspicuous castle, because the castle is gonna be the symbol of this whole place,” Ryman later remembered.

King Arthur Carrousel

As Walt Disney sat on a bench in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park one Saturday, eating peanuts and watching his daughters ride the nearby carrousel, he had an idea. “I felt there should be something built,” he later explained, “Some kind of an amusement enterprise… where the parents and the children could have fun together.”

It was a seed of an idea, but it soon grew—and Walt didn’t forget what had sparked it. On Disneyland’s opening day in 1955, guests laid eyes on the King Arthur Carrousel for the very first time, together with other now-classic attractions such as the Disneyland RailroadPeter Pan’s Flight, and Snow White’s Adventures.

Jungle Cruise

The only Adventureland attraction to exist on opening day in 1955 was the Jungle Cruise, an elaborate river ride where guests sat in small boats that took them on a trip through what Walt called “the waterways of our man-made jungle.” At the time, Walt seemed to view Adventureland as one large attraction of its own. In a 1956 segment for his Disneyland television show, he talked viewers through the appeal of the land: “Ever since Disneyland Park opened, one of the most popular realms has been Adventureland,” he shared. “Most everyone has been impressed by, and curious about, the realism of Adventureland—the lifelike animals, the authentic tropical settings...”

Second Opening of Disneyland—Matterhorn Bobsleds, Monorail, and Submarine Voyage

The official “second opening” [of Disneyland] occurred on June 14, 1959, nearly a month shy of the park’s fourth birthday, which included the addition of three attractions whose thrill level necessitated the creation of a whole new tier of attraction admission tickets—the vaunted “E” ticket.

The three attractions—Matterhorn BobsledsDisneyland- ALWEG Monorail System, and Submarine Voyage—represented more than Walt Disney’s ever-growing fascination with different modes of transport.

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

In June of 1963, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room opened its doors for the very first time. The birds sang words, the flowers crooned, and the guests stared, awestruck, at the attraction’s feathered inhabitants.

Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room marked the first completed application of Audio-Animatronics® for Walt and his team, and gave WED Imagineers ample chance to experiment with the personalities of their creations. But why birds? And how did the much-loved emcee macaws—José, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz—come to be? Pay attention—it’s showtime…

it's a small world

Walt received news that the Pepsi-Cola Company was to sponsor the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) pavilion at the [1964/65 New York World's] Fair, and that Pepsi hoped to partner with Disney in creating a new attraction to be placed inside this pavilion. With less than a year to go before opening, and several Disney attractions already in development, Walt was determined to go ahead and told the Imagineers about a “little boat ride” he had in mind. This baffled his team – Disney Legend Rolly Crump later commented: “[W]e thought a little boat ride? …We were working on Lincoln and the Carousel of Progress, both of which were using the highest technology and animatronic figures. …All of this, and Walt wants to do a little boat ride!”

Pirates of the Caribbean

The idea of a pirate-themed ‘walk-through’— a wax museum of sorts— was considered but soon shelved. As Disney Legend Marty Sklar later explained, a walk-through story “can be fractured—some people see one thing and miss another, while others can have a different experience.”

While the idea of a pirate-orientated attraction remained appealing, it became clear that a walk-through would make it difficult to tell a sequenced story that all guests would understand. But inspiration struck in the form of the happiest cruise that ever sailed—thanks to the overwhelming success and popularity of “it’s a small world, creating a water-based dark ride to house the Imagineers’ swashbuckling new creations made perfect sense.


Following the success of his attractions at Disneyland, Walt Disney developed four attractions for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair: Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Progressland, “it’s a small world,” and Ford Magic Skyway. The first three listed were so successful that Walt decided to take them back to Disneyland in California as theme park attractions. Ford Magic Skyway has a more complex story.

Adventure Thru Inner Space

Walt had envisioned a ride that brought the enigmatic discoveries of science directly to the park guest in a way that was both entertaining and educational. Adventure Thru Inner Space would shrink guests down to the size of a snowflake’s crystal, and even deeper still—all the way to the nucleus of an atom.

Haunted Mansion

It was 1959 and there was little doubt about it – Disneyland’s Grim, Grinning Ghosts would one day come out to socialize. The question was: when?

Marvin Davis had suggested it. Harper Goff had sketched it. And for the past eight years, the idea of a haunted house to frighten and delight guests hadn’t left Walt’s mind. “Walt had always wanted a haunted mansion, since the conception of Disneyland,” recalled Disney Legend Rolly Crump. When Rolly first started work with WED (Walt Disney Imagineering) at the end of the 1950s, his first challenge was to create concepts that could do Walt’s vision justice.