“We’re Just Getting Started”: Disneyland’s Tencennial in 1965

Posted on Thu, 07/16/2020 - 15:04

“Ten years of fantasy, ten years of fun, ten years of growing, and we’ve only just begun…”

In its first decade of operation, Disneyland Park welcomed nearly 50 million guests, its attractions and shows multiplied, and its creator entertained increasingly bigger plans. The Park’s 10th anniversary in 1965—dubbed the “Tencennial Celebration”—proved a significant turning point in its history, as Walt Disney made sure it would.

Community outreach was an important element of the year’s festivities. Recruited from Disneyland’s ranks of tour guides, Julie Reihm (later Casaletto) became the Park “Ambassador to the World” at only 20 years old. “My purpose was to share the joy, hope, and happiness of Disneyland to communities around the world,” she later remembered. In 1965, Reihm spent much of her time away from THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH, travelling to nearly every American state and overseas for promotional events, special ceremonies, and meetings with local politicians and civic leaders.

“Many times this year,” Reihm was quoted in one newspaper, “language has been a barrier… but then again, it wasn’t. Because in any language, ‘A smile means friendship to everyone.’” (Here she paraphrases “it’s a small world”, which had yet to open at Disneyland.) “That’s really the true spirit of Disneyland too,” she continued. “People smiling, people having fun, and people like me helping make your visits happy ones.”

On January 3, 1965, the weekly Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color television series aired “Disneyland 10th Anniversary.” Walt Disney himself introduced American viewers to Julie Reihm as “Disneyland’s official Ambassador this anniversary year,” attired in the traditional plaid jockey-inspired costume of Disneyland tour guides. This time, however, Walt was the guide, and together they explored the facilities of WED Enterprises, previewing future additions to Disneyland.

Imagineers and future Disney Legends Mary Blair, Harriet Burns, John Hench, Rolly Crump, Marc Davis, and Blaine Gibson each made special appearances, as Walt led Reihm in an unscripted series of interactions. Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion—the latter over four years away from opening—were given some of their first official mentions.

To conclude the program, a unique performance was held in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, where a massive birthday cake broke into pieces and danced. A chorus sang a special tribute written by the Sherman brothers, “Ten years of fantasy, ten years of fun, ten years of growing and we’ve only just begun…” The lyrics captured Walt’s attitude for the celebration. Disneyland was eyes-forward, ready for the future.

Much of the press attention came from California and other western states, illustrating Disneyland’s regional impact at the time, and Walt’s desire to draw eastern crowds with his new Florida Project. Disney was reportedly spending over one million dollars for live entertainment to keep crowds pouring into the Park all summer. Performers included Louis Armstrong, Harry James, Woody Herman, and Duke Ellington, and the Park remained open until 1 a.m. on Saturday nights.

Far and wide, the reputation of Disneyland stands out primarily, even beyond the show itself, for the courtesy of the people handling the public, and the cleanliness and friendliness of the place. I’ve always said in my end of the work that it takes people to run a business. You people have been the heart and the running soul of this business.

Roy O. Disney

Two new significant additions debuted in July 18, 1965, the anniversary of the Park’s public opening. Walt, Lillian Disney, and Julie Reihm together opened Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln as the first of Disney’s 1964/65 New York World’s Fair attractions to be relocated to Disneyland. The Plaza Inn restaurant opened near the Park’s hub, a new venue that had been previewed on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color television show. A press party was held at the eatery where Walt, Reihm, and Mickey Mouse cut a ceremonial cake topped with a castle.

Beyond the relatively sparse new offerings, it was anticipation of things to come that added to the public fervor. Walt told the press that “plans for Disneyland for the next three years amount to more than three times the original investment.” In 1966, New Orleans Square would open along with “it’s a small world” and the Primeval World addition to the Disneyland Railroad. In 1967, the new Tomorrowland would give the Park’s eastern side a facelift. In 1965, Walt told the Mayor of Anaheim that Tomorrowland was “the toughest job.”

On the same day that the “Disneyland 10th Anniversary” episode aired, Disneyland Cast Members gathered at the Disneyland Hotel for a celebration honoring those who had been working at the Park since 1955. Both Walt and Roy Disney attended and spoke to the crowd. “Far and wide,” the elder Disney brother explained, “the reputation of Disneyland stands out primarily, even beyond the show itself, for the courtesy of the people handling the public, and the cleanliness and friendliness of the place. I’ve always said in my end of the work that it takes people to run a business. You people have been the heart and the running soul of this business.”

Walt, always looking ahead, capped off their remarks: “It’s just been a sort of dress rehearsal, and we’re just getting started. So if any of you start to rest on your laurels, just forget it.” (The crowd broke into applause at this.) Walt continued, “The show goes on next year.”

Lucas Seastrom

–Lucas Seastrom

Lucas O. Seastrom is a writer, filmmaker, and contracting historian for The Walt Disney Family Museum.

 

 


Image sources (listed in order of appearance):

  • Parade in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, “Disneyland 10th Anniversary” (1965); courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library; © Disney
  • Walt Disney holding camera, “Disneyland 10th Anniversary” (1965); courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library; © Disney
  • Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Pluto on parade float; 1965; courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library; © Disney