Saturday July 17, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Disneyland First Opens
On this Day:
In 1955, Disneyland televised its grand opening in Anaheim, California.
Disneyland Park, originally Disneyland, is the first of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, opened on July 17, 1955. It is the only theme park designed and built to completion under the direct supervision of Walt Disney. It was originally the only attraction on the property; its official name was changed to Disneyland Park to distinguish it from the expanding complex in the 1990s. It was the first Disney theme park.
Walt Disney came up with the concept of Disneyland after visiting various amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and 1940s. He initially envisioned building a tourist attraction adjacent to his studios in Burbank to entertain fans who wished to visit; however, he soon realized that the proposed site was too small. After hiring a consultant to help him determine an appropriate site for his project, Disney bought a 160-acre (65 ha) site near Anaheim in 1953. Construction began in 1954 and the park was unveiled during a special televised press event on the ABC Television Network on July 17, 1955.
Since its opening, Disneyland has undergone expansions and major renovations, including the addition of New Orleans Square in 1966, Bear Country (now Critter Country) in 1972, Mickey’s Toontown in 1993, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. Opened in 2001, Disney California Adventure Park was built on the site of Disneyland’s original parking lot.
Disneyland has a larger cumulative attendance than any other theme park in the world, with 726 million visits since it opened (as of December 2018). In 2018, the park had approximately 18.6 million visits, making it the second most visited amusement park in the world that year, behind only Magic Kingdom, the very park it inspired. According to a March 2005 Disney report, 65,700 jobs are supported by the Disneyland Resort, including about 20,000 direct Disney employees and 3,800 third-party employees (independent contractors or their employees). Disney announced “Project Stardust” in 2019, which included major structural renovations to the park to account for higher attendance numbers.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration has declared a zone of prohibited airspace around both Disneyland and some of the surrounding areas centered at Sleeping Beauty Castle. No aircraft, including recreational and commercial drones, are permitted to fly within this zone; this level is only shared with Walt Disney World, other pieces of critical infrastructure (military bases, Pantex) in the United States and whenever the President of the United States travels outside of Washington, D.C.
The concept for Disneyland began when Walt Disney was visiting Griffith Park in Los Angeles with his daughters Diane and Sharon. While watching them ride the merry-go-round, he came up with the idea of a place where adults and their children could go and have fun together, though his dream lay dormant for many years. The earliest documented draft of Disney’s plans was sent as a memo to studio production designer Dick Kelsey on August 31, 1948, where it was referred to as a “Mickey Mouse Park”, based on notes Disney made during his and Ward Kimball’s trip to the Chicago Railroad Fair the same month, with a two-day stop in Henry Ford’s Museum and Greenfield Village, a place with attractions like a Main Street and steamboat rides, which he had visited eight years earlier.
When people wrote letters to Disney to inquire about visiting the Walt Disney Studios, he realized that a functional movie studio had little to offer to visiting fans, and began to foster various ideas about building a site near the Burbank studios for tourists to visit. His ideas evolved to a small play park with a boat ride and other themed areas. The initial park concept, the Mickey Mouse Park, was originally planned for an eight-acre (3.2 ha) plot to the south, across Riverside Drive from the studio. Besides Greenfield Village and the Chicago Railroad Fair, Disney was also inspired by Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, Knott’s Berry Farm, Colonial Williamsburg, the Century of Progress in Chicago, and the New York’s World Fair of 1939.
His designers began working on concepts, though the project grew much larger than the land could hold. Disney hired Harrison Price from Stanford Research Institute to identify the proper area in which to position the planned theme park based on expected future growth. Based on Price’s analysis (for which he would be recognized as a Disney Legend in 2003), Disney acquired 160 acres (65 ha) of orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim, southeast of Los Angeles in neighboring Orange County. The small Burbank site originally considered by Disney is now home to Walt Disney Animation Studios and ABC Studios.
Difficulties in obtaining funding prompted Disney to investigate new methods of fundraising, and he decided to create a show named Disneyland. It was broadcast on then-fledgling ABC. In return, the network agreed to help finance the park. For its first five years of operation, Disneyland was owned by Disneyland, Inc., which was jointly owned by Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney, Western Publishing and ABC. In addition, Disney rented out many of the shops on Main Street, U.S.A. to outside companies. By 1960, Walt Disney Productions bought out all other shares, a partnership which would eventually lead to the Walt Disney Corporation’s acquisition of ABC in the mid-1990s. Construction began on July 16, 1954, and cost $17 million to complete (equivalent to $131 million in 2019). The park was opened one year and one day later. U.S. Route 101 (later Interstate 5) was under construction at the same time just north of the site; in preparation for the traffic Disneyland was expected to bring, two more lanes were added to the freeway before the park was finished.
Disneyland was dedicated at an “International Press Preview” event held on Sunday, July 17, 1955, which was open only to invited guests and the media. Although 28,000 people attended the event, only about half of those were invitees, the rest having purchased counterfeit tickets, or even sneaked into the park by climbing over the fence. The following day, it opened to the public, featuring twenty attractions. The Special Sunday events, including the dedication, were televised nationwide and anchored by three of Walt Disney’s friends from Hollywood: Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan. ABC broadcast the event live, during which many guests tripped over the television camera cables. In Frontierland, a camera caught Cummings kissing a dancer. When Disney started to read the plaque for Tomorrowland, he read part way then stopped when a technician off-camera said something to him, and after realizing he was on-air, said, “I thought I got a signal”, and began the dedication from the start. At one point, while in Fantasyland, Linkletter tried to give coverage to Cummings, who was on the pirate ship. He was not ready and tried to give the coverage back to Linkletter, who had lost his microphone. Cummings then did a play-by-play of him trying to find it in front of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Traffic was delayed on the two-lane Harbor Boulevard. Famous figures who were scheduled to show up every two hours showed up all at once. The temperature was an unusually high 101 °F (38 °C), and because of a local plumbers’ strike, Disney was given a choice of having working drinking fountains or running toilets. He chose the latter, leaving many drinking fountains dry. This generated negative publicity since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening; disappointed guests believed the inoperable fountains were a cynical way to sell soda, while other vendors ran out of food. The asphalt that had been poured that morning was soft enough to let women’s high-heeled shoes sink into it. Some parents threw their children over the crowd’s shoulders to get them onto rides, such as the King Arthur Carrousel. In later years, Disney and his 1955 executives referred to July 17, 1955, as “Black Sunday”. After the extremely negative press from the preview opening, Walt Disney invited attendees back for a private “second day” to experience Disneyland properly.
At the time, and during the lifetimes of Walt and Roy Disney, July 17 was considered merely a preview, with July 18 the official opening day. Since then, aided by memories of the television broadcast, the company has adopted July 17 as the official date, the one commemorated every year as Disneyland’s birthday.
Disneyland Park consists of nine themed “lands” and a number of concealed backstage areas, and occupies over 100 acres (40 ha) with the new addition of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway that’s coming to Mickeys Toontown in 2022. The park opened with Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland, and has since added New Orleans Square in 1966, Bear Country (now known as Critter Country) in 1972, and Mickey’s Toontown in 1993, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. In 1957, Holidayland opened to the public with a nine-acre (3.6 ha) recreation area including a circus and baseball diamond, but was closed in late 1961. It is often referred to as the “lost” land of Disneyland. Throughout the park are “Hidden Mickeys”, representations of Mickey Mouse heads inserted subtly into the design of attractions and environmental decor. An elevated berm supports the 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Disneyland Railroad that circumnavigates the park.
Main Street, U.S.A. is patterned after a typical Midwest town of the early 20th century, and took much inspiration from Walt Disney’s hometown, Marceline, Missouri. Main Street, U.S.A. has a train station, town square, movie theater, city hall, firehouse with a steam-powered pump engine, emporium, shops, arcades, double-decker bus, horse-drawn streetcar, and jitneys. Main Street is also home to the Disney Art Gallery and the Opera House which showcases Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a show featuring an Audio-Animatronic version of the president. At the far end of Main Street, U.S.A. is Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Partners statue, and the Central Plaza (also known as the Hub), which is a portal to most of the themed lands: the entrance to Fantasyland is by way of a drawbridge across a moat and through the castle. Adventureland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland are on both sides of the castle. Several lands are not directly connected to the Central Plaza—namely, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Mickey’s Toontown.
The design of Main Street, U.S.A. uses the technique of forced perspective to create an illusion of height. Buildings along Main Street are built at 3⁄4 scale on the first level, then 5⁄8 on the second story, and 1⁄2 scale on the third—reducing the scale by 1⁄8 each level up.
Adventureland is designed to recreate the feel of an exotic tropical place in a far-off region of the world. “To create a land that would make this dream reality”, said Walt Disney, “we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa.” Attractions include opening day’s Jungle Cruise, the Indiana Jones Adventure, and Tarzan’s Treehouse, which is a conversion of Swiss Family Treehouse from the Walt Disney film Swiss Family Robinson. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room which is located at the entrance to Adventureland was the first feature attraction to employ Audio-Animatronics, a computer synchronization of sound and robotics.
New Orleans Square is based on 19th-century New Orleans, opened on July 24, 1966. It is home to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, with nighttime entertainment Fantasmic!. This area is the home of the private Club 33.
Frontierland recreates the setting of pioneer days along the American frontier. According to Walt Disney, “All of us have cause to be proud of our country’s history, shaped by the pioneering spirit of our forefathers. Our adventures are designed to give you the feeling of having lived, even for a short while, during our country’s pioneer days.” Frontierland is home to the Pinewood Indians band of animatronic Native Americans, who live on the banks of the Rivers of America. Entertainment and attractions include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Sailing Ship Columbia, Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, and Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition. Frontierland is also home to the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, an Old West-style show palace.
Critter Country opened in 1972 as “Bear Country”, and was renamed in 1988. Formerly the area was home to Indian Village, where indigenous tribespeople demonstrated their dances and other customs. Today, the main draw of the area is Splash Mountain, a log-flume journey based on the animated segments of Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South. In 2003, a dark ride called The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh replaced the Country Bear Jamboree, which closed in 2001.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set within the Star Wars universe, in the Black Spire Outpost village on the remote frontier planet of Batuu. Attractions include the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The land opened in 2019, replacing Big Thunder Ranch and former backstage areas.
Fantasyland is the area of Disneyland of which Walt Disney said, “What youngster has not dreamed of flying with Peter Pan over moonlit London, or tumbling into Alice’s nonsensical Wonderland? In Fantasyland, these classic stories of everyone’s youth have become realities for youngsters – of all ages – to participate in.” Fantasyland was originally styled in a medieval European fairground fashion, but it’s 1983 refurbishment turned it into a Bavarian village. Attractions include several dark rides, the King Arthur Carrousel, and various family attractions. Fantasyland has the most fiber optics in the park; more than half of them are in Peter Pan’s Flight. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle features a walk-through storytelling of Briar Rose’s adventure as Sleeping Beauty. The attraction opened in 1959, was redesigned in 1972, closed in 1992 for reasons of security and the new installation of pneumatic ram firework shell mortars for “Believe, There’s Magic in the Stars”, and reopened 2008 with new renditions and methods of storytelling and the restored work of Eyvind Earle.
Mickey’s Toontown opened in 1993 and was partly inspired by the fictional Los Angeles suburb of Toontown in the Touchstone Pictures 1988 release Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Mickey’s Toontown is based on a 1930s cartoon aesthetic and is home to Disney’s most popular cartoon characters. Toontown features two main attractions: Gadget’s Go Coaster and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. The “city” is also home to cartoon character’s houses such as the house of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy, as well as Donald Duck’s boat. The 3 ft (914 mm) gauge Jolly Trolley can also be found in this area, though it closed as an attraction in 2003 and is now present only for display purposes. In 2023 Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will open at Mickey’s Toontown. The new family-friendly dark ride will increase the size of Toontown as well as the size of Disneyland from 99 to 101 acres (40 to 41 ha).
During the 1955 inauguration, Walt Disney dedicated Tomorrowland with these words: “Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.”
Disneyland producer Ward Kimball had rocket scientists Wernher von Braun, Willy Ley, and Heinz Haber serve as technical consultants during the original design of Tomorrowland. Initial attractions included Rocket to the Moon, Astro-Jets and Autopia; later, the first incarnation of the Submarine Voyage was added. The area underwent a major transformation in 1967 to become New Tomorrowland, and then again in 1998 when its focus was changed to present a “retro-future” theme reminiscent of the illustrations of Jules Verne.
Current attractions include Space Mountain, Star Wars Launch Bay, Autopia, Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple, the Disneyland Monorail Tomorrowland Station, Astro Orbitor, and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage opened on June 11, 2007, resurrecting the original Submarine Voyage which closed in 1998. Star Tours was closed in July 2010 and replaced with Star Tours–The Adventures Continue in June 2011.Elaborate fireworks shows synchronized with Disney songs and often have appearances from Tinker Bell (and other characters) flying in the sky above Sleeping Beauty Castle. Since 2000, presentations have become more elaborate, featuring new pyrotechnics, launch techniques, and story lines. In 2004, Disneyland introduced a new air launch pyrotechnics system, reducing ground-level smoke and noise and decreasing negative environmental impacts. At the time the technology debuted, Disney announced it would donate the patents to a non-profit organization for use throughout the industry. Projection mapping technology debuted on It’s a Small World with the creation of The Magic, the Memories and You in 2011, and expanded to Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle in 2015 with the premiere of Disneyland Forever.
Scheduling of fireworks shows depends on the time of year. During the slower off-season periods, the fireworks are only offered on weekends. During the busier times, Disney offers additional nights. The park offers fireworks nightly during its busy periods, which include Easter/Spring Break, Summer and Christmas time. Disneyland spends about $41,000 per night on the fireworks show. The show is normally offered at 8:45 or 9:30 pm if the park is scheduled to close at 10 pm or later, but shows have started as early as 5:45 pm. A major consideration is the weather and wind, especially at higher altitude, which can force the delay or cancellation of the show. In response to this, alternate versions of the fireworks spectaculars have been created in recent years, solely using the projections and lighting effects. With a few minor exceptions, such as July 4 and New Year’s Eve, shows must finish by 10:00 pm due to the conditions of the permit issued by the City of Anaheim.
In recent years, Disneyland uses smaller and mid-sized fireworks shells and more low-level pyrotechnics on the castle to allow guests to enjoy the fireworks spectaculars even if there is a weather issue such as high wind. This precedent is known as B-show. The first fireworks show to have this format was Believe… In Holiday Magic from the 2018 holiday season. (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
What does Grumpy always ask for when Snow White gathers fruit? Sour grapes…
Second, a Song:
“When You Wish Upon a Star” is a song written by Leigh Harline, music and Ned Washington, lyrics for Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio. The original version was sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket, and is heard over the opening credits and in the final scene of the film. The song has since become the representative song of The Walt Disney Company and used as such in the production logos at the beginning of many Disney films. The recording by Cliff Edwards and Chorus was released by Victor Records as catalogue number 261546 and 26477A (in the US) and by EMI on the His Master’s Voice Label as catalogue number BD 821.
Edwards recorded another version in 1940 for an American Decca Records “cover version” of the score of Pinocchio, conducted by Victor Young and featuring soprano Julietta Novis and The King’s Men. It was first released on a 4-record 78-RPM album set, and years later as one side of an LP, backed by selections from The Wizard of Oz. A recording with Christian Rub (with Mister Geppetto’s voice), Cliff Edwards and Chorus was released by Victor Records as catalogue number 26479B (in the US) and by EMI on the His Master’s Voice label as catalogue number BD 823. It won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was also the first Disney song to win an Oscar.
Harline and Washington delivered “When You Wish Upon a Star” to the Pinocchio story crew in early autumn 1938, and they recognized it right away as a spotlight song that should be given prominence in the film. Disney decided that the song should play over the opening credits, and used as a musical theme throughout the film. In October, Edwards recorded the song as a “test take”, because Edwards was cast as Jiminy Cricket, and at the time the cricket’s role in the story was limited. When the producers decided to promote Jiminy to the narrator role, using Edwards’ recording made sense as the title theme. In the film, Edwards’ performance plays over the titles, and bridges into Jiminy’s opening scene.
The Library Of Congress deemed the song “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and preserved it into the National Recording Registry in 2009. The American Film Institute ranked “When You Wish Upon a Star” seventh in their 100 Greatest Songs in Film History, the highest ranked of only four Disney animated film songs to appear on the list, the others being “Someday My Prince Will Come” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ranked at No. 19, “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast ranked at No. 62, and “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King, ranked at No. 99.
The song reached the top five in Billboard’s Record Buying Guide, a predecessor of the retail sales chart. Popular versions in 1940 were by Glenn Miller with vocal by Ray Eberle (No. 1 for five weeks), Guy Lombardo (vocal by Carmen Lombardo), Horace Heidt and Cliff Edwards. It has been recorded by many other artists since then. In more recent times, Beyoncé sung a cover of the song as part of The Disney Family Singalong. Brian Wilson has said that the melody of the Beach Boys hit song, “Surfer Girl”, which has the same AABA form, is loosely based on the Dion and the Belmonts version of “When You Wish Upon a Star”.
In Japan, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark, the song has become a Christmas song, often referring to the Star of Bethlehem. The Swedish language version is called “Ser du stjärnan i det blå”, roughly translated: “Do you see the star in the blue”, and the Danish title is “Når du ser et stjerneskud” (‘When you see a shooting star’). In Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway the song is played on television every Christmas Eve in the traditional Disney one-hour Christmas cabaret From All of Us to All of You, and the gathering of the entire family to watch this is considered a Scandinavian tradition. Over the Christmas period in 2011, the finalists of The X Factor UK that year covered “When You Wish Upon A Star” for the year’s Christmas advertising campaign for UK department store Marks & Spencer.
“When You Wish Upon a Star”, along with Mickey Mouse, has become an icon of The Walt Disney Company. In the 1950s and 1960s, Walt Disney used the song in the opening sequences of all the editions of the Walt Disney anthology television series. It has also been used to accompany the Walt Disney Pictures logos – including the present-day logo – since the 1980s. All of the ships of the Disney Cruise Line use the first seven notes of the song’s melody as their horn signals. Additionally, many productions at Disney theme parks – particularly firework shows and parades – employ the song.
Like “Someday My Prince Will Come” from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the piece has become a jazz standard. It has been performed by artists including Linda Ronstadt, Louis Armstrong, June Christy, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Glenn Miller, Al Bowlly, Vera Lynn, Shakatak, Harry James, Joe Pass, the Keith Jarrett Trio, the Manhattan Transfer, Sun Ra, Jason Becker, Leon Redbone, Wynton Marsalis, Gregory Porter, Bill Evans, Bill Frisell, Rod Stewart and Shirley Bassey. The song is heavily referenced in “Chapel Perilous” by Mild High Club.
Clifton Avon “Cliff” Edwards (June 14, 1895 – July 17, 1971), nicknamed “Ukulele Ike”, was an American musician, singer and actor, who enjoyed considerable popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s, specializing in jazzy renditions of pop standards and novelty tunes. He had a number one hit with “Singin’ in the Rain” in 1929. He also did voices for animated cartoons later in his career, and he is best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio (1940) and Fun and Fancy Free (1947), and Dandy (Jim) Crow in Walt Disney’s Dumbo (1941).
His most famous voice role was as Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio (1940). Edwards’s rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” is probably his most familiar recorded legacy. He voiced the head crow in Disney’s Dumbo (1941) and sang “When I See an Elephant Fly”. (per Wikipedia).
Here is Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket performing “When You Wish Upon a Star” set to images of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky