Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut – A Look Back at July 17, 1955

George Savvas

by , Director, Public Relations, Disneyland Resort

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

Fifty-six years ago today, Walt Disney read the inspiring words on this plaque during the official dedication of Disneyland park. Across the country, an estimated 90 million television viewers were watching an unprecedented live broadcast of the day’s festivities on ABC.

Around the time of our anniversary each year, I see a photo of Walt which is often erroneously described as a photo taken during the opening ceremony. Perhaps you have seen this photo too.

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

Have you ever noticed that Walt is not wearing his necktie in this picture? That’s because this is actually a photo taken during a rehearsal for the telecast. The photos we have that were taken during the official dedication were taken from the side.

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

Now, it’s been said that practice makes perfect, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching our opening day television special, “Dateline Disneyland,” you know this isn’t always true. The live broadcast was the largest of its kind ever attempted and included 24 separate cameras. Naturally, in such a huge undertaking, there had to be some rehearsal to ensure things would run as smoothly as possible, and we have some more fun photos from the earlier “run-through” of the day’s festivities to share.

These next pictures show Walt with California Governor Goodwin Knight, parading down Main Street, U.S.A. Can you guess which one was taken during the rehearsal?

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

In this rare photo, Walt practices the dedication of Fantasyland in the area just southwest of Sleeping Beauty Castle. I think his pride is so obvious in this photo. Don’t you just love the smile on his face?

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

Among others rehearsing for their part in the the big show were television host Art Linkletter, and “Davy Crockett” stars Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen, shown here in Frontierland before the broadcast.

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

Meanwhile, outside the entrance to Frontierland, actor and television personality Ronald Reagan was getting ready for his part in the landmark TV special.

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

Finally, a “prequel” photo of sorts. We’ve all seen the photo of children entering Fantasyland for the first time during the opening day broadcast. In this rare photo, those same children are seen from the other side of Sleeping Beauty Castle as they prepare for the big moment.

Getting Ready for Disneyland Park to Debut - A Look Back at July 17, 1955

You may remember a fun story we shared last year about one of these children, Robb Fischle, who works as a Disneyland Resort cast member today. Check it out here.

Happy 56th Anniversary!


  • Dean-
    I know Disneyland very well and I’m almost positive that there is no plaque anywhere in Fantasyland. It seems that those words for Fantasyland’s dedication from the opening day broadcast were never put onto a plaque.

  • If anyone knows where the Fantasyland Plaque is…Please respond!

  • While there are Magic Kingdoms all around the world, there is and will always be only one Disneyland! There’s nothing like it in the world!!

  • Mr. Disney…. there are not enough words of gratitude for you…. You have made the Happiest Place on Earth the happiest… My whole family are huge Disney fans… Now that I have a grand daughter Disneyland is a whole new experience seen by her little eyes….
    Thank you, Thank you, Mil Gracias and Happy Anniversary

  • Oh man, that means I’m going to turn 56 in less than two months. Oh well, in Disney years, that makes me two again.

    Happy Birthday Disneyland.

  • I’m lucky enough to have the “Disney Tresures” DVD that has the entire opening day broadcast. My favorite moment is when Bob Cummings makes it look like he’s making out with a frontier-woman when he is given his cue, and is caught-on-camera. (He really wasn’t. His wife and family were there for cryin’ out loud.)

  • I was one of the 90 million watching on tv. I told my father I was going there someday. My childhood dream came true in 2008 and I was 62 but still felt like a kid again once I walked down Mainstreet!

  • Where is the Fantasyland Plaque in the Park? Does it exist?

  • Happy 56 to you Disneyland!!!!!

    I HAVE to ask this….were the children in the “entrance to Fantasyland” photo Allowed time either before opening or after opening to go on all the rides? 🙂 I would love to think the answer is yes but I would love to KNOW! 🙂

  • I love going to Disneyland because it was the last place my Dad wanted to be at when he was dying of cancer so he took my mom and my husband and me and my kids and sister an nephew on his last trip to Disneyland in 1989 ever since then we haven’t missed a year and we go almost 4 or more times a year now with my grandkids so I always remember the smile on my dad’s face our family truly love going to Disneyland… 🙂

  • Oh how I love Disneyland! Happy 56th Disneyland!

  • Thank you for this post. For those us too young to be lucky enough to be there for this very special day 56 years ago it’s post/photos like this that keep the past in our hearts and minds. 🙂

  • I have wonderful memories as a child when we lived in CA. When mom and dad could take us to Disneyland. I will always be a Disneyland girl at heart. I am blessed to have been able to take my girls there, as well. Now, they are planning our trip out there again next summer. I love that no matter how complicated the rest of the world gets, there’s someplace that encourages really being a kid. Happy birthday, Disneyland, you are the happiest place on earth!!!

  • Happy Annivesary Disneyland…We spent our honeymoon there in November 1990 and want to plan a trip back for our anniversary soon with our kids and grandkids.

  • On my 6th Birthday in 1967, I fell into the water at the Storyboook Land Canal Boats. I was pulled out of the water and whisked away to the Mickey Mouse “Hospital” where I was given a Mickey Mouse Robe, slippers and ice cream while waiting for my clothes to dry. I remember that both my 10-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother were both bummed because they “only” got the ice cream! LOL
    I can’t imagine any other place in the world that could make what should have been a traumatic event into one I will always cherish!
    BTW – I still go to Disneyland on my birthday every year!

  • It would be great if the Disney Channel would air “Dateline:Disney” tonight at 7:30!

    I miss the old programming that was run late at night in the early days of the Channel. Please bring it back or start another channel!

  • Happy 56th Anniversary Disneyland!

    I love Disneyland so much, and it has such a rich history.

    Its really special that Disneyland is the only Disney park that was created and enjoyed by Walt.

  • Happy 56th Disneyland and Happy 6th to my cute pie daughter Sky 🙂
    Cant wait to spoil her in the park in 3 weeks.

  • Happy Anniversary to Disneyland and Thanks for all the happy memories you have given us!!!!!!!!

  • I never get tired of seeing these photos and looking back to that first day at Disneyland! My kids and I are headed to the park today to wish it happy birthday in person!

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