As we count down the weeks to the beginning of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration on May 22, it’s a perfect time to take a look back at some of the innovations that the Happiest Place on Earth has seen throughout its first sixty years. Let’s start with the biggest innovation of all – Disneyland itself – recalled in Walt Disney’s own words.
For those of us who grew up in the time after Disneyland opened, it’s hard to imagine a time without theme parks. But that’s how it was when Walt Disney had his idea for a place where the young and young-at-heart could have fun together.
“It came about when my daughters were very young and Saturday was always daddy’s day with the two daughters,” Walt said. “I’d take them to the merry-go-round and I took them different places and as I’d sit while they rode the merry-go-round and did all these things—sit on a bench, you know, eating peanuts—I felt that there should be something built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started.”
Walt set out to build a place like no other. At the time, amusement parks were notorious for being dirty and unsafe. As Walt recalled, “When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, ‘But why do you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty.’ I told her that was just the point—mine wouldn’t be.”
Disneyland was to be so much more than an amusement park . . . Walt envisioned an entire fantasy world that would bring stories and imagination to life. “Disneyland is like Alice stepping through the Looking Glass,” he said. “To step through the portals of Disneyland will be like entering another world.”
He also wanted Disneyland to be a reflection of American life. Growing up in a small midwestern town had an enormous impact on Walt, and he wanted to bring that sense of pride and hope to all who came to this happy place.
“Physically, Disneyland would be a small world in itself,” he said. “It would encompass the essence of the things that were good and true in American life. It would reflect the faith and challenge of the future, the entertainment, the interest in intelligently presented facts, the stimulation of the imagination, the standards of health and achievement, and above all, a sense of strength, contentment and well-being.”
In the years since, Disneyland has become the standard by which other theme parks are measured. Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom has stood the test of time, due to constant innovation, unlimited imagination and the fond memories that have been made here.
“But it all started from a daddy with two daughters wondering where he could take them where he could have a little fun with them, too.”