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Today in Disney History: Disneyland Opens, 1955

Michael Ramirez

by , Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort

On this day, 65 years ago, a new form of entertainment came into the world. Successful movie producer and animation pioneer, Walt Disney, had long dreamt of a place where family members of all ages could have fun together. Drawing on his own vivid imagination, as well as those of his talented colleagues, Walt created a magical place that has been beloved since opening day.

Original Disneyland Attractions - Jungle Cruise

A star-studded television special broadcasted the inaugural day to the world. 18 attractions were unveiled, many of which still thrill guests, including the Disneyland Railroad, Jungle Cruise and Fantasyland favorites King Arthur Carrousel, Peter Pan’s Flight and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  

Disneyland quickly generated a loyal following with more guests arriving enthusiastically in the days that followed, as well as carrying word of this magical place to others. Soon it was the de rigueur place to be seen by celebrities, dignitaries and even heads of state. 

Over the years, the park has evolved, with the first major expansion in 1959, which included three new state-of-the-art attractions (including the world’s first tubular steel roller coaster). Other notable expansions included 1966 with New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown in 1993, and most recently, the successful opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. Today, the Disneyland Resort encompasses two theme parks, three resort hotels and the Downtown Disney District.

But beyond the attractions, the sparkling façade of Sleeping Beauty Castle and the iconic snacks of corn dogs, popcorn and churros, or perhaps embedded in them, many guests find a treasured nostalgia, and this love of Disneyland is handed down from generation to generation as a beloved gift.

"The Pre-Opening Report from Disneyland" with Walt Disney

To commemorate the occasion, “A Pre-Opening Report from Disneyland” is now available on Disney+. Originally aired on July 13, 1955, Walt provides a final look at the many details necessary to ensure that the park will be ready. He begins by showing the audience a large map of the site, then introduces Winston Hibler, who provides a behind-the-scenes tour of how Studio technicians went about designing and building the unusual rides and shows about to open.

Disneyland plaque

With the eternal optimism that is the heart of Disneyland, we look forward to welcoming you back and celebrating this milestone together soon.

Comments

  • I remember my first visit in 1957 as a high school student and all of the following years with my wife and then with our children and now with our grand children. I was hoping to visit this year with my whole family but that is not to be. I can only hope we can make it happen in 2021. There is no doubt that my children, grand children, and their children will continue to enjoy the magic Walt Disney has left our world.

  • I miss that feeling as I walk through onto Main Street. Happens nowhere else.

  • My father was at Disneyland on opening day with his parents to celebrate his 18th birthday. He shared his love of the magical park with me and my siblings, now I continue to share it with my wife and children. Happy birthday dad and we miss the happiest place on earth!!

  • 100% agree Leon. Couldn’t have said it better myself! Happy Birthday Disneyland 💕

  • Disneyland means so much to me, as it has been part of my life for the better part of 5 decades. It has brought me immeasurable joy and happiness over the years, and has been rewarding in ways I never could have imagined. As enchanted as I was with the park as a small child, I love it (and appreciate it) even more now.

    When people scoff at the notion of Disneyland reopening and deem it unnecessary, unimportant, or “just a place to buy churros and ride roller coasters,” etc., I always think about the stories behind the faces we see in Disneyland. You never know what someone is going through, and what it means for them to be in the park that day. Perhaps someone has saved money for years to walk through the gates and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip for them. Perhaps someone has been struggling at home and at school, and a trip to Disneyland is the only happy day they’ve had in a year. Perhaps someone is enjoying one final trip to Disneyland with a terminally ill friend or family member. Perhaps someone who has just survived a life-threatening health issue is celebrating being alive with a trip to their favorite place. Perhaps Disneyland is the place where an estranged father and son finally bond for the first time. Perhaps a trip to Disneyland helps a shy, depressed person come out of their shell and meet new people.

    You just never know what being at Disneyland means to someone, or the impact that it has on them. But I can assure you that for many of us, it is MUCH more than churros and rides.

    Happy 65th birthday, Disneyland! I remain hopeful that you will soon be able to welcome us through the gates once again.

  • Disneyland has been an oasis from everyday life for years. In recent years some of the expansions are more of a mixed bag. The California Adventure parks has had to be mostly re-imagined because it never worked as well as the original Disneyland park. Cars Land’s accuracy and immersive experience is about the best thing they have done in recent years. Changing Tower of Terror to something so different from the original idea is not the same as creating a whole new ride and even though they did somewhat of a good job, I liked the idea of an old Hollywood hotel better than something based on a comic-book turned “real”. Despite the recent success of the Marvel Universe, I don’t think these properties have the same legs as the classic Disney fare but I do understand the desire to add them into the fold.

    Overall, Disneyland has done a good job in keeping relevance and some of the stuff that didn’t hit well didn’t always have to do with themselves as much as public wants and public perception. When Walt Disney was a live he believed in entertaining as well as adding certain amount of educational anchoring. Things in the parks where based on architecture and artifacts from real life up to a point. Main Street USA was more or less an “enhanced” and near perfect rendition of your typical main street of many a small town in the country back in the day. Tomorrowland had all sorts of experimental demonstrations performed like the flying back-packs. It was also were Disney tested out certain construction technologies, (more so in WDW but it all started with the Anaheim park). Frontierland looked like the world of Davy Crockett and Adventureland had it’s buildings looking like exotic places in south East Asia and Africa. Today there’s a Star Wars land based on fantasy, Winnie the Pooh populates Frontierland and with every year the parks distance themselves farther form the reality that once inspired them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the Star Wars land but I don’t think it belongs in the Magic Kingdom per se. It would have been better suited for the California Adventure park after they would change it’s name to something else. A whole park where the lands are all based exclusively on movies would have worked better in my opinion. Then still evolving the Disneyland park but in a more controlled way than just cramming things out of order.

    As far as the hotels go, I really like what they have done there. Buying a competitor’s building to make it the Disney Paradise Pier hotel was a brilliant move. The Grand Californian is at par with the hotels in WDW and the ever-evolving Disneyland Hotel is a Classic. I like how they have cleaned up and landscape all that area as well as the area around South Harbor blvd to make it look more like Disney. All of that is good and hopefully for the future there will be more things done along those lines than tings like the original California Adventure Park which seemed to be a huge mistake and has taken lots of extra money and re-envisioning to get it up to par and with still ways to go. Star Wars’ Galaxy’s Edge would have done that for it.

  • For Disneyland’s 30th, there was a star-studded TV special that I recorded on a VCR (what’s that?) and re-watched a million times. For Disneyland’s 50th, I went there and slept out with fellow crazies to make sure we’d get in. And this was before D23! Years later at a “weird Disney” segment of D23, the opening segment of that 30th tv special was featured – it was a video of all the animatronic characters dubbed to The Pointer Sisters “I’m So Excited!” Thanks for the memories. Can you put that on Disney+?

  • Very unfortunate the Park is closed for this magical anniversary.