On July 16, 1955, Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas wrote a story about the imminent opening of an elaborate theme park in California that was conceived by none other than Walt Disney. The park opened the next day.
Like the animator and entrepreneur, Disneyland was ambitious and imaginative — a real-life play land for children and adults alike.
Thomas, a longtime Hollywood reporter for AP and author of a Walt Disney biography who died in 2014, wrote that Disneyland cost $17 million to build, and that no detail was spared. He also noted that a day trip was doable but “you’d no doubt end up with a headache.”
Sixty years later, the AP is making this report and photos available:
Walt Disney’s 20-year dream comes true tomorrow when the gates of the $17-million Disneyland opens for the first time.
This is the modern wonderland that a mouse built. Well, Mickey Mouse started it anyway. The cartoon star was the first success in the fabulous career of Walt Disney.
Then came the Three Little Pigs, Donald Duck, Pluto, Snow White, The Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, Pinocchio and a host of other characters who became famous around the world. Somewhere along the line the cartoon wizard got the notion for an amusement park. Not the usual Coney Island affair, but an imaginative playground that would delight young and old.
Disney made his move a year ago. He succumbed to the lure of television and arranged to tie in the TV show (he hosted) with a Disneyland park. A survey showed that this citadel of sunshine and orange groves, accessible to 10 million population, was the best location.
A year later the brightly painted Disneyland is open for business.
Twenty-two thousand invited guests are expected to pour into the park tomorrow for the opening festivities. They include mayors and officials, education leaders and businessmen from southern California, press from throughout the nation, move stars and their children.
The opening ceremonies will be telecast by ABC from 5:30 to 7 p.m. (CST), with Disney, Art Linkletter, Irene Dunne, Fess Parker, Davy Crockett and others.
Some 2,500 men were laboring to finish Disneyland for the premiere.
Despite the last-minute rush, the entire park has been planned down to the smallest detail. And Disney is a great stickler for detail. The interior of the railroad station, for example, had to be designed with the ornate woodwork of the 1900 period. The 72 horses on the $102,000 King Arthur’s carousel were rebuilt so they would appear to be leaping instead of merely galloping.
The site of the park was a 160-acre orange ranch just off the Santa Ana Freeway. The plan was drawn up with an old-fashioned city park at the hub and the realms of Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland fanning out in four directions. The Disney people estimate a patron need travel no more than 1.4 miles to see the whole place.
Disneyland had cost its backer $17 million. What will it cost the doting father who brings his family here?
Well, Pa, you’ll have to shell out $1 apiece for you, your wife and any other grownups you bring along. The kids get in for 50 cents.
You probably could have a good time without spending more. There are many arresting sights to see, and many industrial firms have fascinating exhibits for free.
But the chances are the kids will hound you into buying them tickets on the 35 out-of-this-world rides. If you are a glutton and try everything, it could cost you $8.70 for yourself and $5.15 for each tot.
You can take a trip around the whole park on a miniature railway that costs 50 cents for yourself and 25 cents for youngsters. For the same prices you can travel down an American riverway on the paddle-wheeler Mark Twain, take an excursion boat through land and be scared by the life-like animals or be rocketed to the moon.
Most of the other attractions run around 35-25 cents for adults and 25-10 cents for children.
How long will the visit take you?
You could probably do it in one day, but you’d no doubt end up with a headache. The Disney people expect patrons will spend an average of four and a half hours in the park. They anticipate 60,000 a day, but will try to hold the total at one time to 46,000.
“If we get over that amount, we’ll probably close the gates,” said an official. “We don’t want to jeopardize the enjoyment of those who have paid to get in.”