The Story Behind Disney’s Theme Parks
The Disney collection of amusement parks remains one of the most visited attractions in the world. But how did they get their start? And why did an illustrator who started a movie company want to get into the amusement park business?
Disney is a large company and the section that runs the parks is called “Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc”. But before the parks were even conceived Walt and his brother Roy came up with the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio located in Hollywood, California. That was 1923 and the parks would be opened quite a few years after.
In the 1950s Walt Disney made a series of deals with regards to a project called Disneylandia. Of course, that name wouldn’t stick through the life of the project and Walt Disney announced in April 1954 that Disneyland would open its gates in July of 1955. Walt wanted the park to be educational and entertaining for both children and their parents. Disney bought land in Anaheim California, which at the time was farmland, so could be purchased for a reasonable cost.
Disneyland opens it’s doors
Disneyland officially opened its doors on July 17, 1955, although the opening wasn’t as smooth as expected. Originally passes were mailed out to a smaller group of people as an invitation to come to enjoy the park. However, the passes were quickly counterfeited and the crowds that showed up were overwhelming to the newly opened park. Disneyland started to run out of food and drinks as the crowd swelled and the Mark Twain Steamboat ride almost tipped over from too many people.
Even though Disneyland had a rocky start, it recovered quickly. Rides like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Adventures, and the Jungle Cruise, caught on with parents and children immediately and remain popular to this day. And in 1963 Disney opened the Enchanted Tiki Room, which left audiences amazed at the advanced mixture of audio and animatronics. With these measures, Disneyland quickly became one of the most popular family attractions in the country.
Expansion across America and beyond
While Disneyland continued to innovate and have successes, Walt Disney was hatching plans for a second park, this time in Florida. He actually purchased 43 acres of land in a desolate part of Florida in 1965. Unfortunately, before Walt Disney could see Disneyworld come to fruition, he passed the following year. Roy Disney picked up the project and Disneyworld would open in 1971. After the initial opening, the park continued to expand and eventually became a sprawling resort covering over 47 square miles. And what started out as a single amusement park turned into four, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In addition, two water parks and dozens of hotels and restaurants would populate the area.
The two Disney theme parks would soon be joined by Disney parks around the world. There are several parks around the globe; California Adventure, Disneyland Paris, Shanghai Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland. From the humble beginnings and somewhat rocky start of Disneyland, the Disney parks have grown into a worldwide phenomenon, that welcomes millions of visitors each year.