Then and Now – Disneyland California

Disneyland wasn’t always the multi-billion dollar enterprise it is today. Here’s how the Californian landmark came to be…. By Alissa Jenkins

It has captured the imagination of children across the globe for generations, but long before this iconic Californian wonderland opened, it entertained the thoughts of none other than Mr Walt Disney himself.

Legend has it that he was inspired to open Disneyland after visiting other amusement parks with his young daughters.

He observed how poorly maintained the parks were – and how bored waiting parents were – sparking the idea for Disneyland, an amusement park that would offer attractions for both children and adults, so families could enjoy the experience together.

So, after many pitches, his idea finally received financial backing and Disney purchased a block of land in semi-rural Orange County to turn this dream into a reality.

Construction began on July 21, 1954 (an ambitious 12 months before the scheduled opening), and the first step was to clear 160 acres of citrus trees and move 15 houses to make room for the impending park.

Staff worked around the clock and soon the five original “lands” to make upDisneylandwere completed: Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

The above picture was taken in the 1950s, showing Walt Disney (left) overlooking the development of Main Street USA – the entrance toDisneyland. The tram tracks and old-world architecture that line the road can still be seen today, as can the iconicSleepingBeautyCastleat the far end of the street.

On July 17, 1955, the $17,000,000 magical kingdom opened to the public.

Only 6000 people were invited to the Grand Opening, but by mid-afternoon more than 28,000 counterfeit ticket-holders had passed through the gates, making a dramatic start for the park.

Disneyland’s popularity continued to grow. Apparently some 50 million visitors rolled in during the first ten years.

The park has had several extensions and renovations over the years, including the addition ofNew Orleans Square, Critter Country, Mickey’s Toon-town and Disney California Adventure Park, which was built on Disneyland’s original parking lot in 2001.

Today the park is said to receive roughly 15 million visitors each year, and although it’s still largely referred to as “Disneyland”, it was rebranded as Disney land Park in 1998 to distinguish it from the larger Disneyland Resort complex.