Disneyland opens - Walt Disney's magical new theme park in Southern California (1955)

Disneyland opens – Walt Disney’s magical new theme park in Southern California (1955)

When Southern California’s Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, in Anaheim, not only were there thousands of kids and their parents in attendance, there were also hordes of media types.

Here’s a story from Life magazine about the day Walt Disney’s first amazing theme park opened — when all you needed to make some unforgettable memories was a ticket book (and the patience to wait in long lines).

Disneyland opens for business

Uncle Walt packs his new park with the stuff children’s dreams are made on

It may be more than the kids can bear. It has an Adventureland from Tahiti, a Frontierland entered through the log gates of an old fort complete with a Davy Crockett museum, a Fantasyland full of Snow White, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and all their associates, and a Tomorrowland with a Space Port.

Walt Disney arranged it all, of course, and then named it Disneyland. Sprawled over 160 acres at Anaheim, Calif., 23 miles southeast of Los Angeles, it is easily the most lavish amusement park on earth.

The principal problem seemed to be getting through the place. On opening day three weeks ago, a mob of small and large fry started lining up at 2 am, eight hours before the turnstiles began clicking. By midafternoon, there were 20,000 paying customers milling about the “lands” and queued up to travel over or around them in such vehicular wonders as whirling teacups and Mr Toad’s motorcar.

Disney had expected that $2 would see a child through enough of his $17 million wonderland, but mothers said twice that was needed to keep any enterprising small boy pacified. They added, as they emerged spent and spinning, that it was probably well worth it.

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Above: Cups and saucers filled with squealing children as paying guests whirl through park’s Fantasyland at Disney’s “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.”

Adventureland’s Jungle Island

A quizzical giraffe peers down at children in sightseeing riverboats as they circle Jungle Island in Adventureland, filled with mechanical wildlife.

Hungry hippopotamus surfaces and snaps open his hydraulically-controlled jaws. Passing boat triggered a release which brought him into sight.


Anyone for Yo-ho-ho? Disneyland’s new Pirates of the Caribbean ride (1967)

Fantasyland’s Castle

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Fantasyland is overrun by children crossing the drawbridge over a moat. Inside, Disney plans a model torture chamber.

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Vintage Disneyland: Frontierland’s Painted Desert

Painted Desert in Frontierland is populated by Indians, cowboys, cattle and horses. Its best rides are by stagecoach, Conestoga wagon and buckboard.

Here dude ranchers ford a stream in a wagon as Indians line banks, standing motionless to avoid scaring horses, who wrecked one stagecoach out of fright.

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Fifties fun in Disneyland: Scenes from the early days


Vintage Disneyland: Other adventures for kids

Children’s saloon, the Golden Horseshoe, is operated by a soft drink concessionaire who sells only sandwiches and his own beverage. To entertain young tosspots, Disney has provided a 45-minute frontier saloon show with cancan dancers, Irish ballad singers, and a hostess named Slue Foot Sue.

Circus Train is an exact replica of Casey Jr. used in Disney’s movie Dumbo. Beneath it, in Disney-dredged waterway, passes a boatload of canal riders.

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Vintage Disneyland tickets: The A B C D E rides and attractions at the Magic Kingdom (1959-1982)

Vintage Disneyland: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Disneyland opens - Walt Disney's magical new theme park in Southern California 1955 (5)

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