On November 15, 1965, at approximately 2:00 pm in the Grand Ballroom of the Cherry Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Florida, Governor Haydon Burns held a press conference with the Disney Brothers, Walt, and Roy. During this conference, the Governor announced that Walt Disney would bring new opportunities for economic development, joy, and entertainment to the state of Florida. This marked the beginning of the plan for what would eventually become the world-renowned Walt Disney World Resort. Nearly six years were spent constructing this enchanting kingdom, although Walt Disney tragically passed away due to lung cancer before its completion.
The Inception of the First Disneyland
The concept of a theme park that catered to both children and adults was conceived by Walt Disney while observing his daughter delight in a merry-go-round at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. His inspiration further developed during a family visit to Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan in 1948, which featured steamboat rides and a Main Street. Subsequently, Walt Disney wrote to Dick Kesley, a production designer at Disney, discussing the idea of a theme park with various attractions such as a town hall, opera house, movie theatre, magic shop, carnival section, and a railroad station. This was the initial vision for the happiest place on earth.
From its conception by Walt Disney to realization, it took seven years for Disneyland to come to life. Originally, it was intended to be constructed in Burbank, California, adjacent to the Disney Studios, on an 8-acre property on Riverside Drive.
However, it became evident that Disney World could not be accommodated on this land. Moreover, the city of Burbank was not enthusiastic about hosting a carnival-like atmosphere in the vicinity, and the city council rejected the proposal in 1952. Consequently, Walt Disney turned his attention 37 miles south to Orange County.
Additionally, Walt Disney enlisted the help of Harrison Price from the Stanford Research Institute to merge scientific and economic insights in identifying the most suitable location for Disneyland. Price suggested Anaheim, California, where Walt Disney acquired 160 acres of rural land filled with walnut and citrus groves. Construction of the first Disneyland commenced on July 16, 1954.
Price went on to become a legendary figure at Disney, contributing to the selection of more than 150 locations for subsequent Disney properties. In 1999, Variety magazine hailed Price as the “Dean of Recreation Economics.”
The construction of Disneyland required nearly $17 million, which equates to approximately $151 million in today’s currency. The entire project was completed exactly one year and one day after construction began.
At present, there are six Disneyland resorts worldwide, with the largest one located in Florida. These six locations span across California, Florida, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.
Although Walt Disney was unable to witness the realization of his largest project, Disneyland in Orange Country, Florida stands as a testament to his vision and dreams. The Walt Disney World serves as a tribute to the life and philosophy of the influential media mogul, Walter Elias Disney.
Image Source: Konstantin Yolshin / Shutterstock