Disneyland’s First Day

On July 17, 1955 – 62 years ago today – Disneyland Park, originally called Disneyland, opened under the direct supervision of Walt Disney himself. Walt came up with the concept after visiting amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and 1940s. He bought the 160-acre site near Anaheim in 1953. Construction began a year later.

Disneyland was dedicated at an “International Press Preview” event held on Sunday, July 17, 1955, which was only open to invited guests and the media. Although 28,000 people attended the event, only about half of those were actual invitees, the rest having purchased counterfeit tickets. The following day, it opened to the public, featuring 20 attractions.

The Special Sunday events, including the dedication, were televised nationwide and anchored by three of Walt Disney’s friends from Hollywood: Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan.

Yes, Ronald Reagan.

ABC broadcast the event live, during which many guests tripped over the television camera cables. In Frontierland, a camera caught Cummings kissing a dancer. When Disney started to read the plaque for Tomorrowland, he read part way then stopped when a technician off-camera said something to him, and after realizing he was on-air, he said, “I thought I got a signal,” and began the dedication from the start. At one point, while in Fantasyland, Linkletter tried to give coverage to Cummings, who was on the pirate ship. He was not ready, and tried to give the coverage back to Linkletter, who had lost his microphone. Cummings then did a play-by-play of him trying to find it in front of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

So Disneyland didn’t get off to a great start. But Walt Disney famously said, “It’s not how you start that matters, but what you do next.”

The same is true in life. To get the full thrill of this ride God calls “life,” it’s not about how we start, or even where we are now – but what we do next.

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