Disneyland, the only theme park designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney, opened on Sunday, July 17, 1955. Construction lasted for exactly one year, and cost only $17 million to complete. See what it looked like back in the day in the video above.
The opening was only intended for about 11,000 invited guests and press, though a total of 28,000 attended due to a rush of counterfeit tickets. The event was telecast by ABC, anchored by actors Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan, who were all friends of Walt Disney. Although initially intended to be a preview event preceding the opening to the public the next day, Disneyland adopted July 17 as the official date of its opening and birthday.
On day one, Disneyland offered five themed ‘lands’ with a total of 20 attractions. At the start of the telecast, Walt Disney made his opening dedication speech.
“To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Unbeknownst to Walt Disney or the television audience, the press event was rife with problems, in large part due to the unexpectedly large crowd and scorching outside temperatures of over 100 degrees. Drinking fountains were dry, restaurants ran out of food, rides were breaking down, and a gas leak in Fantasyland caused half the park to temporarily close. Company insiders would later refer to opening day as “Black Sunday.”
Walt Disney worked hard to restore faith in the park, inviting the press to return again once the problems had been sorted out.
Disneyland has changed a great deal over the past 60 years, but many of the attractions that were operating on opening day are still there, today, albeit renovated or slightly tweaked. Here they are listed by their themed land.
MAIN STREET, U.S.A.
Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station
Main Street Cinema
King Arthur Carrousel
Mad Tea Party
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Peter Pan’s Flight
Snow White’s Adventures
Storybook Land Canal Boats
Mark Twain Riverboat
Golden Horseshoe Revue
Casey Jr. Circus Train and Dumbo the Flying Elephant both opened later in 1955, on July 31 and August 16, respectively.