The “Happiest Place on Earth” turns 60 on July 17.
In 1955, Walt Disney and President Richard Nixon led the opening ceremonies in Anaheim, California. The park held just 18 attractions, and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle wasn’t even open to the public yet.
Today, the park hosts more than 16 million visitors annually.
To celebrate its diamond anniversary, we’re taking a look back at how Disneyland came to be.
Walt Disney, pictured in 1950, wanted to build a family-friendly theme park across from his studios in Burbank, California, but local officials turned it down for fear that the carnival atmosphere would bring crime to the area.
The park cost $17.5 million to build. In order to finance the project, Disney partnered with ABC to produce a weekly one-hour program, titled 'Disneyland.' It featured classic characters and fairy tales, documentary shorts on science and technology, and progress reports on the park's construction.
'The park means a lot to me,' Disney told journalist Pete Martin in a 1956 interview, 'in that it's something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing, keep plussing and adding to -- it's alive.'
When it opened, Disneyland featured 18 attractions scattered throughout five lands: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Main Street USA.
Adventureland invited guests to explore new and exotic worlds. Its central ride, the Jungle Cruise, was one of the first attractions built, because Disney wanted to make sure the foliage had time to bloom.
Frontierland, based on the escapades of cowboys and pioneers in the American Old West, featured few attractions at the start. Children travelled across the expanses of wilderness in old-fashioned stagecoaches and on pack mules.
Upon opening, children raced across the drawbridge toward the castle, which was modelled after a real Bavarian estate. The drawbridge has been lowered once since, at the land's rededication in 1983.
The company scouted the country for old, hand-carved horses to be used on a merry-go-round erected in the center of Fantasyland. They were restored in a Disneyland workshop, and inspected by Disney himself.
Trains carried guests from the Disneyland Hotel to the park on a monorail. In the background is the The Matterhorn Bobsleds, a roller coaster modelled after a mountain in the Swiss Alps.
Nixon and his wife, Pat, also led a 150-unit hour-long parade with Disney. The president had reportedly promised his daughters a day at the park during their weeklong California vacation.
Nixon wasn't the only president to visit the so-called 'Happiest Place on Earth.' Former President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife Mamie Eisenhower took their grandchildren in 1961.
Elizabeth Taylor and boyfriend Eddie Fisher rode one of the fantasy rides during a family outing in 1959.
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