The Inaugural(?) Theme Park Thread Opens Its Doors Prematurely

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 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.

With those words, spoken on the afternoon of Sunday, July 17th, 1955, Walt Disney officially declared Disneyland Park in Anaheim California open for business. At the time of this grand opening, the park featured five lands and more than 20 different attractions for guests to enjoy.

In theory.

The fact of the matter is, Disneyland wasn’t even finished until later that day, and wasn’t truly running on all cylinders for several more weeks after that. Even as guests streamed down Main Street U.S.A. towards Sleeping Beauty Castle, workers in the rear areas of the park were still frantically painting and planting trees, hoping that they could somehow finish in the precious minutes they had left before the crowds actually reached them.


Those crowds also happened to be far more numerous than expected, given that this special preview event was meant to be invitation only. Conflicting accounts say that between 6,000 and 15,000 tickets were issued, but in either case, a whopping 28,000 people ultimately made their way into Disney’s magic kingdom that day, whether by presenting counterfeit tickets or by utilizing the services of an enterprising gentlemen who propped a ladder up against the park’s exterior fence and charged passerby $5 a pop to climb it.

Somehow, things only got worse. Concession stands ran out of food. Water fountains didn’t function as the result of a plumbers’ strike. (Forced as he was to choose between working water fountains and working toilets, Walt probably did make the right decision there.) The Mark Twain Riverboat, weighed down by far more passengers than it was ever intended to carry, broke off its track and became stuck in a mudbank. High heels sunk into the freshly poured asphalt of Main Street, almost certainly aided by the blazing 100º temperatures. A gas leak closed down Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland — a.k.a. the three good lands — and nearly caused Sleeping Beauty Castle to catch fire.

Walt himself was not made aware of these problems until the reviews rolled in the following day. Ever the showman, he kept his attention focused squarely on the live television broadcast intended to promote the park, doing his best to make sure that that, at least, went smoothly.

(It did not)

If nothing else, Disney seems to have learned its lesson about rushing to meet deadlines, as they have since become famously reluctant to make promises when construction timelines are concerned. While this year will see the opening of the two massive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge projects in both California and Florida — with the former seemingly mere months from completion — both still lack an official opening date.

Much like Walt, I too have taken a half-baked idea and made it available to the public before I had a chance to truly get a handle on it. But it’s my hope that, if the interest is there, we can use this thread as a semi-regular opportunity to gather and discuss all things theme-park related (and not just Disney parks, I promise!).

Optional Discussion Topic: When you’re at your favorite theme park, what ride or attraction do you make a point of hitting up first? Do you choose it for sentimental reasons, or crowd optimization reasons?

Also, let me know what you think about this thread in general! Is there sufficient interest for it? And if so, how often would you like to see it run? Monthly? Every other week? Weekly feels too often, but God knows I’ll probably have no shortage of topics for headers, so let’s hear what folks want!