Looking back 55 years – Photos from Disneyland’s Opening Day

| July 16, 2010 | 4 Replies

What does everyone have at an Anniversary Party these days?  Food?  Family?   A nice book to sign? Flowers?  Yep, yep, yep, and it depends on allergies.  All kidding aside, it seems like every Anniversary bash you go to these days, there is some sort of slideshow retrospective. It’s there to show you where the celebrants have come from and their journey to today.    We thought we’d like to share with you a little retrospective for Disneyland’s 55th Anniversary, leading up to Opening Day on July 17, 1955.

Thanks to the Disneyland Media Relations site, we’d like to show you a few images from construction of Disneyland, through her Opening Day.

OPENING DAY (1955) – This is a rare color image of opening day taken outside the Main Entrance of Disneyland.

Looking back at these old photographs is like getting a sneak peak into your family album and seeing your grandparents as infants.  It gives you a new perspective.    For instance, first-time visitors today would never dream that the expansive esplanade between Disney California Adventure and the Disneyland gates was once the edge of the parking lot, as shown above.  Talk about a chance for a great parking space.

MAIN STREET UNDER CONSTRUCTION (1955) – Workers prepare to pour cement where the northern edge of Town Square meets Main Street USA.

It took me a while to realize that the framed-off, circular space is the small area that they currently have the giant celebration invitation/signage, as well as where they currently put the giant Halloween Mickey Pumpkin every year.   It definitely makes one curious as to what items were displayed there originally.  What fore-thought to have an area specially designed for one of the most photographed locations.

TOMORROWLAND UNDER CONSTRUCTION (1955) – Only days before opening day, a crane lifts the “Rocket to the Moon” during construction of Tomorrowland.

I thought that the rocket ship was interesting, as it boasts the new sponsor for the Rocket – TWA.  Another name that has graced its side is Douglas (for the Douglas Aircraft Company – now owned by Boeing).

SLEEPING BEAUTY CASTLE UNDER CONSTRUCTION (1955) – Two months before she “awoke” to opening day visitors, this Disneyland landmark was getting a few final touches from construction workers. Walt Disney wanted this castle to be a friendly and welcoming presence in his park so it was built on a smaller scale than its European counterparts.

This really is a stunning shot that takes the castle back to the days of the orange fields.  No hub, no pavement.  Barely even a recognizable moat.  Who knew that one day, she would become an icon to millions.

OPENING DAY DEDICATION (1955) – Walt Disney reads the Disneyland dedication plaque before a national television audience; “To all who come to this happy place – welcome.”

What an amazing moment it must have been for Walt.  Even though opening day was later considered to be a bit of a failure, due in part to excessive crowds and forged invitations,  he managed to hold one heck of a party for the world, with a live broadcast, to boot!

OPENING DAY, FANTASYLAND (1955) – Hundreds of children run through Sleeping Beauty Castle after the long-awaited lowering of the drawbridge into Fantasyland.

Funny how time passes and some things never change…

Happy 55th Anniversary, Disneyland!

Read more about what’s happening at the Disneyland Resort for the 55th Anniversary here.

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Disneyland Podcaster for the DIS Unplugged