Happy Birthday, Disneyland! Iconic park celebrates 66th anniversary today

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Saturday, July 17, 2021
What Disneyland looked like in 1955
"To all who come to this happy place: welcome." - Walt Disney, July 17, 1955 at the opening dedication of Disneyland.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- 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 the first day, 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 six decades, but many of the attractions that were operating on opening day are still there, today, albeit renovated or slightly tweaked.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of this station.