Westways magazine (the AAA magazine in California) ran a nice preview of Disneyland in 1955. I’ve included the article and individual images, including Walt Disney himself taking a stagecoach for a test drive! Via Vintage Disneyland Tickets.
When Disneyland was under construction people must have looked at these images and thought to themselves, "that guy is fuckin nuts."
Cowboys and medieval castles and riverboats and pirates AND trains and… fairies? All in one place? I mean his cartoons are kind of clever and all but… bless his heart, this looks like a hot mess.
They had nothing to compare Disneyland to because theme parks hadn’t been invented yet.
I wonder how many times Walt had to repeat himself when explaining his vision: “Yes, I said pirate ship. Yes, it’s next to a bunch of spinning tea cups. Yes, I said spinning. SPINNING.”
It was the early 1950s and grown men who said things like that often got locked up for it.
But here’s a thought… what if Uncle Walt really was crazy?
Balls-to-the-padded-walls straight-jacket levels of crazy?
But it was okay because he had $17 million in 1950s money and a weekly TV show and hadn’t hurt anyone (yet) so… what’s the harm?
In our universe Walt kept his hair combed and managed to chill long enough for the investors to watch Disneyland become a multi-billion dollar payoff.
In fact, in our universe Walter did great… up until that Epcot Center thing where he raved (on national TV!) about an experimental utopian city in a Florida swamp where the Jetsons would live or something. Even with his witchy money-making powers it’s easy to imagine everyone around Walt exchanging nervous glances when that bombshell landed.
All we wanted was Disneyland East and you want to build 27,000 acres of… what, exactly?
But then it was cool because Walt Disney died of cancer and all the suits heaved a huge sigh of relief thinking they could regain control of things again, scale it back maybe.
But by then it was too late, because the public had been infected with Walt’s crazy. They wanted Epcot.
The same way millions of otherwise sane adults desperately wanted Disneyland before it existed, the way it existed in Walt’s feverish mind prior to 1955.