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Disneyland’s disastrous opening day in 1955

Disneyland is widely known as the “happiest place in the world”, but when the park opened on July 17, 1955, it didn’t live up to its ubiquitous nickname today. In fact, Disney employees who survived the day call it “Black Sunday.” To mark the 65th anniversary of the park’s opening, here are some of the most catastrophic things that went wrong.

1. Fake tickets flooded the park.

Disneyland’s opening day was “just invite” and not for public consumption. Tickets were sent out and reserved for special guests only, including friends and family of employees, the press, and celebrities like Jerry Lewis, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra. On the opening day, however, numerous counterfeit tickets were widely available. In total, Disneyland expected only about 1

5,000 guests, but more than 28,000 people entered the park.

There were also two sets of cards with fixed times: one for the morning and one for the afternoon. The time to leave Disneyland was printed on every ticket. So if it was 2:30 p.m., you should leave the park at this time to make room for the afternoon card holders. Unfortunately, the amount of morning cards didn’t. t left so the attendance ballooned when the participants were admitted in the afternoon.

Disney’s suffering even made some money: a man placed a ladder in front of one of the park’s fences and charged $ 5 per person to climb and sneak in.

2. Traffic was secured for miles.

Since Disneyland and the city of Anaheim weren’t prepared for the amount of people that showed up, the California Santa Ana Freeway that led into the park was secured for seven miles. Traffic has largely blocked the highway for hours. In fact, people were in their cars for so long that there were reports when they finally came to Disneyland that families were taking toilet breaks in the parking lot and along the side of the freeway.

3. The park was covered with wet paint and weeds.

Finishing Disneyland was a race to the finish. Walt Disney wanted a quick settlement, and it took exactly a year and a day from the announcement to the opening day. The construction workers worked around the clock to meet their deadlines.

As soon as the doors opened, the guests could easily see that they were not completely finished. The workers were still painting structures and planting trees throughout the park. Weeds still had to be removed from the river banks along the Canal Boats of the World (now the Storybook Land Canal Boats). And instead of designing the area, Walt Disney simply added signs with Latin plant names to make it look like they should be there.

In addition, there were still some trips under construction, such as Tomorrowlands Rocket to the Moon, which gave an insight into the routine space travel in the distant future of … 1986.

4. Visitors wiped out the park’s food and beverage supplies within a few hours.

For the lucky people who made it to Disneyland on the opening day, there was a lack of food and drink in every restaurant and concession stand in the park. Due to the unexpected influx of guests, practically all of the food and beverage inventory was cleared within a few hours.

5. There was a plumber’s strike.

While there were many water fountains on site, many of them did not work due to a plumber strike during construction. Walt Disney had to choose between working water fountains or working toilets for Disneyland on the opening day, so he chose the latter because he felt the toilets were more important.

“There was a big meeting a few weeks before the opening,” said Dick Nunis, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions WIRED. “There was a plumber strike. I will never forget that. I happened to be in the meeting. The contractor said to Walt, “Walt, there are not enough hours a day to complete the toilets and drinking fountains.” And that’s classic Walt. He said, “Well, you know they can drink Coke and Pepsi, but they can’t pee on the street. Exit the toilets. ‘”

6. The weather was scorching hot.

Although Walt Disney had no control over the weather, it contributed to the disastrous opening experience in Disneyland. The temperatures reached an intense 100 degrees, which must have been unbearable in a park without functioning water fountains. The day was so hot that the fresh asphalt became like a sticky tar. Guests complained that they left their shoes and high heels stuck on the main street sidewalk in the United States

7. The trips broke down again and again.

Like so many other workers who tried to meet Walt Disney’s one-year deadline, both Disney Imagineers and construction workers hurried to complete the theme park. As a result, a number of trips – including Peter Pan’s flight, 20,000 miles under the sea: submarine travel and Dumbo the flying elephant in Fantasyland – broke down or were closed completely because they were just not ready.

The growing pain didn’t stop on the opening day. In the first few weeks after the opening, the stagecoach ride in Frontierland was finally closed when it was found that if it were too top-heavy it would tip over. 36 cars in Autopia crashed due to aggressive driving (ironically, the ride should help children learn respectful road rules); and a tiger and a panther escaped the circus attraction, resulting in an “angry agony” between the animals on Main Street in the United States

8. The Mark Twain riverboat sank.

The legendary Mark Twain Riverboat in Frontierland was crowded on the opening day, and about 500 people crowded into the attraction. This caused the boat to get off track and sink in the mud, but the ordeal was far from over.

“It took about 20 to 30 minutes to get back on the rail and it chugged in,” Terry O’Brien, who worked on the ride on the opening day, recalled later in an interview. “As soon as it pulled up to the landing, everyone hurried to the side to get out and the boat toppled back into the water so they all had to wade through the water, and some of them were pretty crazy.”

9. Sleeping Beauty Castle almost caught fire.

A gas leak in the park resulted in Adventureland, Fantasyland and Frontierland being closed for a few hours while flames from the leak attempted to devour Sleeping Beauty Castle. Walt Disney was so busy on the opening day that he only learned about the fire the next day.

10. ABC’s live show from Disneyland was a train crash.

Walt Disney partnered with ABC broadcasting network, which Disneyland financed with an investment of $ 5 million of the park’s $ 17 million price. In return, Walt Disney hosted a weekly TV show about what people could expect in Disneyland a year before it was supposed to open its doors.

On the opening day, Walt Disney hosted a 90-minute live TV special with Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings and future President Ronald Reagan. Over 90 million viewers tuned in to see the “happiest place in the world”. And while the cameras showed the fun and excitement of Disneyland, the TV special covered up the numerous disasters described above.

However, the live broadcast itself was subject to technical difficulties, such as B. Stumbling of guests over camera cables in the entire park, faulty mistakes, on-air-flubs, hot microphones and unexpected moments that were captured in front of the camera – namely Bob Cummings when making out with a dancer shortly before the broadcast.

“This is less a show than a special event,” said Art Linklater during the live broadcast from Disneyland. “The trial was what you would expect from a trial if you covered three volcanoes that all erupt at the same time, and you didn’t expect any of them. So when I say from time to time: “We are now taking the camera to the snapping crocodiles in Adventureland”, someone presses the wrong button instead and we catch Irene Dunne adjusting her goings-on on Mark Twain, isn’t it? Don’t be too surprised. “

The live broadcast also featured the debut of the original Mouseketeers The Mickey Mouse Club TV show that premiered on ABC a few months later in 1955. At least something positive came out of it.

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