1955: When Disneyland Was Hailed as "a New Amusement Wonderland"

Disneyland, Opening Day 1955 - H 2015
AP Images

Disneyland, Opening Day 1955 - H 2015

In July 1955, admission cost $1, including tax, for adults and 50 cents for children under 12.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened to visitors in Southern California. The Hollywood Reporter published the below article, outlining the features of the theme park, a day later: 

A new amusement wonderland, already being hailed as the eighth wonder of the world, was given its preview yesterday. Approximately 31,000 invited guests, adults and small fry, packed the $17,000,000 recreation center occupying 160 acres at Anaheim, and judging by the enthusiastic reactions of the cuffo crowds, who invariably are more critical than paying customers, there is no doubt about the success of the gigantic entertainment enterprise, which official[ly] opens its gates to the public today.

In fact, Disneyland executives and the concessionaires and sponsors with space at the park immediately began revising upward their estimates of annual attendance, which they now figure might run close to 7,500,000, with gross intake of $16,000,000 or more.

Actual park capacity is about 40,000 persons, but on holidays and weekends it is expected that, with some turnover, attendance will run as high as 60,000. A 100-acre parking lot provides space for 12,175 cars — a potential load of about 50,000 adults and kids — and an "elephant train" takes guests from the parking lot to the main gate. The resort, starting today, will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. In the fall, the place will be closed Mondays.

Admission is $1 including tax for adults and 50 cents for children under 12. To take in all the rides and attractions, priced at 15 to 50 cents, it would cost an adult $8.70 and a juvenile $5.15; and it is doubtful that all the amusements could be covered on a single visit since it is necessary to walk nearly a mile and a half to take in all the "lands" of Disneyland.

Eating facilities, with 20 restaurants and snack bars spotted all over the lot, can serve 8,000 hourly and are designed to accommodate 15,000 visitors daily and a peak of 60,000 on special days. Employees number over 1,000.

Four Major Features

The four major features of Disneyland are "Fantasyland," "Tomorrowland," "Adventureland" and "Wonderland," and in each there is a sponsor tieup, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Carnation Co., Chicken of the Sea Tuna, Kaiser Aluminum, Richfield Oil, Monsanto Chemical, Bank of America, Gibson Greeting Card Co., Frito Co., American Motors, Pendleton Mills, Welch's Grape Juice, Swift & Co., and others. Potentialities of sponsors tieups alone are considerable.

"Fantasyland" is a small fry's paradise, with Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Mad Hatter and March Hare, Sleeping Beauty's castle, a pirate ship, King Arthur's Carrousel with 72 medieval steeds prancing to calliope music, a Mickey Mouse Theatre and other attractions. "Tomorrowland" features rocket ships and other scientific wonders, including the 160-degree Circarama screen. In "Adventureland" the customers can ride a boat called the Congo Queen along winding rivers infested with crocodiles and other animated plastic animals. "Frontierland" takes folks back to log cabin and Indian days, with a Davy Crockett museum, a Mississippi River boat called the Mark Twain, a massive Golden Horseshoe refreshment palace, and other historic landmarks including a Santa Fe & Disney Railroad with an oldtime depot on the oldtime saloon-type Main Street. Oldtime dance-hall entertainers, male and female, are to be found in the various "bars," among them being singer Donald Novis.

Great Promotion Job

Advance promotion of Disneyland and the "news value" of any Disney project, aided by TV, was one of the greatest jobs of its kind in show history, with the result that the resort already is the mecca of millions from all over the world whose interest and curiosity has been aroused by the magic name of Disney and the sure-fire entertainment identified with his name.

In conjunction with the various sponsors with concessions at the park, future exploitation of Disneyland also will continue on an increasingly wide scale, assuring a steady flow of visitors.

No doubt stimulated by the expected success of the venture, Walt Disney stock hit another new high on Friday at 58 bid and 62 asked, while the stock of its partner in the enterprise, American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters, also soared to a new all-time high of 32 5/8, leading all issues on the stock exchange in the day's activity, with a turnover of 46,200 shares.

Today Disney will greet local dignitaries and Hollywood stars when they arrive at Disneyland by helicopter in the first scheduled flight there from L.A. International Airport. Mayor Norris Poulson, Eddie Albert, Margo and others will be in the 'copter.

Disneyland Hotel

Adjacent to Disneyland, but not connected with it, is another fabulous enterprise, the $10,000,000 Disneyland Hotel, a resort hotel and motor hotel along distinctive lines being erected by Wrather-Alvares Hotels, Inc., headed by Jack Wrather. The first 104 units of this hotel, with private patios and balconies, are expected to open about Aug. 15. On completion, the lavish hostelry will contain 650 hotel and motor hotel rooms, suites and garden apartments with color-TV for each unit. There will be banquet facilities for 700 and a parking lot holding 700 cars. Recreation on the 30-acre site among the orange groves will include golf, indoor and outdoor swimming and other attractions.

Hollywood Bowl Jives With Disney Tribute

A stagecoach drawn by four horses and surmounted by Western gentlemen with shotguns traversed one of the main aisles of the Hollywood Bowl last Thursday evening while the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, its tuxedoed members capped in coonskin, paid homage to Davy Crockett himself, the former Fess Parker, who rendered the vocals.

The appeal of the tribute to Walt Disney was largely to the juveniles, who made up the bulk of the audience of some 13,000, and they either sang along with Davy in happy abandon or cavorted in other fashion, all in all a most unusual sight for the Hollywood Bowl.

Guest conductors John Barnett, Paul Smith, Sonny Burke and George Bruns underscored the antics of the energetic audience with music form Disney films, while midgets attired as Disney characters cavorted in the precincts of the shell. Buddy Ebsen, Cliff Edwards, Gloria Woods, the Mellow-men, Winston Hibler, Sterling Holloway, Governor [Goodwin] Knight and the Roger Wagner Chorale also participated in the revels, which were carried into Friday night. — Sam Adams, originally published July 18, 1955.