“The thing will get more beautiful year after year. And it will get better as I find out what the public likes; I can’t do that with a picture it’s finished and unchangeable before I find out whether the public likes it or not.” – Walt Disney on Disneyland.
Walt Disney found different reasons to build his seventeen million dollar Magic Kingdom in Anaheim in 1955. The idea had originally stemmed from his dissatisfaction with Los Angeles amusement parks in the late 1930s. While his two young daughters would ride the merry-go-round Walt would look at the tawdry surroundings and wonder why the place couldn’t be better. Also he was receiving letters from people who wished to take tours of the Disney Studio- what would they see, guys bent over drawing boards? Walt had flirted with the idea of a small park across the street from the studio, and then put it aside bowing to opposition from the city of Burbank, plus financial setbacks largely due to the initial failures of Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi. On a personal note in 1948 Walt built his own personal miniature railroad in his backyard. The one-eighth scale Carolwood Pacific was a fun hobby that allowed Walt to escape business pressures, but his wife Lillian wasn’t thrilled with her grown husband spending long days riding on a choo choo train through her begonias. Disneyland would eventually provide him with a bigger train to ride in without the spousal disapproval. But perhaps most important to Walt, Disneyland gave him a unique opportunity for a never-ending project.
For a perfectionist like Walt Disney filmmaking was often a frustrating experience. Even when one Walt’s pictures did well he sometimes lamented that they could have been better if he hadn’t faced a deadline or had a chance for a do over. After the short cartoon The Three Little Pigs (1933) became an enormous hit Walt had been pressured by bankers and distributers into making sequels, which had not been nearly as successful. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) had made eight million dollars at a time when movies cost 25 cents for adults and a dime for kids, yet Walt fretted about a scene where the prince seemed to shimmy and years later complained about not being able to improve on it. Other features that Walt personally loved such as So Dear to My Heart (1946) and Pollyanna (1960) did not do well at the box office. Walt had taken a shot at an ongoing task with Fantasia in 1940, the multi-segmented classical music cartoon could have theoretically, if Disney had his way, played forever with new sequences replacing others every few months. But Fantasia bombed at the box office in it’s first release and plunged Walt into debt. As Walt’s enthusiasm for pictures diminished, the idea of Disneyland took on a greater allure. Continue reading “Unforgetable Disneyland”