Since opening day on July 17, 1955, Disneyland has been delighting people of all ages, and over 650 million people have passed through the Park gates.

Ever wondered what it is about Disneyland that makes it the most popular theme park in the world? Here’s a little history behind the magic.  

In the Beginning

Through the 1930s and 40s, Walt Disney, who was already successfully running Walt Disney Studios after Mickey Mouse had become a household name in the late 20s, was spending time at amusement parks with his daughters when he came up with the idea of a Disney-themed version of those same parks.  

The plan originally was to build the Park next to the Disney studios, but he realized he needed a bigger space, so the 65-hectare site in Anaheim was purchased in 1953. The 1955 grand opening was aired as an ABC press release. But there was one problem: the Park was literally overflowing due to a number of counterfeit passes! There wasn’t enough food, and one boat almost capsized because it was too full. To say the Park was a hit from day one is an understatement!

The 50s and 60s

Through the 50s and 60s, the Park made several innovations, including the Matterhorn, which was the first bobsled-style rollercoaster in the world.  

The Enchanted Tiki room was another unique innovation: it was the first time that audio was used in combination with animatronics for a public attraction. This created an immersive, multi-sensory experience and was completely unique at the time. Disney also unveiled classics like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and It’s a Small World at the 1964 New York Fair, a smart publicity move that no doubt boosted the Park’s popularity even more.  

Though Walt died in 1966, two more popular attractions, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, continued to be built and were completed by 1970.

Disney Goes International

Into the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Disney continued to expand with new theme parks all over the world, including Tokyo. They also added the wildly popular world-renowned ride, Space Mountain. They continued to concoct new and innovative immersive attractions to draw audiences, such as the Star Tours Ride and later the Indiana Jones Adventure Tour.  

A Focus on Future

A main theme of the Park then – and now – is the way Disney always wanted to focus on a blend of technological advancement and good old-fashioned magic. Tomorrowland is a perfect example of this focus: Disney originally had scientists on as technical consultants to build early rides like Rocket to the Moon and Submarine Voyage. Today we see that focus on Space Mountain and Star Tours, just to name a few.

Living the Dream

Part of what keeps Disneyland so popular is its emphasis on joy and fantasy for people of all ages and backgrounds, following on the success and innovation of early films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Bambi and Fantasia. That’s why Fantasyland, one of the first areas to open, was created as it gives people a chance to “fly” over London like Peter Pan or pay a visit to Alice’s Wonderland.

Disney truly managed to make magic a reality, and in this, he not only made his own dreams come true, but has done so for millions of people around the world. Disney’s innovative ideas that bring the screen to life continue to stun and delight audiences everywhere.

There’s so much to see and do at Disneyland this year! If you’re planning a trip, contact the Tropicana Inn & Suites for more information.