Disneyland’s July 17, 1955 opening-day reviews were excoriating. H.W. Mooring of the Los Angeles Tidings wrote, “Walt’s dream is a nightmare. I attended the so-called press premiere of Disneyland, a fiasco the like of which I cannot recall in thirty years of show life. To me, it felt like a giant cash register, clicking and clanging, as creatures of Disney magic came tumbling down from their lofty places in my daydreams …” Another headline called it “The $17 Million Dollar People Trap.” There were children’s tears. There were endless lines. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic.
In other words, just like any other day in the Magic Kingdom.
As one skips through Richard Snow’s sprightly new history of the creation of Disneyland, one is constantly reminded of the human fallibility behind what now feels like an impenetrable entertainment juggernaut. It’s because of Disney that my twelve-year-old knows what IP is. It’s because of Disney that toys become TV become theme park rides. It’s because of Disney that line managers say, “Following guest.” Snow shows the reader what it took to open the gates to nostalgic Main Street, western Frontierland, watery Adventureland, storybook Fantasyland and never-finished Tomorrowland—and it took a lot, from hand-built rides to experiments in aluminum and Fiberglas, from hand-painted backdrops to Stanford Research Institute reports on the future growth of southern California.