- This article is about Disneyland in California. For other similarly named Disney parks and resorts see here.
- “To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
- ―Walt Disney
Disneyland Park, originally and more colloquially known as Disneyland, is the first and original Disney theme park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California and is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company. Created by brothers Walt and Roy Disney, Disneyland has become the world's most famous themed amusement park and one of the most visited sites in the world.
The park features many rides and attractions, dining options, and walk-around characters, including Mickey Mouse and his friends as well as Disney Princesses, characters from the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, and many more.
Concept and Construction
Walt Disney and his brother/business partner Roy were heading a Hollywood film studio before their idea of a theme park formed. Walt Disney's original concept was of a permanent family fun park minus the "negative element", which he felt traveling carnivals often attracted. While on outings with his daughters Dianne and Sharon, Walt realized there were no parks with activities both parents and children could enjoy together.
Over time, Walt had received numerous letters written by people wanting to visit the Disney Studio lot and to meet their favorite Disney characters. Realizing a functional movie studio had little to offer to the visiting fan, he then began to foster ideas of building an area at his Burbank studios for tourists to visit and take pictures with Disney characters set in statue form. His ideas then evolved to a small play park with a boat ride and other themed areas. Over time, Disney's ideas continued to evolve into a concept for a larger enterprise; that enterprise became what is known today as Disneyland.
Disneyland was partially inspired by Tivoli Gardens, built-in 1843 in Copenhagen, Denmark and Children's Fairyland built-in 1950 in Oakland, California. Disney's original modest plans called for the park to be built on eight acres (32,000 m²) next to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California as a place where his employees and families could go to relax.
Another influence on the Disneyland concept was Walt's interest in model trains. Hazel George, a nurse who treated Walt's chronic pain daily at the studio, suggested in 1948 that he take some vacation time and visit the Chicago Railroad Fair, which he did, along with Ward Kimball, Disney Studios animator, and train enthusiast. Walt's fascination for trains was also encouraged by another studio animator, Ollie Johnston. Soon, Walt built the Carolwood Pacific, a miniature steam train layout in the back yard of the Disney residence on Carolwood Drive. Walt delighted in giving visitors rides on his miniature train. (See Michael Broggie, Walt Disney's Railroad Story, 1998.)
Early in development, during the early 1950s, it became clear that more areas would be needed. Difficulties in obtaining funding caused Disney to investigate new ways of raising money. He decided to use television to get the ideas into people's homes, and so he created a show named Disneyland, which was broadcast on the fledgling American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television network. In return, the network agreed to help finance the new park.
On the suggestion of researchers at Stanford Research Institute who correctly envisioned the area's potential growth, Disney acquired 160 acres (730,000 m²) of orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim, south of Los Angeles in neighboring Orange County. Construction began on July 18, 1954, and would cost US$17 million to complete. U.S. Highway 101 (later Interstate 5) was under construction at the same time just to the north of the site; in preparation for the traffic which Disneyland was expected to bring, two more lanes were added to the freeway even before the park was finished.
Because of his brother Roy's distrust of the project, and because of financial considerations, Walt Disney was forced to turn to outside financing for his theme park. For the first five years of its operation, Disneyland was owned by Disneyland, Inc., of which Walt Disney Productions and ABC each owned half. In 1960, Walt Disney Productions bought ABC's share of the theme park. This would later come full circle in 1999, when the Walt Disney Company, the successor to Walt Disney Productions, merged with Capital Cities-ABC, Inc.
1955: Opening day
Disneyland was opened to the public on Monday, July 18, 1955. A Special Media Preview which included a live TV show on ABC aired on July 17, 1955, the opening ceremonies were televised nationwide and anchored by three of Walt Disney's friends from Hollywood: Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan.
The media event did not go smoothly. The park was overcrowded as the invitation-only affair was plagued with counterfeit tickets: 11,000 people were invited, but 28,000 showed up. All major roads nearby were congested. The high temperature was over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and a plumbers' strike left many of the drinking fountains dry. The asphalt that had been poured just the night before was so soft that ladies' high-heeled shoes sank in. Vendors ran out of food. A gas leak in Fantasyland caused Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland to close for the afternoon. Parents were throwing children over the shoulders of crowds to get in line for rides such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The Mark Twain Riverboat was overloaded, leading to the establishment of a maximum capacity of 300. When Disneyland opened it had only eighteen attractions, fourteen of which still exist to this day.
The park got such bad press for the event that Walt Disney invited members of the press back for a private "second day" to experience the true Disneyland, after which Walt held a party in the Disneyland Hotel for them. Walt and his executives forever referred to the first day as Black Sunday.
Disney Parks Around the World
Despite the problems on an opening day, Disneyland was an enormous success and attracted visitors worldwide in unprecedented volume. Soon, even while they were refining and developing Disneyland, Walt and Roy began planning to expand the concept to other locations.
The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida was built with Walt's disapproval of the cheap motels and amusements that popped up around Disneyland in mind. It is the largest privately-owned vacation destination, and the most popular vacation destination in the world, although the yet-to-open Dubai Land in the United Arab Emirates is twice the size. It opened in 1971 under the guidance of Roy O. Disney. Since its opening with one theme park and two hotels, the resort has grown into a four theme park, two water parks, twenty-three hotels, and two shopping complex vacation resorts.
On April 15, 1983, the first international Disney theme park Tokyo Disneyland opened in Japan, which is now part of the Tokyo Disney Resort with a sister theme park Tokyo DisneySea. On April 12, 1992, Disneyland Park (Paris) opened in France, which is now known as Disneyland Paris with the opening of Walt Disney Studios Park. On September 12, 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland opened in Hong Kong followed by Shanghai Disneyland which opened on June 16, 2016, in Shanghai.
1990s Transition: Theme park becomes a resort
In the 1990s, major construction began to transform Disneyland from a theme park into a vacation resort.
The Walt Disney Company purchased areas of land surrounding the resort that was once occupied by low-budget motels and trailer courts.
In 1998, Disneyland Park's original "Hundred-Acre Parking Lot" was demolished, with the Harbor Blvd. sign coming down a year later. On this land, Disney California Adventure, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Downtown Disney opened in 2001.
Most of the resort's parking today is handled by the Mickey and Friends parking structure. With six levels and 10,250 parking spaces, it is the second-largest parking structure in the world, behind only the structure at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Propane-powered trams bring visitors to the entrance plaza between the two parks. There are also some smaller off-property lots with regular shuttle service to and from the parks and most nearby hotels offer regular shuttle service as well. Many of the motels on Harbor Blvd. are also within walking distance of the resort.
The park's management team of the mid-1990s was a tremendous source of contention to many Disneyland fans and employees. Headed by executives Cynthia Harriss and Paul Pressler, each with a retail marketing background, Disneyland's focus gradually changed from attractions to merchandising. The leaders came under increasing criticism for a host of cost-cutting initiatives and profit-boosting schemes.
Under their direction, few new attractions were built (and those that were tended to be off-the-shelf, poorly reuse existing infrastructure, and often exit into gift shops as a form of aggressive marketing) and many were closed down, most of which could be dusted for Walt's fingerprints. Several attractions, such as the PeopleMover, Motor Boat Cruise, and Submarine Voyage, were simply closed, with their infrastructure still intact; the empty tracks, canals, and lagoons were stark reminders of better days. Shops that once carried a variety of items themed to their locations now carried general Disney character products. Themed restaurants and shops were closed and replaced by outdoor vending carts which caused crowds to clog walkways. The decision to remodel Tomorrowland, derided by many fans, was attributable to Pressler, as was the closure of a great many popular attractions within the area, mainly the PeopleMover and Submarine Voyage. Dewitt T. Irby, a retired U.S. Army officer hired as facilities manager, was blamed for the destruction of much of the tooling and attraction components in storage in the backstage areas to streamline operations as recommended by outside consultants.
After nearly a decade of deferred maintenance, Walt's original theme park was showing visible signs of neglect. The paint was peeling off buildings, burnt out light bulbs, which were once replaced before they could burn out, were so numerous as to make the facades they outlined to look like toothless poor relations of their counterparts on reruns of the various Disney TV shows. The shift from attractions to merchandising had essentially turned Disneyland into a shopping mall, and it became more and more clear that Pressler didn't care about guests or quality, only money. Disney purists such as Internet columnist Al Lutz decried the perceived decline in customer value and park quality in the name of money and railed for the Pressler regime's dismissal.
Things started coming to a head-on December 24, 1998, when poor training and the wrong type of rope caused a metal cleat to be ripped off Sailing Ship Columbia, striking and killing a guest in line. Two years later, a minimal duty of care caused a guest to die of a brain aneurysm months after riding Indiana Jones Adventure. And in 2001, a tree (one of the park's original plantings) fell over in Frontierland and injured 29 guests.
In 2003, both Harriss and Pressler stepped down to take over operations of national clothing retailer The Gap. Irby stepped down the following year. Pressler and Harriss were replaced by Matt Ouimet, who immediately went to work fixing Pressler-era additions. This mainly involved re-establishing maintenance schedules and fixing Tomorrowland, which included a new paint scheme and the reopening of the Submarine Voyage with a Finding Nemo theme.
To this day, many tend to misplace blame on Michael Eisner, when in reality, Eisner had little, if any, involvement in any of Pressler and Harriss' decisions.
Disneyland in the 21st Century
Matt Ouimet, formerly manager of Disney Cruise Line, was promoted to assume leadership of Disneyland. Unlike his predecessors, Ouimet was an amusement park fan and had worked summers in Disneyland in his youth. Praised by Disney fan sites for his success in building the Cruise Line, Ouimet quickly set about reversing negative trends, especially with regards to cosmetic maintenance and a return to the original infrastructure maintenance schedule, in hopes of restoring the good safety record of the past.
Much like Walt Disney himself, Ouimet could often be seen walking the park during business hours with members of his staff. He wore a cast member name tag and welcomed comments from guests. Ouimet left in July 2006 to become President of the Starwood chain of Hotels. He was replaced with Tokyo Disney Resort executive Ed Grier.
Disneyland welcomed its 500-millionth guest in 2004. The park underwent several major renovation projects and celebrated its fiftieth anniversary (see below) with events that started in May 2005. Many classic attractions (often ones neglected during Paul Pressler and Cynthia Harriss' times as Disneyland Resort Presidents) were restored, probably most notably Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, and Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, which has received a completely rejuvenated soundtrack based on the original forty-year-old music.
The park was designed by Walt Disney's movie studio staff to have five distinctly-themed "lands". Three more lands have been added since the park's opening. At the center of the park stands Sleeping Beauty Castle. In front of the castle is Plaza Square, the center of Disneyland's "hub and spokes" organizing scheme. From this central point, the original lands of the park radiate outward. This layout was designed to make Disneyland easy to navigate and to assist in distinguishing one themed area from another. Main Street, USA leads guests directly into Plaza Square from the south. Fantasyland lies to the north of the hub, aligned with the guests' approach from Main Street, Sleeping Beauty Castle serving as its gateway. Frontierland's gateway lies due west, symbolizing America's historic westward expansion. Due east lies the gateway to Tomorrowland and Adventureland's gateway is somewhat hidden southwest of the hub, consistent with its theme of exploring the unknown and exotic.
To complement the "hub and spokes" layout, Walt wanted to create easily-identified landmarks in each land that would be visible from the hub and draw visitors into each area, setting expectations for each themed experience. He sometimes referred to these landmarks as "weenies" due to their vertical proportions. The original "weenies" include King Arthur Carrousel (Fantasyland), The Mark Twain Riverboat (Frontierland), and the X-1 Rocket (Tomorrowland). The Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station and Sleeping Beauty Castle perform the same scenic organizing function, drawing visitors toward the park entrance and the hub, respectively.
Together, the "hub and spoke" layout, plus the "weenies" help establish a cognitive map in the mind of visitors, making the park's organization memorable and easily understood.
Main Street, U.S.A.
- Main article: Main Street, U.S.A. (Disneyland)
Based on the stereotypical turn-of-the-20th-century city Main Street, Main Street, U.S.A. is home to many shops but is short on attractions in comparison to other lands. Main Street's attractions include vehicles (the Disneyland Railroad, a horse-drawn trolley, horseless carriages, a fire truck, a double-decker omnibus, etc.), a cinema (which now shows early Mickey Mouse shorts), and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which moved to Disneyland in 1965 after debuting at the Illinois pavilion of the 1964 New York World's Fair. Early attractions also included an exhibit of sets from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" in the building now occupied by "Lincoln".
To Walt, Main Street, U.S.A. is reminiscent of Marceline, Missouri, as it appeared in 1911, a place he considered his hometown. In design, Main Street, U.S.A. is a reasonably faithful recreation of early Fort Collins, Colorado, the hometown of Harper Goff, Main Street's designer.
The 1880s-styled shops that line Main Street appear to be full of two-story buildings. In reality, however, they implement a forced perspective to give the illusion that they are full height. The second levels of the buildings are a few feet short of being full size. If the Disneyland architects had made the buildings a full two stories high, they would have looked incongruously tall compared to the castle. Forced perspective is also employed in the relative height of the buildings, with buildings at the south (entrance) end of the street is generally taller than buildings at the north (castle) end, creating an illusion of greater length and making Sleeping Beauty Castle appear larger than it is, though this illusion has been distorted thanks to trees planted during the park's construction growing to dwarf the castle. Many of the second-story windows are painted with the names of Disney's friends and supporters who were instrumental in the creation and development of Disneyland.
Walt Disney said, "For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of grandfather's youth." Above the firehouse is Walt Disney's apartment, fully furnished but off-limits to the public. A lamp is kept burning in the window as a tribute to his memory. A fireman's pole once served as a quick entrance to the park from the Disney apartment, but the opening into the apartment was closed to keep nosy guests out.
- Main article: Adventureland (Disneyland)
Adventureland is designed to be an exotic tropical place in a far-off region of the world. "To create a land that would make this dream reality," said Walt Disney, "we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa."
- Main article: Frontierland (Disneyland)
Frontierland recreates the setting of pioneer days in the American frontier. According to Walt Disney, "All of us have cause to be proud of our country's history, shaped by the pioneering spirit of our forefathers. Our adventures are designed to give you the feeling of having lived, even for a short while, during our country's pioneer days."
Frontierland is home to the Rivers of America, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, the Mark Twain Riverboat, Sailing Ship Columbia, the Frontierland Shootin' Exposition, and the popular nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic!.
- Main article: Fantasyland (Disneyland)
Walt Disney said, "What youngster has not dreamed of flying with Peter Pan over moonlit London or tumbling into Alice's nonsensical Wonderland? In Fantasyland, these classic stories of everyone's youth have become realities for youngsters - of all ages - to participate in."
Originally styled as a medieval fair, Fantasyland's refurbishment in 1983 turned the area into a Bavarian village.
Fantasyland is home to attractions such as Snow White's Enchanted Wish, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and It's a Small World.
- Main article: Tomorrowland (Disneyland)
In Walt Disney's words, "Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to allow you to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future."
Tomorrowland's showpiece was the TWA Rocket to the Moon, derived from Walt's historic "Man in Space" set of three television shows in the 1950s. It, in turn, was derived from the first spectacular ride from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, the trip to the moon ride, which eventually became the anchor ride and namesake for Coney Island's Luna Park. In the 1970s, the interior of the ride was updated and its destination was changed to Mars.
Another initial exhibit was Monsanto's House of the Future--a plastic house with four wings cantilevered from a central plinth. This too had its precursors at World's Fairs, though in those cases they were simply homes with modern conveniences and aimed at housewives.
Walt Disney was never completely satisfied with Tomorrowland. The area underwent a major transformation in 1967 to become "New Tomorrowland" and then again in 1998 when its focus was changed to present a "retro-future" theme reminiscent of the illustrations of Jules Verne. Tomorrowland changed yet again in 2005 with a new blue, silver, white, and gold paint scheme similar to its 1967-1997 paint scheme, but with a small mixture of its 1998 scheme. The only remnants of the 1998 paint scheme left are the PeopleMover/Rocket Rod track over the Autopia area, and the Tomorrowland train station.
Many of the plants in Tomorrowland are edible, based on the belief that all free space will be used for agriculture to feed the future's huge human population. The landscaping areas are home to fruit trees, vegetable plants, and herbs such as parsley and rosemary. Guests are not, however, encouraged to nibble on the landscaping.
Current attractions include Space Mountain (a roller coaster type ride through the cosmos), Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (a simulator ride based on the Star Wars movies), Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (an interactive Omnimover dark ride), and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (a new version of the classic Submarine Voyage).
New Orleans Square
- Main article: New Orleans Square
Meant to capture the flavor and architectural detail of Bourbon Street, New Orleans Square was among the last additions to Disneyland overseen by Walt Disney himself. Opened on July 24, 1966, the area is home to two of the park's most famous attractions--Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.
New Orleans Square is also home to a private club and restaurant are known as Club 33, located above the Blue Bayou Restaurant around the corner from the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. Not open to the general public and rarely mentioned in any of the park's promotional material, Club 33's membership costs around $7,500-$10,000 per year with a waiting list several years long. The entrance to the club is a plain blue door, marked only with an address plaque bearing the number "33" immediately to the right of the Blue Bayou. It is the only place in Disneyland where alcoholic beverages are served.
- Main article: Critter Country (Disneyland)
Critter Country is a pine-filled woodland inhabited by anthropomorphic forest animals. The two major attractions found in this land are Splash Mountain (a log flume ride based on the animated segments of the 1946 feature film Song of the South) and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (a dark ride featuring Winnie the Pooh and his friends).
The area that Critter Country now occupies was once a part of Frontierland known as the Indian Village.
The land was rechristened Critter Country in 1988 in preparation for Splash Mountain's 1989 opening.
- Main article: Mickey's Toontown
Mickey's Toontown is the wacky and colorful community that Mickey Mouse and the rest of Walt Disney's classic cartoon stars call home.
Opened on January 24, 1993, and patterned after Toontown in the 1988 feature film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Mickey's Toontown looks like a 1930s Max Fleischer cartoon short come to life. Attractions include Gadget's Go Coaster and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
- Main article: Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (Disneyland)
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is a 14-acre themed area set on a planet in the outer rim of the galaxy of the Star Wars universe which opened to the public on May 31, 2019. Set between the events of Return of the Jedi (4 ABY) and The Force Awakens (34 ABY), Galaxy's Edge sits north of Frontierland and northwest of Fantasyland on the land formerly occupied by Big Thunder Ranch, along with parts of the Rivers of America and Disneyland Railroad.
- Main article: Holidayland
Holidayland was a 9 acre grassy picnic ground located along the western edge of Disneyland, near the area that is now New Orleans Square. Often referred to as the "lost" land of Disneyland, Holidayland had its own admission gate into Disneyland and could hold up to 7,000 guests for large events. It also had playgrounds, horseshoes, baseball field, volleyball, "the world's largest candy-striped circus tent" (previously used by the short-lived Mickey Mouse Club Circus and Keller's Jungle Killers attractions) and other activities. Food and concessions were available for purchase including beer, which was not sold on the neighboring premises of Disneyland.
Latest Park Map
The concept of Disneyland as a Multi-Dimensional Cinematic Experience
When Disneyland was originally designed and built, there were no Imagineers, a title coined by Walt Disney to describe the planners, engineers, architects, designers, artists, writers, and composers that now create theme park and resort experiences for guests of Disney's properties. Consequently, Disneyland was originally designed and built by the same artists and craftsmen who created Disney's animated and live-action films.
Combined with Walt Disney's cinematic style of story-telling, Disneyland's designers created an experience that is analogous to the experience of attending a film, with the film's characters and settings coming to life in three or more dimensions, complete with the kinetic, tactile, olfactory, and culinary sensory dimensions that films lack. Each land and the park as a whole were designed so that each themed area is free from the intrusions of contradictory theming including intrusions of the "non-themed" everyday world, which was hidden behind a landscaped berm, blocking it from view. This allows Disney storytelling to monopolize the senses and allows guests to imagine themselves experiencing the stories directly, not just hearing them or watching them on a two-dimensional surface.
The cinema analogy begins with the main gate approach. Ticket booths mark the entrance to the park just as they marked the entrance to the movie theaters of 1955. On opening day attraction posters lined the entrance plaza, just as movie posters punctuate theater lobbies. The floral Mickey Mouse that dominates the entrance plaza's hill is analogous to the title card that marked the beginning of the mid-century Mickey Mouse short subjects shown before the feature film in many theaters. Visitors leave the entrance plaza and enter the park through two symmetrically-arranged tunnels under the railroad tracks, drawing an analogy to the archways leading into the theater from the lobbies of the day. (Today, the attraction posters are located in the train tunnels.) The tributes to the park's contributors that occupy the windows of Main Street, U.S.A. bear some resemblance to a film's opening credits.
Once past Main Street, the visitor becomes the protagonist in a series of cinematic adventures. Originally, Fantasyland's dark rides consistently failed to portray the main characters of the movies on which they are based (Peter Pan, Snow White, Alice, Mr. Toad) because it was expected that the guests would see themselves experiencing the world in the place of those characters. Each story experience in the park occupies a distinct place just as each scene of a film has a distinct setting. Each set includes a high level of multi-sensory detail, heightening the sensation of being transported to another place and time through effects as subtle and subconscious as music and other ambient sound, the smells of foods, degrees of sunlight and shade, landscaping effects, color, architecture, and even the width, shape, and texture of the paths on which guests walk. The experience is even meant to include the use of story-centric clothing and props available in gift shops (Indiana Jones' hat, Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, pirate booty, princess dresses).
As one exits the park, the experience is reversed: the cinematic adventures reach their climax (i.e. parades and/or fireworks), then end; the film's closing credits roll by (Main Street's windows); guests pass back through the archways (train tunnels), into the lobby (entrance plaza), and back into the everyday world (outside the berm).
This Multi-Dimensional Cinematic Experience has also been used to design most other Disney parks around the world.
Areas closed to park visitors are considered in Disneyland lingo "Backstage". There are several points of entry from the outside world to the backstage areas: Ball Gate (at the terminus of Cast Place off Ball Road), Team Disney Anaheim Gate (adjacent to the building), Harbor Gate (off Harbor Boulevard, behind Tomorrowland), and Winston Gate (off Disneyland Drive, behind the Mickey and Friends parking garage).
Berm Road encircles the park from Firehouse Gate (behind the Main Street Fire Station) to Egghouse Gate (adjacent to the Main Street Opera House). The road is so-called because it generally follows outside the path of Disneyland's earthen berm, although with the addition of Mickey's Toontown, the road now strays as much as 100 yards from onstage areas at some points. A stretch of the road, wedged between Tomorrowland and Harbor Boulevard, is called Schumaker Road. It has two narrow lanes divided by a double yellow line, runs underneath the Monorail track. Two railroad bridges cross Berm Road: one behind City Hall and the other behind Tomorrowland near Harbor Gate. The speed limit for most parts of Berm Road is 15 miles per hour, although a section cutting through Disneyland's maintenance shops behind the park's northwestern corner has a speed limit of 5 miles per hour.
The major buildings backstage include Team Disney Anaheim, where many of the park's support staff and top-level managers work and the Old Administration Building, behind Tomorrowland and Main Street.
Walt Disney had a longtime interest in transportation and railroads in particular. He had built a miniature steam railroad on the grounds of his own home. Therefore several different modes of transport were incorporated into the park. The transportation systems are in some respects intended more as entertainment rides than as a means of transporting guests.
- Main article: Disneyland Railroad
Disneyland incorporates a steam railroad. Originally known as the Disneyland and Santa Fe Railroad, it was sponsored by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. Laid to three-foot gauge, the most common narrow gauge measurement used in North America, the railroad is laid in a continuous loop around the park. All the Disneyland locomotives burn diesel fuel, which is less polluting (though more expensive) than the coal, wood, or heavy "Bunker C" oil normally used on steam locomotives.
Originally, two trains could operate on the railroad. Passing tracks were incorporated at Main Street & Frontierland, where one train had to wait to allow the other to pass. Later, after another station and train were added, the need for passing tracks was eliminated. The passing track at Main Street was disconnected and now is only used to display a handcar, a gift to Walt. The 1958 edition of the "Grand Canyon/Primeval World" diorama necessitated a change in the rolling stock as well; instead of facing forward, the benches of the new flatcars now faced right so that the diorama could be better enjoyed by the passengers. Five open-air, clerestory-roofed observation cars with forward-facing seats dating from the park's opening were returned to service in 2004 after undergoing a three-year restoration.
Another detail dating from the park's opening can be seen from the railroad. As the train passes behind the "it's a small world" attraction in Fantasyland, it crosses a service road that is protected by two miniature wigwag crossing signals. Santa Fe offered the use of full-scale crossing signals, but Disney declined as they would be out of scale with the trains. These scaled-down replicas were designed and built by the San Bernardino shops of the Santa Fe Railroad as a gift to Disneyland. They operate with automotive windshield wiper motors.
The Walt Disney Company constructed the original two locomotives in its workshops under the supervision of Roger E. Broggie. Patterned after the Lilly Belle, a miniature steam locomotive Broggie had made for Walt's backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad, these were also models of classic "Wild West" style American 4-4-0s, but built to a larger three-fifths scale. No. 1 (the C.K. Holliday) was given a big wood-burning 'balloon' stack and large, pointed pilot (cowcatcher), while No. 2 (the E.P. Ripley) was given a straight stack and smaller pilot common to East Coast coal-burning locomotives.
Two more locomotives were later acquired from outside sources since this was cheaper than building new ones and since many narrow-gauge lines were closing down and selling their equipment. All three were given extensive renovations before entering service, including new boilers. No. 3 (the Fred Gurley) is a "Forney" locomotive, a type of tank locomotive. As an 1894 product of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, No. 3 is the oldest locomotive in service at any Disney property. No. 4 (the Ernest S. Marsh), another Baldwin product, was acquired the year after the No. 3.
In 2004, Disney purchased the inoperable Maud L locomotive from the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, and sent it to a Southern California shop to restore it and transform it into a Disneyland Railroad locomotive. This 1902 Baldwin locomotive is now Disneyland Railroad locomotive #5 and is the first Disneyland Railroad train added since 1959. The train is named after the late Ward Kimball, one of Disney's Nine Old Men. The locomotive is "Forney" locomotive like the No. 3.
The railroad reopened in March 2005 after undergoing a three-month restoration to bring the roadbed back to gauge in time for the park's fiftieth anniversary. It was the most prolonged closure of the railroad in park history. Later, on January 11, 2016, the railroad underwent another prolonged closure, this time for a year-and-a-half, so it and the Rivers of America could be rerouted to make room for Star Wars Land. It reopened on July 29, 2017, with a soft opening the prior day.
One of Disneyland's signature attractions is its Alweg monorail system, installed in 1959. The monorail track has remained almost the same since 1961, aside from small alterations while Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney were being built. The monorail shuttles visitors between two stations, one in Disneyland itself (in Tomorrowland) and one outside the park, originally at the Disneyland Hotel, but now, after 2001 remodel, at the Downtown Disney shopping complex. It follows a 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) long route designed to show off the park from above. Three generations of monorail cars have been used in the park since their lightweight construction means they wear out quickly.
As of 2015, three monorail trains, Monorail Red, Monorail Blue, and Monorail Orange, are in regular service. Orange was removed from service in 2004 and shipped to Disney's engineering department in Burbank for disassembly and study so that new blueprints can be created from it, because Alweg, the company which originally built the monorail trains, has gone out of business. Monorail Blue was removed in 2006 to begin the upgrade process into a Mark VII, followed by Monorail Red in 2007, leaving Monorail Purple as the only monorail. The newly-upgraded Monorail Red entered service on July 3, 2008, following design change issues. Monorail Blue came online in September the same year, at which point Monorail Purple, the last Mark V monorail, was removed from service and scrapped. Monorail Orange was put into service in February 2009.
Disneyland had signed a contract with the Alweg company which required the Alweg name to be displayed on the monorail. This conflicted with the contract with the Santa Fe that only their name could be associated with railroad attractions at the park. This caused a rift between Disneyland and the Santa Fe railroad, and eventually caused the breakdown in their relationship and the removal of Santa Fe sponsorship from the Disneyland Railroad in 1974.
Main Street vehicles
Some vehicles, including a double-decker bus, a horse-drawn streetcar, an old-fashioned fire engine, and 2 old-fashioned automobiles, are available for rides along Main Street, U.S.A. They are only available during the morning and early afternoon, as they cannot be used later in the day due to parades and generally heavy crowds making navigation all but impossible. Also, California state law mandates that horses can only work a maximum of four-hour shifts each day.
The fire engine was built for Walt Disney, who used it to drive around the park and host celebrity guests. The horseless carriages are modeled after cars built-in 1903. They (as well as the fire truck) have two-cylinder, four horsepower (3kW) engines, and manual transmission and steering.
- Main article: Skyway
The Disneyland Skyway, "the first aerial tramway of its kind in the United States," was one of the signature attractions at the park. Opened in 1956 by Walt Disney himself, it shuttled passengers between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland 100 feet (30 m) above the ground, giving passengers fantastic views of Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Matterhorn (which it went through), and the Autopia. A distinctive feature was that Disneyland maintained the 'on-stage/backstage' illusion to Skyway guests, covering any sites that would be unsuitable to guests that were also hidden to guests on foot.
Due to the enormous impending cost to retrofit the Skyway for earthquake safety and ADA compliance, as well as a cracked rolling battery support in the Matterhorn that would require closing and partially dismantling the mountain to fix, the attraction closed permanently on November 9, 1994, its operating budget reallocated to Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Four years later, Tokyo Disneyland removed their Skyway; finally, in 1999, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom removed theirs. No Skyways are left at any Disney park (Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland have never had a Skyway attraction).
The Tomorrowland station remained as a maintenance bay for Rocket Rods beginning in 1998, but was removed shortly after the Rocket Rods closed in spring 2001. The Fantasyland station remained standing, until demolished in Summer 2016 to make way for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
In addition to the attractions, Disneyland provides live entertainment throughout the park.
- Disneyland's Fantasmic! in Frontierland, a popular nighttime show with a live Mickey Mouse, special effects, floating barges, a pirate ship, a forty-five-foot animatronic fire-breathing dragon, fireworks, and a fifty-foot-tall water projector.
- The Disneyland Band, which has been part of the park since its opening. Its members gather in flashy matching uniforms to open and close the park daily, then disburse and change costumes to spend the day playing music appropriate to the various themed lands, such as Dixieland music in New Orleans Square. One currently popular group is the Trash Can Trio, which pops up unexpectedly in random places in the park. The Disneyland Band is traditionally all male.
- The Golden Horseshoe Saloon offers a live stage show with a frontier or old-west feel. The Golden Horseshoe Revue—an old-west Vaudeville type of show starting Slue Foot (or Sluefoot), Sue, and Pecos Bill ran until the mid-1980s when it was replaced by a similar show starring Lily Langtree (or Miss Lily) and Sam the Bartender. Most recently, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies have played their guitars and banjos in a bluegrass-and-comedy show, until Disneyland opted not to renew their contract in 2016, causing the group to move to nearby Knott's Berry Farm. The original Golden Horseshoe Revue holds the Guinness World Record for the longest-running stage show.
- The Dapper Dans barbershop quartet often sings on Main Street.
- Rod Miller is a ragtime pianist that played at Coke Corner until he retired in 2005.
- Stages throughout the park provide singing and dancing shows.
- Character actors in Frontierland provide small humorous skits with an old-west theme.
- A steel drum band often plays on the roof of the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland.
- Disney cartoon characters (cast members in costume) greet visitors, talk with children, and pose for photos. Characters who wear full-head masks to create their personas never speak; characters who do not need masks, called "face characters—including many of the female characters, such as princesses—have no such restriction. Besides greeting visitors in regular places, they often participate in Disneyland parades.
- Character actors stroll up and down Main Street occasionally, chatting to guests and performing humorous skits with each other. Characters include the town gossip, the mayor, and a host of others.
- Merlin appears in Fantasyland several times a day to help some lucky child pull a sword from an anvil and stone.
- Street Bands will occasionally play in New Orleans Square.
From Disneyland's opening until 1982, the price of attractions was in addition to the price of park admission. Park-goers paid a small sum to get into the park, then bought coupons (also called tickets), individually or in booklets, that allowed them access to rides and attractions. The least-expensive "A" tickets gave access to the smaller attractions, while the most-expensive "E" tickets gave access to the newest thrill rides or the most interesting and unusual attractions. This led to the use of the still-popular term "E-ticket ride" to refer to any particularly outstanding, special, or thrilling experience.
In the 1970s, nearby Magic Mountain introduced a one-price admission ticket which allowed free access to all attractions within the park. This model spread rapidly to all other parks, including Disneyland, because its business advantages were obvious: in addition to guaranteeing that everyone paid a large sum even if they stayed for only a few hours and rode only a few rides, the park no longer had to print tickets or ticket books, staff ticket booths, or provide staff to collect tickets or monitor attractions for people sneaking on without tickets.
In 1999, to offset the long waits for the most popular attractions, Disney implemented a new service named FASTPASS. At attractions featuring FASTPASS, a guest can use his park admission ticket to obtain a FASTPASS ticket with a return time later that day (an hour-long window) printed on it. If the guest comes back to the attraction at his return time, he will get to wait in a shorter line and be on the attraction within ten minutes, or often much more quickly. Initially, only a few attractions offered this service, but its popularity ensured its spread to many of the park's attractions. Regular visitors often note that first-time guests are confused by the system, with some believing that the system costs extra money to use; in reality, the recently-introduced mobile MAXPASS costs money, while the normal FASTPASS continues to be free to all park guests.
In Mid September the park is dressed up in Halloween Decorations.
Pumpkins adorn the Main street Along with a Giant Mickey Mouse Pumpkin in the center of Town Square.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy
Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy takes you to a haunted sector where Ghosts will try and get you!
Mickey's Trick or Treat Party
Come at Night for this exclusive party and dress up as your favorite character. Also, catch a glimpse of Halloween Screams Fireworks Show.
Holidays at the Disneyland Resort
Since the park opened in 1955, Christmas has been celebrated at Disneyland. During the season, which usually runs from mid-November to early January, the park is dressed in festive decorations, the PA system plays Christmas music (much of it still dating back to the 1960s; the current playlist was hand-selected by longtime park announcer Jack Wagner in 1972), special Christmas parades and fireworks shows are run, and it's a small world, Haunted Mansion, and Jungle Cruise get holiday-themed overlays, known as It's a Small World Holiday (in which "Jingle Bells" and the attraction's signature song are sung in different languages, similar to the regular attraction), Haunted Mansion Holiday (themed around The Nightmare Before Christmas), and Jingle Cruise (in which the boats gain festive names and Christmas decorations are scattered throughout the jungle, with a backstory that a plane dumped its cargo before crashing).
Disney After Dark
Since 2017, Disneyland has hosted Disney After Dark, an annual event where the Park is open to the public for a full 24 hours. Every year has seen a different theme, often past decades in Disneyland history.
In the half-century that Disneyland has been in operation, nine guests and one cast member have died from their visit to the park. A greater number of guests have been injured.
Seven of the deaths were the result of negligence on the guests' part rather than the park's.
- On May 15, 1964, 15-year-old Mark Maples of Long Beach, California died after he stood up in the Matterhorn Bobsleds and fell out.
- On June 17, 1966, Thomas Guy Cleveland, 19, of Northridge, California was crushed by the Monorail during a Grad Nite celebration while trying to sneak into the park by climbing its track.
- On August 21, 1967, Ricky Lee Yama, 17, of Hawthorne, California was crushed while jumping between two moving PeopleMover cars.
- On June 22, 1973, Bogden Delaurot, 18, of Brooklyn, New York drowned while trying to carry his little brother swimming across the Rivers of America.
- On July 8, 1974, cast member Deborah Gail Stone, 18, of nearby Santa Ana, California was crushed to death by a revolving wall in the now-closed "America Sings" attraction. She was in the wrong place during a ride intermission; it was unclear whether this was due to inadequate training or a misstep. The attraction was subsequently refitted with breakaway walls.
- On June 7, 1980, Gerardo Gonzales, 18, of San Diego, California was crushed by the PeopleMover while jumping between moving cars.
- On June 4, 1983, Philip Straughan, 18, of Albuquerque, New Mexico drowned in the Rivers of America while trying to pilot a rubber emergency boat from Tom Sawyer's Island.
- On January 3, 1984, Dolly Regene Young, 48, of Fremont, California unbuckled her seatbelt and was thrown from a Matterhorn Bobsleds car and struck by an oncoming train.
- On December 26, 1998, a metal cleat aboard the sailing ship "Columbia" tore loose, striking three people in the head. Of them, Luan Phi Dawson, 33, of Duvall, Washington, died of a head injury. The normal non-elastic rope (designed to break easily) to tie the boat off was improperly replaced by an elastic rope that stretched and pulled off the cleat. The park received much criticism for this incident due to its policy of restricting outside medical personnel in the park to avoid frightening visitors, as well as for the fact that the cast member in charge of the ship at the time was a novice.
- On September 5, 2003, 22-year-old Marcelo Torres of nearby Gardena, California died after suffering injuries in a derailment of the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster. The cause of the accident was determined to be improper maintenance. Exactly what happened to Mr. Torres is unknown; he was hit in the chest with a blunt object that fractured his ribs, leading to the laceration of his lungs which caused "severe blood loss," according to an Orange County coroner's statement. He died at the scene.
After Walt passed away, in August 1970, Disneyland was invaded by several Yippies who planned the stunt as an attack on what they saw as bloated establishment decadence. In their leaflets, they stated they would help "liberate" Minnie Mouse. They raised a Viet Cong flag on Tom Sawyer's Island, filled the now-closed Adventure Thru Inner Space dark ride with marijuana smoke, and caused the closing of the park for the rest of the day until they were rounded up by police.
With memories of this event in mind, in May 1989, park security personnel were prepared for rumors of an invasion of the park by neo-Nazis, in honor of the birth of an obscure Nazi leader named Gregor Strasser. Although several leaflets were published announcing this, only one car of skinheads was seen in the parking lot before the park opened, and none entered.
Some cast members and visitors have reported seeing ghosts in the park, including those of the people who have died in the park and even Walt Disney himself. Supposedly, there are also actual ghosts in the Haunted Mansion. Some claim to have witnessed Walt Disney's spirit itself in the Disney Gallery above the Pirates of the Caribbean or the Grand Canyon exhibit on the Railroad line.
In January 2020, a popular Disneyland youtuber named Fatima Lakhani was banned from the park for an unexplained reason, though one user claims that she was banned because she had been harassing characters and even followed one of the castmembers in the employee parking lot. The same user also claims to have gotten this information from actresses who play Disney Princesses. It is unconfirmed whether or not this person is telling the truth.
Disneyland has only been forced to close five times in its history. The first occurrence was due to President John F. Kennedy's assassination, yet urban legends have circulated that Walt Disney refused to lower the American Flag in Town Square in respect - however, Walt and his brother were on the other side of the country surveying land for the future site of Walt Disney World in Florida. The second time came on August 6, 1970, when the Youth International Party (Yippies) staged an anti-Vietnam War riot which, among other things, involved tearing up landscaping, raising their flag at Town Square (as well as a Viet Cong flag on Tom Sawyer Island), threw a lightbulb at a turnstile while guests were leaving, and forced a large-scale deployment of the Anaheim Police Department with riot gear (the park had even considered calling in the National Guard as a last resort). Disneyland closed again during the attacks of September 11, 2001, for two reasons - firstly in respect, and secondly, in case, there were plans to target the park, which is now a famous symbol of American culture. However, due to the time difference, the only people in the park were there for Magic Morning, so it was easier for the parks to close. Disneyland, along with Disney California Adventure, and all on-site hotels at the resort, were temporarily closed on March 14, 2020, due in part of the coronavirus outbreak. The temporary closure of the resort was done as part of the guidelines set forth by the Governor of California to prevent the spread of the virus.
A scheduled closure occurred on May 4, 2005, Disneyland was again closed to the public. Though the original stated reason was to put the finishing touches on the 50th Anniversary Celebration, Disneyland also played host to a large media event designed to generate interest in the 50th-anniversary celebration. The celebration began on May 5. The event started with a dedication from Michael Eisner and Art Linkletter, one of the hosts of the original dedication on July 17, 1955 (along with Walt Disney and Bob Cummings) and ended on October 2, 2006.
There have also been cases where the park is opened for part of the day but then closes to the public for several events. Among those were two Major League Baseball All-Star Game Galas (in 1967 and 1989), Elizabeth Taylor's 60th Birthday Party and a Sweet Sixteen Birthday Party for Miley Cyrus, the star of the Hannah Montana television series on October 5, 2008.
In March 2020, Disney announced the temporary closure of both Disneyland and Disney World due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was originally scheduled to reopen on March 12, 2021, but was delayed to April 30.
- Part of the land now occupied by Disneyland was owned and occupied by the Dominguez family. The Dominguez home once sat in present-day New Orleans Square and was relocated to become one of the park's first administration buildings. A palm tree that was planted by the Dominguez family on the property still exists today, at the entrance to the Indiana Jones Adventure Fastpass queue. Ron Dominguez, who grew up in the home, was employed at Disneyland early in its history and later became president of Disneyland.
- Disneyland launched the entertainment careers of Steve Martin and the Osmond family.
- "The Golden Horseshoe Revue" played at the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland for over 31 years, the longest-running show in history. Wally Boag and Betty Taylor performed in most of that performance.
- The Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland hosted the 30th wedding anniversary party of Walt and Lillian Disney on July 13, 1955, four days before the park's opening. On that occasion, Lillian's gift to Walt was a petrified tree, which remains in Disneyland to this day, on the riverfront a few paces from the Saloon.
- From 1956 to 1972, Frontierland's Indian Village was home to authentic exhibits of Native American culture. There, Native Americans were honored to demonstrate their traditional music, dance, clothing, and crafts. The Village Trading Post still occupies its original spot, now a gift shop adjacent to the Splash Mountain queue at the entrance to Critter Country.
- Many "hidden Mickeys" are visible in Disneyland--one large circle and two small circles arranged in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head and ears. Some of these are meant to be seen as references to Mickey Mouse as part of the decor. (Example: the blank Mickey head that once occupied the inside of the loop on California Screamin'). Others are deliberately created and concealed--sort of an inside joke created by Imagineers and cast members. (Example: one large plate and two adjacent small plates on the banquet table in the ballroom of the Haunted Mansion).
- Many of the audio-animatronic characters appearing in the "Splash Mountain" attraction in Critter Country once entertained guests in an attraction called "America Sings" in Tomorrowland. Some audio-animatronic geese from "America Sings" were stripped down to their endoskeletons and became droids in the "Star Tours" queue.
- A candidate for mayor in New Orleans once inadvertently used photographs of Disneyland's New Orleans Square on her campaign website instead of images of the real New Orleans.
- Four of Disneyland's attractions were relocated to the park after debuting at the 1964 New York World's Fair: It's a Small World (created by Disney for Pepsi-Cola's pavilion), The Carousel of Progress (created by Disney for GE's pavilion, later moved to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom), Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (created by Disney for the Illinois pavilion), and the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas (created, along with other dioramas, by Disney for Ford's Magic Skyway attraction, now visible from the Disneyland Railroad).
- In 1998, a television special, The Wiggles Live at Disneyland premiered on Disney Channel Australia while taking place in Disneyland throughout.
- When Disneyland first opened in 1955, the admission fee was only one dollar.
- In the Gravity Falls Season 1 finale "Gideon Rises", Li'l Gideon has plans on knocking down the Mystery Shack and building an amusement park called GideonLand. The logo has the same font as the Disneyland logos.
- On January 11, 2021, Orange County officials announced that Disneyland was set to become a massive COVID-19 vaccination site.
- It is parodied in the Dinosaurs episode "Variations on a Theme Park" as "WeSaySoLand".
"The Happiest Place on Earth"
- Rebecca Rubin and Elaine Low (March 12, 2020). "Disney, Universal Studios Close All Theme Parks Amid Coronavirus Pandemic". Variety. Retrieved on March 12, 2020.
- "California's Disneyland to become Covid vaccination site".
- Disneyland the First Quarter Century (1979). Walt Disney Productions.
- Yesterland (http://www.yesterland.com/skyway.html).
- Daily park brochures from Summer 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2002
- Disneyland on Wikipedia
- Disneyland Resort website
- FASTPASS® page
- Official Disneyland Facebook Page
- Attendance statistics for Disneyland
- The Disneyland Report: Disneyland and Disney News
- Celebrities at Disneyland
- Deaths at Disneyland
- Walt's Magic Kingdom: A history of all attractions, shops, and restaurants at Disneyland since 1955
- Once Upon a Time in Anaheim: a site featuring photographic tours of many of the Disneyland Resort's attractions
- Jungleis101.blogspot.com: a former Disneyland cast member offers insights from the late 1970s and into the 1980s, with an emphasis on Adventureland and, of course, the Jungle Cruise.