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August 19, 2014

Pictures of Disneyland in the Opening Day on July 17, 1955

Disneyland was dedicated at an “International Press Preview” event held on Sunday, July 17, 1955, which was open only to invited guests and the media. Although 28,000 people attended the event, only about half of those were invitees, the rest having purchased counterfeit tickets, or even sneaked into the park by climbing over the fence. The following day, it opened to the public, featuring twenty attractions. The Special Sunday events, including the dedication, were televised nationwide and anchored by three of Walt Disney’s friends from Hollywood: Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan. ABC broadcast the event live, during which many guests tripped over the television camera cables.

Traffic was delayed on the two-lane Harbor Boulevard. Famous figures who were scheduled to show up every two hours showed up all at once. The temperature was an unusually high 101 °F (38 °C), and because of a local plumbers’ strike, Disney was given a choice of having working drinking fountains or running toilets. He chose the latter, leaving many drinking fountains dry. This generated negative publicity since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening; disappointed guests believed the inoperable fountains were a cynical way to sell soda, while other vendors ran out of food. The asphalt that had been poured that morning was soft enough to let women’s high-heeled shoes sink into it. Some parents threw their children over the crowd’s shoulders to get them onto rides, such as the King Arthur Carrousel. In later years, Disney and his 1955 executives referred to July 17, 1955, as “Black Sunday”. After the extremely negative press from the preview opening, Walt Disney invited attendees back for a private “second day” to experience Disneyland properly.

At the time, and during the lifetimes of Walt and Roy Disney, July 17 was considered merely a preview, with July 18 the official opening day. Since then, aided by memories of the television broadcast, the company has adopted July 17 as the official date, the one commemorated every year as Disneyland’s birthday.

Kids waiting to enter

Ronald Reagan

Art Linkletter, and “Davy Crockett” stars Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen

Walt Disney practicing for the Disneyland opening ceremony in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Walt Disney with California Governor Goodwin Knight at the Disneyland Opening Ceremony rehearsal

Walt Disney with California Governor Goodwin Knight at the Disneyland Opening Ceremony

1955 Disneyland opening ceremony

Walt Disney rehearsing for the Disneyland Opening Ceremony

Walt Disney and Fess Parker riding horses at the Disneyland opening

Walt Disney on the E.P. Ripley

Walt Disney on the E.P. Ripley

Walt Disney on the E.P. Ripley

Walt Disney on a car

Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck


Irene Dunne and Art Linkletter christening the Mark Twain riverboat

Parking lot

Parking lot




Irene Dunne christening the Mark Twain

Fess Parker on horseback in Frontierland

The Fantasyland view of Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Fess Parker on horseback in Frontierland

Entering Frontierland

Parade - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs float


Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse piloting the Mark Twain Riverboat

Walt Disney at the opening dedication

Raising the flag

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in front of the Pirate Ship restaurant

Sleeping Beauty's Castle from the Fantasyland side

Pirate Ship Restaurant

Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Walt Disney leaving Main Street Station

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs float

Walt Disney on the E.P. Ripley

Walt Disney speaks


(Photos by Tom Simpson)


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