History of Theming, The Origins of Disneyland.
The original Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, differed conceptually from previous amusement parks such as Coney Island or Atlantic City. Payment was made at the entrance and the themes and settings were much nicer and family-friendly than at the beginning of the century. There were no grotesque figures, no menacing shapes. No unpleasant surprises. To what was this change due?
The first idea of Walt Disney, who wanted to expand his businesses since the tremendous success of his cartoon series, was a small park in the outskirts of Burbank: Riverside Drive Park. The year was 1951. Walt Disney would later declare that the lack of safe and family-friendly recreational facilities was the germ of the idea for Disneyland. Disney had two daughters and he wanted a safe and clean environment for them, but also one which would not prove boring for youngsters or adults.
The city of Burbank did not want an amusement park within its boundaries. This type of installation did not have a good reputation, with street vendors, generally inappropriate shows and hustlers swarming around. The project did not come to a good end.
Despite the warnings against the feasibility of such a project, Disney continued to seek financing and appropriate terrain whilst forming a design team, WED Enterprises, (Walt Elias Disney’s initials). In July 1953, Disney commissioned the Stanford Research Institute with a feasibility study and to find appropriate terrain. The following month, the land was found. During one weekend in September 1953, Walt Disney and his artist colleague Herb Ryman outlined the first conceptual view of Disneyland on the Anaheim land.
In later conceptual designs, six main areas were reflected: Magic Kingdom, Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland y Adventureland.
After a year of construction, Disneyland opened its doors in July 1955. Its theming proposal and unique business concept, converted it into the first modern Theme Park.
And the theming? What milestones can we talk about? What would make the theming elements and narrative of this park be, from that point on, the most copied by the Theme Park industry?
A clue about this appeared in an interview for the Saturday Evening Post in 1956, where Walt Disney indicated: “When it comes to Disneyland, I feel I’ve given the public everything I can give them. My daughter, Diane, says that I spend too much time around the house talking about how I can give them more for their money when they come to the park. You’ve got to build. You’ve got to keep it clean.”
In Amusement Logic’s upcoming Newsletters, we will visit the main theming achievements of the original Anaheim Disneyland. As we know, we can’t visit all of Disneyland in just one Newsletter! Maybe this very same thing is the key to its success: “It really takes a person more than a day to see the park without exhausting themselves. And as I get these new things in, it’s going to take more time. Well, a lot of people come back the third time and just like to sit and listen to the band, see the horses going around. I like to go down and sit by the river and watch the people.”