July 18, 1955. Disneyland opens to the general public, and the crowd goes wild over the creation of Walt Disney — an interactive theme park where children and parents can both enjoy rides together. A park where parents don’t just wait for their kid to get off the ride — a park where they can get on the ride too! Disneyland is born.
We all know that Disneyland in that day was restricted in space because the capital that Walt had to invest in the project was a lot less — so he wasn’t able to buy up so much property in Southern California as he was able to for the Florida Project. As a result, it wasn’t long before hotels, restaurants, and other travel and entertainment establishments started encroaching on the doorstep of Disneyland — which took away from some of the Magic that Walt was keen on his guests experiencing.
This look back at Disneyland comes with a twist — almost like a Twilight Zone sort of effect — in which I ask the following question:
What if Walt Disney was satisfied with Disneyland?
Hypothetically, what if Walt had enough money to buy the equivalent of 39 square miles of land for Disneyland? What if the outside hotels, restaurants, traffic, I-5, and all of that did not encroach on the Guests experience at Disneyland? What if, as the story goes, Walt hadn’t seen a family leaving around 4-5PM, asked them why they were leaving, and found out that the reason they were leaving was because of the traffic on I-5? If none of that had happened, would Walt have moved on with the Florida Project and built Walt Disney World?
I think I know the answer that some of you will say — of course Walt would still have built Disney World — corporate greed would have led him to do so! Others may say — well, if Walt thought Disneyland was exactly what he wanted it to be, he wouldn’t need to spend his money on Disney World. I have a different reason — I think Walt would still have moved on and built Disney World — but for a different reason than corporate greed.
It is my belief that Walt would have still built Disney World, not because of greed, and not because of a need to plant a legacy, but rather, for the children of the nation and the world.
It is my belief that Walt knew that there were hundreds of thousands of children and families that were unable to make it to Southern California to visit Disneyland, and he wanted to make a park where some of those kids would be able to get out and enjoy themselves just like the ones could at Disneyland. From that thought, I believe that Disney World was conceived.
Of course, we will never know — all we have is speculation. However, it is my belief that Walt’s lasting legacy is, of course, in the parks, but not the parks themselves. Rather, the impact that those parks have had on millions — check that, billions — of people throughout the world. That’s what truly makes Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and all of the rest of the Disney parks such a treasure that spans the globe.
What do you all think? Is my reasoning sound, or does it have as many holes as Swiss Cheese? Think about it, and please let me know in the comments! Thanks for visiting, now go out and make today and every day a great Disney Day!
It’s on record that Walt said that with WDW he would finally have the space to do all that he couldn’t do at DL. But if DL was big enough, it is likely that he would have placed parks at other locations.
To add a twist of my own: I don’t think they would have been as big as WDW. He might have placed smaller parks in more locations to reach a greater audience and ensure that as many as possible could easily reach his parks.
Hows that for a thought?
Very interesting thought, Lee. I can see that too. Thanks for commenting!