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Disney’s Land Book Report by Richard Snow

Disney’s Land Book Report

Favorite Quotes

At the onset, of creating renderings for the Disneyland Park, Walt shared “Herbie, I just want it to look like nothing else in the world.  And it should be surrounded by a train.”

The idea of Disneyland is a simple one.  It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge…It will be filled with accomplishments, the joys and hopes of the world we live in.  And it will remind us and show us how to make these wonders part of our own lives.

 The thing that’s going to make Disneyland unique and different is the detail.  If we lose the detail, we lose it all. – Walt Disney

“If you want to know the secret of Walt Disney’s success, it’s that he never tried to make money.” – Walt Kimball.

“It has been said that Disneyland will never be complete – in fact, I said it.” – Walt Disney


Key Takeaways

Journalist asked Walt – Why Did You Do This? He said, “For twenty years I wanted something of my own.” He invested everything he had in building Disney Land.  He sold his summer home, hocked his life insurance and borrowed everything he could to make it happen.  The final price tag was 17 million or 160 million in today’s terms.

Disney started by reading everything he could on animation and borrowed a camera.  He started experimenting with short cartoon ads called “Laugh-O-Grams”

Mickey Mouse started as Mortimer but his wife Lillian said “Mortimer is a horrible name for a mouse.”  He then changed it to Mickey.  Mickey started as this character who knocked back beers, smoked cigarettes and was overall mean.  His character eventually softened.

In 1934, he embarked on making the first feature length cartoon, Snow White.  He budgeted a half million dollars and it cost a million a half and took almost four years to make.  It was known as Disney’s Folly.  It became the biggest hit of 1938 bringing in 6.5 million and the most profitably sound film ever made.

Disney gained the greatest inspiration for Disney Land from the Railroad Fair he visited in Chicago.  He explored trains from the past and different exhibits that took him into primitive Indian countries to playground of Florida to French Quarter of New Orleans to a miniature Yellowstone Park.    It was America in three dimensions.    After the Railroad Fair he visited Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village and was able to see the homes of people Ford admired from Noah Webster to the Wright Brothers.   With these two exhibits Disney began to envision a road map of how to create his Disney Land.

A couple days after returning he drafted a memo called “Mickey Mouse Park.”  He shared the ideas of having a Town hall, movie theatre, magic store, candy factory and railroad station.

Walt had a lot of half formed ideas when it came to the park.  In the early 1950’s he visited Coney Island Park and told his wife Lillian, “I’m almost ready to give up the idea of an amusement park after seeing Coney Island. The whole place is so run-down and ugly.  The people who run it are so unpleasant.  The whole thing is almost enough to destroy your faith in human nature.”

This eventually inspired Walt.  A reporter once asked “Why would you want to get involved in an amusement park? They’re so dirty and not fun at all for grown-ups.  Why would you want to get involved in a business like that?  Walt responded – That’s exactly the point.  Mine isn’t going to be that way.  Mine’s going to be a place that’s clean, where the whole family can do things together.”

Walt could always see past the way things are and see how they could be.

Disney spent $879,000 on the land for Disneyland.  It was 160 acres of orange groves but he saw something bigger.   He then started putting every dime he had into the park.  Sold his summer house, spent over $250,000 on the insurance that he took out on himself, got over $100,000 in personal loans.

Walt kept making the example of Snow White and how they spent more money than they ever imagined on a film and it worked out magnificently.  They even had to ask Bank of America for an additional $630,000 to keep Snow White going as it was costing $20,000 a week to produce.

To build Disneyland, he needed more money and needed to get a TV studio on board.  He knew all the TV studios wanted a Disney show but an amusement park was a different thing.  So he needed to sell them on the vision and have a rendering to show it to them.  He called a former employee Herb Ryman to come to the studio on a Saturday and Walt told him his plans and asked him to draw it this weekend.  Herb said no.  But Walt convinced him by staying with him the whole time and sharing the vision as he drew.

Disney shared, “This is a Magic Place.  The important thing is the Castle. Make it tall enough to be seen from around the park.  And I want a hub at the end of Main Street, where all the other lands will radiate from, like the spokes in a wheel.  Disneyland is a place where you can’t get lost or tired unless you want to.” At the onset, Walt shared “Herbie, I just want it to look like nothing else in the world.  And it should be surrounded by a train.”

Disneyland Mission Statement that was to accompany what Disneyland was all about.

The idea of Disneyland is a simple one.  It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge.

It will be a place for parents and children to share pleasant times in one another’s company; a place for teacher’s and pupils to discover greater ways of understanding and education.  Here the older generation can recapture the nostalgia of days gone by and the younger generation can savor the challenge of the future.  Here will be the wonders of nature and man for all to see and understand.

Disneyland will be based up on and dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America.  And it will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts and send them forth as a source of courage and inspiration to the world. 

Disneyland will be something of a fair, an exhibition, a playground, a community center, a museum of living facts, and a showplace of beauty and magic. 

It will be filled with accomplishments, the joys and hopes of the world we live in.  And it will remind us and show us how to make these wonders part of our own lives.

On October 27, 1955 Disneyland show premiered on ABC – 9 months prior to the opening of the park.  Walt opened with Mickey Mouse.  “Welcome I guess you all know this little fellow here.  It’s an old partnership.  Mickey and I started out that first time many, many years ago.  We’ve had a lot of dreams come true.  Now we want you to share with us our latest and greatest dream.”  He involved his fans and empowered them to be on the journey.  He talked about big dreams to excite them.


Disneyland’s Grand Opening

On July 17th, 1955 – Dateline: Disneyland aired and 90 million United Citizens watched it.  At the time, the US contained 169 million citizens and more than have tune in to watch Disneyland open.  54.2% of the population which was a larger proportion than would see final episode of M*A*S*H or any Super Bowl or even the moon landing.


Disney was expecting 10,000 invited guests for the grand opening.  The official attendance was 28,124 but that was not counting all the people that snuck in over the fences.

It was 100 degrees.  The restaurants ran out of food.  The restrooms and toilet were overflowing.  People couldn’t get on the rides as either the lines were too long or the rides were breaking down.  People were going the bathroom outside in the park.  The newly laid asphalt was still too soft from being laid down that night and women’s high heeled shoes were getting stuck, including Frank Sinatra’s wife being one of the victims.   Many of the guests clothes has imprints of wet paint.   The Mark Twain riverboat had no bar, fountain or water aboard and it was packed like sardines.  Early in the day, the boat begin to sink and was stuck as it jumped its track.  Numerous people had to wade ashore before it could be refloated.

There was a gas leak in Fantasyland. They luckily could close off the area and got a plumber to fix the broken line. The Snow white cars kept getting derailed and the Dumbo ride broke down as well. People were rushing the carrousel and they had to shut it down numerous times because there were too many people on the ride.  Trash was everywhere as they were overwhelmed with the crowds.

The press who attended set the tone with the headlines in the newspaper.

“Walt’s Dream Is A Nightmare,”  “The $17 Million Dollar People Trap That Mickey Mouse Built”

“Everyone agreed it had been one of the most unpleasant days of his life.”

Reporters were saying how expensive the park was.  Los Angeles Mirror-News said that if a family of four would be $32 if they went on every ride and ate and drank for a $1 apiece.   That’s the equivalent of $300 in today’s dollars.

The opening day customers paid a $1 to get in and fifty cents for their children.   All sponsored exhibits were free but everything else required a ticket.  A tickets were good for 10 cents.  B ticket for 25 cents and C for 40 cents.

One of the earliest employees said “There was always a fire to put out.  I went fourteen straight months without a day off.”  You never walked…you only ran behind the scenes, it was nonstop.

But 161,657 people came in the first week alone.

Disney worked hard to improve everything on a daily basis.  He saw where guests were going, how lines moved, where to add share…constant plussing his park.

3.5 million people had come into the park in the first six months of opening before hitting 1956.


  • Every Detail Matters – Everything Speaks.

“The thing that’s going to make Disneyland unique and different is the detail.  If we lose the detail, we lose it all. – Walt Disney

Walt’s Hot Dog Test.  He would often get a hot dog at the Disneyland site’s food trucks while the park was being constructed.  He would bring the hot dog away from the lunch wagon and pace off the distance it took him to eat it.  At the point where he finished, he indicated that a trash can should be there.

  • Landscaping Detail Matters. Walt wasn’t looking merely for greenery in his park.  The plantings should be more than decorative, they had to help set a mood, and serve as half subliminal signals that the visitor was moving from one land to its neighbor.  Walt would walk the park every Saturday and point out how certain trees should be moved and where additional landscaping was needed.  He wanted it to feel alive like a park and make people feel calm and safe.

Walt hired Ruth Shellhorn, an expert landscape architect to detail all of the landscaping in the park.  Shellhorn wanted the guest in a perpetual state of mild suspense, and accomplished this with what park designed called “Progressive realization” – a sort of botanical striptease in which enticing details briefly show themselves beyond the foliage, then again retreat from view.

  • DO WHAT WE DO BEST. Disney added a circus in the first year and spent a ton of money doing it and bringing it the best circus acts and animals.  Everyone tried to convince Walt not to do it but he pushed and made it happen.  The circus required a separate admission fee and usually played to stands less than a quarter full.   The circus was too similar to what everyone had seen with a circus.  Joe Fowler said “first time we learned this lesson.  People come to Disneyland to see Disneyland.  They weren’t interested in a circus…People just wanted to see Disney and Disneyland.”  Walt later admitted it is not unique enough to be in the park.  The circus lost over $125,000.
What Will I Implement?
  • Key is to recruit talented and creative people to help bring the vision to life. Disney was always bringing people from the studio to help draw, animate and build Disney land.  He needed the renderings of his vision to sell to the Banks, ABC, Roy and everyone that came on board.
  • Always keep one entrance to the stadium. This was paramount to Disney because you could control the experience that everyone would get coming into the ballpark.
  • Walt utilized TV to promote the opening of Disneyland with his weekly show. NBC and CBS turned down Disney because he made sure paying for the theme park came with producing a weekly Disney Show.  Finally, the underdog ABC, which was known as Almost Broadcast Company signed on.  How can we 1.) Utilize TV and bigger distribution to promote the Bananas, Banana Ball and coming to Banana Land.  ) How can we find an underdog to work with that would gain a ton from working with us.  Example – Isportstix instead of Ticketmaster or TicketReturn.
  • Continue to look past initial criticism. Buzz Price brought together all the titans of the amusement industry and shared ideas for Disneyland and they all said it would fail. The negative remarks included “All the proven moneymakers are missing, no roller coasters, no Ferris Wheel, no shoot-the-shoots.” They believed there wasn’t “enough ride capacity to make a profit.”  They thought Disney’s favorite projects like the Castle and Pirate ship made no sense at all as they didn’t produce revenue. They said single entrance would be kiss of death too and create a terrible bottleneck.  Finally, they said the idea for ultimate cleanliness and great landscape maintenance was economic suicide.
  • *Walt was not deterred as he received discouraging criticism when he announced creating the first full length animated film in Snow White.
  • Sell the vision and perform it like Walt. When Walt pitched Snow White, he acted out the entire story and played all the parts for his animators.  They were all in on creating it after Walt brought the story to live with his performance.   When it was time to sell Disneyland he brought hundreds of employees into the main projection room and went on stage and sold the park with renderings, models, trains, the lands – he gave the performance of his life and they were hooked!
  • Everything Tells A Story, Might As Well Make the Story Remarkable:
    Walt wanted to create something more akin to a motion picture than an amusement park.  “In designing Disneyland, we thought of the park as if it were a three-dimensional film.  We wanted everything that guests experience, not only the shows and rides, to be an entertaining part of the story.  This was a new idea: we took the most basic needs of guests and turned them into attractions.”
  • Create “Wienies” This is what Walt called “visual magnets” to lure people in and draw them to. The first was the railroad station.  The second was the castle, that would pull people along Main Street.  Frontier Land would have the Steam-wheeler boat on the water.
  • Find ways to immerse people in our experience and not get distracted with outside noise. Walt asked – How can you shut off outside world and immerse people in your world?  Walt did this with the berm around the park.  Added twenty feet of earth around entire park.
  • Build Characters with Unique Merchandise. The story of Davy Crockett, the song and the Raccoon Skin Cap.  Disney expected to sell merchandise branded with Frontierland symbols but what all the customers wanted was Davy Crockett gear and then the raccoon skin cap.  They ended up selling 10 million caps.
  • Do the Work – Processes Come Later. During the “Walt Period” of designing Disneyland, they didn’t have processes.  They just did the work and kept moving.  The best thing we can do when started something new is just start and do the work.

    *Walt gathered up all these people who had never designed a theme park, a Disneyland.  So we’re in the same boat at one time, and we figure out what to do and how to do it on the fly as we go along with It and not even discuss plans, timing, or anything…we just worked and Walt just walked around and had suggestions.”

  • Teach “We’re Building a Cathedral” – The first ever training of Cast Members two months before the opening of the park started with “We’ll Create Happiness.”

    Van Arsdale France who started the training told the parable of the two men laying bricks.  Somebody asks one of them what he’s doing, and is told “I’m laying bricks.”  To the same question, the other man answers, “I’m building a cathedral.”

    The goal was to make all the cast members feel like they were involved in something more than parking cars, serving food, or sweeping up popcorn.

    One of the earlier cards of the presentation opened with “Welcome to Disneyland. To make the dream of Disneyland come true took the combined skills and talent of artisans, carpenters, engineers, scientists and planners.  The dream they built now becomes your heritage.  It is you who will make Disneyland truly a magic kingdom and a happy place for millions of guests who will visit us now and in future years.  In creating happiness for our guests, I hope that you find happiness in your work and in being an important part of Disneyland.”


  • Words Matter – Continue to Lean in on Language with our Team.

    “We don’t have customers, we serve guests.  We are hosts and hostesses.  We don’t have crowds, we have an audience.  We work while others play, meaning always act as if you’re having as good a time as the guests and don’t ever try to.   There’s no such thing as a dumb question.”  – These were all on cards as part of the initial training.

    Disneyland does not have rides.  The key new terms that Disney used were adventures, experiences, attractions, and of course stories.

    Ticket takers and ride operators did not have jobs, but “roles” and were cast members. Offstage and backstage become more popular terms for the cast members.

    The park as a whole was “the show”
    The parking lot was the “outer lobby”
    Main Street was “center stage”

  • What’s our Sleeping Beauty Castle?

    The Castle may be the most photographed place in the world. Yet Why?  Most people say it’s beautiful but it’s more than that.  There are so many factors that are playing on our sense of vision, colors, lighting, shapes and designs, the moving flags…so much attention to detail.

    At our stadium, what can we create – that’s as special.  That fans need a picture of it, they want to be in front of it.  What’s that attention to detail?  What’s that awe inspiring look?  How do you amaze and wow with a structure?  These are questions, I want to answer and look to add in the years to come.

    Financially, it won’t make sense.  That’s what everyone told Walt.  But looking back it may have been the best financial decision Walt made.  Millions of pictures have been taken of the castle and more importantly it has brought happiness and smiles to every guest that walks in the park.


  • Keep Plussing. “The way I see it, Disneyland will never be finished.  It’s something we can keep developing and adding to.  A motion picture is different.  Once it’s wrapped up and sent out for processing, we’re through with it.  If there are things that could be improved, we can’t do anything about it anymore.  I’ve always wanted to work on something alive, something that keeps growing.  We’ve got that in Disneyland.”

    Walt added Monorail and Mattahorn in 1959.  He also began talks about a Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.


How does this fit the Fans First Way?

“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it still takes people to operate it.”

Walt’s vision inspired Disneyland but it was his architects, imagineers and cast members that made it come alive.   Walt was obsessed with building Disneyland.  He CARED more, thought DIFFERENTLY, brought unparalleled ENTHUSIASM and FUN and was always GROWING Disneyland and HUNGRY to plus is more and make it more magical.

He didn’t think about the money.  He left Roy and the banks take care of that.  He dreamed and created an experience unlike anything else.  He imagined, created and built for his guests.  He wanted them to feel something special every time they walked into the park and around every corner.  That is the definition of Fans First.  Walt lived the Fans First Way and it still lives today because of his attention to detail and his ability to passionately and enthusiastically share the vision of Disneyland.