Happy birthday, Disneyland!
It was 50 years ago today that Walt Disney unveiled his personal masterpiece, a physical manifestation of his films and ideas on urban planning. The original and still the best, Disneyland is a theme park that embodies the word “park,” unlike the other monster complexes built by the Disney company long after the founder’s death.
My one and only visit to Disney World was in 2000, making a whirlwind trip between the major parks on a pseudo-business trip. (I was working with Disney to devise educational tours of certain park attractions, wrapping education in a tasty Disney blanket.) What struck me about Disney World was the noise. The size, the people, the blaring music and complaining crowds; it was like any other amusement park.
But Disneyland was different. Small, manageable, clean, and green; you could have a thrilling experience or you could sit quietly with a box of popcorn and watch the swans. (While I was doing this, a little boy told his mother that the swans weren’t real, they were robots. I had to take another look just to be sure.)
It’s telling of the ultra-corporate Disney way that the majority of the Disneyland 50th anniversary celebrations were at other parks. Disneyland itself was barely mentioned in the publicity.
Nevermind. Those of us who love Disneyland know it is there, nestled in Anaheim alongside the freeway; a tiny green and cool oasis in Orange county. There’s still so much of Walt’s original left in place, and today of all days, I hope he’s still walking Main Street admiring his dream.
50th Anniversary links: