On July 17, 1955, some 70 million Americans tuned into ABC to watch the opening ceremonies for Disneyland – a product of 160 acres of Anaheim farmland, $17 million dollars in investment, and more than two decades of Imagineering. Although not everything went according to script, the park’s opening day stumbles never stopped visitors from coming. On opening day alone Disneyland drew 15,000 invited attendees – and nearly 30,000 additional people who were admitted with counterfeit tickets.
With such an overwhelming response from the onset, it’s little surprise that Disneyland remains a place for making memories and capturing shared experiences. This particular 1960s home movie from the Prelinger Archives reveals some long-lost rides, as well as some of Disneyland’s enduring attractions: bonding time with family and photo ops with Disney characters.
It also reveals, with the benefit of a half century’s hindsight, a side of Disneyland that many were perhaps unable to see then. Tomorrowland’s Space Age visions of the future look dated. Other scenes look worse than dated in our age of heightened cultural sensitivity. The Indian Village, a popular attraction from 1955 to 1971, was a place where visitors could meet a “real” Indian chief or watch Native Americans preform ceremonial dances. At the time, although Disney might have billed the village as an educational tool for understanding the country’s ancestral history, it resembles something closer to exploitation today. Disneyland may not be the utopia its moniker, “The Happiest Place on Earth,” suggests, but it has continued to spark a collective joy in children and adults alike, since day one.