Monday, July 16, 2012
It's Disneyland 57th Anniversary today and to celebrate the event here is a great tribute with the participation of Walt himself, thanks to Jim Korkis, Disney historian and author of the great "The Vault of Walt" book, who very kindly provided me rare interviews of Walt in which he is talking about Disneyland. I'm posting the part one of this article today, and you'll get the part two tomorrow, both with great pictures of Walt in the park.
This first interview of Walt Disney was done by Fletcher Markle on September 25, 1963, for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, “Telescope” television series.
Fletcher: Where did you originally get the first notion for Disneyland?
Walt: Well it came about when my daughters were very young and I…Saturday was always Daddy’s day with the two daughters. So we’d start out and try to go someplace, you know, different things, and I’d take them to the merry-go-round and I took them different places and as I’d sit while they rode the merry-go-round and did all these things…sit on a bench, you know, eating peanuts…I felt that there should be something built…some kind of an amusement enterprise built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started. Well, it took many years…it was a…o, a period of maybe 15 years developing. I started with many ideas, threw them away, started all over again. And, eventually, it evolved into what you see today at Disneyland. But it all started from a Daddy with two daughters wondering where he could take them where he could have a little fun with them too.
Above, Walt in an Autopia car with his daughter and his grand son. Below, Walt talking with children in Adventureland, near Jungle Cruise.
Fletcher: Who goes to Disneyland? What is the ratio of adults to children as part of the plan of fathers and daughters?
Walt: Oh, it’s four adults to one child. That is we are counting the teenagers as adults. But of course, in the winter time, you can go out there during the week and you won’t see any children. You’ll see all the “oldsters” out there riding all these rides and having fun and everything. Summertime, of course, the average would drop down. But the over all…the year round average…it’s four adults to one child.
Above, a rare picture of Walt on a Disneyland mule, along with two children. Below, Walt in a Main Street car.
Fletcher: What was the initial cost of Disneyland that first saw the light of day?
Walt: Oh, it goes back so far. I had different cost estimates. One time it was three and a half million and then I kept fooling around with it and it got up to seven and half million and I kept fooling around a little more and pretty soon it was twelve and a half and I think when we opened Disneyland it was seventeen million dollars. Today, it’s going on forty-five million dollars.
Above, Walt with the parrots of the Tiki Room.
Fletcher: I understand that the next step beyond the audio-animatronics birds (in the Enchanted Tiki Room) has been to do the same kind of programming with human beings.
Walt: Yes, with human beings. Not going to replace the human being…believe me on that. Just for show purposes, because now you take Disneyland down there. We operate fifteen hours a day. And these shows go on…on the hour. And my Tiki bird show goes on three times an hour and I don’t have to stop for coffee breaks and all that kind of stuff, you see. So that’s the whole idea of it. It’s just another dimension in the animation we have been doing all our life.
Above, Walt looking at a Pirates of Caribbean audio-animatronic, with Imagineer Marc Davis and WDI sculptor Blaine Gibson. Below, Disneyland marquee, circa 1960.
This next interview of Walt was aired on NBC in 1966.
NBC: Walt, why did you pick Anaheim as the site for Disneyland?
Walt: The Disneyland concept kept growing and growing and it finally ended up where I felt I needed two-three hundred acres. So, I wanted it in the Southern California area, there were certain things that I felt that I needed, such as flat land, because I wanted to make my own hills. I didn't want it near the ocean, I wanted it sort of inland, so I had a survey group go out and hunt for areas that might be useful. And they finally came back with several different areas and we settled on Anaheim because the price of the acreage was right. But there was more to it than that. And that is that Anaheim was sort of a growing area. The freeway projection was such that we could see that the freeway would set Anaheim as sort of a hub. Well, that's how we selected Anaheim.
Above, Disneyland Main Street Station in the 1950's, and the parking lot behind where is now Disney California Adventure.
NBC: Do you feel Anaheim has lived up to expectations?
Walt: In every way, the city fathers have been wonderful. They've given us wonderful cooperation right from the start and they are still cooperating.
NBC: What has been your biggest problem?
Walt: Well, I'd say it's been my biggest problem all my life - it's money. It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true. From the very start it was a problem of getting the money to open Disneyland. About 17 million dollars it took. We had everything mortgaged, including my family. We were able to get it open and for ten or eleven years now we've been pouring more money back in. In other words, like the old farmer, you've got to pour it back into the ground if you want to get it out. That's been my brother's philosophy and mine too.
Above, Walt and WED Imagineer John Hench in front of the Carnation Plaza model. Below, Walt in front of It's a Small World facade during its construction.
NBC: What plans for the future do you have at Disneyland?
Walt: There's a little plaque out there that says, "As long as there is imagination left in the world, Disneyland will never be complete." We have big plans. This year, we finished over $20 million in new things. Next June, I hope, we'll have a new Tomorrowland; and starting from the ground up, building a whole new Tomorrowland. And it's going to run about $20 million bucks.
Above, a view of Disneyland New Tomorrowland in the late 60's.
NBC: What steps have you taken to see that Disneyland will always be good, family entertainment?
Walt: Well, by this time, my staff, my young group of executives are convinced that Walt is right, that quality will win out, and so I think they will stay with this policy because it's proven it's a good business policy. Give the public everything you can give them, keep the place as clean as you can keep it, keep it friendly - I think they're convinced and I think they'll hang on after - as you say, "after Disney."
Above, the very last photo taken of Walt at Disneyland by Renie Bardeau, staged by publicist Charlie Ridgway, showing Walt in the fire engine in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle.
I'll see you tomorrow for the part two of this article, always with rare Walt interviews about Disneyland, but in the meantime Happy 57th Anniversary Disneyland! And don't miss Jim Korkis fantastic book "The Vault of Walt" available on Amazon, in which Jim weaves timeless tales and fascinating secrets about the "lost" world of Disney thanks to over thirty years of his personal interviews with Disney animators, Imagineers and associates as well as long forgotten documents and many years of research. It really is a must-have!
Pictures: copyright Disney
All my thanks to Jim Korkis for these great interviews!