On this date 60 years ago, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, Calif.
My former colleagues at the Orange County Register celebrated the birthday with a gala 24-page special report… that turned out to be even more special than they had thought when they set out to observe the date.
The first 10,000 guests at Disneyland this morning received a copy of the special section, distributed by actors dressed in vintage newsboy costumes.
Much of the content of the section is also posted in a new, permanent Disney page at the Orange County Register web site. Editor Rob Curley says the Register is still adding to the content there — he says…
It’s a work in progress
…which sounds very Disneyesque indeed: Walt famously said that Disneyland would never be complete. Every year, Disney adds and changes and tweaks the park to the ever-changing expectations and needs of its guests.
The print section was designed by my old pal Chris Soprych. The cover — indeed, much of the section — contains dozens of vintage photos of Disneyland over the years, from the Disney archives, various photo databases and the Register‘s own collection.
Click on this page — or any page here today — for a much closer look:
Page two, below left, is a by-the-numbers page.
On page three, above right, staffer Keith Sharon retells the story of how an orange grove in Anaheim — of all places — was chosen as the site for the world’s first theme park.
On pages four and five, Joseph Pimentel writes about the first little boy and girl allowed into the park on opening day. Walt Disney himself gave them lifetime passes to Disneyland.
Pages six and seven tell the story of a number of people who helped shape the park in its early days.
My favorite is the story at upper left, on page six. Warren Asa — now age 89 — was one of the first Jungle Boat skippers. He explains how that ride developed the culture of departing from the script.
Also, note the continuing timeline that runs along the bottom of most of the pages.
Page eight holds a story about a local woman who was Disneyland’s 1 millionth visitor — just 52 days after the park opened.
Downpage is a story by photographer/videographer Mark Eades about all the names on the windows along Main Street. It’s essentially like an employee Hall of Fame.
Page nine is a full-page ad.
A graphic on page ten shows which rides and attractions were open on that first day. Large swaths of the park were quite empty. So far.
On page 11: Another full-page ad.
The center spread on pages 12 and 13 is a wonderful collection of vintage photos of the park. Everything from the mermaids who once “cavorted” in the waters of the submarine voyage to real-life mountaineers scaling the Matterhorn.
On pages 14 and 15 is one of the coolest stories in the entire section: It’s about the innovations that made Disneyland the great place it is. The hub-and-spoke layout, the “immersive experiences,” and the visual magnets — Walt called them “weenies,” meaning the visual design of the park was like dangling a hot dog just out of reach in front of a hungry animal.
Page 17 is a collection of famous people at Disneyland. John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, Sophia Loren, Kobe Bryant…
Page 19 holds two columns. One is by a man who led Disney’s Imagineering team for 30 years.
The downpage column is a personal piece by staffer Keith Sharon on what the park meant to him and his family.
The story across the top of pages 20 and 21 covers the most recent tweaks at the park.
The final story in the section is about Renie Bardeau, who spent 39 years as the official photographer for Disneyland.
Pages 23 and 24 are full-page ads.
Wasn’t that terrific?
But wait! There’s more!
The Register also reprinted the 16-page special section it published the Friday, July 15 — before the park’s invitation-only preview opening, 60 years ago today. This was a special edition created for Disneyland employees — known as “cast members” — but made available to the general public only at the OC Register building in Santa Ana, according to a press release.
Yes, that’s Walt Disney himself there on the front, cuddling a pony.
Rob tells me staffers combed through microfiche collections to find the sharpest, clearest copies of the 1955 section to use for the reprint. A copy at the library in Santa Ana proved to be much better than the one in the Register‘s own collection.
However, someone then scored a vintage “mint” copy of the section itself, Rob tells us.
The pages we had been looking at for five or six months, were all black-and-white. But our jaws dropped when we saw the spot color.
Yes, color existed 60 years ago. Believe it or not.
What’s really amazing about these pages is how boring the editorial content is but the inventiveness of some of these ads. I love that choo-choo on page two, above left.
And check out Aunt Jemima at the bottom of page five.
Newspapers also didn’t do a great job of packaging in those days. Stories about Main Street are scattered among other stories over several pages. Ditto for the railroad that circles the park.
And smack in the middle of the section — on page eight — is a woman wearing lingerie. Pretty racy for 1955, I think.
But that ad was for an actual women’s underwear shop on Disneyland’s Main Street. The copy for that ad says:
The wonderful wizard of bras is at that Disneyland. Be sure to visit him at Ye Olde Hollywood-Maxwell Bra Shoppe beginning July 18th.
Also amusing: The rabbit in the ad at the bottom of page nine, above right. He says “Yeh, Doc.”
That would be the other guys: Warner Bros.
Here are pages 10 and 11…
…and 12 and 13. Note the ad, below left, for Chicken of the Sea tuna, served in the Pirate Ship restaurant in Fantasyland.
There’s yet another amusing ad on page 13:
At Disneyland, too, you know they’re cooking with gas.
The reason it’s amusing: A natural gas leak caused about half of the park to be shut down during during the gala press preview on July 17, 1955.
Pages 16 and 17 contain pictures and stories about how natural the new trees look in Adventureland.
And for those of you who think alternative story forms are a new thing: Check out the back page.
That’s a guide to the park: How to get there, when the park is open, how much it costs to park and to get in and what you can do once you get there.
Here’s how the Register promoted the special section on the top of today’s front page:
According to a press release from the Register:
A must-have collectible for Disney fans, the 1955 section will be available in limited quantities for Register subscribers and the general public.
Register seven-day subscribers may request a free copy of the 1955 collectible section at the Register’s headquarters at 625 N. Grand Ave. in Santa Ana by downloading a flyer through its Register Connect subscriber rewards site at ocregister.com/connect.
The public may also purchase the 1955 collectible section at the Register headquarters for $2. The public may also order up to five copies of the 1955 and 2015 sections together by mail by visiting ocregister.com/go/disneyland60. Pricing by mail starts at $6.95, plus tax and shipping/handling.
Average daily circulation for the Orange County Register is 280,812.