Back when Disney products were to be watched, not experienced, Walt Disney had a vision: a theme park that felt like stepping into a magical new place. Now, we can finally witness Walt’s first dream.
Before construction could start, Walt needed funding. He and his friend Herb Ryman put their heads together and mapped out their dream for the Disneyland that was still just a figment of their imaginations. In just one frenzied 1953 weekend, their idea came to life on paper—and you’ll notice both subtle differences from and remarkable similarities to the modern Anaheim, California, park.
Like today, visitors would have entered the park into a Main Street USA-type area. The tunnels aren’t as wide as they were imagined more than 60 years ago, but park-goers are still greeted with a train passing overhead as they make their way toward the magic. Even with a modern Disneyland map, it’s tough to find these secret Disney park spots you never knew existed.
Walt always hoped for a castle as a focal point of the park, but its real-life iteration changed from his initial dream. The first palace was a sprawling fortress, hiding a massive carousel beyond its walls. Now, Sleeping Beauty Castle has more intricate spires, and King Arthur Carrousel takes its spins in Fantasyland, behind the palace.
Marc Rasmus-imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock and AP/REX/Shutterstock
Walt’s vision for the Mark Twain steamboat circling around Tom Sawyer Island and its Pirate’s Lair hasn’t changed much, though at that point it was called Frontier Country instead of Frontierland. That wasn’t the only name change, though. World of Tomorrow turned into Tomorrowland—and eventually lost its rocket. Astronauts walked on the moon 14 years after the park was built, making the Rocket to the Moon seem out-of-date. Meanwhile, True-Life Adventureland lost its first word, while most of the areas took on totally different themes.
Holiday Land is where you’d find today’s New Orleans Square, and Mickey Mouse Club became Critter Country. Lilliputian Land (in Gulliver’s Travels, Lilliput island is the home of tiny people) and Recreation Park don’t seem to have any equivalent in today’s Disneyland.
Of course, some of Disneyland’s biggest attractions had yet to be dreamed up in that first draft. The towering Matterhorn Bobsleds and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad rides don’t appear in the original map, and there’s no indication of the iconic It’s a Small World in Walt’s first vision of Fantasyland.
If you thought that first map was cool, you aren’t alone. In a 2017 auction with other Disney artifacts, the 64-year-old map was sold for a staggering $708,000. Even if that’s not in your budget, you can still enjoy these other 24 mind-blowing facts about Disneyland.