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23 Magical, Mind-Blowing Facts About Disneyland

Celebrate more than six decades of Disneyland with these facts about its disastrous first day, its secret tribe of feral cats, the one ride with actual human bones, and more.

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Children sprint across a drawbridge and into a castle that marks the entrance to Fantasyland at the opening of Walt Disney's Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Fantasyland had been closed until late in the day

Understaffed, behind schedule, and so short on flowering plants that landscapers had to adorn weeds with plaques bearing fake Latin names, Disneyland opened its gates for the first time on July 17, 1955.

Despite the frantic lead-up, Disneyland’s inauguration drew nearly 30,000 guests on the first day—about three times as many people than had actually been invited for the special press preview, many holding counterfeit tickets—and Walt Disney’s life’s work began to blossom. Here are 23 mind-blowing Disneyland facts compiled from Chris Strodder’s epic The Disneyland Book of Lists.

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Disneyland - Sleeping Beauty Castle under construction - 1955.

Disneyland was almost built in Burbank, California

Before Disney chose Anaheim, he almost built his park on a seven-acre studio lot in Burbank. The meager playground would be called “Walt Disney’s America.” Fortunately for us all, his dreams grew quickly.

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Walt Disney crosses the drawbridge that serves as the entrance to the castle in what will be the heart of Disneyland, in California on April 16, 1955. It's located at the end of Main Street and will house part of Fantasyland. This is the castle where you can see the dining hall awaiting the returning King Arthur's Knights, Sleeping Beauty slumbering, Peter Pan ride, Alice in Wonderland's story and many others. (AP Photo/David F. Smith)
David F. Smith/Shutterstock

The amusement park was built on a 160-acre orange grove

Disneyland displaced more than 12,000 orange trees. Park landscapers Jack and Bill Evans tried to make up for it though: More than 40 species of flowers and 700 exotic trees grow along the Jungle Cruise alone, and the iconic Mickey-head topiary out front contains 10,000 flowers—replanted six times a year.

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Elizabeth Taylor and boy friend Eddie Fisher hold her children by her marriage to actor Michael Wilding as they begin one of the fantasy rides during an outing at Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif., on . The boys are Michael (left), 6, and Christopher, 4
Don Brinn/Shutterstock

Disney nicknamed the park’s opening day “Black Sunday”

The very first opening day at Disneyland was a complete madhouse! As more and more people crowded into the amusement park, masses of food, drink, and bathroom shortages abounded.  But wait, it gets worse. The summer heat even melted the freshly poured pavement, which trapped some women who wore high heels. Plus, the large crowds nearly tilted the Mark Twain Riverboat over into the lake because the ride had exceeded its passenger capacity. Don’t get any Disneyland facts confused with Disney World’s, though. Check out the real difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

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Tallia Storm and Emily Canham enjoy Disney Stars on Parade during the launch of Marvel Summer of Super Heroes at Disneyland Paris.
Jon Furniss/Shutterstock

Many initial press reviews were scathing, but inconsequential

Despite the bad reviews, approximately 50,000 people attended the public opening the very next day.  Some even arrived in line as early as 2 a.m.

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Roy Disney Son Of Roy Oliver And Nephew Of Walt Disney Is Pictured At The Opening Of Euro Disney. Roy Died Of Stomach Cancer 17/12/2009 At The Age Of 79.
Clive Limpkin/Shutterstock

Walt’s brother purchased the first Disneyland admission ticket

On July 18, 1955, Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother, purchased the park’s very first ticket for only one dollar, a mere bargain compared to today’s prices charging more than $100 for a one-day park pass. The park sold its one-millionth ticket less than two months later on September 8.

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Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California, USA
Marc Rasmus/Shutterstock

The annual attendance in Disneyland’s first year reached the millions mark

Nearly 3.6 million people visited Disneyland in its first year. Today, the park serves roughly 16 million people each year. Want more Disneyland facts? These are the 8 secret spots you never knew existed in Disney parks.

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Feral Cat at Recoleta Cemetery
Dene Miles/Shutterstock

Disneyland is home to dozens of feral cats

For years, staffers have fed these so-called Disneyland Cats as a free pest-control solution. Today, you might spot some at the feeding station near the Hungry Bear Restaurant, but they weren’t always welcome. When Walt Disney stumbled upon the first flea-infested batch of cats inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in 1955, he adopted them out to staff members as quickly as possible.

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The Shanghai Disney Resort is a theme park resort built by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, attracting many tourists around China
Sipa Asia/Shutterstock

Guests spend 83 times more on average today than they did 63 years ago 

The average cost per guest per day in 1955 was about $2.37: $1 for admission, $0.25 for parking, and the rest for rides and souvenirs. The cost for a similar visit today: $196 (an 83-fold rate hike). Make sure you know these 14 ways to save big money on your next Disney trip vacation.

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Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction
Jim Smeal/Shutterstock

The most popular attraction at Disneyland, and in the entire world, is Pirates of the Caribbean

Since its 1967 debut, Pirates has entertained close to a third of a billion passengers. Learn more about the real-life places that inspired Disney park rides like Pirates of the Caribbean.

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WALT DISNEY Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse, poses at the Pancoast Hotel in Miami, Fla., on . An animation innovator, Disney featured his favorite character in "Steamboat Willie," the first short cartoon with a soundtrack, in September 1928. He released his first full-length animated film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," in 1937. A multimedia visionary whose name became synonymous with family entertainment, Disney expanded into television and book publishing, and led the way for a new kind of amusement park known as the "theme park." Disney opened Disneyland in California in the 1950s

Disneyland’s shortest-lived attraction lasted just two months

Unlike the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the Mickey Mouse Club Circus opened in November 1955 and closed by January due to low attendance. The resulting “Keller’s Jungle Killers” exhibit—a trained animal act featuring the same sedated jungle cats from Mickey’s circus—lasted another seven months.

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December 27, 1946 - Walt Disney shows 2 young actors, Bobby Driscoll (left), and Luana Patten (right) the storyboards for his new production, "Song of the South."

Many other attractions were abandoned before they even opened

Some ideas that Walt talked up but never got around to building include the Peter Pan Crocodile Aquarium (a live fish exhibit to be entered through a massive crocodile’s jaw) and Paul Bunyan’s Boot (a 25-foot-tall interactive shoe.) These are the 9 Disney characters you can’t meet in the park anymore.

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Princess Diana Prince Harry, front row left, and family friend Harry Soames, right, ride of Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida on . Riding at back right is Princess Diana. Diana, Harry and Prince William are spending a few private days at the Magic Kingdom
Peter Cosgrove/Shutterstock

The fastest ride in the park is no roller coaster—it’s Splash Mountain

Passengers reach about 40 mph while plummeting down the ride’s climactic 47-degree plunge into the briar patch.

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The Haunted Masion - Gate Film Poster
Snap Stills/Shutterstock

The Haunted Mansion is the saddest place in the Happiest Place on Earth

Disney cast members are required to smile everywhere in the park, except here. The emerald-cloaked mansion staffers are actually encouraged to put on a dour demeanor to further spook their guests.

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VEGHEL, HOLLAND - MAY 9, 2009: Woman strewing the ashes of a loved one in a forest
Marcel Bakker/Shutterstock

There may be actual ghosts who inhabit the park

The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean rides have both been temporarily shut down after staffers caught passengers spreading mysterious powder onto the set pieces. Anaheim police solved the mystery: human ashes. (The park now strictly prohibits cremated remains, along with stink bombs and selfie sticks.) Here are more things you never knew were banned from Disney parks.

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Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction
Jim Smeal/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, there were once real human bones on display in Pirates of the Caribbean

According to Imagineer Jason Surrell, when the ride first opened in 1967, bones from the UCLA Medical Center were scattered among one of the scenes.

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The TWA Moonliner rocketship dominates the Tomorrowland attraction at the Disneyland Amusement Park, . Disneyland opened its doors on July 17, 1955
Edward Kitch/Shutterstock

Tomorrowland’s “House of the Future” (1957-67) was the most resilient attraction in Disneyland

The Monsanto-sponsored walk-through exhibit was designed to show off advanced plastics manufacturing of the time—and it succeeded. The house’s plastic shell was so strong it repelled wrecking balls during demolition. It eventually took a crew with crowbars and chains two weeks to break apart, piece by piece. These are the discontinued Disney rides we wish would make a comeback.

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Cropped close up of a man drinking beer at the bar copyspace beverage brewery brewing delicious thirst thirsty sipping relaxing alcohol drink party event celebrate cool tasty leisure weekend concept
Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock

Club 33 is the most exclusive attraction

This secret speakeasy in New Orleans Square has a 10-year waiting list and $25,000 initiation fee. It seems steep until you consider that it’s the only place in Disneyland that serves a full bar of alcohol. Parents, you can sign up here.

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Winners of a Europe-wide contest to be the first to ride in Space Mountain wave to the crowd before they enter the Space Mountain building at Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallee, east of Paris on . Space Mountain, which simulates a ride to the moon, was inaugurated on Wednesday night and will be open to the public on Thursday. It is inspired by the Jules Verne novel "From the Earth to the Moon
Francois Mori/Shutterstock

Space Mountain was the first Disneyland attraction with a higher price tag than Disneyland itself

The epic indoor roller coaster cost $20,000,000 to build in 1977; the entire park only cost $17,000,000 in 1955.

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Disney chief Michael Eisner, left, and director George Lucas, second from right, are assisted by actors portraying Indiana Jones and Jones' assistant, as they officially open the Indiana Jones adventure attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Nick Ut/Shutterstock

Indiana Jones Adventure was the most expensive ride to build

The 57,000-square-foot attraction that Jungle Cruise skippers lovingly call “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Three-Hour Line” took two years and $125 million for 400 Imagineers to build.

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Rome, Italy - July, 2015: Disney store indoor shopping mall

A miniature worth $37,500 is the most expensive souvenir

It’s a solid crystal replica of Cinderella’s Castle, set with more than 28,000 Swarovski crystals, patiently waiting to drain your pension at the Crystal Arts store on Main Street.

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Steve Martin Actor and comedian Steve Martin, who is guest curator of an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts devoted to Canadian modernist Lawren Harris, during a gathering at the museum in Boston, . "The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris" runs through June 12
Charles Krupa/Shutterstock

Comedian Steve Martin may be Disneyland’s most famous alum

His first job was selling guidebooks and magic tricks at several shops around the park. Other celebrities include John Lasseter, the director of Toy Story, who started as a street sweeper in Tomorrowland; Michelle Pfeiffer, who masqueraded as Alice in the ‘70s; and President Nixon’s press secretary Ron Ziegler, who was a Jungle Cruise skipper. Check out these etiquette rules all Disney employees have to follow.

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The dragon head "Maleficent" from the "Fantasmic!" show on Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland Park from 1992 is displayed next to an audio-animatronic figure of Mickey Mouse from Fantasyland in 1971 during a preview of "D23 Presents Treasures Of The Walt Disney Archives," at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., . D23, the official Walt Disney fan club, refers to 1923, the year Disney founded his world-famous company. The exhibit features more than 500 historic artifacts, including models, props, artwork and set pieces, many never before seen by the public, from nearly nine decades of Disney history. The exhibit opens to the public on July 6
Reed Saxon/Shutterstock

Current cast members have unusual nicknames for their audio-animatronic coworkers

The Jungle Cruise elephant is named “Bertha.” The Matterhorn’s abominable snowman is “Harold.” And the nine-ton, fire-breathing dragon from Fantasmic?  “Bucky,” obviously. Check out more fascinating facts about famous Disney characters.

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Walt Disney

Walt Disney considered the park his life’s most important work

“When you wrap up a picture and turn it over to Technicolor, you’re through,” Disney told the Hollywood Citizen-News while raising funds for Disneyland. “Snow White is a dead issue with me… I want something live, something that would grow. The park is that. Not only can I add things to it, but even the trees will keep growing. The thing will get more beautiful year after year. And it will get better as I find out what the public likes. I can’t do that with a picture.” Don’t miss the 23 secrets Disney employees will never tell you.