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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.