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Submitted by on May 18, 2022

On July 17, 1955, the Disneyland Park, formerly known as Disneyland, opened as the first of two theme parks at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It is the only theme park in the world that was conceived and built entirely under Walt Disney’s supervision. It was formerly the property’s only attraction; in the 1990s, the official name was changed to Disneyland Park to separate it from the growing complex. It was Disney’s first theme park.

After visiting numerous amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and 1940s, Walt Disney came up with the idea for Disneyland. He had planned to develop a tourist attraction near his Burbank studios to amuse admirers who came to see him, but he quickly recognized that the suggested location was too tiny. In 1953, Disney purchased a 160-acre (65 ha) land in Anaheim after hiring a consultant to assist him in determining an ideal site for his project. Construction began in 1954, and the park was launched on July 17, 1955, during a special televised press event broadcast on the ABC Television Network.

Disneyland has expanded and undergone substantial modifications since its debut, including the addition of New Orleans Square in 1966, Bear Country (now Critter Country) in 1972, Mickey’s Toontown in 1993, and Star WarsGalaxy’s Edge in 2019. Disney California Adventure Park was developed on the location of Disneyland’s original parking lot and opened in 2001.

With 726 million visitors since its opening, Disneyland has the most cumulative attendance of any theme park in the world (as of December 2018). The park saw roughly 18.6 million visitors in 2018, making it the world’s second most visited amusement park, trailing only Magic Kingdom, the attraction it inspired. According to a Disney estimate from March 2005, the Disneyland Resort supports 65,700 employment, including around 20,000 direct Disney workers and 3,800 third-party employees (independent contractors or their employees). In 2019, Disney unveiled “Project Stardust,” which involved extensive structural changes to the park to accommodate increased visitor numbers.

The Federal Aviation Administration in the United States has established a forbidden aviation zone over Disneyland and parts of the neighboring regions focused on Sleeping Beauty Castle. This level is only shared with Walt Disney World, other critical infrastructure (military bases, Pantex) in the United States, and whenever the President of the United States travels outside of Washington, D.C. No aircraft, including recreational and commercial drones, are permitted to fly within this zone.

Walt Disney came up with the idea for Disneyland while visiting Griffith Park in Los Angeles with his daughters Diane and Sharon. He had the concept for a location where adults and their children could go and have fun together while watching them ride the merry-go-round, however his dream was dormant for many years. The first documented draft of Disney’s plans was sent as a memo to studio production designer Dick Kelsey on August 31, 1948, where it was referred to as a “Mickey Mouse Park,” based on notes Disney made during his and Ward Kimball’s trip to the Chicago Railroad Fair the same month, with a two-day stop in Henry Ford’s Museum and Greenfield Village, a place with attractions such as a Main Street and steamboat rides, which he had visited eight years earlier.

When individuals wrote to Disney asking about visiting the Walt Disney Facilities, he recognized that a working movie studio had nothing to offer visitors, and he began to develop several plans for a tourist attraction near the Burbank studios. His concept grew into a small amusement park with a boat ride and other themed attractions. The original park design, Mickey Mouse Park, was supposed to be built on an eight-acre (3.2 hectare) property to the south of the studio, across Riverside Drive. Aside from Greenfield Village and the Chicago Railroad Fair, Disney was influenced by Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, Knott’s Berry Farm, Colonial Williamsburg, Chicago’s Century of Progress, and the 1939 World Fair in New York.

Though the proposal grew considerably larger than the land could handle, his designers began working on designs. Disney recruited Stanford Research Institute’s Harrison Price to determine the best location for the proposed theme park based on projected future development. Disney bought 160 acres (65 ha) of orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim, southeast of Los Angeles, in nearby Orange County, based on Price’s study (for which he was named a Disney Legend in 2003). Walt Disney Animation Studios and ABC Studios currently share a modest Burbank location that was formerly explored by Disney.

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