A friend of mine posed the following question last night, on the eve of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary:
“Can you imagine what might’ve and must’ve been going through Walt’s mind 60 years ago, the evening before his Disneyland park would open?”
While many would probably answer that he was nervous, perhaps questioning what he had gotten himself into, I can’t help but think a bit differently.
I think Walt had complete confidence in his park. He was a man used to taking new risks, building on new experiences. So this new idea of a theme park? I’m sure in his mind there was little to no doubt. Sure, there were nerves at play – I mean who wouldn’t have butterflies on the eve of such a grand unveiling? However, I liken him to being more like the boy (or husband, for that matter) in this classic Disney commercial:
I can’t help but think he was giddy with anticipation. He couldn’t wait to show his park to the public. To prove the doubters wrong (mind you, after headlines declared a disastrous opening day, this one would take a while longer!). To tell everyone who came to that happy place, “Welcome.”
Disneyland was a dream, yes. But it was a product of hard work and determination. It came from the mind of a man who knew the public in ways other analysts and business insiders today can only dream of. It was built by people who believed in this man’s vision and insight. It was visited by throngs of tourists, locals, and dignitaries, who all wanted to see what Walt had built.
60 years later, Disneyland is still going strong. People are still traveling from all over the globe to visit Walt’s original park. Attractions and events come and go, but Walt’s vision still remains, as does his presence. I see it as I exit Fantasyland at Sleeping Beauty’s castle, as the “Partners” look out over the guests pouring in down Main Street USA. I feel it as I ride “It’s a Small World,” Walt’s anthem to the world and our likenesses. I sense it as I’m leaving the park at night, turning to see the light in his old apartment over the Fire Station, still shining brightly, knowing he’s still there in many different ways.
Today, we wish Disneyland a happy birthday. You’re shining bright like a diamond, and continue to be a source of happiness for many generations. We thank not only Walt Disney, but countless Imagineers, construction workers, and Cast Members, who have worked tirelessly both behind the scenes and onstage to bring us Walt’s vision. Here’s to many more anniversaries to come!