Once upon a time there was a man with a vision. And that vision was to create a place that could be enjoyed by parents and children alike. A place where he could take his own children and his children’s children. A place to bring out the inner-child in everyone.
On June 17, 1955, despite others’ skepticisms, that man’s vision came to life. Walt Disney opened the gates to Disneyland in Anaheim.
“Disneyland was built on a wing and a prayer,” said LPC Foundation CEO Ted Kaye, who spent fifteen years working at Disney.
“Walt Disney had to mortgage Disney studio in order to get the money for it,” Kaye said. “No one thought it would work, that it was just another amusement park.”
Sixty years later, Disneyland still continues to cater to mouseketeers and princesses and has hosted more than 600 million visitors since opening its gates to the public. Today, Disneyland also has locations in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
According to Kaye, who served as Vice President of Film and Tape Production at Disney-MGM Studios, it’s high quality environment and professionalism are just some of the many factors that give Disney its nickname as “The Happiest Place on Earth.” The park brings back childhood memories to guests no matter what age they are.
“I love the theme parks and the friendly atmosphere it gives off,” said visual communications student, Cayla Breiz, who used to visit Disney every spring break with her family.
Although Disneyland was not the first amusement park out there, it brought something different to the table: a theme. Rides and attractions were based on concepts or films and characters pertaining to the Disney name.
Examples of this can be seen today with many of the rides in Fantasyland, one of the themed lands in Disneyland, which houses many of the original attractions such as “Peter Pan’s Flight” and “Mad Tea Party.”
“It was Disney’s idea to have theme parks,” Kaye said. “So that it wasn’t simply what they call a ‘hardware ride’ where you go on a Ferris wheel or a roller coaster.”
Kaye also explained how Disneyland’s attention to detail helps to create a worthwhile experience for its guests. All employees, or cast members, are trained at the Disney University on the dress code all the way down to the mannerisms and gestures. Teams are on standby just in case anything should go awry within the park, such as a broken down ride or an out of place toadstool.
According to Kaye, although people laugh about the strict guidelines that Disney has for its cast members, the guidelines help bring forth the sophistication that is expected.
“We laugh about it but I went to another theme park that shall go unnamed, but I will say that they have Shamu,” Kaye said. “And it wasn’t that they weren’t friendly or weren’t nice but they just didn’t look professional.”
Kaye describes the professionalism of Disney cast members as creating a sense of dependability and predictability for the guests. The consistency of the great guest service creates reassurance for returning guests and gives them the security to know that they are going to have a good time. Disneyland also has a “no sad kids” rule that enables cast members to act when a child is in need by doing things like replacing a dropped snack or broken souvenir.
Everything is choreographed down to the placement of characters.
“There’s Frontierland Mickey and there’s Tomorrowland Mickey. But it’s all choreographed so that no kid, or no adult for that matter, can see two at once. There’s no way that you can be in one part of the park and see two Mickeys. It’s all been laid out so that it just can’t happen, to keep the illusion,” Kaye said.
Visual communications faculty member, John Hogan, also used to work for Walt Disney Imagineering in Epcot as well as Disneyland Paris. Imagineers “make the magic” at Disney parks and are always looking for new ways to improve the experience.
“The Magic Kingdom is a highly engineered theatrical experience, combining storytelling and architecture, in a unique creative experience. It tugs on the inner child, defining wonder and curiosity, often lacking in adults today,” Hogan said in an e-mail with The Express.
He uses Disneyland’s Main Street as an example with its forced perspective.
“Main Street, at ground level is built to scale, with the second and third floor windows and decorations created in reduced scale. This effect is psychological, and works best on adults,” Hogan said.
The result of the forced perspective gives adults the same view on Main Street as a child, causing themselves to also feel like a kid again. Seasonal scents are also misted on Main Street as well as other parts of the park in order to give guests a feel of the right atmosphere and caters to their imaginations and fantasies.
Hogan, who visits the park every two to four years, describes spring break as being a great time for students to choose Disneyland. Breiz agrees and recommends Disneyland over other popular spring break destinations and suggests that students arrive at the park early to make the most of their day before the park gets crowded.
“It is a safe and friendly environment, plus it is so much fun! Who doesn’t want to ride rides all day and be a kid once more before you have to go back to the adult world and work on assignments or go back to work?” Breiz said.
Childhood memories of Disney play a key role in a guest’s enjoyment as an adult, according to Kaye. He describes the effects that Disney has on its young guests.
“A couple things are going on. You have really good memories from when you were a kid. On some level you continue to carry it along. You may not even want to admit it, but it was such a part of your youth,” Kaye said.
For example, Breiz recalled her first Disney memory from when she was five and recalls the excitement from meeting all of the characters. Her fondest memory was also from her childhood when her parents and aunt and uncle surprised her and her cousins with a trip to Disneyland.
Because of her good experiences with Disney, Breiz would like to work at Disney as a concept artist or storyboard artist.
“I’d even be happy as a ticket taker or a janitor at Disneyland,” she said.
Hogan’s first memory of Disneyland was of the “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” show from the late 1950s, which was an experience around the sets from the movie based on the Jules Verne novel of the same name.
“The amazing thing was the effect as if the audience was under water. Later, when I worked at Disney, I was able to see the effects projector that created the effect. Knowing the trick does not diminish the magic,” Hogan said.
Kaye’s memory reminisces of when the park first had a system of “ABCDE” tickets, with the E-tickets being for the best rides such as “Matterhorn” and “Jungle Cruise.”
Breiz agrees, Disneyland may have changed throughout the years, but the magic lives on.
“It’s a place for everyday people to escape and be kids again.”