In the July 29, 1957 issue of Time Magazine, and article titled “How To Make a Buck” was published which focused on the success of Disneyland on its second anniversary.
Once upon a time, in the magic realm of California, there was a grown-up heady boy named Walt Disney who set out to create the happiest place on earth. So he went into his counting houses and to his moneylenders, and he collected millions of dollars. Then he ordered his royal artists and carpenters to build a whimsical wonderland of spaceships to the moon and Mark Twain river boats, of mechanical monkeys and bobbing hippos, of moated castles, wilderness forts and make-believe jungles. All the children, young and old, came to visit this happy place, called Disneyland. And Walt and his friends made millions happily ever after.
Last week, as Disneyland celebrated its second birthday, Walt Disney was indeed the world’s biggest boy with the world’s biggest toy. By bus, car and helicopter, on anniversary day close to 25,000 visitors trooped to his 60-acre playground at Anaheim, 23 miles south of Los Angeles —and emptied their pockets to see how it worked. The average visitor plunked down $2.72 for rides and admission, $2 for food, another 18¢ for souvenirs—Disneyland pennants, maps, Donald Duck caps, etc. All told this year, with attendance running 11% ahead of 1956, the turnstiles will clink 4,500,000 times. Disneyland will gross more than $11 million, and into Disney’s treasure house will flow a Dumbo-sized profit after taxes of more than $1,000,000.
Thanks to Disney’s pixilating power to strike the youthful nerve in Americans, Disneyland is proving California’s biggest tourist attraction since Hollywood. Of the visitors, 43% come from out-state, many of them drawn by the compelling lure of Disney’s children’s TV shows—which get paid $10 million a year for advertising Disneyland and forthcoming Disney movies. Said one parent: “Disneyland may be just another damned amusement park, but to my kids it is the Taj Mahal, Niagara Falls, Sherwood Forest and Davy Crockett all rolled into one. After years of sitting in front of a television set, the youngsters are sure it’s a fairyland before they ever get here.”
Even adults can lose themselves in Disneyland, where the past they have not seen melts into the future they will never know. A father and son can sweep from the 1800s into Tomorrowland, pilot an astro jet in simulated flight through space; a 25¢ piece buys a skyway ride to Fantasyland, reposing behind” Sleeping Beauty’s moated castle, where still another ride whisks visitors over a make-believe London, Never-Never Land and Captain Hook’s Hideaway. At nearby Frontierland, a Wild West stagecoach and a mule train churn the dust; if business slacks, villainous Black Bart conveniently shoots it out with Sheriff Lucky in a haze of gun smoke, later distributes used cartridge cases to the newly corralled crowd. On Disney’s miniature Mississippi, a five-eighths scale stern wheeler carries 9,000 landlubbers daily over waters alive with birchbark canoes paddled by Disney-employed Sioux, Shawnee and Winnebago Indians. And in Adventureland nearly 3,000,000 people (adults 50¢, children 35¢) paid more than $1,000,000 last year to sail down a jungle river—most popular of Disneyland’s 42 paid attractions—where trap-jawed crocodiles and painted warriors glare menacingly at every turn.
As much a product of shrewd management as cartoon whimsy, Disneyland was originally conceived as a $5,000,000 venture. But when dozens of big U.S. companies clamored for space to peddle or promote their wares, Walt Disney and his businessman brother Roy O. Disney quickly upped their sights, raised millions by leasing plots to 55 companies. Pepsi-Cola came in to operate Frontierland’s Golden Horseshoe soft-drink saloon; American Motors Corp. shows Circarama movies; Pablum recently opened a brightly decorated “baby-changing and feeding station” complete with a trained nurse who hands out free disposable diapers, safety pins, bottles.
By opening day, Disneyland’s assets amounted to $16 million, and Disney took careful aim at the vast U.S. family market. Instead of carnival-type barkers, he hired some 200 teachers as part-time workers, a ns-man crew to keep his park clean. When visitors complained of a 45-minute wait for a few top attractions, Disney spent more than $2,000,000 on new rides to spread out the crowds. Since then, he has conducted 55 public-opinion polls, each sampling 500 to 700 visitors to find out what people do or do not like. Biggest gripe: high prices, though 80% say they are coming back.
Ah, Liberty. Within its first year Disneyland broke into the black, now pays Walt Disney some of his most handsome dividends since Mickey Mouse. The Disney family owns 48% interest in Walt Disney Productions, which in turn owns 66% of Disneyland’s 14,500 shares; the remaining shares are held by American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc.
Last week Disney was busy planning a $5,000,000 addition to his California land of fantasy. Next year there will be a Liberty Street, a row of Revolutionary-era shops leading off Independence Hall, and Thomas Edison Square, showing the world as it was before and after the light dawned. Then comes Scienceland, New Orleans Square and a 300-ft. “tunnel” along Disneyland’s railroad route that will show three-dimensional views of the Grand Canyon. As a Disney associate says: “By the time Walt gets through, this will not only be the seventh wonder of the world, but the eighth, ninth and tenth as well.”