Sparky’s Quill: Walt Disney’s Past

Hey there! We hope you all had an amazing Spring Break! Tom and I were lucky enough to visit my parents in California and visit one of my favorite places ever. For all of you Southern California kids, you’ll probably agree when I say one of the defining qualities of our part of the state is Disneyland.

Tom and Holly in front of the new Cars Land! Photo courtesy Tom Black

Tom and Holly in front of the new Cars Land! Photo courtesy Tom Black

With 16.1 million visitors in 2011 alone, it is one of the most visited theme parks in the country. Known for its quality costumer service and excellent food and entertainment, Disneyland started as a little carnival-style fair and grew into the mega-entertainment resort we know today.

After creating Mickey Mouse and his first animated feature “Snow White,” Walt Disney set his sights on a bigger venture; bringing his movies to life. After visiting a carnival where he had to watch his kids having fun while sitting bored on a bench, Disney decided that the there should be a place where kids and parents could have fun together.

He picked a spot in Anaheim, California (known for its beautiful sunny weather) and started construction in 1954. Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955 for invited guests and the media. The day after, it was open to the public and chaos ensued. The temperature that day was record high and the brand new asphalt was melting away throughout the day.

Women’s heels got stuck in the sidewalks. They ran out of soda. Water fountains broke and the lines for rides were insane. Parents were literally throwing their kids over the crowd to get them on the rides. There was a gas leak that closed half of the park. It was madness.

The entrance to The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Photo courtesy Tom Black

The entrance to The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Photo courtesy Tom Black

Disney closed his park for a week to make the necessary adjustments. As the park grew in popularity, Disney added more rides and was constantly looking for ways to expand. He invited dignitaries from around the world as his special guests and gave them a tour of the park itself. They stayed in the mansion that stands in New Orleans Square. It is now the entrance to the Haunted Mansion ride.

Walt Disney had a television show on ABC called Disneyland where he would tell everyone what his “imagineers” were working on and the public ate it up. It felt like they were part of the process of perfecting Disneyland. Walt loved to visit Disneyland with his kids and even had a little apartment room built over the fire station overlooking Main Street. Whenever Walt stayed there, he would light a lantern in the window and all of the visitors would know he was there. After Walt died in 1966, Disney took to keeping the lantern in the window lit at all times. It’s just a little reminder of the man who created an empire by doodling on a napkin on a train. It’s amazing what one person can accomplish.

Here to tell you about the little mouse who ushered in a new era is Tom. Take it away!

A drawing by Tom Black. At the animation studio in Disney’s California Adventure (in Disneyland Resort) you can learn how to draw Disney characters! Photo courtesy Tom Black

A drawing by Tom Black. At the animation studio in Disney’s California Adventure (in Disneyland Resort) you can learn how to draw Disney characters! Photo courtesy Tom Black

Mickey Mouse was born in the Roaring 20s in 1928. That’s right, he is going to be 85 years old this coming November! He’s looking great for his age, how does he do it? When Disney proposed Mickey Mouse, he actually thought up the name Mortimer (sounds a little unappealing), but Mickey was thought to be more fun. Mickey made his debut in the film “Steamboat Willie” with his co-star and love Minnie Mouse. The adorable mouse couple have been together ever since. Mickey Mouse was an instant sensation by the early 1930s, reaching every corner of the globe. His charm and antics are a result of the genius of Walt Disney. However, Disney had a bumpy road leading to his mouse masterpiece.

Walt Disney Studios was originally the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and they produced Oswald the Rabbit. Oswald has seen a reemergence among the Disney fan base. Where had he gone? Well, Disney lost the copyright for the rabbit in the mid 1920s when the studio was facing economic hardship. The hardship was soon forgotten when Mickey Mouse launched the Disney empire that we know and love today.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse” – Walt Disney.

Do you have any more questions about Disneyland? Drop us a line at sparkysquill@gmail.com or find us on Twitter @sparkysquill.