As many of you know by now, Sam Gennawey has released his new book, The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream. Today we share the introduction of this book as written by the author.
INTRODUCTION by Sam Gennawey
Once upon a time, Walt Disney raised three wonderful children: Diane, Sharon, and Disneyland. He nurtured all three and taught them values that would serve them well for all of their lives. He was lucky to watch his daughters grow into adulthood, but he would only live long enough to see Disneyland through its first 11 formative years.
Walt knew that happiness came most frequently when he was with his family, where he could be true to himself and true to his inner forces. After World War II, his doctors recommended that he take up a hobby as a way to alleviate the pressures of the movie studio. “A man needs a new set of problems to pull his mind away from the old ones,” Walt said. So he looked for a hobby that he could share with his family. Circumstances rekindled his lifelong passion for trains and miniatures.
According to Ray Bradbury, science fiction author and Walt’s good friend, “Disney knew from the start that there were two kinds of people in the world: people who enjoy happiness and people who hate it.” Walt set out to build a place that would satisfy both kinds of people.
As Walt’s passion for his hobbies grew, he wanted to share it with others. This was typical; according to his daughter Diane, “When he bought things, they were to give to somebody, or to do something with, but he wanted to build an amusement park that people could come to and really be happy.” Just like him.
Building the park would be a new type of challenge for Walt. Disney historian Michael Broggie said, “During one of his visits to a local train store, he was asked about the size of his layout, since he was frequently ordering additional equipment. Walt told the clerk it would never be finished.” He was becoming frustrated with the filmmaking process. “A picture is a thing that once you wrap it up and turn it over to Technicolor, you’re through,” Walt said. “The last picture I just finished . . . it’s gone. I can’t touch it. I wanted something I could keep ‘plussing’ with ideas. The Park is that.”
Disneyland was a very personal project that reflected the experiences and values of one man. Walt said the park “would be a world of Americans, past and present, seen through the eyes of my imagination—a place of warmth and nostalgia, of illusion and color and delight.”
“I always believed the reason Walt built Disneyland was that he wanted one,” said Imagineer Bruce Gordon. “He wanted the biggest train layout; he wanted a place for all his toys. In the park he had an apartment above the fire station. Walt would get up early in the morning, before the park opened, and he’d drive his fire truck around Disneyland. People would think he was crazy, but he was only playing with his toy.”
But this adventure was not some lark. Building the largest model train set and meeting the public need would become Walt’s next pursuit after animation. He said, “When I say, ‘play with it,’ I don’t mean that. Everything I do I keep a practical eye toward its appeal to the public.” This was very important to him. He noted about Disneyland, “When they come here, they’re coming because of an integrity that we’ve established over the years. And they drive hundreds of miles. I feel a responsibility to the public.” Just like raising his girls, this was just the never-ending challenge he was seeking.
Walt did not have a roadmap or instruction manual to raise his two daughters, and it was no different for creating his park. Through persuasion and collaboration, Walt and his team carefully and deliberately stumbled along their way, creating a new system to organize the built environment, one that preys on our most basic instincts. They invented the theme park.
The result was that Disneyland would become “a place for people from all over the world to come and bring their private demons, those demons that are not afraid of happiness, to allow them freedom and give them air,” wrote Ray Bradbury.
When Walt died, he left a clear mission to serve the public need, a legacy of ideas, and a group of ardent disciples to carry on. Despite their battles with the “sharp pencil boys” who did not get it, the whims of history, and their own doubts and egos, Walt’s people were able to maintain momentum, thrive, and teach future generations how to do it the Walt way.
?How did this happen? Why did it happen