The Disneyland tenth anniversary, what the Park called the “Tencennial,” was a high watermark. Walt Disney was certainly proud of his Park and he was filled with confidence after the success of the World’s Fair attractions. By 1965, he had invested more than $53 million in the facility.
The year started off with a bang when 20,000 guests celebrated New Year’s Eve inside the park. By the end of the year, holiday guests were entertained with the first running of the “Fantasy on Parade.” Even the Wonderful World of Color television show got into the act with a special episode. The Park set a new attendance record that year.
To celebrate the anniversary on July 17, Walt gathered all of the remaining Cast Members who were there on opening day to the Magnolia Room in the Disneyland Hotel. It was an important moment for Walt. He was with the people who made his dream come true and it was a chance to reflect.
He began his talk with a humorous story about how he found comedian Wally Boag, the star of the long-running Golden Horseshoe Review. Even though the show had been running ten years, Boag quipped, “We’re still in rehearsal, Walt.” Walt replied, “Yeah…That’s my tag line.”
Walt then turned his attention to Admiral Joe Fowler. He said, “We had to have somebody that could take ahold of this thing and really make it work. So we were told about this retired admiral that had run the San Francisco Navy Yard.” Walt hired Fowler as a part time consultant but “little by little we got him sort of trapped into the thing.”
He spoke of the problems of launching Disneyland. How everybody told him, “What the Hell’s he want that damn amusement park for?” Walt’s only explanation was that, “I wanted it.” He told of how the NBC and CBS television networks fought him and how ABC profited from the relationship.
Shortly after the Park opened, the bankers told Roy that they would not lend the brothers any more money. Roy, not one to mince words, told them, “Well, if you’re gonna start runnin’ our business, we’re goin’ out and find some other place we can borrow money.” Walt told the audience, “By gosh, they finally gave him the money.”
Walt admitted, “If we could have bought more land, we’d have bought it.” He would have “control and it wouldn’t look too much like a second rate Las Vegas around here.” However, the brothers ran out of money and “by the time that we did have a little money, everybody got wise to what was goin’ on and we couldn’t buy anything around the place at all, you know.”
The lack of money was such a problem that Walt joked about Bill Evans placing signs with Latin names on the weeds. Walt and Roy were grateful to the Cast Members who had “been a part of making this thing come across.” He said,”That it’s just been a sort of dress rehearsal and we’re just getting started.” But he warned them, “If any of you start to rest on your laurels, I mean, just uh…forget it.”
Just to prove his point, Walt spoke of Dick Nunis who was running the Park at the time. Nunis would tell Walt, “You know, we’ve got to take care of these people.” For Walt that meant “trying to enlarge the park to take care of the extra millions he thinks we’re gonna gain every year.” Nunis showed Walt “a graph where you started here with three million and the way he’s got it going it’s goin’ up to ten million and he may be right.” Over the years, Nunis would prove that he knew what he was talking about.
“We do have plans to expand it…to open up areas that will…it’s like a sponge,” Walt said about the future. “You have to have these areas to absorb the people, you know.” He talked of the new Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, and the Haunted Mansion. Maybe even a new Fantasyland in 1966 (the addition of it’s a small world). He promised “forty plus million dollars worth of stuff planned out for the next five years” if he had the money. However, he quipped to this inside audience, “Thank God for Mary Poppins.”
With confidence, Walt told his Cast Members, “You know my office is above my brother’s and I look down and when I see him walking on the ceiling…you know…That’s the time I go down and say, ‘Let’s put another ten million in Disneyland.’ And lately he’s been walking all around that ceiling.” He ended with, “As I say, we’re just gettin’ started, you know.”
Quite a way to get started, don’t you think?
Aerial photo courtesy http://www.airlinesafety.com/editorials/AboutTheEditor.htm.