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  1. #1

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    What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    In another thread, a poster stated that “there was nothing innovative about Disneyland (when it opened) except the marketing,” that Fantasyland was essentially a carnival and that Fronteirland was a ripoff of Knott’s Berry Farm's Ghost Town.

    So the question posed by this thread is: what was innovative about Disneyland when it opened in 1955. What made it (arguably) "the world’s first theme park”?

    Here’s my answer: To the best of my knowledge, Disneyland was the first park made by filmmakers, the first park to have cinematic principles incorporated into its design – that was the big innovation.

    The establishing shot down Main Street, the “weenies” to draw the guest forward, the use of forced perspective and other techniques, the use of color and music to establish mood. (I read that, at one point, Walt even wanted to install theatrical curtains to open whenever a guest stepped through the entrance tunnels, until he was convinced that it wouldn’t be feasible.)

    While elements of the Disney theme park may have existed before – dark rides, live entertainment, places themed to be other places - Disneyland was the first park to synthesize all these elements, and to so in a uniquely Disney way.

    The design of the park was innovative, with it’s central hub presenting the guest with a choice of which path to follow, with attractions arranged according to theme instead of scattered willy-nilly over the landscape.

    I also believe Walt’s ambitions for the park were innovative – Not that I need to quote it for anyone here, but here goes: “To all who come to this happy place – welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, dreams and the hard facts that have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” I think most 1950’s amusement parks would have been dedicated with “Have a good time, folks.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s another thing that sets Disneyland apart.

    And, yes, the marketing was very innovative – using the brand new medium of television with “Uncle Walt” as the host, inviting us (Well, not me, I wasn’t born until 1981, but my mother watched the show!) into his dream factory. Using the already-familiar Disney characters as a selling point. Building the myth of Disneyland before it even opened –and that’s another innovation, the very idea that Disneyland itself is Walt’s dream come true. Most other parks don’t have that sort of backstory – and it was because of the TV show that the public became aware of it. So yes, the innovative marketing definitely played a large part. But I believe the product that the marketing sold was even more innovative.
    "Happy Working Song" parody for DCA remodel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-TYESfNTP8&feature=plcp

    Retro Rant Review of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame II" (comedy review of direct-to-video
    Disney sequel):
    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/user/animagus.../1/q1j7FU8QXu0
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/user/animagus.../0/sasNTMDRBLU

    Retro Rant Review of "Home on the Range" (comedy review of Disney movie):
    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7mC-...feature=relmfu
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoUie...feature=relmfu
    Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3Vea...feature=relmfu


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  2. #2

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Disneyland was not only cinematic, but had multiple themes and sub-themes built into an over-arching story of America. Whereas Knott's had an old west town, Disneyland had the entire western expansion represented from steam powered paddle wheelers, Indian conflicts, to representations of the Gadsden and Louisiana purchases.
    But Disneyland didn't stop with America's western expansion, it showed the amazing progress of America from gas to electricity, from horses to cars, all from the perspective of a representative small town.
    But America grew not only in land, but in people. People who brought with them their stories and literature. Even the Victorian fantasies of an America in the throws of an industrial revolution found a home at Disneyland, shinning at the end of that small town street.
    A lesser park would have stopped there, but not Disneyland. How many parks before or since have dared to tackle the future?
    Disneyland may not have been the first park with a theme, but it was certainly the first park of themes successful enough to start a new industry.
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  3. #3

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    ""When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, 'But why do you want to build an amusement park? They're so dirty.' I told her that was just the point--mine wouldn't be."
    - Walt Disney

    There are the oft-discussed aspects of Disneyland such as fully-themed design. But you also have things such as dark rides that tell stories through dioramas and AAs. I also think that Disneyland is the first park which was philanthropic, and tried to communicate meaning beyond thrills. It was educational, and brought the history of America as well as modern ideas of technology to its visitors. It took the notion of guest experience outside of the rides, to the places in between them, with theme and cleanliness.

    Here's something else interesting I've thought about:

    Revolutionary urban planner Kevin Lynch published an influential work about elements that should be used while planning successful cities. These 5 elements are:


    • paths, the streets, sidewalks, trails, and other channels in which people travel;
    • edges, perceived boundaries such as walls, buildings, and shorelines;
    • districts, relatively large sections of the city distinguished by some identity or character;
    • nodes, focal points, intersections or loci; and
    • landmarks, readily identifiable objects which serve as reference points
    (Thank you, Wikipedia)

    This book is now the bible of urban planning. But five years earlier, Disneyland had already pioneered these same concepts. The park was built in a radial design for easy travel (paths), and was divided into distinctly-themed lands (districts). Weenies were used to define each land and draw people from one area to another (landmarks). And places like the Hub, Town Square, and Tomorrowland Hub act as successful nodes.

    My urban planning professor, in Indiana no less, has discussed Disneyland multiple times. Other topics he's mentioned have been the emphasis on pedestrian-only walkways (a rarity in the past half-century in the US, recently revisited in the past decade), the use of multiple modes of transportation to supplement walking, and developments such as the PeopleMover and the introduction of monorails to America. He's also talked about EPCOT.

    It's interesting to notice what Walt has brought to the world outside of the fields of animation and ride design.
    Last edited by MarkTwain; 04-11-2009 at 05:56 AM.

  4. #4

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    One of the biggest attributes DL had was that it was clean, well kept and safe. Families didn't have to contend with obnoxious "carnies" or drunkenness which was rampant at common carnivals.

  5. #5

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Quote Originally Posted by animagusurreal View Post
    In another thread, a poster stated that “there was nothing innovative about Disneyland (when it opened) except the marketing,” that Fantasyland was essentially a carnival and that Fronteirland was a ripoff of Knott’s Berry Farm's Ghost Town.
    Yeah that was me. I take full blame and or credit depending on which you want to give.

    Here’s my answer: To the best of my knowledge, Disneyland was the first park made by filmmakers, the first park to have cinematic principles incorporated into its design – that was the big innovation.
    It was and yet it wasn't. Universal Studios already had a tour going back in 1955 as did most of the Hollywood Studios. The idea of seeing sets built by movie makers WAS incredibly popular and Hollywood became a tourist destination itself, just from folks who wanted to come down and see how the magic was made.

    Let me elaborate a little more down the road here...

    The establishing shot down Main Street, the “weenies” to draw the guest forward, the use of forced perspective and other techniques, the use of color and music to establish mood.
    Just to point out that most of the park didn't have music (with the exception of live bands) for a great deal of it's existence. The concept of Area Music (continually playing in a loop) is a rather new invention. If I recall correctly, music didn't begin regularly playing on Main Street until sometime in the 1970s, and at the time it started, it was muzak versions of pop hits at the time.

    While elements of the Disney theme park may have existed before – dark rides, live entertainment, places themed to be other places - Disneyland was the first park to synthesize all these elements, and to so in a uniquely Disney way.
    But the question still is - what is that uniquely Disney way? Can you define it?

    I think most 1950’s amusement parks would have been dedicated with “Have a good time, folks.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s another thing that sets Disneyland apart.
    Yeah but if you take a look at something like Knott's, you would find that Walter Knott really cared about the work he was doing and took great pains to ensure authenticity. Knott's Berry Farm really was a dream come true for Walter Knott.

    And no matter how sincere and authentic, you can't deny that Walt knew his opening day speech would be seen by millions of people on live TV.

    So yes, the innovative marketing definitely played a large part. But I believe the product that the marketing sold was even more innovative.
    I think the marketing played the biggest part in creating the image of something that was new and exciting and completely different from what had come before it. It's hard now even today to discuss what elements may or may not have been innovative because even today we are all pretty much biased by that same marketing machine that has been working for 50 years.

    And just as I had before, I want to point out again that I don't think there is anything at all WRONG with saying that Disneyland was just better marketed. Marketing by itself is not a negative term at all.

    Was Disneyland Innovative? Certainly it was. But how much of that was just plain marketing and synergy and how much of it was actual innovation?

    Main Street as it opened was meant to be a more or less authentic representation of a time and place in American history. That is almost exactly what Walter Knott was trying to accomplish with Ghost Town in Buena Park. Just like Main Street, folks were invited to wander around and take in the sights of a real like working town.

    Disneyland opened with Pack Mules and a Stage Coach and a train ride, and Knott's had all these things as well.

    Disneyland built a steam powered sternwheeler, which was certainly a sight to behold, but there had been stern wheelers traveling the rivers of California as late as 1940.

    Fantasyland was home to a series of carnival rides that were really only differentiated by their connection to the Disney characters. That connection really falls under the category of marketing (or synergy, although I don't think they had any idea what synergy was back in 1955).

    Tomorrowland was the least developed land at the time, but really just borrowed concepts that were already being used at the World's Fair.

    There is nothing that I see that is truly uniquely individual about Disneyland other than maybe the fact that all these concepts which had already existed at the time, were all brought together, packaged up, and marketed as a singular entity.

    Even that is somewhat a stretch though, as there had been other amusement enterprises that had experimented with that same concept for years. Tivoli Gardens for instance, included collections of historical displays, exotic buildings, theaters, gardens and amusement rides all combined into one package. Closer to home, Henry Ford had started Greenfield Village which was a collection of historical buildings and artifacts that also had a train ride and a steamboat ride.

    Going back to where I left off with the movie studios, Universal already had a tour of their studios as did many of the other studios in Hollywood. Where they missed out, and where Disney succeeded though, was in recognizing the demand for the studios as a tourist destination themselves. Walt often said that he got many letters asking for tours of his studios and most often, requests to visit Mickey Mouse and his characters. That was the imputus for building Disneyland - creating a place for people to see Mickey Mouse.

    Had Universal started adding rides and shows in addition to the studio tour and used their marketing power and intellectual properties, they could have blown Disneyland out of the water from the get go. It was just something they didn't realize the necessity of doing (after all, they were a motion picture company focused on making motion pictures).

    I don't know if you live in Southern California or not, but I can tell you that for a great many years here Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm were seen as basically equal. I had a chance once to talk to someone who worked for Walter Knott and helped him build his attractions down there in Buena Park. He often said that the only thing that separated Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm was the attention Disneyland got. Knott's was a local landmark for almost 30 years at the time Disneyland was built, but Disneyland was a national landmark and attracted people from all over the nation. That status as a national attraction was due almost entirely to the advertising and marketing on television.

  6. #6

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrLiver View Post
    I don't know if you live in Southern California or not, but I can tell you that for a great many years here Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm were seen as basically equal. I had a chance once to talk to someone who worked for Walter Knott and helped him build his attractions down there in Buena Park. He often said that the only thing that separated Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm was the attention Disneyland got. Knott's was a local landmark for almost 30 years at the time Disneyland was built, but Disneyland was a national landmark and attracted people from all over the nation. That status as a national attraction was due almost entirely to the advertising and marketing on television.
    Very true. There was, very simply, a different feeling beween the two parks. For those of us who grew up in O.C. in the 50s and 60s, the biggest difference to a lot of families was that Knott's was FREE. I can remember a lot of evenings when we went there as a family to escape the heat. There was a very "family" feeling to it. There was the puppeteer from Eastern Europe and the seals you could feed. Programs and songs in the wagon camp circle. You just knew that Mrs. Knott was making her chicken dinners and very often you would see Walter out checking on things.

    I always associated Knott's, even as a little kid, with it being a living history lesson. The depictions of the California missions, the old buildings, the Bird Cage Theatre.

    And I can tell you it was a lot easier to get a job at Knott's. Disneyland went through a long period of hiring only great looking young people. Knott's was more if you had a friend who worked there he could put in a good word for you.

    When Disneyland came it was HUGE. Imagine Walt Disney putting something like that in ANAHEIM of all places. (My family pre-dated the park and people thought we were nuts to live "way out there" when there were cheaper houses in Lakewood.) It had an aura. It had glamour. It was planned out - unlike Knott's which just seemed to grow.

    Disneyland, because it was very expensive for most familys, was a place you went every few years for a special occassion. Knott's was where you went when Dad was tired after a long day at work and Mom wanted to get out of the house.

    I've always loved them both.

  7. #7

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dopey's Girl View Post
    I've always loved them both.
    I used to adore Knott's Berry Farm. There's certainly nothing wrong with saying that Disney copied Knott's to an extent, because what Knott's did at the time was pretty darn awesome in it's own right.

    Anyone though who thinks that the Walt Disney Company doesn't honor the wishes of their founder, or think they ignore their history and heritage, really needs to take a GOOD LONG LOOK at Knott's Berry Farm.

  8. #8

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    The fact that Mr. Liver cannot discern Disneyland from the examples he's cited reveals more about his own analytical abilities than said fact does Disneyland's originality and uniqueness, unless, of course, he'd like to elucidate us with a prior instance of theatre-in-the-round that enabled an audience to step into a convincingly-realized imaginary world and interact with its fictional characters.

  9. #9

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Whenever artsy-fartsy friends ask why it is that I like Disneyland so much, I always tell them,"Because it is done so well."

    And it has always been done well, ever since 1955.

    If one learns anything from looking at the life of Walt Disney, it is that he was a great admirer of competence. He surrounded himself with the most competent people he could find and was a genius for placing them in the right jobs within his organization. He was not a great artist, but he had the 9 old men. He was not a mechanical wizard, but he had Roger Broggie and Bob Gurr. He didn't know how to build or run a theme park, but he had Joe Fowler. Walt knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it from the people that worked for him.

    What was amazing and unique about Disneyland in 1955 is what is still amazing and unique about it today: the incredibly high level of competence in its design and execution. The park brought many existing ideas and elements together from all over the world and put the best of them all in one place. And they did it with a heretofore unmatched level of artistic competence and attention to detail.

    It is the skill and artistry of its execution that sets Disneyland apart and raises it above the level of other parks. That is where the magic resides. It is a show, yes, but it is also a great work of art.
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  10. #10

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Quality. Nothing has been done to the scale, quality, or imagination as Disney theme parks. Nothing.

  11. #11

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    The planning of Disneyland blows my mind, it's so simple. The hub brings you to the center of the park and you decide wich themed land you go into. The icon of the park is the first one you see. The other lands all have their weenies. The whole park is surrounded by a train. It's all just so idealized and simple, but ingenius. Even a more elaborate theme park couldn't compete with how well Disneyland was thought out. Look at how they keep making Magic Kingdoms all around the world.

  12. #12

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Thanks everyone for your great responses .




    Quote Originally Posted by MrLiver View Post
    Yeah that was me. I take full blame and or credit depending on which you want to give.



    It was and yet it wasn't. Universal Studios already had a tour going back in 1955 as did most of the Hollywood Studios. The idea of seeing sets built by movie makers WAS incredibly popular and Hollywood became a tourist destination itself, just from folks who wanted to come down and see how the magic was made.

    Let me elaborate a little more down the road here...

    Just to point out that most of the park didn't have music (with the exception of live bands) for a great deal of it's existence. The concept of Area Music (continually playing in a loop) is a rather new invention. If I recall correctly, music didn't begin regularly playing on Main Street until sometime in the 1970s, and at the time it started, it was muzak versions of pop hits at the time.

    But the question still is - what is that uniquely Disney way? Can you define it?

    Yeah but if you take a look at something like Knott's, you would find that Walter Knott really cared about the work he was doing and took great pains to ensure authenticity. Knott's Berry Farm really was a dream come true for Walter Knott.

    And no matter how sincere and authentic, you can't deny that Walt knew his opening day speech would be seen by millions of people on live TV.

    I think the marketing played the biggest part in creating the image of something that was new and exciting and completely different from what had come before it. It's hard now even today to discuss what elements may or may not have been innovative because even today we are all pretty much biased by that same marketing machine that has been working for 50 years.

    And just as I had before, I want to point out again that I don't think there is anything at all WRONG with saying that Disneyland was just better marketed. Marketing by itself is not a negative term at all.

    Was Disneyland Innovative? Certainly it was. But how much of that was just plain marketing and synergy and how much of it was actual innovation?

    Main Street as it opened was meant to be a more or less authentic representation of a time and place in American history. That is almost exactly what Walter Knott was trying to accomplish with Ghost Town in Buena Park. Just like Main Street, folks were invited to wander around and take in the sights of a real like working town.

    Disneyland opened with Pack Mules and a Stage Coach and a train ride, and Knott's had all these things as well.

    Disneyland built a steam powered sternwheeler, which was certainly a sight to behold, but there had been stern wheelers traveling the rivers of California as late as 1940.

    Fantasyland was home to a series of carnival rides that were really only differentiated by their connection to the Disney characters. That connection really falls under the category of marketing (or synergy, although I don't think they had any idea what synergy was back in 1955).

    Tomorrowland was the least developed land at the time, but really just borrowed concepts that were already being used at the World's Fair.

    There is nothing that I see that is truly uniquely individual about Disneyland other than maybe the fact that all these concepts which had already existed at the time, were all brought together, packaged up, and marketed as a singular entity.

    Even that is somewhat a stretch though, as there had been other amusement enterprises that had experimented with that same concept for years. Tivoli Gardens for instance, included collections of historical displays, exotic buildings, theaters, gardens and amusement rides all combined into one package. Closer to home, Henry Ford had started Greenfield Village which was a collection of historical buildings and artifacts that also had a train ride and a steamboat ride.

    Going back to where I left off with the movie studios, Universal already had a tour of their studios as did many of the other studios in Hollywood. Where they missed out, and where Disney succeeded though, was in recognizing the demand for the studios as a tourist destination themselves. Walt often said that he got many letters asking for tours of his studios and most often, requests to visit Mickey Mouse and his characters. That was the imputus for building Disneyland - creating a place for people to see Mickey Mouse.

    Had Universal started adding rides and shows in addition to the studio tour and used their marketing power and intellectual properties, they could have blown Disneyland out of the water from the get go. It was just something they didn't realize the necessity of doing (after all, they were a motion picture company focused on making motion pictures).

    I don't know if you live in Southern California or not, but I can tell you that for a great many years here Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm were seen as basically equal. I had a chance once to talk to someone who worked for Walter Knott and helped him build his attractions down there in Buena Park. He often said that the only thing that separated Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm was the attention Disneyland got. Knott's was a local landmark for almost 30 years at the time Disneyland was built, but Disneyland was a national landmark and attracted people from all over the nation. That status as a national attraction was due almost entirely to the advertising and marketing on television.
    (Bold mine, for emphasis. Even he admits it, lol )

    From what I’ve read, Universal wasn’t a theme park or amusement park or a park of any kind in 1955. It was a tour of a working movie studio. Universal was all about showing how the “magic trick” of movies was done. Disneyland was a “magic trick” in its own right. Again, it doesn’t mean one is better than the other, just that there’s a fundamental difference there. By “cinematic,” I didn’t mean “attractions having to do with popular movies.” I meant that Disneyland was designed to feel like, as one TV special put it, “a movie you could walk around in.” Simply throwing a bunch of rides alongside the studio tour would not have turned Universal into Disneyland. They would have had to use their movie-making know-how to design the guests’ experience as they walked through the park.

    On the other hand, it does sound like Knotts was attempting to transport the visitor to another time and place, and that is the essence of what a theme park is about. I think we can certainly give Knotts credit for serving as one of the many inspirations of Disneyland. They can both count as “innovative” in their own way .

    I don’t know whether or not it had DL’s cinematic touch (I’ll have to leave that to the people who were there). And I’m not an expert on re-created western ghost towns, so I don’t know if Knotts was without precedent. Were there others before they came along, or were they the first? (I’m not being sarcastic or anything, I really don’t know ).

    Walter Knott may very well have always dreamed of creating a ghost town theme park, but the story that I read is that people were lined up to buy his wife’s chicken dinners, and he wanted a way to entertain them while they were in line. Walt Disney did have the benefit of being a movie industry icon and thus having a TV show as a platform to explain his dreams, and become identified as the quintessential American dreamer.

    As others have pointed out, Disneyland also had a much broader scope than single-theme Knotts.

    And, while Knotts and DL’s Fronteirland had many common elements, and this may sound like splitting hairs to some – Knotts sounds like it was themed specifically to the California Gold Rush, while Fronteirland was themed to the entire American frontier, from the woodlands along the Mississippi River to the western desert.

    I’m going to assume those steamboats were not part of a general themed experience intended to make you feel like you were in the untamed 19th century American wilderness? The whole is more than the sum of its parts .

    Wikipedia describes Greenfield Village as “the nation’s largest indoor-outdoor history museum.” And, as we all know, “Disneyland is not a museum!”

    As for Tivoli Gardens, I don’t really know enough about it (other than that it was one of the inspirations for DL) to comment on it. Any Tivoli experts want to chime in here? I have a comparison, that Tivoli is to Disneyland as European operetta is to American musical theater. I don’t know if it fits or not, but it sounds good to me .

    I will grant you that (from photos) Fantasyland resembled a carnival and Tomorrowland, a world’s fair, more than they do today (I love the “New” Fantasyland’s quaint Bavarian village theming, and well, Tomorrowland doesn’t resemble much of anything today ) But there were certainly innovative theming elements in both lands, even then, establishing their respective concepts.

    I could write out a laundry list of elements that make up the uniquely Disney way, but I could not precisely quantify it for you. As Ron Stoppable once said when asked to explain "The Ron Factor", "it's all about the intangibles!" Let me put it this way - according to David Koenig's "Mouse Under Glass", the animators were working on a faithful "morose, spooky" adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" when Walt sent down the order to "Disneyfy it", and we would up with the distinctly Disney "Jungle Book" we know today. Whatever he meant by 'Disneyfy it", that's what I mean by the uniquely Disney way.

    Okay, edit, I gotta add one more quote:

    "Anything you do
    Let it come from you
    Then it will be new
    Give us more to see..."

    - Stepehen Sondheim, "Sunday in the Park with George" (It works better when its sung )
    Last edited by animagusurreal; 04-14-2009 at 03:14 AM.
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  13. #13

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Quote Originally Posted by PragmaticIdealist View Post
    The fact that Mr. Liver cannot discern Disneyland from the examples he's cited reveals more about his own analytical abilities than said fact does Disneyland's originality and uniqueness, unless, of course, he'd like to elucidate us with a prior instance of theatre-in-the-round that enabled an audience to step into a convincingly-realized imaginary world and interact with its fictional characters.
    Amen brother - Knotts Berry Farm was a park created around a chicken restaurant and a place where jams were made. The enterprise was nothing like Disneyland in either scope or objective. And I don't think it was an inspiration for the Park either.

    What Disneyland had at the time that was innovative was everything that the run of the mill amusement park operators listed that would cause it to fail. Single entry points. Spending money to keep it clean. No carnival games and barkers - well until Paradise Pier came along and I'm sure Walt is spinning in his grave because of that. In essence, Disneyland was a park like Trivoli with amusements that were clean and and safe. If Knotts was in its league in 1955, it's probably one of the few properties in the US that was - the rest were run down, crime ridden, dirty places that wouldn't have been the first on anyone's list of places to vacation.

  14. #14

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Everyone has a lot of good points mentioned.

    Disneyland was also innovative because it was the first theme park that was made for not just kids to enjoy, but it was for the whole family. Up until 1955, amusement parks were simply just for kids, and the parents would always be sitting aside while the kids had all the fun. Walt knew that there had to be something for everyone, and so he created that park because of it. So he hired some of his best animators, and told them they were going to be creators for an amusement park.

    What also made Disneyland innovative was the use of themed environments, which in turn gave Walt to express his creativity. It was his company who came up with the idea of audio animatronics, and he applied that to several of the Dark rides in Fantasyland (such as Peter Pan, Snow White, Alice, etc.), a concept no other theme park that had came up with until that time, and something they continued to escalate to this day.

    If also look at Disneyland, you can also see that this place was inspired by Walt's own personal journey, and by my point of view, it is a glance at his own life. Main Street was (as it has been mentioned several times) inspired by his memories living in small-town America at the beginning of the 20th century. Adventureland was inspired by his facination with Animals, as well as stories about animals (that was evident in several of his animated movies), and about going on an African Safari. Frontierland was inspired by the Adventures of Davy Crockett, as well as the History of the American West. Fantasyland was based on the stories that he used to read as a child, that inspired several of his animated movies. And Tomarrowland showed his fascination for the world of Tomarrow, and what the possibilities of it. In other words, Disneyland is innovative because it was like an escape from reality, and the lands represent something that we loved as children.

    There is PLENTY that is innovative about Disneyland.

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    Re: What was "innovative" about Disneyland when it opened in 1955?

    Quote Originally Posted by PragmaticIdealist View Post
    ... he'd like to elucidate us with a prior instance of theatre-in-the-round that enabled an audience to step into a convincingly-realized imaginary world and interact with its fictional characters.
    That was exactly my point. Disneyland IS innovative, because of the characters. It was the marketing synergy that existed that made Disneyland so special. The rides, or theme or the settings were not really innovations at all.

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