Disneyland's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad First Day
On this day in 1955, Disneyland debuted on 165 acres of previously undeveloped Orange County land. Though the theme park has become one of the most popular American vacation destinations, opening day was dubbed "Black Sunday" by Walt Disney and his executives.
Only media and special guests were invited to the initial opening. But more than half of the 28,000 in attendance arrived with counterfeit tickets.
Traffic delays, 101 degree weather and a local plumbers strike combined to make the opening of the carefully contrived world far from magical experience. Toilets worked, but drinking fountains did not. Vendors, probably due to all the unexpected guests, ran out of food. On top of that, freshly poured asphalt was still soft enough to absorb high heeled shoes. Wrapping up the disastrous day, a gas leak in Fantasyland closed it for the afternoon, along with Adventureland and Frontierland.
While all of this was happening, Walt Disney was dealing with another awkward event -- ABC network's live coverage of the "festivities." Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan hosted the telecast alongside Walt Disney. Guests tripped over camera cables, different audio feeds overlapped, and even Disney himself misspoke, stopping himself mid-sentence live, saying to a cameraman "I thought I got a signal" before starting over again, cameras still rolling (42:30).
At the very end, ABC's Art Linkletter and Disney attempted to show physical affection towards each other but it only led to an awkward back and forth of arm gestures, finishing with Disney almost tripping over a microphone cord and nearly knocking the mike out of Linkletter's hand as they walked away:
After the disastrous opening, Walt Disney invited attendees back the next day for a smoother Disneyland experience.