Walt Disney reveals just how Disneyland was created in rare interview

This article was written by Ira Wolfert and originally appeared in the April 1966 issue of Reader’s Digest.

“Twenty years ago,” Walt said as we drove toward Disney­land, some 25 miles south­east of central Los Angeles, “I was always trying to think of a place to take my two small daughters on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon—a place where I could have fun, too.

“At an amusement park, the only fun provided for a father, besides having his bottom dropped out from under him on the roller coaster, was the same he enjoyed all week: Buy­ing the tickets.”

Now Walt has created his own park, to satisfy—in parents as in children—the profound human hunger to wonder, be amazed, and make believe. With that incompara­ble Disney sorcery, he has combined fantasy and history, adventure and learning in a way that sets every tendril of the imagination to tin­gling. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the first map Walt ever made of Disneyland.

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Disneyland facts you didn't know
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Disneyland facts you didn't know

Disneyland was almost built in Burbank, California

Before Disney chose Anaheim, he almost built his park on a seven-acre studio lot in Burbank. The meager playground would be called “Walt Disney’s America.” Fortunately for us all, his dreams grew quickly. You’ll definitely want to see Walt Disney’s first map of Disneyland

The amusement park was built on a 160-acre orange grove

Disneyland displaced more than 12,000 orange trees. Park landscapers Jack and Bill Evans tried to make up for it though: More than 40 species of flowers and 700 exotic trees grow along the Jungle Cruise alone, and the iconic Mickey-head topiary out front contains 10,000 flowers—replanted six times a year.

Disney nicknamed the park’s opening day “Black Sunday”

The very first opening day at Disneyland was a complete madhouse! As more and more people crowded into the amusement park, masses of food, drink, and bathroom shortages abounded.  But wait, it gets worse. The summer heat even melted the freshly poured pavement, which trapped some women who wore high heels. Plus, the large crowds nearly tilted the Mark Twain Riverboat over into the lake because the ride had exceeded its passenger capacity. Don’t get any Disneyland facts confused with Disney World’s, though. Check out the real difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Many initial press reviews were scathing, but inconsequential

Despite the bad reviews, approximately 50,000 people attended the public opening the very next day.  Some even arrived in line as early as 2 a.m.

Walt’s brother purchased the first Disneyland admission ticket

On July 18, 1955, Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother, purchased the park’s very first ticket for only one dollar, a mere bargain compared to today’s prices charging more than $100 for a one-day park pass. The park sold its one-millionth ticket less than two months later on September 8.

The annual attendance in Disneyland’s first year reached the millions mark

Nearly 3.6 million people visited Disneyland in its first year. Today, the park serves roughly 16 million people each year. Want more Disneyland facts? These are the 8 secret spots you never knew existed in Disney parks.

Disneyland is home to dozens of feral cats

For years, staffers have fed these so-called Disneyland Cats as a free pest-control solution. Today, you might spot some at the feeding station near the Hungry Bear Restaurant, but they weren’t always welcome. When Walt Disney stumbled upon the first flea-infested batch of cats inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in 1955, he adopted them out to staff members as quickly as possible. 

Guests spend 83 times more on average today than they did 63 years ago 

The average cost per guest per day in 1955 was about $2.37: $1 for admission, $0.25 for parking, and the rest for rides and souvenirs. The cost for a similar visit today: $196 (an 83-fold rate hike). Make sure you know these 14 ways to save big money on your next Disney trip vacation

The most popular attraction at Disneyland, and in the entire world, is Pirates of the Caribbean

Since its 1967 debut, Pirates has entertained close to a third of a billion passengers. Learn more about the real-life places that inspired Disney park rides like Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland’s shortest-lived attraction lasted just two months

Unlike the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the Mickey Mouse Club Circus opened in November 1955 and closed by January due to low attendance. The resulting “Keller’s Jungle Killers” exhibit—a trained animal act featuring the same sedated jungle cats from Mickey’s circus—lasted another seven months.

Many other attractions were abandoned before they even opened

Some ideas that Walt talked up but never got around to building include the Peter Pan Crocodile Aquarium (a live fish exhibit to be entered through a massive crocodile’s jaw) and Paul Bunyan’s Boot (a 25-foot-tall interactive shoe.) These are the 9 Disney characters you can’t meet in the park anymore

The fastest ride in the park is no roller coaster—it’s Splash Mountain

Passengers reach about 40 mph while plummeting down the ride’s climactic 47-degree plunge into the briar patch. 

The Haunted Mansion is the saddest place in the Happiest Place on Earth

Disney cast members are required to smile everywhere in the park, except here. The emerald-cloaked mansion staffers are actually encouraged to put on a dour demeanor to further spook their guests.

There may be actual ghosts who inhabit the park

The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean rides have both been temporarily shut down after staffers caught passengers spreading mysterious powder onto the set pieces. Anaheim police solved the mystery: human ashes. (The park now strictly prohibits cremated remains, along with stink bombs and selfie sticks.) Here are more things you never knew were banned from Disney parks.

Meanwhile, there were once real human bones on display in Pirates of the Caribbean

According to Imagineer Jason Surrell, when the ride first opened in 1967, bones from the UCLA Medical Center were scattered among one of the scenes.

Tomorrowland’s “House of the Future” (1957-67) was the most resilient attraction in Disneyland

The Monsanto-sponsored walk-through exhibit was designed to show off advanced plastics manufacturing of the time—and it succeeded. The house’s plastic shell was so strong it repelled wrecking balls during demolition. It eventually took a crew with crowbars and chains two weeks to break apart, piece by piece. These are the discontinued Disney rides we wish would make a comeback

Club 33 is the most exclusive attraction

This secret speakeasy in New Orleans Square has a 10-year waiting list and $25,000 initiation fee. It seems steep until you consider that it’s the only place in Disneyland that serves a full bar of alcohol. Parents, you can sign up here.

Space Mountain was the first Disneyland attraction with a higher price tag than Disneyland itself

The epic indoor roller coaster cost $20,000,000 to build in 1977; the entire park only cost $17,000,000 in 1955. 

Indiana Jones Adventure was the most expensive ride to build

The 57,000-square-foot attraction that Jungle Cruise skippers lovingly call “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Three-Hour Line” took two years and $125 million for 400 Imagineers to build. 

A miniature worth $37,500 is the most expensive souvenir

It’s a solid crystal replica of Cinderella’s Castle, set with more than 28,000 Swarovski crystals, patiently waiting to drain your pension at the Crystal Arts store on Main Street. 

Comedian Steve Martin may be Disneyland’s most famous alum

His first job was selling guidebooks and magic tricks at several shops around the park. Other celebrities include John Lasseter, the director of Toy Story, who started as a street sweeper in Tomorrowland; Michelle Pfeiffer, who masqueraded as Alice in the ‘70s; and President Nixon’s press secretary Ron Ziegler, who was a Jungle Cruise skipper. Check out these etiquette rules all Disney employees have to follow.


From the beginning, Disney de­cided to lay out this 31-million-dollar playground like a gigantic theater. You’re in the lobby the moment you hand in your ticket: It’s Main Street, U.S.A., as it looked 50 years ago, when Walt was growing up. To the left and the right and straight ahead are the entrances to four “stages”—Adven­tureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. On these stages are set 45 different attractions, irresisti­ble toys more costly than an em­peror could buy.

Main Street has gaslights, hand­cranked telephones, a penny candy store with jelly beans and orange slices, and a bank where bankers (real ones) wear high stiff collars and massive watch chains and work at roll-top desks. An apothecary shop offers herb remedies and real live leeches in bottles of water. At the “Main Str. Cinema,” real (1914) Thomas A. Edison and Pearl White movies play. Only the ceilings and lighting inside the stores are mod­ern. “I’m sorry you noticed that,” said Walt disconsolately. “We had to change the gaslights here—people complained that they made the mer­chandise look too gloomy.”

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Princess Diana, Prince Harry and Prince William visit Disney World
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Princess Diana, Prince Harry and Prince William visit Disney World
LAKE BUENA VISTA, UNITED STATES: Prince William of Wales (front row, R) grimaces after he and friends of the royal family finished their ride 26 August 1993 on Splash Mountain at Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida. Left front is Harry Soames, a companion on the three-day vacation. Other passengers are unidentified. (Photo credit should read BOB PEARSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Lady Diana, Princess of Wales (2nd R), and family friends Catherine Soames (L) and Kate Menzies (C) leave the Jim Henson Muppets Pavilion 25 August 1993 during a visit to MGM Studios at Walt Disney World. Prince William is far right, and security personnel in the background are unidentified. (Photo credit should read BOB PEARSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (back row, R), along with her friends Kate Menzies (back row C) and Catherine Soames (back row, L), rides 26 August 1993 the Splash Mountain ride at Disney World's Magic Kingdom during the third day of their vacation. Front row left is Prince Harry, son of Princess Diana. Other passengers are unidentified. (Photo credit should read BOB PEARSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Diana , the Princess of Wales, right, is shown during a performance at the Indiana Jones Adventure at MGM Studios at Walt Disney World August 25. At left is Harry Soames, a friend
Diana , the Princess of Wales, reclines at a production of Beauty and the Beast in MGM Studios at Walt Disney World August 25
Diana, the Princess of Wales, is shown entering a production of Beauty and the Beast in MGM Studios at Walt Disney World with her son Prince William August 25
Diana, the Princess of Wales, (back right), is shown descending the log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World in Orlando, August 26, 1993. The princess and her two sons are visiting the tourist attraction for three days. REUTERS/Joe Skipper AS
Diana, the Princess of Wales, (back right), is shown descending the log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World in Orlando, August 26, 1993. Prince Harry is shown front left. The Princess and her two sons are visiting the tourist attraction for three days. REUTERS/Delinda Karnehm AS
Princess Diana and her son William visit Walt Disney World in Orlando, August 26, 1993. The Princess was on holiday with both her sons and some female friends. str/REUTERS ac
Diana, the Princess of Wales, back right, is shown after descending a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World, August 26, 1993. Prince Harry is shown in lower left. The Princess and her two sons are visiting the tourist attraction for three days. REUTERS/Marc Pesetsky AS
Diana , the Princess of Wales, back right, is shown after descending a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World August 26. Prince Harry is shown in lower left
Diana (R), the Princess of Wales reacts after descending a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World August 26. At left is family friend Kate Menzies
Diana , the Princess of Wales, is shown moments before descending a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World August 26
Diana , the Princess of Wales, ducking in back right, is shown descending a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World August 26. Prince Harry is shown wearing striped shirt in lower left
Diana , the Princess of Wales, ducking in back right, is shown descending a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World August 26
Diana , the Princess of Wales, back right, is shown after descending a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World August 26. Prince Harry is shown in lower left
Diana , the Princess of Wales, back right, is shown after descending a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World August 26. Prince Harry is shown in lower left
Prince William of Great Britain, lower right, descends a log flume water ride, Splash Mountain, at Walt Disney World August 26. At left is an unidentified family friend, others are security agents

At the far end of Main Street stands Fantasyland, the entrance guarded by moat-encircled Sleeping Beauty Castle. “It’s not far away,” said Walt, “but let’s have some fun getting there.” He led me to a quaint old horsecar pulled by a gleaming, burly Percheron. The driver snapped the air between his tongue and his teeth, said, “Giddy­yap,” and clanged a bell. We clip­clopped down Main Street.

The ride over, Walt explained why it had been shorter than it looked. “It’s not apparent at a casual glance,” he said, “but this street is only a scale model. We had every brick and shingle and gas lamp made five-eighths [of] true size. This cost more, but it made the street a toy, and the imagination can play more freely with a toy. Besides, peo­ple like to think that their world is somehow more grown-up than Papa’s was.”

That’s how you make people feel taller and confirm their belief in progress—if you have the genius of a Walt Disney.

Fantasyland, “the happiest king­dom of them all,” is a place where childhood dreams come true. Here you can go to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in a whirling cup and saucer; ride Dumbo, the Flying Elephant; fall down the rabbit hole with Alice in Wonderland. When you take the Peter Pan ride, sitting in a pirate galleon, you make lovely, airy swoops over rooftops that seem to lie far below. You feel the speed and the wind of your passage as, through the masterly use of tricks of perspec­tive, you soar through the inky night toward the stars.

This sort of thing could be scary for some people, but whenever it seems necessary Walt interrupts re­ality with a wink to let you know it isn’t really real. On this ride the wink comes in advance. The galleon is lifted onto its rails outside the Peter Pan building, before you go into the darkness, so you can see for yourself that it’s all going to happen only three feet off the ground.

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Old photos of Disney World
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Old photos of Disney World
(Original Caption) Disney: Pastel colored castle, where 'Sleeping Beauty was awakened by the Prince's kiss,' is the entrance to Fantasyland. Here also are the diamond minews of the Seven Dwarfs, Alice in Wonderland's looking glass world, and the habitat of many other characters in Walt Disney's famed cartoons.
THE GRAND OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD -- Pictured: Goofy, Pluto, Julie Andrews, Pinocchio performs on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
THE GRAND OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD -- Pictured: Mickey Mouse (center) with Disney World cast members -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
THE GRAND OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD -- Pictured: Julie Andrews (center) performs on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
4th August 1972: A topiary model of an elephant at Disney World, Florida. (Photo by Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images)
December 1960: Entrance to Adventureland at Disneyland, California. (Photo by Alan Band/Keystone Features/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Prime Minister Nehru, of India, is shown as he toured Disneyland, World Famous amusement park, accompanied by Walt Disney, who drove the Prime Minister in an old fashioned electric vehicle. Prime Minister Nehru will spend the next two days in the Los Angeles area as part of his visit to the United States.
31st October 1969: Landscape artist Charlie Sepulveda creating life size topiary Disney characters for the Walt Disney World entertainment centre in Orlando, Florida (Photo by Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images)
13th November 1969: The first phase of Walt Disney World under construction at Orlando, Florida. Covering 27,000 acres, it is the world's largest recreation centre. (Photo by Alan Band/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
THE GRAND OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD -- Pictured: Julie Andrews performs in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
THE GRAND OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD -- Pictured: Julie Andrews (center) performs on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
THE GRAND OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD -- Pictured: Julie Andrews on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
APR 7 1972, APR 10 1972; Denver-Made Dune Buggies Heading for Disney World; Gail Kauffman of Unique Mobility Inc., manufacturer of The Englewood firm recently bought a half-interest in a dune buggies at 3730 S. Jason St., Englewood, perches leisure-car rental operation at Orlando - home of Disney on one of the 21 units ready to be loaded onto Santa Fe World - and will manage the operation with a fleet of 70 rail cars over the weekend for a trip to Orlando, Fla. dune buggies, all being shipped by rail from Denver.; (Photo By Bill Johnson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
THE GRAND OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD -- Pictured: Julie Andrews on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 1: Boston College Cheerleaders along with the BC band perform out in front of the Cinderella Castle at in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, December 1982. BC was in town to play Auburn in the Tangerine Bowl. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
US Secretary of Education William Bennett, his wife Elayne, son John and an unidentified woman and girl, waving flags and parading down Main Street USA in an old-fashioned fire truck while on a visit to Disney World. (Photo by Robert Sherbow/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
THE MAGICAL WORLD OF DISNEY -- 'Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration' Episode 15 -- Pictured: (l-r) Roy E. Disney, Michael Eisner, Ronald Reagan, Art Linkletter, Robert Cummings -- (Photo by: Alice S. Hall/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Warren Beatty and Ron Galella during Press Conference For 'Dick Tracy' at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Crowds at Main Street of Disney World (Photo by Jonathan Blair/Corbis via Getty Images)
Crowds Waiting in Line at Disney World (Photo by Jonathan Blair/Corbis via Getty Images)
Group portrait of entire Walt Disney World staff, including cast of costumed Disney characters in fore, standing in front of Cinderella Castle prior to the grand opening of the amusement park. (Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - OCTOBER 15: LIFE cover 10-15-1971: Disney World opens. (Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images)
Views of Disney World's Skyway multicolored cable cars passing over Fantasyland on way to Tomorrowland. (Photo by Ray Fisher/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Disney World in Florida: exterior of Cinderella's Castle lit up at night and reflected in artificial stream. (Photo by Ray Fisher/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Interior of the Contemporary Resort Hotel's Grand Canyon Concourse lobby, whose ceiling is 14 stories high and has monorail terminal (background) ,at Disney World. (Photo by Ray Fisher/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

“When you go to Frontierland, make sure that Walt takes you to Tom Sawyer’s Island,” said Dick Irvine, head designer at the Disney Studios. “Walt was brought up in Missouri—Mark Twain country—­and that island is all his. He didn’t let anybody help him design it.” Check out some more secrets Disney employees wish they could tell you.

You get to the island on a spittin’ image of the raft Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer built. All around you zip authentic keel­-boats, Indian ca­noes paddled by real Indians, and a grand gold-and­-white stem-wheel steamboat, the Mark Twain. The swift-flowing waterway is kept warm and brown, like the Mississippi River itself.

Everything on the island is free; you need a ticket only to get there. “I put in all the things I wanted to do as a kid—and couldn’t,” Walt explained. “Including getting into something without a ticket.”

So there’s a tree house to climb into and a pontoon bridge to cross, like those built in frontier days—planks laid on empty barrels that bob up and down when you walk on them. From the top of a log fort you can sight in with guns on a forest in which Indians lurk. The guns don’t fire bullets—they’re hydraulically operated—but the recoil is so real­istic that you’d never guess they aren’t the genuine article. You can fish in the water around the landing, and your chances of catching some­thing are good. A net has been hid­den there, and it is kept stocked with catfish. Fishing tackle? You borrow a bamboo pole and worms from an overalled, straw-chewing lad so freckled and friendly he looks as if Mark Twain created him.

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8 secret places you didn't know existed at Disney Land

Real suite in Cinderella's castle

Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World isn’t just for show—it actually is home to the only hotel suite in Magic Kingdom. A pumpkin carriage acts like an elevator to deliver guests to the space, which features two beds and a pullout couch in a regal interior, complete with stained glass, ornate columns, and a working fireplace. Unfortunately, you can’t book a room—you need to be invited, such as by winning a contest. Don't miss these other insider secrets to having the best Disney vacation.


VIP restaurant

In the heart of Disneyland’s New Orleans Square is a winding staircase leading to the five-star restaurant Club 33. You can’t just expect to walk in and get a seat though. The only way to get in is by being a member or a guest of a member, and rumor has it there's a 14-year waiting list to be accepted. Find out more about Club 33’s history and what it takes to become a VIP.


Dream Suite in Disneyland

Right around the corner from Club 33 and above the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is an elevator leading to another elite hotel. Like the Cinderella suite, you can’t book a room unless invited, but those VIP guests are in for a treat. A button in the master bedroom makes the lighting moody with the moon and clouds projected on the wall, and a panel in the bathroom turns on Fantasia music and makes stars appear on the ceiling. A massive parlor has a French Provincial theme, based on Walt Disney’s designs for his apartment on Main Street that never came to be, according to Entertainment Weekly. VIP suite or not, check out these 14 ways to save money on a Disney vacation.


Basketball court in the Matterhorn ride

Near the top of Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds ride is a secret, attic-like room with a basketball hoop and floor markings. The room started as a resting place for the Disney employees who climb the “mountain,” then transformed into a mini half-court when one worker brought a basketball hoop when the weather kept staff from climbing. Find out where a brand new Disney park will be built.


Walt Disney's private apartment

Walt Disney had a 500-square-foot apartment built above the firehouse on Main Street that he would stay in when he visited. Employees used to know he was in town because they’d see the lamp on a table turned on. The suite isn’t open to the public, but you can still spot it from the street; the park keeps that lamp on 24/7 as a tribute to its founder. Learn the cheapest (and most expensive) times to book a Disney trip.


Train named for Mrs. Disney

Four out of five Disneyland Railroad trains are named after locomotive legends, while the last is in honor of animator Ward Kimball. Every now and then, you’ll see a fifth car added to the end called the Lilly Belle, named after Walt’s wife, Lillian Disney, who helped design it. The car used to be VIP-only, but you can now reserve it for a special two-hour tour. Find out how to beat the crowds at Disney, even during its peak season.


Wishing wells

Tucked to the right of Sleeping Beauty Castle, by the moat, is a surprisingly serene garden called Snow White Grotto. The area features marble figurines of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which were sent to Walt Disney anonymously from Italy. Snow White’s voice floats over the area and echoes in the Wishing Well. Toss in a coin and make a wish—your money will be donated to children’s charities to make their wishes come true, too. There’s a similar wishing well in Disney World, too. Walking toward Tomorrowland on the right side of Cinderella’s Castle, you’ll find an easy-to-miss alcove leading to Cinderella’s Wishing Well, which also donates its coins. Learn more little-known differences between Disneyland and Disney World.

(Courtesy Walt Disney World Resort)

Inside tour of the riverboats

Riding the Mark Twain Riverboat in Disneyland or the Liberty Belle in Disney World is one thing, but it’s surprisingly easy to get a chance to get behind the wheel. While you’re still at the dock, just let an employee know you’re interested in checking out the captain’s quarters. As long as you aren’t with a huge group and no one else has beat you to the request, you’ll probably be allowed up to steer the ship and signal to other boats. Just leave these 15 surprising things banned from Disney parks at home.



We went into Injun Joe’s Cave. This is just a rock tunnel with a hill heaped over it, but it has been tricked out with dripping caverns and a bottomless pit (three feet deep) from which ghostly roaring emerges to curdle the blood. Here Walt has added something to the pages of Mark Twain: A series of little passageways, looping off from the main tunnel, that are just large enough for children only. The kids scoot for them like chickens for feed. There is nothing to see in them and nothing to do, but the dimen­sions are what count. There is joy and nourishment for the spirit in being alone from time to time in a space adults can’t enter—that’s what the children’s hoots and hollers pro­claim.

From Frontierland we moved on to Adventureland. “Everyone dreams of traveling to mysterious far-off places or exotic tropical re­gions,” Walt said to me. “Let’s go.” We climbed aboard a powered launch. The cruise took us down the misty Amazon, up the murky Mekong, and through the hippopota­mus-filled Congo, with tropical rain forests and bright orchids all around us. Adventure lurked at every bend; crocodiles snapped at us; bull ele­phants trumpeted; lions, tigers and headhunters eyed us suspiciously through the jungle growth.

From this primitive world it was quite a jump—mentally—to Tomor­rowland. Suddenly I found myself in the interior of a space ship, and Walt and I were about to take a ride to the moon. Actually we were in a theater. Around a giant viewing screen in the floor, the seats rose in circular tiers; in the ceiling hung another great screen. The voice of our pilot sounded over an intercom, matter-of-factly warning us to pre­pare for take-off. The lights went out. A view of the earth as seen from a launching pad appeared on the lower screen, and overhead was a full moon as seen from the earth.

Now a great shuddering and jar­ring began. Our seats and the walls and floor of the theater shook. Rockets gushed in deep-throated tones. There was a sudden, uncanny clattering—cosmic rays pelting like bullets as we passed through the ra­diation belt beyond the atmosphere. We saw the earth drop away and become round, the moon come close enough to touch, the stars and plan­ets as they look when there’s no atmosphere to dim them. All this is authentic, made of motion-picture film taken from missiles and satel­lites, from planetariums and observ­atories. The effects were so carefully worked out that the sensation of drifting in the stillness of gravity­-free space became real, too­ astounding and blissful.

RELATED: Etiquette rules employees must follow 

12 etiquette rules Disney employees must follow
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12 etiquette rules Disney employees must follow

1. All the park's a stage

Disney employees aren't technically "employees"—they're "Cast Members." And no, not just the ones who play actual Disney characters. Every employee in the park, whether they operate rides, serve food, or actually put on a show, is a "Cast Member." The idea is that the entire Disney park itself is a "stage." Even Disney's career website talks about the "unique opportunities available to Cast Members."

2. Everything is Disney

And what's the most important thing a Cast Member has to do? Stay in character, of course. If you're playing a Disney character, that character's world becomes your world. You're not allowed to make references to any pop culture that exists outside of the Disney universe. From the moment you don the costume to the moment you take it off, you can't talk about anything that Snow White, Peter Pan, or whomever you're playing wouldn't know about—whether that's the latest iPhone or the Harry Potter park just across Orlando. Learn more about what it's like to work as a Disney character, straight from a woman who played Alice from Alice in Wonderland.

3. Looking the part

From hair to fingernails, Disney has lots of requirements for the physical appearances of their employees. Women's hair needs to be in a "classic" style and a natural-looking color. Women actually can have highlights, but they must be "subtle, well-blended, and be over the entire head," according to Disney's career site. As for men, their hair can't cover their ears or be long enough to reach their collars. Men are allowed to have facial hair, but it must be neat, and it can't be longer than a quarter of an inch.

There are also very specific fingernail rules for anyone working in food or merchandise. Your fingernails can't extend beyond your fingertips, and you can't wear nail polish or fake nails. Surprisingly, you can actually have a tattoo—but it has to be completely covered, whether by clothing or opaque makeup.

4. Height requirements

Just like you have to be 44 inches tall to ride Space Mountain, you have to be a certain height to portray certain Disney roles. Most notably, anyone aspiring to play a Disney princess—yes, any princess—must be between 5'4" and 5'8". If you're shorter, between 4'11" and 5'2", you can play other characters, including Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Wendy from Peter Pan.

5. Jewel rules

Women are allowed to wear one ring on each hand and only one earring in each ear. For men, the ring rule is the same, but earrings aren't allowed at all. You can have other piercings, but you have to remove them while at work. Gauges are prohibited altogether. Here are some things guests aren't allowed to bring into Disney parks.

6. First name basis

Cast Members are only known by their first names—no "Mr." or "Miss." Rumor has it that this tradition dates right back to Walt Disney himself. He always told everyone at the Disney parks to call him Walt, not Mr. Disney. Employees also wear nametags with only their first names on them. A weirder aspect of this rule? Cast Members aren't allowed to have duplicate names. Disney can still hire multiple people with the same first name, but there's no using last initials—one of the people has to choose a new name to go by while at Disney. Seems a little weird...but on the bright side, maybe they can view it as the same as being a character.

7. What's the point

Disney employees have a special way of pointing. If they're giving directions, they're not allowed to point with one finger, since it could potentially be considered rude. Instead, they employ a special Disney point, often with two fingers or sometimes even with the whole hand. Aside from being more friendly in general, it's also more kid-friendly, because it's easier for children to see. Can you guess the three things that aren't allowed in today's Disney movies?

8. Graceful garbage disposal

If a Cast Member sees a piece of trash on the ground, he or she must pick it up—litter has no place in the Happiest Place on Earth. But they can't just pick it up—Disney employees have to use a special maneuver to pick up trash. Rather than squatting down, they have to collect the trash with a graceful "swoop-and-scoop" motion. That sounds like lots of fun to practice during training.

9. Speaking in code

With lots of little kids (and animals) running around in the park, there's bound to be some unpleasant bodily-fluid-related incidents every now and then. Fortunately, Disney has a special way to identify them without grossing anyone out. Employees use "Code V" to signify a throw-up incident and "Code P" or "Code U" for urine. If a parade horse poops in the park, that's a "Code H."

10. They're all-knowing

If someone asks a Cast Member a question about the park, those three deadly words— "I don't know"— are absolutely forbidden. Even if it's true, the Cast Member must ask another employee or call a park operator until they find out the answer. Learn more about why Disney employees can't say "IDK."

11. No social media

Disney Cast Members don't have to give up social media altogether, but they're not allowed to post about their jobs. They can't even reveal what character(s) they are playing, and they can't take any pictures backstage. We wouldn't want to ruin the magic, now would we?

12. Accurate autographs

One of the most fun parts of any trip to Disney, especially for kids, is getting autographs from your favorite characters. Every character's signature is distinct and has a recognizable look—no matter who's playing that character. Regardless of what your own handwriting looks like, you're going to have to go through "autograph training" so that you know how to write like Mickey Mouse. Next, learn some surprising facts you never knew about your favorite Disney characters.


“Two of the leading figures in the space field, Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley, helped us with the engi­neering of this ride,” Walt told me. But the biggest help was the father who, 20 years ago, longed to sit with his children and enjoy not just a thrill ride but also a genuine sense of wonder.

In Tomorrowland, too, is the Sub­marine Voyage, one of the most elab­orate illusions ever created. You have the sensation of being completely submerged. Actually, the craft rides on rails and only the part of the hull where you sit facing a porthole is beneath the surface.

The sub starts out under a water­fall, with water foaming and splash­ing over the portholes as over a submerging conning tower. The commands “Dive! Dive!” coming over the squawk-box are the real thing: They were tape-recorded on submarines in actual ocean dives. Ballast tanks are blown, and bub­bles stream past the portholes at a 45-degree angle, to give you the feel­ing you’re at the angle of descent. When the uproar stops and the bub­bles clear, not even a veteran submariner could resist the illusion that he had leveled off after a dive.

Now you are cruising in the deep. Monsters of the underwater world peer at you curiously through the portholes. Giant squid that spread out 26 feet loom up, and clams huge enough to trap a man. But—the Dis­ney wink—when the huge clams open their jaws, you see they’re holding pearls. It reassures the chil­dren and makes their elders smile.

Suddenly you are under the North Polar ice cap, pale cold sunlight fil­tering eerily down. Overhead, ice­bergs grind and scrape, and the conning tower bumps as it glides under the floes. None of this is ex­aggerated. The sounds were re­corded by U.S. Navy subs in the Arctic.

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7 things banned from Disney
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Sorry, you’ll just have to snap that perfect selfie the old-fashioned way since “hand-held extension poles for cameras and mobile devices” are prohibited.



Celebrating your kiddo’s birthday at one of Disney’s parks? Your best bet is to pack your gift unwrapped (and then wrap it once you’ve arrived) since employees must be able to inspect presents.


Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of standing in line for an hour to ride Thunder Mountain, you could just sit and wait? But unless it’s a mobility aid or cane-chair, folding chairs are on Disney’s restricted items list.


Remote-controlled objects (like drones) and toys (like radio-controlled cars) are not allowed inside Disney parks.


Sorry, Buster—no pets allowed. (Unless they’re service animals, of course.) Can’t imagine leaving your furry friend behind? Check out the on-site kennel where your pooch can spend the day.


If you’re planning on refilling your own water bottle, just make sure it’s made of steel or plastic since glass containers are banned from the parks due to the risk of breakage. (But small glass containers for baby food are fine.)


These plastic items are prohibited from the Animal Kingdom for the safety of the park’s animals.



Now you slide into another ocean, one peopled by snow-white mer­maids with flowing purple and sil­ver tresses. “Listen,” Walt cries, as the submarine’s “sonar” tunes in to the silliest symphony ever re­corded: The gruntings, whistlings, and shriekings of fish and shrimp. These sounds, too, are genuine, brought back on tape from the wild world of deep waters. Take another look back in time with a boy who met Walt during his first trip to Disneyland.

For our last ride in Tomorrow­land, Walt and I boarded the Mono­rail, a train that runs on rubber tires on a single elevated concrete beam. No toy, this $1,300,000 installation is a seriously proposed commuter­-transportation system. It occupies only a narrow strip of ground, which doesn’t have to be graded; the piers supporting the beam just have to be built to different heights. Since the Monorail can cope with difficult topographical conditions—­rounding sharp curves at high speed, and climbing steep grades—the track could be erected on the divid­ing strip of existing highways. It is being considered as one solution to the traffic problems of congested metropolitan areas.

Where is the roller coaster? In Disneyland you don’t just zip up and down hills that stand on stilts. Between Tomorrowland and Fan­tasyland is a $1,500.000 model of the Matterhorn, “snow-capped” and breath-taking, every feature repro­duced meticulously at 1/100 of actual size—which makes the mountain as high as a 14-story building. (Even the evergreens, edelweiss, and other plants growing up to the timber line are in scale; when they grow larger they’re replaced.) You swoop down the slopes on a bobsled, hear­ing the roar of mountain winds. You pass behind real waterfalls, through icicle-hung caverns and a glacial grotto. And at the bottom you glide to a halt on a glacier lake.

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Killer shot!!!! #thisisdisney 📷: @the_little_pixie. ••• (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured)
Owl isn't sure about this rose cake pop 😂🌹#Disneyland
#GROOT BREAD!!! Find it in #disneycaliforniaadventure! Thanks for the pic, @sandyruns26.2!! #Disneyland
Well this is gorgeous!!! #Ghirardelli Strawberry Soda Float 🍓🍦Find it in #disneycaliforniaadventure and #disneysprings! 📷: @dolewhipdollies_ (#disneyfoodblog to see your pic featured)
These mini Mickey waffles are pretty much everything right now. #gottagettotokyo #tokyodisneyland 📷: @tableforlily 🙌🏻 (#disneyfoodblog to see your pic featured)
#mickeymouse shave ice from #Disney's Aulani in #Hawaii!!! My life is complete. 📷: @aly_sf #disneyfood #aloha #obsession . (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured)
Haha! Love this pic by @thejentravels!! #disneyfoodblog to see your shot featured! #Disney #disneyfood #ComeAndGetIt
Waffle bowl pattern at Clarabelle's in #disneycaliforniaadventure ❤️ 📷: @diningindisney #disneyland #disneyfood
No Way Jose from Beaches & Cream at Disney's Beach Club Resort!
#Breakfast at #TokyoDisneyland: PERFECT #Mickeymouse waffles with chocolate and whipped cream 😍 📷: @diningindisney #disney #disneyfood
Raspberry lime macaron from Les Halles in #Epcot's France. #Disney #disneyfood
Mickey #Pizza Bread at #tokyodisneyland!!!! 📷: @tokyodisneylorien (<-- Follow! She's super cool!)
Still loving this lotus blossom glow cube! Now available at several #Disney's #AnimalKingdom locations including Thirsty River Bar and Snacks.
Apple --> Caramel --> Chocolate --> #MickeyMouse!! #Disney #DisneyFood Here's a TIP: Ask the cast member to cut up the apple for you for easier eating!
Meanwhile, in #AnimalKingdom 😍 #dolewhip #whynot #cantstayaway #justsayyes
Loving this #MickeyMouse cinnamon-sugar #donut from #disneylandshanghai! 📷: @snowflakespalmtreesandpretzels. (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured) #shanghaidisneyland #disneyfood #disney #breakfast
Berry Brickle at the #epcotflowerandgardenfestival is still a winner
#Pandora Night Blossom from Pongu Pongu #disney #disneyfood The "light up cup" is a souvenir cup with a glow pod that clips on. I like it since previous light up cups just break when you wash them.
Hello, old friend. I haven't had one of these cuties in a loooooong time. It's classic; soft and sweet with a touch of almond flavor. Don't overlook this one. #cookie #mickeymouse #disney #disneyfood #eatthis
The sparkles. Na'vi blueberry cheesecake at Satu'li Canteen in #Pandora #diseyworld #disneyfood
Finally tried this #limoncello #mule at Via Napoli last night! Soooo good, even if you're not a #gingerbeer person. #Disney #booze #waltdisneyworld #vianapoli #epcot
#TokyoDisneyland goodies!! 📷: @hungryhugh (who I'm totally meeting someday). #Disney #disneyfood (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured)
#MinnieMouse cupcake at Gasparilla Grill in #Disney's Grand Floridian Resort has forgettable cake but dense and delicious cookies and cream frosting on top and as filling! Plus #cutebow
Chili Mac and Cheese -- secret menu item from Refreshment Corner in #Disneyland! #yum #sourdough #boudinbakery #macncheese
This #peanutbutter pie is still my second favorite dessert in #disneyworld! (After #Ohana bread pudding!) Get this at Contempo Cafe ❤️
Who's tried this crazy-town Seven Seas Lagoon cocktail at The Wave Lounge in #Disney's Contemporary Resort?? #booze #yum #sharingiscaring
Best Krispie ever @lynleesmmt!!!!! #mainstreetelectricalparade #disneyland
We're talking #Disneyland #icecream in an upcoming YouTube video! What's your favorite??? This one is a #hotfudge #sundae at Golden Horseshoe! #disneyfood #disney
Lapu Lapu at Tambu Lounge in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort!
Beautiful shot of the #icecream #martini from @artisandesglace!! Get yours with one of three alcohol toppers! 📷: @caitlinmcaninch (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured)
Dinner!! Find @ghirardelli sundaes and chocolate on both coasts: #DisneySprings in #disneyworld and #disneycaliforniaadventure in #disneylandresort. 📷: @stitchlovesdolewhips . (#DisneyFoodBlog to see your pic featured) #icecream

In Walt Disney’s magic kingdom there is nothing to convey the feel­ing you get at most amusement parks—that you’re watching a nerv­ous breakdown and being invited to share it. There are no barkers selling tickets, no “Hurry! Hurry! HURRY!” Thoughtful cards on the display tables of the Main Street gift shop say: “Relax. We do not charge for accidental breakage.” In place of a neon nightmare to lure customers all night, tiny lights resembling fire­flies have been set to twinkling in the trees. Adults whose children have strayed are soothed by a sign that reads: “Lost parents, please wait here for your children to find you.”

More than 19 million people, from all 50 states and 70 foreign coun­tries, have visited Disneyland in the five years of its existence. Among them are King Baudouin I of Belgium, King Hussein of Jordan, Princess Sophia of Greece, and Presi­dent Sukarno of Indonesia. King Mohammed V of Morocco, after his official tour of the park, sneaked back to pay his way in and enjoy it incognito.

The success of the venture has put a ferment into the amusement-park business everywhere. Denver’s Magic Mountain; New York’s Free­domland; La Montaña Mágica in Caracas, Venezuela all follow the basic Disney idea of stretching the imagination while providing fun. At Pleasure Island near Boston last summer, youngsters were piling into whaleboats to take off after a 50-foot replica of Moby-Dick—a far and noble cry from the underprivileged kind of fantasy such parks used to offer.

But the others will find it hard to imitate Disneyland. For something unique and intangible is expressed here—the creative personality of a master of the fairy tale. Next, check out some more fascinating facts about Disneyland that even Disney fanatics don’t know.

The post Walt Disney Reveals Just How Disneyland Was Created in Rare Interview appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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