Sunday, July 17, 2011

1955 - Celebrities, Officials Join Walt Disney To Dedicate New Era of Entertainment

07.17.11 - More than 50,000 visitors were attracted to Disneyland on Monday, July 18, when the Park officially opened its gates to the general public. Reactions were mixed but highly enthusiastic, ranging from exclamations of "fantastic" to "unbelievable" and "too terrific for words to describe." Governor Goodwin J. Knight of the State of California assisted Walt Disney and some 25,000 invited guests at the official dedication ceremonies of Disneyland on the preceding day, Sunday, July 17.

The preview of Disneyland was attended by many of the most familiar names in the world of entertainment, as well as civil and government officials, national magazine and newspaper editors and reporters, lessees and exhibitors from the Park itself, and local business, service club and Los Angeles and Orange County officials.

Stars Attend
The long list of names included such entertainers as Danny Thomas, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Art Linkletter, Irene Dunne, Jeff Chandler, Eve Arden, Marilyn Maxwell, Donald O'Connor, George Gobel, Margaret Whiting, Gale Storm, Ed Wynn and Charleton Heston, and the families and children of many of these and other stars.

In addition to Governor Knight and Lieutenant Governor Powers, government officials included Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan, Representative James B. Utt, Anaheim Mayor Charles Pearson and the mayors and councilmen of all Orange County cities, Mayor Norris Poulson of Los Angeles and Mayor George Vermilion of Long Beach, and California Senator Thomas Kuchel.

Other Guests
Other personal guests of Disney were the public officials of Anaheim, members of Los Angeles and Long Beach Chambers of Commerce, leaders of industry in Anaheim, members of the Chambers of Commerce of Anaheim and each city in Orange County cities, the clergy of all churches and denominations in Orange County, and the Orange and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Foreign consuls of Southern California sent children in their native dress to share in the entire program as representatives of children of the world.

According to C.V. Wood, vice-president and general manager of Disneyland, the preview guest list was one of the largest in entertainment history.

ABC-TV carried the premier ceremonies over a national hook-up. The gala show spanned ninety minutes of air time, with Walt Disney and Art Linkletter, television show star, acting as masters of ceremony. Linkletter was assisted by Bob Cummings, Danny Thomas, and Ronald Reagan.

Television coverage began at 4:30pm, when the Santa Fe and Disneyland passenger train, with railway tracks that run completely around the 60-acre Park, making its first official trip. Disney and Governor Knight acted as co-engineers.

From the Plaza the center of attention turned toward Frontierland. The gates of the log stockade which surrounds this area opened to allow horsemen Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen, riding in from the Painted Desert, and an authentic model of a Wells Fargo express wagon to come forth.

Guests and following television cameras then entered Frontierland, the land of Davy Crockett. After inspecting the blacksmith shop, assay office, Golden Horseshoe Bar and other shops, guests and TV viewers saw Irene Dunne, motion picture star, launch the "Mark Twain," first river steamboat built in the United States in 50 years.

A visit to Tomorrowland was next on the preview agenda. As guests crossed the Plaza, hundreds of doves, symbols of peace and hope, were released from the entrance to the "world of the future." Viewed in this area, a city as it is expected to be in 1986, were exhibits of many of America's largest manufacturers, the TWA "Rocket to the Moon," the Autopia freeway of the future, Spaceport, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea exhibit.

The dedication day was completed with a visit to Fantasyland, where all the characters that Walt Disney has brought to screen life were viewed.

From the Sleeping Beauty Castle, the entrance to Fantasyland, 16 knights in shining armour rode forth on splendid steeds to stand guard as the Black Knight approached and ordered the drawbridge of the castle lowered "in the name of the children of the world," to whom the castle is dedicated.

When the Black Knight lowered the drawbridge, approximately 500 children from Anaheim Church Schools entered the magic kingdom to enjoy such features as the King Arthur Carousel, the Peter Pan ride over moonlit London to Never Land, the Snow White ride past the Wicked Witch and the Seven Dwarfs, and the Mr. Toad Wild Ride.

The Mouseketeers, child stars of the "Mickey Mouse Club," which debuts in October for a daily television show, had an important part in the dedication of the Mickey Mouse Theater in Fantasyland.

From The Disneyland News July 1955.

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