The idea, Walt Disney once said, was conceived on a park bench and nurtured by peanuts. “Saturday was always ‘Daddy’s Day’ and I would take my two daughters to the merry-go-round and sit on a bench while they rode,” he recalled. “And sitting alone, eating peanuts, I felt there should be something built, some kind of a family park where parents and children could have fun together.” Determined to make it come true, the celebrated producer looked around for financing. He found that “dreams offer too little collateral.” So Disney sold his vacation home and borrowed against his life insurance policies to help raise the $17 million needed to launch Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. in 1955. Now, 14 years after its founder’s death, Disneyland is celebrating its silver anniversary. The occasion will be marked by a March 6 CBS-TV special hosted by Danny Kaye and starring Michael Jackson, the Osmonds and Adam Rich.
Throughout the years celebrities have joined the throngs of tourists (187 million so far) at the park. In 1960 the late Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, was prohibited from visiting Disneyland for security reasons. His anger made global headlines.
The lure remains. “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in Disneyland,” its creator used to say. “I want them to feel they’re in another world.”