There are many characters and ideas that come to mind when you think of Disney — Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and of course Disneyland, to name a few. One of the most popular amusement parks in the world is Disneyland, and this installment of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series, Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic, tells the story of Disneyland, from birth to present.
The main picture is the very comprehensive documentary “Happiest Place on Earth” which features interviews from collaborators and partners who originally worked with Walt Disney on making Walt’s dream of Disneyland come true and archival footage of Disneyland’s opening day on July 17, 1955 and numerous special events that took place over the park’s many decades.
One of Walt’s best qualities was surrounding himself with so many brilliant and creative people so that any idea he had would be realized because so many people worked hard to fulfill his dreams. I wish the documentary went more into detail about the initial conceptual stages of Disneyland’s creation because those years of design and construction could have given a better insight into the struggles that Walt went through. Instead, we get a gloss-over and rush into Disneyland’s opening day, which from a logistical standpoint was a disaster.
Rides broke down, drinking fountains didn’t work, many more people showed up than expected, and events didn’t take place as scheduled. But all those problems didn’t seem so bad because, as Walt said, everyone who worked at Disneyland loved working there and their enthusiasm was contagious.
The documentary’s main focus is the always changing and ever evolving Disneyland. Rides change and attractions come and go. I never knew that a Mickey Mouse Club Circus existed, or that there was a Holidayland, or even a flying saucer ride. Walt’s biggest nightmare was to go to Disneyland to find nobody there. It’s this initiative that drives the park to constantly strive to be better.
One way that the park accomplishes this is by reinventing existing attractions. Walt was said to always have one foot in the past and one foot in the future. With the monster success of the movie Pirates of the Carribean, Disneyland has now integrated elements from the Johnny Depp film into the classic attraction. Another example will be the reinvention of the classic submarine attraction with a story about Nemo from Finding Nemo.
Disneyland’s biggest motto is that the park will never be finished because it is constantly changing.
As a kid, I remember viewing a cinematic tour of Disneyland, and the original “People and Places: Disneyland U.S.A.” feature is included on this DVD with a newly restored 5.1 digital audio track. Looking at this tour when it was released only a year after Disneyland’s opening in 1955 is interesting because it shows you the tremendous transformation that the park has gone through in the past 52 years. With the exception of being a bigger park with many more attractions, there is still a core base that Walt himself wanted and believed would be what made Disneyland unique. Every new attraction would simply enhance that base.
My original criticism of the main documentary is somewhat assuaged with “Operation Disneyland,” which chronicles the original ABC broadcast of Disneyland’s opening; and with “Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction,” which features time-lapse footage of the park’s original construction. “Operation” details the many problems that the park experienced and it is surprisingly fun to see the park in black and white glory which has never been shown to the public before this DVD.
Also included is an original September 23, 1962 broadcast of “The Golden Horseshoe Revue,” which is the longest running show in Disneyland; the original May 17, 1964 broadcast of “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair,” in which Walt narrates the efforts to bring Disneyland to the World’s Fair in New York that year; and the the original December 18, 1966 broadcast of “Disneyland Around the Seasons,” which showcases Disneyland’s seasonal differences.
For better or worse, Disneyland has become an American institution that has brought enjoyment to millions of kids as well as adults for over 50 years since its opening.