Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jack. Jack Wonders, “How was Disney World made?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jack!
For some of us, cartoons and movies are just the beginning. We sleep with stuffed cartoon characters and wear clothing with their images. And every now and then, we take a vacation to a place where we can interact with these characters in a magical land.
In addition to good food and fun rides, we get to see and interact with life-size versions of characters like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Mickey Mouse. Where can we do all this? Disneyland, of course!
Walt Disney didn't start out life as a theme park designer. Instead, he began his career as a commercial artist before starting a small studio in Los Angeles, California, to produce animated cartoons. In 1928, his first short film, Steamboat Willie, introduced the world to Mickey Mouse and became a great success.
It wasn't long before several feature-length cartoons made Disney a household name. Many of those works remain popular today, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, and Fantasia.
In the 1950s, Walt Disney started dreaming of an amusement experience that the entire family could enjoy together. He was inspired by letters from children who wanted to meet Mickey Mouse. Before long, he was planning a theme park unlike anything that had even been seen before.
Disney wanted his park to be located near Los Angeles, but large parcels of land that were both affordable and convenient were difficult to find. Eventually, he settled on a 160-acre orange grove in the nearby farming community of Anaheim, just 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Construction began during the summer of 1954 with a planned opening in just 12 short months. To meet this tight deadline, construction often occurred around the clock. At a cost of nearly $18 million, Disneyland finally opened to the public on July 17, 1955.
On opening day, Disneyland featured 18 attractions spread across five separate areas: Main Street USA, Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. It was not long before people far and wide knew about favorites such as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Space Station X-1, Jungle Cruise, Snow White's Adventures, and Stage Coach.
The park's popularity grew quickly. Disneyland hosted over one million visitors within three months of opening day. Today, the park receives over 14 million visitors each year, taking in nearly $3 billion in revenue.
To keep visitors returning year after year, Disneyland continued to add new attractions on a regular basis. Walt Disney also sought to open new parks around the world. Walt Disney World opened near Orlando, Florida, in 1971. There are also now Disney-themed parks in Japan, France, and Hong Kong.