17 July 1955: Disneyland opens to invited guests

On this day in 1955, Walt Disney's 'themed park', Disneyland, opened for a preview, with gatecrashers swelling the attendance to 28,000.


Walt Disney faced opposition to his "themed park"

In the late 19th century, the growth of cities, rising living standards and improving technology led to the emergence of amusement parks, such as Coney Island in New York, Dreamland in Margate and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen (which began as early as 1843).

However, the Great Depression forced many to close, and the postwar popularity of television and the rise of the suburbs accelerated the decline indeed, when movie mogul Walt Disney first tried to build a "themed park" near his Burbank studio, it was rejected on the grounds it would encourage crime.

As a result, Disney had to locate his park in the nearby city of Anaheim. Construction was funded by the TV network ABC in return for Disney producing a TV show for them. After just over a year, the park opened for a 'preview' on 17 July 1955. Gatecrashers caused the attendance to swell to 28,000 people with 50,000 attending the public opening the next day.

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Overall, five million people attended the park in 1956. Its success inspired Disney to open in Florida (1971), Tokyo (1983), Paris (1992) Hong Kong (2005) and Shanghai (estimated 2016). But Disneyland (now Disneyland Park) is still the third most visited theme park in the world, with 16.7 million guests a year.

Since 1982, attractions are no longer ticketed, with people charged a flat fee for entry. However, prices for an adult have rocketed from $12 as late as 1982 ($29 in 2014 dollars) to $99. And extremely long queues mean some guests are willing to pay up to $500 an hour for "VIP tours", which give them quick access to all attractions.

Also on this day

17 July 1981: The Queen officially opens the Humber bridge

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Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

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