Walt immediately took advantage of the deal. ‘My wife raised the dickens with me,’ he recalled. He even sold his vacation home in Palm Springs ‘to get this thing to a point where I could show people what it would be.’ As soon as Walt got the money, WED Enterprises (named after his initials, Walter Elias Disney, and renamed Walt Disney Imagineering in 1986) was incorporated in December 1952. He started recruiting employees: artists and set designers from The Walt Disney Studios, other Hollywood studios, and the carnival business to create a multidisciplinary team that trusted each other and could make decisions quickly.
In April of that year, Disney had approached architects William Pereira and Charles Luckman, who had designed the nearby Marineland park, to submit ideas for his park. Walt wasn’t happy with their proposal and turned to his friend and neighbour, architect Welton Becket, for another perspective. Becket politely refused the assignment saying, ‘Walt, no one can design Disneyland for you. You gotta use your own people. We can’t help you. We don’t have that kind of a background for this.’ Walt took his advice. His newly assembled design team at WED would be responsible for designing the entire park. Bill Cottrell, WED’s first employee hired to work on both the park and the Disneyland TV show, believed Disneyland was possible because Walt empowered his artists, cartoonists and executives to develop their skills and talents: ‘Business was slowing down in the studio and instead of laying them off, [Walt] put them on his personal payroll. Walt knew all about the hobbies and outside interests of the men who worked at the studio. So it was no big deal to take men who could turn out a six-minute film short and have them create a three-minute dark ride with visual images.’
Art directors Dick Irvine and Marvin Davis were also two of the first to join the team. ‘We would write our ideas out on squares of paper, put them up on a board, and [Walt] would come down in the afternoon and... juggle them around,’ Irvine, head of construction and design, remembered. ‘These sessions would last anywhere from four to six hours, to the entire day.’ According to Davis, ‘Walt would come in at night, just as he used to do with his animators, and take it home with him.’ When Davis returned to his desk in the morning, Walt would have retraced an
‘We were driving through orange groves and dirt roads. I didn’t tell him what I really thought — that he was out of his mind. After all, it was 45 minutes from where people lived and there was nothing there!’ Art Linkletter
4 At Tomorrowland’s entrance stood the Clock of the World, which told time in 24 time zones, its futuristic presence hinting at what was to come in the exhibit halls. Showcased within were innovative technologies created by some of the nation’s leading corporations
5 One of the designers of the Monorail, John Hench, said the modes of transportation at Disneyland not only needed to look good in appearance, but also be ‘a pleasure to watch in action’
6 The rare experience of seeing the ‘backside of water’ while the riverboat meanders under the Schweitzer Falls is a highlight of the Jungle Cruise, consistent with Walt’s goal to create the ‘wonder world of nature’s own realm’
entire attraction noting, ‘Here, quit fooling around and redo this the way it should be.’ Davis added, ‘You no longer had any big departments to deal with. It was just fun to get back into that small scale again.’
Walt needed land, and a lot of it. Architect Charles Luckman suggested that Walt hire Harrison ‘Buzz’ Price with the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) to study potential sites outside of Los Angeles. When they spoke, Walt told Price, ‘It will be a place for California to be home, to bring guests, to demonstrate its faith in the future.’ He needed roughly 41ha and he wanted to open the park in two years. Beyond that, it was up to Price. Price studied 50 major census tracts, looking at weather patterns (including smog) as well as shifting populations, freeway construction, economic factors and building codes.
Determined that Los Angeles was becoming increasingly decentralized SRI believed the highest rate of growth was likely to be in Orange County to the south. Focusing on a 400 sq km, amoeba-shaped area on either side of the proposed Santa Ana Freeway, SRI identified 10 sites and Price recommended Anaheim as his first choice. Walt chose a tract with orange groves and walnut trees. Price later said: ‘We had a good relationship with the city manager of Anaheim, and we could afford it.’ After one false start, a purchase deal was concluded in August 1953 at $4,500 per acre (4,050 sq m).
Walt’s friend Art Linkletter remembered being invited for a ride down to the site soon after: ‘“It’s a deep secret,” Walt told me. “You can’t tell anybody anything you see or hear.” I couldn’t believe my eyes... We were driving through orange groves and dirt roads. I didn’t tell him what I really thought — that he was out of his mind. After all, it was 45 minutes from where people lived and there was nothing there!’
The devil is in the details; Walt unveiled the orange-grove property to Marvin Davis and described how the train would define the perimeter and the key element, would be the ‘opening scene’ — the entrance. Davis recalled, ‘I did 129 different schemes for the solution of the thing... until it finally developed into the scheme it is now with the single entrance and the walk for the avenue, which is Main Street, up to the centre of the hub.’
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