October 27, 1954 – The Television Series Disneyland Premieres on ABC
“…this year, we want you to see and share with us the experience of building this dream into a reality.”
On October 27, 1954, the first episode of the Disney anthology series Disneyland premiered on ABC. The show, named after the theme park Walt Disney was planning to build, gave audiences glimpses of the dream that would become the California theme park. The first episode was entitled “The Disneyland Story,” and was directed by Robert Florey.
When Walt Disney was in the midst of creating his theme park, he realized that the only way he could secure enough funding was to embrace the new medium of television. He struck a deal with the then-fledgling ABC network, which agreed to help provide financing if he created a weekly hour-long television show for them, with Walt as host. This show made Walt Disney a familiar figure in households nationwide, and created several staples in popular culture, including the Davy Crockett craze of the 1950s.
“The Disneyland Story” begins with an aerial view of the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank, California. There is then a behind the scenes view at what is going on at the studios, including a look at the upcoming film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a live-action model stage for Sleeping Beauty, and some strange music being composed in the music department. The narrator takes us to a place called the Disneyland Plans Room, where “something unusual is going on in the studio today, something that never happened before.” Walt then takes over as host, introducing his vision of Disneyland, the four worlds of the park, and the format of the four worlds of the television show. Introducing Frontierland, he then presents a segment about the Davy Crockett serial that will soon begin filming, and introduces Fess Parker, who sings the theme song.
Going to Adventureland, Walt presents producer Ben Sharpsteen, who talks about the planned area and shows some films they’ve done of the Galapagos Islands, the Falkland Islands, Lapland, Morocco, and Portugal. Walt introduces Tomorrowland, and director and animator Ward Kimball explains the plans and ideas for the Tomorrowland segments, including designing and building the first passenger-carrying rocket. The last realm Disney introduces is Fantasyland, where “in this land, hopes and dreams are all that matter.” He then says that Uncle Remus would have called it a “laughing place,” which leads into the “laughing place” segment from Song of the South.
To remind everyone that “it all started with a mouse,” Walt then presents the story of Mickey Mouse, starting with his humble beginnings in the short film Plane Crazy. He introduces Mickey’s friends and fellow stars – Pluto, Goofy, and Donald – before presenting one of the most important roles in Mickey’s career: the role of the sorcerer’s apprentice in Fantasia. After exploring Mickey’s career, clips are shown of the next week’s episode, a presentation of the Disney film Alice in Wonderland.