In the early 1950s, while on an outing with his two daughters to Los Angeles’s Griffith Park, Walt Disney had an inspiration to create a family-friendly theme park that would be unique in its array of attractions.
Thirty-five miles south of his movie studio in Anaheim was where Disney happened upon the perfect location for his latest brainchild.
He was able to arrange the financing, which included a portion of his own money, and dreams quickly began to materialize. The designers and animators who would work on the project would ultimately come to be known as the “Imagineers.”
Disneyland opened its gates in July of 1955, with a kick-off ceremony that lit up TV screens across America for 70 million people.
Zooming over to 2021, a sign that times may be getting better in the Golden State is the upcoming re-opening of the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
The entertainment industry giant was dealt a severe blow by the lockdown, with its theme parks and resort businesses taking the hardest hits.
While Walt Disney World in Florida and other Disney parks have already re-opened, the iconic California theme park that launched the others has been a literal ghost town for over a year.
Employees and fans galore have been anxiously waiting to hear when California’s major theme parks would be brought back to life. Well, there’s a date now.
The Disneyland Resort, which includes Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, are set to re-open at the end of April. Unfortunately, everything is going to look wildly different from the pre-COVID Disneyland.
In order to comply with governmental requirements, Disney will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system, which will require that all guests book dates in advance.
Masks for guests over the age of 2 and requisite social distancing will also be a part of the re-opening plan.
One huge wrench in the works is that initially only California residents will be allowed admission.
While Disneyland could have technically re-opened on April 1, plenty of lead time was needed to re-train the approximate 10,000 cast members who will be returning to work.
Challenges are still presenting themselves, but there doesn’t seem to be anything on the near horizon that would be insurmountable.
A long list of health and safety rules exists, which must be adhered to. There is a reduced number of guests that are going to be admitted at any given time. And Disneyland will only be able to re-open at a maximum capacity of 15 percent, which is a lower percentage than the 25 percent capacity of Florida’s Walt Disney World. This is expected to significantly impact the park’s attractions, shops, and dining venues.
Bob Iger recently spoke out about the theme park’s upcoming re-debut.
He told Deadline that “there’s something so symbolic about Disneyland reopening.”
Iger is right about the symbolism, especially when it comes to the Disney brand, which has traditionally been associated with optimism.
The former Disney CEO noted the pivot that Disney had made during the lockdown, with its newfound emphasis on its streaming platform, Disney+.
“When COVID hit, we at least had something to turn to, and I think it kept the company vibrant because there was a beacon of hope,” Iger said.
To its credit, Disney is now moving to instill a sense of optimism and hope within its own ranks as well as the Southern California community.
Shrugging off the unprecedented adversity of the last year, the company is not only re-opening, but it has just announced plans to expand the Disneyland Resort, with new attractions and multi-use areas.
On the west side of the Disneyland Resort, the existing theme parks of Disneyland and California Adventure will be expanded under a game-changing project dubbed “DisneylandForward.”
According to the project’s website, inspiration for new attractions could be based on “Frozen,” “Tangled,” “Peter Pan,” “Zootopia,” “Tron,” and “Toy Story Land.”
The DisneylandForward plan may take as much as two years to come to fruition, because the company is seeking to modify development approvals that it received from the city of Anaheim back in the 1990s.
Disney has made it a point to emphasize that the company is not seeking any public funding for the expansion, which is predicted to add thousands of new jobs to the beleaguered Southern California economy.
It’s pretty much everyone’s hope that this signals things are going to be moving closer and closer to normal.
This, no doubt, will be music to Mickey Mouse’s ears.