Disneyland, Circa 1957

Disneyland, Circa 1957


Disneyland changes so severely and so often, it’s hard to believe that it looked the way that it did even ten years ago. Popular rides become less popular and are removed; offensive characters are fired from the park; children turn into adults and the cycle continues.

The constant change in Disneyland makes it so surprising to see the look of the park back in 1957, two years after it opened. A video created in 1957 does just that, in color. Recently re-mastered and re-colored, the video shows the park before it was crowded, expensive and self-referential with Mickey Mouse memorabilia on all the guests’ heads.

The wide, open space in the video was what struck me first. People, dressed nicely, had enough room to move around without worrying about being jostled by a wild crowd or getting coned by a wayward kid. Instead, people strolled leisurely around the grounds.

Favorite attractions and rides like the Cinderella Castle and the flying Dumbo ride were already installed in the park’s beginnings (as far as I know, the Dumbo ride is still at the park). Everybody’s barfy favorite, the Teacup Ride, was also around in the 1950’s, although it’s been slicked up quite a bit for modern Disney customers (and prices). The video also shows my favorite ride as a kid, the Tomorrowland Skyway, that was removed from the park in 1994. Particularly strange to modern viewers is probably a giant pirate ship, which I assume was the inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride that, in turn, inspired the movie.

Pierce mentions the dearth of vending carts that populate the park today. He also points out the way that people dressed to attend the park—in the nice dresses, skirts, suits and khakis—that differs from what people choose to wear out today. Pierce mentions that people in the 1950’s dressed more nicely than we do today, but also that back then, the park marketed itself as a place for celebrities. Essentially, the celebrities in attendance, who dressed nicely, influenced the rest of the park attendees to dress the same.

Pierce re-discovered the footage shot in the ‘50s, cleaned it up and recently released it. More commentary from Pierce about the park and the videos can be found at the Disney History Institute. Watch the video here.

Do you remember Disneyland when it was very different than it is today? How has it changed?