On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened up for previews in Anaheim, California. There were fourteen attractions, no toilets, and only soda for attendees to drink. Needless to say, Disneyland’s opening day was a disaster, leading executives to refer to the day as “Black Sunday” throughout the years. But with all that went wrong for Disneyland, a million things also went right, and the theme park is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire world.
For hardcore Disney lovers out there, you already know about the hidden Mickeys, the toilets versus water fountains debacle, and all the free goodies you can get when you enter the park. But for those of you who are bored silly of the “Secret Facts You Never Knew About Disneyland” YouTube videos (that frankly, just repeat the same Disney “secrets” over and over again), here are five books we recommend for a more in-depth look at The Happiest Place on Earth.
Marty Sklar was only a junior in college when he was recruited by Walt Disney himself to write The Disneyland News in anticipation of the park’s opening. Over the course of a fifty-year career with Disney, Sklar went from the park’s publicity and marketing lead to the president of Imagineering. He supervised the creative development for almost every single Disney park across the globe. If there is any man who knows the true secrets behind Disneyland, it’s bona fide Disney Legend, Marty Sklar.
The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Rober Iger
Another Disney Legend is Robert “Bob” Iger, who only just recently left his position as CEO of The Walt Disney Company to instead become its Executive Chairman. Iger began as a runner for ABC News before working his way up through the ranks until Disney bought out the news organization. He then became one of the most prominent figures on the business side of Disney, becoming the decision-maker to historical connections with Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. If you’re interested in the business of Disney, Iger’s memoir is the book for you.
Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas
This biography is a classic for any Disney fan out there. Famed Hollywood biographer Bob Thomas tracks Walt Disney’s early days in Kansas City, Missouri to his journey as a cartoonist in Burbank, California, and beyond. Better yet, this novel covers the early days of Disneyland and how the park was able to bounce back after a failure of an opening day. Disney’s path to creating an empire wasn’t an easy one, and this biography covers every crack of the company’s undiscovered history.
Walt Disney’s Disneyland by Chris Nichols
Alongside stunning photographs and illustrations, Chris Nichols brings the story of Disneyland to life as he breaks down the history of each aspect that went into creating the theme park. Learn about how the park went from flat orange groves in Orange County, California to its own world that leaves reality behind. Read about the development of each of the park’s “lands,” as well as the park’s overall evolution over its sixty-year history. If you’ve missed Disneyland during the pandemic, this book will make you feel as if you never left.
In collaboration with Sklar and Iger, Disney’s famed Imagineers came together to create a book that gives a backstage look at what it takes to create and run a Disney theme park. From rough drawings to test models to tangible attractions, this Imagineering story provides everything every Disney fan has ever wanted to know about the Disney parks. The Imagineers even give an inside scoop on their own journeys to becoming the creative minds behind the most magical pockets of the world. For those who have brilliant imaginations and a knack for engineering the impossible, you may just want to kickstart your career by reading this book.
Bonus: The Disneyland Story
Not much of a reader? Walt Disney created “The Disneyland Story” television series a year before the park even opened to get potential visitors excited for the theme park of the century. You can watch the first episode above and teleport back to 1954 before anyone even knew the kind of impact Disneyland would have on the world.