The First Disneyland Brochure

disneylandDuring a magical weekend in 1953, Walt Disney and animator Herb Ryman created the first map of a place that would become Disneyland. The two men typed up a description that was eight pages long, as well as, sales copy and made a brochure. That original brochure for Disneyland had not been publicly seen until now. One of the three copies made was donated anonymously to BoingBoing.

Disney and Ryman pitched the idea to three bankers from New York. They were unsuccessful. Roy Disney, the more fiscally minded brother of Walt, was not thrilled by the idea, at first. Walt found some talented artists from his studio, who helped him give his concept for a new type of amusement park more life. Roy eventually relented and assisted Walt in raising $17 million for the building of his dream.

Coloring Book 1955
Coloring Book 1955

Not surprisingly, there was a focus on the shopability of Disneyland. In its earlier days, the admission price was relatively low and then visitors would buy separate tickets for the various rides. Until 1982, the A-E ticket system was in place. An “E” ticket was for the newest, biggest and/or most popular rides. If a visitor just wanted to shop at Disneyland, the admission price was all they needed and the rest of their money could be spent on a wide variety of Disney related products.

The term merchantainment was used to describe the world that Disney had to offer the public. There was even a mail order catalog proposed that carried everything that was available at Disneyland, for those who could not easily visit the theme park itself. The catalog even offered livestock and exotic animals like birds and fish.

The original Disneyland brochure promised that the park would have “slidewalks,” a space simulator and robotic kitchens. The merchandise for Tomorrowland included chemical sets, science toys and space helmets. Once the park was built in 1955, the budget was not quite able to handle all of those promises. Instead, there were some futuristically-questionable exhibits offered.

Souvenir Book 1955
Souvenir Book 1955

The Dairy of the Future had fake cows that were poked with IVs and staring at pastures on video screens. There was a gallery sponsored by Dutch Boy paints that explored the future through the mixing of paints. The Kaiser Aluminum Hall of Fame featured a tin pig, a huge tin telescope and exhibits that explained the role of aluminum in America. More than likely, the exhibit that the kids liked the most was the kraken from the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Its tentacles actually moved, powered by a little person sitting inside of it.

The brochure also talked about Disney’s idea for a miniature land for visitors to walk through. Lilliputian Land would be populated by nine inch tall mechanical people. They would sing, dance and talk to their visitors. The inspiration for this idea may have come from Disney’s visit to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. It is definitely a precursor to the It’s a Small World ride.

The first pictorial imagining of Disneyland is a stunner. Colorful and detailed, it depicts a place that, in the future, would be a dream for millions of children who would want to visit. Despite the fact that some of the promises in that original brochure were never fulfilled, Disney’s vision was ultimately transformed into reality.

by Stacy Lamy


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