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How Disneyland Went from Burbank to Anaheim

Disneyland Entrance

Entrance to Disneyland in Anaheim. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

As early as 1932, Walt Disney conceived of a theme park that he would want to take his own children to. He regularly took his two daughters to ride on the Griffith Park merry-go-round, but found amusement parks to be grimy and unsavory operations, unfriendly to families with children. He began thinking of a new kind of high-quality, family-friendly amusement park where Disney fans could also meet his famous Mickey Mouse. The idea for “Riverside Drive Park” (located across the street from Walt’s studios on Riverside Drive in Burbank) was born.

By 1939, Walt already had some of his creative people working on ideas for his amusement park. Walt’s brother Roy, however, did not share his enthusiasm for the idea. Roy oversaw finances for Disney studios and could only see Walt’s lack of experience with real estate, construction and amusement parks as leading to nothing but bankruptcy. Walt was undeterred. Nevertheless, World War II came soon thereafter, putting the park plans on hold. This only delayed Walt’s resolve, so, by 1948, he was back with his vision, planning for construction (to be called Mickey Mouse Park) on the 16 acres in Burbank across the street from his studios. In 1951, Walt brought in artist Harper Goff to illustrate his vision for the park. In 1952, the proposed $1.5 million park development for Burbank was announced to the public and Walt incorporated an organization around the park development project (the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering). When Walt finally presented his plans to Burbank’s city council, the plans were rejected because local politicians didn’t want to bring a “carny” atmosphere into Burbank. This and the reality that Walt’s expanded vision for the park had quickly grown far larger than 16 acres, compelled Walt to look outside Burbank. The following year, in 1953, Walt and his Disneyland organization settled on the 160 acre Ball Road subdivision in Anaheim for the new location for Disneyland.