Friday, October 28, 2011

On the DL with Chad: Why the History of DisneyLAND Means the World to Me

"To all who come to this happy place, welcome.  Disneyland is your land... with the hope that it will be a source of joy, and inspiration, to all the world" 
- Walt Disney, 1955

Disneyland - 1955

The beginning, and the end, of Walt Disney's 1955 Disneyland dedication speech is something that still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, which is probably one of the main reasons I have it committed to memory.  Not a time goes by when I enter the gates that I don't hear those word ringing in the back of my mind, and they're just as important to Disneyland today as they were the day he spoke them 56 years ago.

Allow me to set up today's article for you.  I'm a "Lander".  I'm not sure if it's a term I coined myself or not (I'd not heard anyone else use it before I started to) but for me the land of Disney fans can be broken down into two primary categories above all others (excluding the foreign Parks):  "Landers" (those who claim Disneyland as their "home" Park) and "Worlders" (those who claim Walt Disney World as their "home" Park).  I assure you, nothing derogatory is meant by either.  It's just something I started saying a while back.  I know that there can sometimes be a little "push and pull" where the two Parks are concerned, but for me, both have always been something special and they each mean something to loads of people, so I have a healthy respect for that other Park in Orlando, and can't wait to get back there someday!

Other than the fact that I only live about 45 minutes from the Disneyland Resort, I want to explain why Disneyland is now (and would be if I moved closer to the east coast) so important to me.  Why is Disneyland so important?  Is it too cliche to say that it really boils down to Walt?  I'm going to say it anyway; it really boils down to Walt. 

Disneyland was Walt's Park.  Because he passed away before he was able to see Walt Disney World come to fruition, Walt is inexorably tied to Disneyland in a way that no other Disney Park can ever have.  And that's one of the things that makes it so special to me and to so many others.

One of my favorite views in the entire world

No matter how many times I go into The Park, I'm consistently taken aback by the magnitude of the history, Walt's history, that I'm taking part in.  From the moment I walk inside the Main Gates and glance up at The Disneyland Limited ("now leaving for a grand circle tour"...), especially if the Lilly Belle (which Walt himself and his wife once rode in) is on track, I'm powerfully reminded of just who has come before me, looking and seeing the exact same things I find myself looking at decades later. 

Walt's Apartment (and candle) are still above the Disneyland Fire Dept.

You can't go two steps without looking and seeing something that Walt himself had a personal hand in:  his apartment over the Disneyland Fire Dept., the Opera House which houses Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln,  the very bench Walt himself used to sit on while at Griffith Park in Los Angeles dreaming of Disneyland, the back row of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room in which I never fail to see in my mind's eye the picture of Walt with his animatronic birds, and both It's A Small World and King Arthur Carousel, which Walt had shipped and moved, piece by piece, from their original locations on the East Coast because he loved them so much and wanted to share them with the rest of the world.  The list could just go on and on.

It reads: "The actual park bench from the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round in Los Angeles, where Walt Disney first dreamed of Disneyland"

Perhaps the greatest reminder of all, though, is walking through the arch of Sleeping Beauty Castle between Fantasyland and Main Street, U.S.A.  Maybe nowhere in the entire Park is the thought "I'm literally walking where Walt himself once walked" quite so powerful.  Our castle might be smaller than Cinderella's, but ours is the one where Walt once walked.  Sometimes walking through, I just have to stop and take a look around, and if I'm in an imaginative mood, I can picture myself in perhaps the exact same spot that Walt once stood, looking around and surveying his Kingdom himself.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

One of my favorite pictures on the entire planet

There's an entire litany of things I enjoy doing in The Park.  I have my favorite attractions, favorite restaurants, favorite stores, and even my favorite restrooms.  But at the heart of the matter, Disneyland Park is so important to me because of Walt.

My family and I plan on taking a trip to Walt Disney World again someday, and there is no doubt in my mind that it will go down in the annals of Elliott Family Vacations as one of the greatest ever.  We literally cannot wait to get there and spend our seven days running around like complete fools, enamored with everything we see.

But it's safe to say that when I do return home after, and walk through the Main Gates of my favorite Park again, the first words out of my mouth will most likely be, "Welcome Home, Chad.  Welcome Home."

Walt, Mickey, and a Beauty

For those days when I can't go

Contributed by Chad E of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. I'm a married dad with three little boys doing the stay-at-home-dad/youth ministry/seminary student/card carrying Disneyland Annual Passholder (Premium!) thang! And when I have the time, I also like to blog and podcast about The Disneyland Resort and am the co-creator of both Days in the Park and the Days in the Parkcast podcast.


  1. Wow, This gave me Goosebumps.Great Article. I can't wait to see the "Land" next summer.

  2. Wonderful article. I am so jealous you live so close to home.

  3. Love the article, Chad!! Well written!! One day I'll get to the Land. One day!

  4. I have to admit that this made me cry. It sums up how I feel so well. I grew up in California and Disneyland. I now live in Florida and it will more than likely be my permanent home so the World is my home park, but Disneyland will always be my heart's park. I can't wait to get back there to show my husband and daughter one day.

  5. Amy, thanks for hosting Chad's post!

    Chad, I'm a "Lander" too and feel the exact way about Walt Disney. There's something extraordinarily special about Disneyland and everything Walt worked out.


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