Disneyland’s Disastrous Opening Day

Whether or not Walt Disney wished upon a star, his dreams were about to come true on July 17, 1955, when nearly half of the United States gathered around black-and-white television sets for the opening of Disneyland. Everything appeared to be unfolding like a dream, but away from the television cameras, Disneyland’s opening day was more of a nightmare. To the disappointment of many children, some of the park’s attractions weren’t ready to operate, and unfinished Tomorrowland — which was to depict life in 1986 — remained stuck in 1955. What made matters worse was that the park expected a crowd of 15,000 people at the invitation-only opening, but thanks to counterfeit tickets, 28,154 people passed through the gates. Disneyland’s refreshment stands and three restaurants quickly ran out of food, and the 7-mile backup to Disneyland on the Santa Ana Freeway was epic. For years to come, Disneyland workers referred to opening day as “Black Sunday.” Now, some 65 years later, more than 750 million people have passed through Disneyland’s turnstiles, and, unlike on that opening day, most of those have left the “Happiest Place on Earth” with smiles on their faces.