An Incredibly Rare Glimpse of How Disneyland Was Supposed to Look

Illustration for article titled An Incredibly Rare Glimpse of How Disneyland Was Supposed to Look

The Disneyland of today is one of the most well-known places in the world. But in 1953, it was just sketches on paper, the pipe dream of two brothers named Roy and Walt Disney. In an incredible exclusive today, Boing Boing published the pitch document for the project—which is so rare, even Disney doesn't have it.

Inside the nine-page brochure, we're introduced to Disneyland with copy from Walt himself describing this "new experience in entertainment." As Cory Doctorow explains in his post about the document, one of the main drivers of the pitch was how people would come to shop at Disneyland. Yes, even in 1953, it was all about "merchantainment," as Walt uniquely called it.

Illustration for article titled An Incredibly Rare Glimpse of How Disneyland Was Supposed to Look

But this wasn't just mouse ears and expensive dress-up gowns. No, at Disneyland, you'd be able to buy "magnificently plumed birds and fantastic fish from all over the world." Your kids would be outfitted with "scientific toys, chemical sets and model kits." There would be "slidewalks," "robotic kitchens," and a Lilliputian Land, where "mechanical people nine inches high sing and dance and talk to you." As commenter Seneca the Younger(er) points out, many of those dreams became at least temporarily true—including slidewalks. The kaleidoscopic feel of the descriptions are heightened by the aerial perspective map that accompanies them—this is a place of wild material fantasy.

How did Boing Boing get its mitts on this document? The scans were provided by an "anonymous benefactor." But it's unlikely that we'll see it on display anytime soon—it's now owned by Glenn Beck, who bought the document at auction last year for an estimated low six figures. As Doctorow hints, there may be two other copies out in the wild: Three were produced for the Disney team to take to New York, where they were pitching the idea to a cadre of bankers who ended up turning them down. Suckers. [Boing Boing]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Matt Novak

Re: "merchantainment," this seems to have been especially important in Disney's mind during this period, even in relation to his movies. I vaguely recall reading in one of the Disney biographies (I think it was this one) about how 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) was the first big modern push for this kind of thinking vertical integration.

It'd be easy to argue that this is what has set Disney Parks apart from your average carnival or theme park experience — much more so than the stated corporate goals of simply having better urban design, an emphasis on cleanliness, and superior consumer interactions.

I'd love to read an update on something like the book Vinyl Leaves that puts all this in perspective for the 21st century.