Local Author Recounts Enchanting Story of How Disneyland Came to Be

Published : Wednesday, January 22, 2014 | 5:49 AM

In the cozy setting of Distant Lands surrounded by books and travel destinations, author Sam Gennawey brought to life the story of the world-renowned attraction toted the “happiest place on earth” that sits in our backyard—Disneyland.

From the first flying Dumbo fail to the politics of “height regulations” the whole story can be found in local author Gennawey’s brand new book “The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream.”

Disney enthusiasts will enjoy this background story that is a “biography” of Disneyland, tracing its infantry to its first steps, the “golden years” of “Walt’s Disneyland” and then the maturity after Walt Disney passed away, eventually turning into the Resort. Gennawey says that Disneyland is now a “middle-aged man who can’t decide if he should grow up or hang with the younger crowd.”

Disneyland was laced with struggles in the beginning. The City of Anaheim denied Walt Disney’s first application and he just about packed up and built his dream in La Mirada instead. However, the city manger at the time made the ultimate offer to entice Disney to the plot it stands on today that was once home to 12,000 orange and walnut trees.

Gennawey believes that one of the major reasons Disneyland came to be was for Walt Disney to have a bigger playground for his trains. He had a fascination with trains and had to get the trains out of his backyard so he decided to build a theme park. Disneyland became like a son to him so it is often said he had three children—Diane, Sharon and Disneyland. Yet he only saw Disneyland grow to be 11 years old.

Disney used political power only once in the city of Anaheim—to regulate the heights of the buildings around his park up to ¾ of a mile. Buildings could be taller as they were farther away, but had to be below the threshold so that no building was visible from his created world.

“I want them to feel like they’re in another world,” the dreamer told the Anaheim city council.

Disney’s tree man, Bill Evans, searched the entire Los Angeles basin to find the perfect trees to fit that “other world.” From taking trees that Caltrans was about to bulldoze for the construction of interstate-5 to saving Fikias trees in Pershing Square and even buying a tree from a Beverly Hills home, Evans went to all effort to find storybook trees.

With hand scribblings from Walt Disney and original drawings of the theme park, Gennawey lays out a comprehensive description of the life and history of Disneyland. He also describes some of the parks that Walt Disney had dreamed of but never came to be like Progress City.

As a boy, Gennawey remembers visiting once a month, paying the minimal general admission fee, and running to the four free attractions. His favorite was the General Electric carousel of progress, located in the progress land pavilion. It entertained and educated about what it was like to live in the United States. Starting in the 1890s to see life before electricity, it then moved into the 1920s and 1940s, then to the 1960s.

“This (1960s) was the really rich family that we always wanted to be because they had a video cassette recorder and colored television and this microwave oven thingy,” Gennawey said.

Gennawey became an urban planner, fascinated by Disneyland and Disneyland’s impact on the way the public experiences and enjoys public space.

“I’m approximately the age of the Matterhorn, that’s right I can say I’m as old as a mountain,” Gennawey boasted.

While it seems Disney has almost forgotten about Disneyland, a few prospective changes are in the works including the possibility of turning the Finding Nemo submarine ride into an Ewok village according to Gennawey. Find out many more unlocked secrets in his book for sale at Distant Lands.

Join Distant Lands for their next events that include learning basic Italian, packing for Europe and Europe by Rail. Visit http://www.distantlands.com for more information.

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