In 1948 Walt visited Henry Ford’s Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Upon his return to Southern California and wrote, what could be considered, the true beginning of Disneyland.
On August 31, 1948 Walt Disney sent a message to Dick Kelsey (one of his production designers) outlining an idea for a park where people could bring their families and have a different kind of experience than that of the common ‘amusement parks’. Instead, he wanted to theme it after an America that he knew well and one that many Americans could identify with – home.
Here’s the text of that message:
"The Main Village, which includes the Railroad Station is built around a village green or informal park. In the park will be benches, a bandstand, drinking fountain, trees and shrubs. It will be a place for people to sit and rest, mothers and grandmothers can watch over small children at play. I want it to be very relaxing, cool and inviting.
Around the park will be built the town. At one end will be the Railroad Station, at the other end, the Town Hall. The Hall will be built to represent a Town Hall but actually we will use it as our administration building. It will be the headquarters of the entire project.
Adjoining the Town Hall will be the Fire and Police Stations. The Fire Station will contain practical fire apparatus, scaled down. The Police Station will also be put to practical use. Here the visitors will report all violations, lost articles, lost kids, etc. In it we could have a little jail where the kids could look in. We might even have some characters in it.
We will also have a drug store with a soda fountain and sell the usual articles… candy, cigarettes, magazines, camera and film supplies and all sorts of novelty souvenirs.
The Opera House and Movie Theatre, with a capacity of three hundred seats. Here we will put on little kids’ plays of all kinds, together with motion pictures. We can also use it as a radio and television broadcasting place. We will have a variety of little stores around the park. One would be a toy store. Here we would sell the Disney toys and whatever toys that would be suitable. There should be a repair shop in the store where the toys can be fixed. We could include a book department here that would carry all the Disney books.
A doll store, featuring Disney dolls and other kinds too, together with a doll hospital. Another store could be an old-fashioned candy factory where we would sell candy that is no longer obtainable. We would use only the best materials and stress the fact that it is the old fashioned kind that can’t be bought today.
Next is the Hobby Shop where all kinds of stuff can be bought. This will be for both boys and girls.
There will be another shop (we will think of an appropriate title) where the Disney artists can sell what they most enjoy doing in their leisure hours, i.e., their hobbies, whatever they may be.
Maybe we could have a magic shop where we would have all kinds of tricks for kids, party favors, etc.
Next would be a kids furniture store. Here we would have all types of furniture, play-houses, etc., but the point is it would be the same type of furniture that would be on display in the residential section.
Then a kids clothing store. Here we would have all types of play suits, Indian suits, soldier suits, cowboy outfits.., all the things kids love to dress up in.
Restaurant. We would have a lunch counter and dining room. Probably we would have a separate dining room, or rooms, that could be reserved for birthday parties of a private kind. This would be arranged through a special catering set-up.
In the center of the park we will have a little hot-dog/ice cream stand which would be very colorful.
Music Store. Here the kids can buy the Disney records and all other kinds of kids’ records.
In the Town Hall we will have a real Post Office where mail and packages can be mailed. (Note: Check with Burbank on how to go about getting our own postal stamp).
The Horse Car. The car would start at the Main Entrance and pick up those who did not want to walk. The car would take them down the street to the Railroad Station. The car would stop here for those who wanted to get off at the village or they could continue on to the Western village, then loop around and come back by way of the Carnival section; then onto the Main Village for a stop and continue until it was back at the Main Entrance.
We will have a Livery Stable where buck-boards are for hire. These will carry adults and children and will be pulled by a team of ponies which would drive them all around the village. Surreys and buck-boards will be available to go through the Western Village and the old farm. In other words, they can use any road. They will be rented by the half-hour, including the driver.
Carnival Section. This will be attached off the village and will be the regular concession type which will appeal to adults and kids alike. There will be roller coasters, merry-go-rounds… typical Midway stuff. (This will be worked out later.)
The Western Village. A general store with a soda fountain and lunch counter. We could sell most of the articles we have in the drug store in the village but we would also sell Western toys, Western outfits, toy guns, etc.
We might want to put in another little movie set-up here where we would run nothing but Western pictures.
We might also put in some kind of a Western museum.
We will have a pony ring, set up in a corral, where the kids can ride.
The Donkey Pack Train. The donkeys would be all hooked together and handled by one man. This would take ten kids."
Considering this message was a first draft of what Disneyland would become, it’s wonderful to see how many of Walt’s ideas finally made it into the park and how many still exist today.
While Disney was already a household name for animation and family enjoyment, the development of Disneyland as an entertainment venue really did change the world. Today all theme parks are based on Walt’s dream of a “Mickey Mouse” park.