A sketch of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle, 1955.

Love it or hate it, Disneyland is an iconic part of American pop culture. Since its creation in the 1950s (under the direct supervision of Walt Disney) the park has hosted over 700 million visitors and is famous around the world.

These fascinating images show how Disney's ambitious vision was brought to life by his team of "Imagineers". The quotes are from Disney himself.


Left: Disney reviews a model of Sleeping Beauty Castle with his “Imagineers”. Right: Children race over the drawbridge on opening day, 1955.

“The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to share pleasant times in one another’s company.”


Left: Concept art for the Dumbo carousel ride. Right: the modern-day ride in action.

“The idea for Disneyland came about when my daughters were very young and Saturday was always Daddy’s day with the two daughters. I’d sit on a bench eating peanuts while they rode the merry-go-round and did all these things. I felt that there should be something built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started. It all started from a daddy with two daughters wondering where he could take them where he could have a little fun with them, too.”

One of the first attractions at Disneyland was Tomorrowland, designed to represent a vision of the future—in the distant year 1986.


Left: Tomorrowland's futuristic world clock in concept art. Right: the final construction.

“Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.”

By 1966, Tomorrowland was predictably becoming outdated and most of its attractions were mere ads for commercial sponsors like Monsanto. In 1967, the area was completely redesigned to feature new attractions and scenery.


Left: Concept drawing for the second version of Tomorrowland. Right: The completed attraction.

“Disneyland is something that will never be finished. It’s like a piece of clay, if there is something I don’t like, I’m not stuck with it. I can reshape and revamp. It’s a three-dimensional thing to play with. But when I say, ‘play with it,’ I don’t mean that. Everything I do I keep a practical eye toward its appeal to the public. Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.”


Left: An early sketch for "Steamboat Willie"in which Mickey Mouse made his debut. Right: A frame from the final film.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. If you can dream, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse.”


Walt Disney in 1954 explaining how the layout of the park was based on Paris.

But the iteration of Disneyland had to continue without its creator. Eleven years after the triumphant opening of his theme park, Walt Disney passed away.