Disneyland is fully ensconced in our popular culture in just about every conceivable way, from film to squeaky toys, waffle irons to diaper bags. It's even become the "go to" destination for those lucky athletes who, when asked what they'd like to do after their Superbowl victory, proudly spout "I'm going to Disneyland!". And I'd have to say, it's one of my personal Happiest Places on Earth, with special significance for my hubby and me and our sense of play. The venerable park just celebrated its 55th anniversary. It continues to delight and amaze, and will certainly do so for generations to come.
But I'm betting you didn't know that Walt Disney was inspired by a small storybook park in Oakland, CA. The following is an excerpt from Children's Fairyland's website, a bit of vintage amusement park history few are aware of. I was informed of this connection by park historian and Storybook Puppet Theatre director Randal Metz. Now, from the park's history webpage:
It wasn't long before Fairyland inspired imitators. Storybook parks sprang up around the country, but few lasted long—with one notable exception. Not long after we opened, a fellow named Walt Disney visited Children’s Fairyland. He liked it so much that he incorporated some of our innovations into his “magic kingdom,” which opened in Anaheim in 1955. He also hired Fairyland’s first executive director, Dorothy Manes, and one of our part-time puppeteers, Bob Mills.
So when you're next strolling through Disneyland and admiring its wonders, remember to give a nod to a small storybook park in Oakland, where some of the magic truly began.
I'll be visiting Fairyland in just a few days and am giddy with expectation. Check back for my park report. And have a Fairyland Day!