Disneyland 101: An Overview of Disney’s First Theme Park

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Walt had spent years dreaming of a magical place where families could have fun together, and he originally wanted to build an amusement park on eight acres near his studios in Burbank, California. But there were two reasons that Burbank wasn’t going to be ideal. First, the City of Burbank didn’t have the same vision as Walt, and second—and more importantly—Walt was a dreamer, and the more time he put into his dream, the bigger the dream became, and Walt conceded that eight acres wouldn’t be enough space for his dream to take flight.

The genius Mr. Disney also knew that the location for this dream park would need to be both close to the Los Angeles metro area and accessible by the freeway. For this reason, an area of land in Anaheim, California, approximately 25 miles east of Los Angeles seemed to be the perfect place for such a park. It would prove difficult, however, for Walt to convince potential financiers of the new park’s prospective profitability. Bankers and lenders didn’t see much value in “dreams” being used as collateral.

Walt and his brother Roy had most of the money needed to begin this endeavor. Walt had borrowed against his life insurance and sold his second home to come up with some of the funds. But they were still short. And since traditional financiers didn’t share Walt’s vision, he decided to take a different approach and enlisted, instead, the help of network television executives—namely at ABC. ABC Television agreed to loan the Disney brothers $6 million, but there was a catch:  in exchange for the loan, ABC would have part ownership in the new park, and Disney would produce a weekly show for the network.

Walt agreed to those terms, and with the loan from ABC-TV, he and his brother Roy finally had the green light they needed to begin to realize Walt’s dream.


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