Blue Sky Sessions with Walt

These photos show Walt Disney and Disney Legend John Hench reviewing early layout designs for Disneyland. They were taken in 1953 by legendary Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Photo By Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

If you look closely at the map Walt is discussing with Hench, you’ll notice it’s a design that pre-dates the eventual hub concept. For some time before any land was purchased or shovels hit the ground, Walt shared his ideas about building an amusement park with just about anyone who would listen. Many, like Hench, would come away from these blue sky concept discussions with Walt inspired and their careers at Disney would never be the same again. As Hench explained:

“He was very excited about everything he was doing. And he lived and breathed it and finally it rubbed off on you.”

Photo By Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Walt’s first park concept involved building something on the Disney studio lot. Hench later recalled a time while he was still working in animation and out of his office window he “saw Walt out there pacing an area, with his long, 3-foot strides. I knew he was measuring space for something … he’d walk a certain direction, then walk another way.” Hench later approached Walt and asked “What in the hell are you doing across the street, tramping around in those weeds?” Walt then shared with Hench his idea for a park. Years later, Walt approached Hench and told him, “I want you to work on Disneyland, and you’re going to like it.”

Photo By Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

In interviews years after Disneyland opened, Hench explained:

“When Walt built Disneyland, he was striving to make people feel better about themselves. I think he had discovered what people were looking for—the feeling of being alive and in love with life, which gave the park an almost religious aura.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for Walt and Hench to realize they had succeeded. Hench recounted to author Bob Thomas: When we were waiting to go to dinner at Disneyland one night, we went into his apartment above the fire station. He wasn’t there. He finally came in from the balcony and said, “You know, there are lots of happy people out there.”

Design Inspiration

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