The Other Opening Day Scramble

The days and weeks leading up to the opening of Disneyland on July 15, 1955 consisted of a mad scramble to construct, paint and decorate the park before its television debut. At the same time, another massive operation was underway at the park – the preparation for one of the biggest live television events in the history of the relatively new medium. ABC crews began planning for the live broadcast months in advance. One of the first big challenges was securing enough cables, video cameras and other equipment necessary to properly capture video of the 160 acre park. To accumulate the required equipment, ABC had affiliates from across the country send whatever they could spare. Eventually, they collected enough equipment that could run 12 complete television stations.

85,000 feet of cable was necessary for the ABC broadcast

In order to get the camera angles broadcast directors desired to give viewers a good sense of the themed lands, fourteen hydraulic forklifts were brought in and cameras were placed on platforms they could raise above the crowds.

For Tomorrowland, they actually used a crane and a cage.

In the final days, the ABC crews and their forklifts attempting to rehearse for the broadcast were constantly disrupted and displaced by construction crews trying to complete their work. More than once, ABC plans for camera locations would need to be adjusted when a new building or planter was built in what was previously an open space. There were also instances where forklifts got stuck in asphalt that hadn’t completely dried. 

The ABC broadcast operation was organized into five areas, each with their own separate control rooms. There was a central control room, as well as one in Main Street, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Each land had its own director, who was responsible for that portion of the broadcast. 

Inside the Main Control Room

As Walt Disney spent those final days checking on the status of construction, painting and decorating, he was also fascinated by the ABC production. He stopped to chat with directors and crew members as he walked the park. Walt understood the importance of putting on a good show, and ensuring the world’s first impression of Disneyland was a magical one. 


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