On this day in 1953, Roy Disney flew to New York on a mission that was essential for making his brother Walt’s dream of building Disneyland a reality – finding a way to pay for it. In addition to meeting with bankers and more traditional investors, Roy also met with television networks. In the years leading up to Roy’s trip, television networks were searching for content and had approached the Disney Studio about a production deal. However, in those early years of television, movie studios viewed the medium as a threat and opposed any partnerships.
As Walt’s theme park plans, and its costs, grew larger, his bean counter brother grew anxious. Desperate for a way to pay for Disneyland and a growing realization that television was the future, Walt approached Roy with the idea of striking a deal with a network. Roy agreed and armed with a Disneyland prospectus, a map drawn by Herb Ryman, and other concept art he arranged meetings in New York.
Roy first met with CBS, but they were uninterested. He next had a promising meeting with executives from NBC but when he sat down with its parent company RCA, he was unable to secure a deal.
After heading back to his hotel room, a dejected Roy called Leonard Goldenson, the President of ABC, the lowest rated network at the time. When Roy got Leonard on the phone he said “Leonard, a couple of years ago you expressed an interest in working out something with us in television. Are you still interested?”
“Roy, where are you?” Goldenson asked.
Roy said he was at the Waldorf Astoria, and Goldenson said, “I’ll be right over.”
The two sat down and Roy explained what Walt was working on. “How much is Disneyland going to cost?” Leonard asked.
“Walt figures from two to five million to get started,” Roy said. After a pause he said “But I figure maybe ten million?”
While the details of the agreement between ABC and Disney would be ironed out over the following weeks, Roy had once again delivered a deal for his brother. Disney would produce a weekly show for ABC and in exchange for an ownership stake in Disneyland, ABC would invest $500,000 in the park as well as guarantee loans up to $4.5 million.