Thursday, February 4, 2016

See the Original Pitch Walt and Roy Disney Used to Build Disneyland

By Keith Mahne

Place yourself in Walt Disney's shoes back in 1953 for a moment. You have a dream in your mind and the only way for that dream to become a reality is if you can get a few bankers in New York to see it as you do. That was the dilemma Walt Disney was facing on a Friday afternoon in 1953 when his brother Roy was just hours away from leaving for New York that following Monday. Roy requested that Walt give him something visual for the bankers to see in order for him to secure the funds to build Disneyland. The images you are about to see are the exact same files that Walt and Herb Ryman created that special weekend for Roy Disney to show the bankers. In today's new article we will travel back to 1953 and become a fly on the wall at the Walt Disney Studios as we look back at the documents that made Disneyland, Walt's greatest dream to date, into a reality...

Before we take a look and read over the original pitch used to create Disneyland, let's recall what that period of time was like for Walt and Herb Ryman, the artist responsible for portraying Walt's park on paper for the bankers. In the video below, put together by the team here at Disney Avenue, I'd like to try and put some things into perspective for you. Let's hear from Disney Historian Jim Korkis and Herb Ryman himself and find out what that weekend was like for Walt and the men responsible for getting Disneyland funded...

(For your viewing pleasure, please be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top left-hand corner of the page prior to watching the video below if you are on a desktop computer.)

As you have just heard, and can imagine, the amount of pressure on Walt Disney and artist Herb Ryman to give words and images to Walt's idea of a family fun park over the course of less than two days was astonishing. But, in typical Walt fashion, he got it done. And now friends, the fruit of Walt's and Herb's labor, the original, 1953 Disneyland Prospectus. Enjoy...

The 1953 Disneyland Prospectus includes:

  • An outer 9" x 12" folder with tabs to hold pages featuring what appears to be rub on lettering titled "DISNEYLAND." 
  • A large, foldout map measuring 24" x 36" that was quickly hand colored by Marvin Davis and Dick Irvine in colored pencils. The map featured a fantasy birds-eye view of the proposed park. 
  • 9 typed pages describing Walt's planned theme park including him describing the different "lands". Some of those "lands" never came to fruition such as "Lilliputian Land" and "Happy Holiday Land." The typed pages include quotes from Walt that have been referenced about Disneyland ever since.
  • A second map was placed at the end of the prospectus and was created by Marvin Davis. It measured 12" x 18" and showcased an architectural rendering of the proposed park. 

As you can see, these are some of the most rare and important documents in the history of Walt Disney and Disneyland. 

Only three of these files were created and each personally done by Walt Disney and Herb Ryman for Roy Disney to take to New York. All three copies were left with the bankers. The documents shown above were discovered at an estate sale on Long Island, New York in the early 1980s and have been in the same owner's hands since 1984 until they were sold at auction in 2011 to radio personality Glenn Beck. They have been extensively researched to determine their rarity and importance and have been seen and examined by Dave Smith of the Walt Disney Archives and deemed authentic. Thankfully, we as Disneyland fans can now see and appreciate the importance of these documents for ourselves. How amazing it is to realize the importance they hold. Seeing these documents and knowing their history really solidifies the fact that Disneyland was truly an elaborate dream of Walt's. A dream that evolved from a miniature train set built in his backyard as therapy after a long day at the studio...

We all know that classic photo of Walt Disney hanging out of a train locomotive, grinning with pure joy as Disneyland has just opened. That image contains the real story of Disneyland: a man with a dream and a love for the company he founded, restless with corporate culture, full of childlike wonder, anxious to lose himself to play in a world full of fantasy and for the world to play right along with him.

Thank you Walt for sharing your dreams with the world...


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.


  1. You have an EXCELLENT page, I am a big fan keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you Stewart. We intend to get back to our regular schedule of new articles every other day after the holidays. We appreciate your warm words of support.