Discovering the original Disneyland

When Walt Disney first proposed the idea of Disneyland, he planned to have a much more ambitious shopping catalog than the park does today.

BoingBoing co-editor Cory Doctorow recently unearthed the original 1953 prospectus for Disneyland, which was a pitch for more than just a theme park. It was slated to become, as Disney first called it, a hub for "merchantainment"--or, in other words, the precursor to the modern shopping mall.

"He wanted to make a place where you could get the kind of things that you had to be a very sophisticated person indeed to get in 1953 post-war America," Doctorow said. "It wasn't just that he wanted to sell you tropical fish and even tropical birds; he wanted to sell you miniature ponies."

The prospectus includes an illustrated map of the original plans for Disneyland--which looks remarkably similar to the park we know today. For this reason, Doctorow says, if Walt Disney himself were to walk through the park gates today, he'd be pleased with what he'd see.

"There's no way you can justify to investors putting on that little bit of gold plating, that little bit of 'plussing up,' as Walt used to say," Doctorow said, "and I think the only description you can make for things that people do because they're aesthetically pleasing even though there's no rational return on the investment is art. And I think the park is still the domain of people who think of themselves as artists, and of the park as a work of art."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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