Disneyland, 1965

The happiest landscape on Earth.
USC Libraries

Disneyland was built in Anaheim, California, next to suburbs and orchards. It opened in 1955. Ten years later, a man flew over in an airplane and took photographs of the new park. You can see it in the photograph above: it's the large blob southwest of the freeway offramp loops. Its parking lots extend for acres to the south. The cars, neatly lined up into rows, look like Morse code from the sky. 

To the north and east, we see suburbia. To the west, orchards and a golf course. 

Let's zoom in on this artificial landscape. 

From here, we can begin to see the pieces of the park. The fake waters of Frontierland in the upper left. The circles and ships of Tomorrowland to the bottom right.

Everyone came in via Main Street, of course, right at 6 o'clock, closest to the parking lots. 

A 1965 map of Disneyland (Jim Cofer)

Around this time, perhaps a few years earlier, a Boy Scout troop went to Disneyland. They brought a camera with them, and someone shot a series of scenes that eventually found their way into the hands of film archivist Rick Prelinger

The film is silent. We watch Mickey lead a parade. A band plays. There's a scene filmed from a boat in Frontierland, drifting on the fake waters of American history. An animatronic Native American waves from the shore. A real human simulates a native dance. There are rides and more ships. The teacups. The teacups! Then a simulated submarine enters a cave. It all ends with a fireworks show.

This was Disneyland in 1965: a permanent World's Fair, an artificial ecosystem, a confused historical fiction, a grab bag of stereotypes, a continuous celebration of physical entertainment technology. All of it sitting in Anaheim, between orchards and tract homes.


Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.


Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.


The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.


Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.


Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses


Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In