Lillian & Walt Disney, Ruth Disney, Roy & Edna Disney
The Alice Comedies combined animation and live action
Another milestone came in 1928 when Mickey Mouse would make his debut and turned the entertainment world on its collective head. The 1929 release of the first Silly Symphony, The Skeleton Dance, would further redefine what was possible in animation. All of this activity would lead to the 1937 release of the first full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That film would change the face of movies and Disney forever.
The year 1955 would also go down in the record books as a great year for Disney. That was when Walt moved into the place-based entertainment arena and opened Disneyland. The park would become an immediate cultural phenomenon and changed the direction of the Disney ensuring an almost endless supply of money.
Pepsi Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair featuring Walt Disney's It's A Small World
Roy Disney at Disney World in 1971
A tribute to Frank Wells resides in Disneyland's Matterhorn
Dick Nunis' window on Main Street
Dick Nunis was called upon to get the ball rolling. Dick started out in 1955 as one of the first 600 people hired to operate Disneyland. He would spend the next 44-years at Disney and by the time of his retirement he would rise to chairman of Walt Disney Attractions. He saw the writing on the wall and knew that the direction for new parks would be these smaller, more adaptable models.
In 1991, he suggested that Michael Eisner and Frank Wells visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
Williamsburg was the capitol of Virginia during colonial times. It was also the cultural and educational center of the largest, most populous state at that time. In 1926, members of the community convinced philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. that restoration of the town could provide endless educational opportunities. Over the period of many years, the city was transformed back to the height of its influence. Members of the community dressed in period costumes and entertained guest simply by allowing them to peak into another time and place.
Dick Nunis felt the Virginia area would be perfect for another educational/entertainment destination. This part of the country was already close to the museums and monuments in Washington D.C. Having a resort nearby would allow visitors to experience these real historic places, return to the comfort and safety of their Disney hotel, and then put those real places into context with a visit to the park. The park would focus on expanding the themes people would witness as they traveled throughout the region.
Come back next time to learn how this trip to Virginia would change everything.
Sam Gennawey is an urban planner who has collaborated with communities throughout California over the course of more than 100 projects to create a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. For the past couple of years he has been the publisher of , a blog dedicated to the history and design of the North American Disney theme parks. Sam is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Planning History Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving municipal, county, and private sector planning documents from throughout Los Angeles County.