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Disneyland's opening 50 years ago turned into 'Black Sunday' - AP, 7/14/05

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  • Disneyland's opening 50 years ago turned into 'Black Sunday' - AP, 7/14/05

    Walt Disney knew little about the snafus, since he was busy on the live ABC-TV broadcast with co-emcees Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings and Ronald Reagan. The next day he read devastating reviews in the newspapers and heard dismaying reports from his staff.

    "Walt was furious," Price recalls. "In a helluva hurry, he fired Woody, the guy who built the park in 18 months."

    Woody was C.V. Wood, a former U.S. Army general. While opening day was crumbling, Price says, "Woody was upstairs mixing a lot of mint juleps for his staff; it was kinda like firing-squad day."

    Disney's damage control was immediate.

    "Walt was personally around the park every day that first week, looking into every situation and then getting something done about it," Kurr says.

    He also was mending fences with the press, hosting small groups of reporters and editors for dinner and a tour of Disneyland.

    One reporter had suggested that Disneyland skimped on drinking fountains in order to sell soft drinks. Disney called her and explained, off the record, that a local plumbers strike had been settled shortly before opening day. He had to decide between toilets and drinking fountains. "People can buy Pepsi-Cola," he said, "but they can't pee in the streets."
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