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Walt’s Scrapbook – June, 1955

Walt Disney surveys Main Street, June 1955Walt surveys his domain in June, 1955 (AP Photo)

What’s Walt up to today? It’s June of 1955 and he’s taking a walk down the middle of Main Street – or at least by the train station. But his dapper outfit seems out of place considering the surroundings; looking down Main Street towards the castle it looks like there’s a lot of work left to be done. When you consider the date this photo was taken, though, you might expect Walt to be a little less placid than he seems. This was taken June 9th, 1955 – barely more than a month away from Disneyland’s opening. How they were able to get it ready in that time, I’ll never understand. Think about that when you consider it’s been a year and a half since Spaceship Earth re-opened and they still don’t have the finale scene completed. The original caption:

Walt Disney stands framed by the covered waiting room of the Disneyland railroad station on Main Street in Anaheim, Ca., June 9, 1955. Disney is building a 17-million-dollar amusement park. When completed, Main Street will be typical of the years from 1890 to 1910.

No wonder the asphalt was still soft on opening day!

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4 comments to Walt’s Scrapbook – June, 1955

  • yeah, it really is amazing. though, that’s back when people were willing to work for a great concept, not just the best compensation package.

  • Well, I hope the workers in 1955 were well compensated as well – one of the hardest elements of Disney history for me to reconcile is the 1941 animation strike, since I agree in part with both sides – but I think the real kicker in this situation is that management was willing to do *whatever* needed to be done, and spend as much as needed to be spent, to get it finished. I think that’s what’s missing today – not willingness from WDI or contractors but initiative from management…

  • yeah, I thought about the strike after I commented, and I’m sure they were well compensated, it just seems that benefits packages are more exorbitant today, and people seem a little lazier. probably just my own perception of things, though.

  • Well I think it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. A park would obviously take longer to build today from a sheer technological standpoint – if you look at the roster of opening-day attractions at Disneyland it was mostly off-the-shelf carnival ride technology with very imaginative dressing. Of course, with Disneyland that was just due to financial limitations – as soon as the money started coming in, Walt began to develop the really groundbreaking attractions that opened in 1959-1967.

    While benefit packages do seem exorbitant today, again I think that problem is more at the executive level. And what’s worse is that those bonuses and benefits are tied to how well they cut costs and run up the profit margin. The system is broken at the top, and that just trickles down.

    I don’t think the actual labor force itself has gotten lazier over the years – I’m a big supporter of labor and I usually feel that any benefits the lower-tier workers can get they’ve earned. Instead I think that management has become reluctant to give them what they need to do the job right. If you don’t hire enough people or aren’t willing to pay for enough hours to get something done, it won’t get done.

    I mentioned the Spaceship Earth rehab – that work is only being done by a small staff during the third shift. I doubt they’re slacking off, they’re just not being given the proper resources. In 1955 Walt had everyone going full blast with every ounce of capital he could muster – heaven knows how much overtime they must have paid out. If the same ideas were used today we’d have seen SE go down in January of 2008 and they’d have had crews working around the clock to finish it.

    I’m not sure if the working stiffs ever cared whether they were building a fantasy castle or tract housing in the valley – they were probably just glad to have a job. But the executive ranks who were once willing to move heaven and earth to make Walt’s vision come true no longer care whether work is done up to his standards. They just try and get by with as little as they can do to keep those expenses down.

    That’s why as much as people rag on WDI, they’re not the problem; look at DisneySea – WDI has still got the spark. But if you’re only giving the funding and guidance to build Laugh Floor, all they’ll be able to build is Laugh Floor.

    Still, though – I have no idea how they managed to get Disneyland finished :) That just still seems so unbelievable.

    Thanks for the discussion!

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