Considering that Disneyland and Walt Disney Productions represent the culmination of one man’s dream, it seemed only fitting to include the story of that man’s dream in Disneyland—and it was just as fitting that Walt’s widow, Lillian, was there to open the doors. The Walt Disney Story captured the life and times of Walt in a slickly produced film that opened in Disneyland’s Main Street Opera House in 1973, replacing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Walt Disney’s Audio-Animatronics® tribute to the Great Emancipator had been at Disneyland since July 18, 1965 (and originally at the State of Illinois pavilion at the New York World’s Fair).
However, on June 14, 1975, Mr. Lincoln returned, treating guests seated in the Opera House to a double-feature. After the movie about Mr. Disney, Audio-Animatronics Abe gave his speech. This long presentation had an appropriately long name: The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Inside the lobby of the attraction, a display case contained letters from various dignitaries, including letters from Leopold Stokowski, President Dwight Eisenhower, President Nixon, Mary Pickford, and Joseph P. Kennedy.
The attraction also contained some memorable quotes from Walt, including the following:
“The first money I made—I bought myself a motion picture camera called the Universal.”
“I wanted to experiment—making theatrical cartoons, so I started experimenting at night…
and I worked on a little idea I wanted to sell to the Newman Theatre—a chain of about
three theatres. I called the things “Newman Laugh-O-grams.”
“I’d failed. But I learned a lot out of that. I think it’s important to have a good hard failure
when you’re young.”
“Now my brother Roy was already in Los Angeles… both of us were unemployed. And neither could get a job. We solved the problem by going into business for ourselves. We established the first animated cartoon studio in Hollywood… Then sound-on-film panicked the industry… Mickey Mouse came into our life.”
Eventually, Disneyland management decided to make The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln more entertaining. On July 17, 2001, on the 46th anniversary of the televised opening of Disneyland, the park celebrated the Grand Opening of a new version.
Come celebrate the life of Walt Disney with us at D23′s Disney Fanniversary Celebration 2013, coming to a town near you. Join us in Boston, Newark, San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington, D.C.
By D23: The Official Disney Fan Club’s Jim Frye