Sixty years ago the amazing new medium of television introduced a magical new weekly series called Disneyland. Even better, the show was hosted by the man who started it all. If you’re an animation geek like myself, you’ll remember the off camera television announcer say the magic words, “…and now your host, Walt Disney.” Wednesday night would never be the same.
And, so began an exciting journey inside Walt Disney’s magic factory where the Old Maestro himself would share his special secrets with the television audience. Of course, it was a network television show watched by millions, but all of us felt we were getting the inside scoop from Walt Disney himself as he took us on a private tour of his studio and the exciting projects that were yet to come. Perhaps this might seem strange, but back in the fifties not every family had a television set. I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who did, and they graciously invited me into their living room to watch the Disney show. Remember, I was just a kid in school and this was many years ago. Disneyland had not yet opened its gates and Walt Disney was eager to introduce us to this bold, innovative new theme park. It would be an attraction like no other. Plus, Walt had a slate of new movies and television shows, and he gave us a peek at those as well. In many ways, Walt Disney was the ultimate pitchman as he sold us on his bold new ideas. No matter. It may have been a sales pitch but it was also entertaining as heck and we couldn’t get enough of it.
Like most young people with stars in their eyes I couldn’t wait to finish school and apply for a job at the Walt Disney Studios. However, a Disney career was still a long way away as I returned home to complete my homework assignments. Thinking back on that time, I realize the only time I watched television was on Wednesday nights back in the fifties. I sat in my neighbor’s living room and watched Disneyland in glorious black and white. The weekly ABC series was my portal into the land of my dreams. Once a week, I could garner a peek inside the Walt Disney Studio and even have the Old Maestro himself as my guide. As you can imagine, this pilgrimage to my neighbor’s home was the highlight of my week and I never missed a single show. It’s difficult to believe this has been sixty years ago. Since that time, the Disney shows have moved to full color, high resolution and stereo sound. Plus, there are even greater things to come. However, for this Disney veteran, all of this stuff will never surpass the magic of those early black and white days with its analog television images and crummy reception. We were simply a group of dazzled kids with stars in our eyes and the dream of one day working for the most incredible, magical company on planet earth.