Black Sunday-What Really Happened On Disneyland’s Opening Day

A little over 65 years ago on July 17th, 1955, Disneyland, the first ever Disney Park, opened to the public. And while lots of people know that, not everyone knows how much of a disaster it was-or why it got the nickname “Black Sunday.”

Disneyland Opened Before It Was Ready

Guests Run Into Disneyland On Opening Day
Photo Credit: Allears.net

Disneyland cost about $17 million dollars to build, which is a lot of money now, but it was SO MUCH more then. And while Walt Disney put so much time and money into Disneyland Park, it wasn’t finished quite on time. This is really the main reason July 17th, 1955 was given the name Black Sunday. The opening day of Disneyland was not postponed- and that might’ve been the problem. Too many things were not ready to operate quite yet. In fact, there were multiple attractions that guests could not even ride on, because they hadn’t been finished.

Guests Riding Dumbo The Flying Elephant back In The 1950s
Photo Credit: Disney

Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Rocket To The Moon were three attractions that were not ready for guests to ride on opening day. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Tomorrowland didn’t really look or feel like the future at first. Just more like a big open area. And without the Rocket To The Moon attraction open, Tomorrowland was probably even more of a disappointment.

Tomorrowland A Few Days After Disneyland’s Opening
Photo Credit: Edward Kitch/AP

A Few Disasters Occurred

Disneyland’s opening day only got worse as more unplanned events happened. A few weeks before July 17th, Walt realized there wasn’t enough time to finish both the bathrooms and and water fountains. Obviously, he chose the bathrooms, which may have seemed like a smart decision, but it caused some problems. It was a very, very hot day outside so almost 30,000 people had to buy drinks (Only 15,000 were expected to show) at Disneyland. Of course, this made guests angry, and Walt was accused of trying to make a bigger profit.

Guests Waiting In Line To Ride “Snow White And Her Adventures”
Photo Credit: The Orange County Register

The drinks weren’t the only heat related problem that occurred on Black Sunday. In fact, it was so hot on Disneyland’s opening day, that some women’s high heels sunk into the newly added asphalt on Main Street USA. Imagine if that was you! Would you really want to come back to Disneyland? And on top of that, there was gas leak in Fantasyland, which led to three lands of the park temporarily closing, and the Mark Twain Riverboat got so overcrowded that it began sinking.

Children Enjoying The Mad Tea Party Attraction On Disneyland Opening Day
Photo Credit: Loomis Dean/ The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

It All Worked Out

Guests Parading Into Fantasyland
Photo Credit: Disney

Despite the disaster of an opening day that was Black Sunday, everything worked out in the end. Disneyland became so successful, that Walt Disney world opened in 1971, followed by International Disney Parks throughout the years. And even though Disneyland isn’t fully opened at the moment because of COVID, guests are still visiting Downtown Disney in Disneyland, which just goes to show how proud Walt Disney would be of how everything turned out. Anyways, remember to stay safe, and stay tuned for more Disney content coming to A Dollop Of Disney!

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