July 17 is the anniversary of Disneyland’s opening day in 1955, but it wasn’t as smooth or as well-funded as the park’s successful attraction launches today. In 1955, the beloved Anaheim tourist spot had numerous issues with construction and installation, from water fountains to opening day events, where five times as many people showed up than were invited.
By the time the park opened, Walt Disney had so little money left over, he was borrowing against his own studio. He had only had $500 to offer legendary television personality Art Linkletter in exchange for hosting a three hour live television special marking the event. Mike Opelka shared Linkletter’s genius proposal on today’s “Pure Opelka,” citing David Koenig’s book “Mouse Tails: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland.”
A shrewd businessman who didn’t need or want an agent, he told Disney he’d be happy to do it if he got concessions for “all film and all cameras sold at Disneyland,” as he told Mouseplanet in a 2000 interview. Since there were no smart phones back then, parents taking tons of pictures at the iconic location made Mr. Linkletter far more than $500 over the years.