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Want to Invest in Disneyland? Read this Prospectus.

What's a Disneyland? you ask. It's late September of 1954, and you would be forgiven for not knowing the slightest thing about it. Disney had been approaching General Motors, General Foods, General Mills, General Electric, but that list doesn't include your company.

The 1954 Prospectus for Disneyland (Photo from Van Eaton Galleries)
Television insiders were surprised six months before when Variety and other papers said that Walt Disney had agreed to join dozens of other celebrities to host a television show, but it wouldn't debut until the week of Halloween. At the time, there was mention of a kiddieland, but you ignored that as just ballyhoo for the new variety show. It's show biz, not your biz.

Sunday, September 19, 1954
You run a company like Sunnyview Farms, makers of jams, jellies, and sugary candies. Maybe you're Anne Cole, designer of swimwear, or the Bekins brothers, leaders in the moving and storage trade. You could be in charge of advertising for the Pen Corporation of America, or the Shoe Corporation of America, for that matter. Maybe you are Claud or Ellen Wynegar of South Laguna Beach who have tried your hand at a number of ventures, including recycling automobile tires and running a funeral home.

You know Walt Disney--Cinderella a few years ago, Peter Pan last year. Mickey Mouse when you were a kid. Nature films. You know him as well as you know Clark Gable or Estes Kefauver, which is to say, effectively, you know the name.

Someone shows you the Sunday Los Angeles Times dated September 19 with the feature story "Walt Disney's New Ten Million Dollar Toy." Ground was broken recently on the outskirts of Los Angeles. It's a permanent world's fair, the article says. There hasn't been a world's fair since before the war.

"We'll have shooting galleries, but no ordinary ones," Walt Disney is quoted. "The shooting stand's liable to be a prairie schooner from which a kid can take pot shots at replica Indians, wired for sound, circling the wagon, yipping and yelling." The article says nothing about sponsorship opportunities, but you're a businessperson, you understand these things.

So you call over to Burbank and the offices of Walt Disney Productions. You reach a man named Bob Burns, the director of merchandising for the project. He is assembling merchants for an old-fashioned Main Street that, oddly, the Times article didn't mention. If you sell exotic imports, maybe you could find a place in Adventure Land. Western products? Frontier Land. Something else? International Street.

If you want to run a restaurant, you'll need to call an outfit in New York City called United Paramount Theaters. If you want to sell trinkets, here's the number for American Souvenirs. They have locked up those concessions.

No, no, you explain. You don't sell products. You're interested in telling your company's story.

Ah, so you get to meet Fred Schumacher. He's 6' 2", gray hair, in his forties, steely gray eyes, with a precisely-trimmed mustache. He doesn't have time for chit-chat. There's a stopwatch on his desk. 

While you're talking, Fred's boss pops in. He's Wood, the 33-year-old General Manager of Disneyland. He's wearing socks, no shoes. Wood doesn't seem to have another name, unless you count "Woody." Wood is average height, a little overweight, and speaks with a soft but noticeable Texas accent. The sense of urgency is palpable. Wood tells Fred they're flying to Pittsburgh the next day.

Fred realizes that you don't know how you'd like to be involved with his project, but he senses you might have the cash that the project needs, so he gives you a copy of The Prospectus. You'll sign a five-year lease, he explains, paying first and last year's rent up front. You'll agree to pay for the construction of your exhibit, or shop, according to Disney's designs. There are other restrictions, but they'll be covered in the contract. This is Walt Disney. Five million visitors a year. Don't miss out. Thanks for stopping by.

So you read the prospectus and, wow. The 14-page write-up is accompanied by 26 8x10 black and white photos of artwork and plans. This place is amazing. But the money! Cash up front and no guarantees it won't all go bust the first year. Can they really do this? Time will tell.

Want to read the full, unedited Prospectus? An original copy sold at auction in 2017 for $10,600 and the contents were put online. Here, for the first time as far as I know, is the searchable text.




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