How Walt Disney Built the Happiest Place on Earth


Back in the early fifties, when he was trying to build a park like no other, Walt Disney needed to raise some dough.

Disneyland was going to cost him $17 million to build. That’s equal to around $165 million today.

Walt and his company had done pretty well. But not THAT well so…

…he launched a television show.

Walt Disney’s Disneyland premiered in 1954 as a weekly show on ABC. That started a 36-year run of weekly network television shows for Walt’s company.

The names changed over the years. But the strategy was the same: Promote all things Disney AND make some money doing it.


I loved The Wonderful World of Disney when I was a kid. But those mid-50s shows aired before I was around.

I can watch some of the old shows now, though — on-demand on Disney+.

On July 13, 1954, four days before they opened the park, the show featured “The Pre-Opening Report from Disneyland.”

Walt and his team tell how they created the park — from unformed ideas, to preliminary drawings, to models, to full-scale test rides.

Walt Disney TV Guide Ad

I’ve watched that episode on Disney+ four times, beginning to end.

I learn something new every time.

I’m not interested in this for Disney trivia (although there’s plenty of that). I’m talking about business lessons.

My favorite part:

They’re describing the engineering and design challenges they faced when building some of Disneyland’s natural features.

A raging river. Mountains.

The narrator says, “Some of the questions we had to answer sounded like those a four-year-old might ask his father. ‘How do you keep a river from running away? How do you make a rock?’ And like the parent of a four-year-old, there were a lot of answers we didn’t know.”

And here comes the kicker…

The narrator said:

“But in most cases,
you find the answers to things
by just doing them.
That’s the way we found out.” 

Disneyland’s tagline: The Happiest Place on Earth.

We think of Disney as so polished. So perfect.

But Walt Disney didn’t just drop some fairy dust on Anaheim, California and conjure up that polished, perfect, happiest place.

He built it — from the ground up.

Just like you have to build your business.

Ask questions. Acknowledge there are many things you don’t know. And find the answers to things by just doing them.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when facing big questions. It’s easy to shut down when you don’t know the answers. It’s easy to get stuck if you expect polish and perfection from the start.

You don’t have all the answers.

That’s not a reason to stop.

That’s a reason to keep going. Keep doing. Find out what it takes. Build it.

You can polish it later.

Thanks for reading.

p.s. I can help you craft and deliver powerful stories that attract leads, keep them tuned in, and inspire them to act. If you’d like to discuss how I can help, schedule a 15-minute consultation with me and we can discuss the possibilities.

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.