Disneyland and Patriotism: Disney Parks History

Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle At Night

"Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America"

These are some of the words Walt Disney spoke to help open Disneyland, and they would serve as the start of a long history of Disneyland and its relationship with patriotism.

Welcome to Disney Parks History, where we explore different aspects of the Disney Parks past and present. Today we are taking a look at how Disneyland has featured Americana and patriotism throughout its history.

Walt Disney was a proud American. Always was and always would be. He had served in World War One, assisting the medical effort, and his love for his country stayed with him ever since.

Disneyland has featured patriotic sections from the beginning. Two of its opening day lands, Main Street USA and Frontierland were based on distinct periods in US history, from a turn of the 20th-century small town to a version of a western outpost, just being occupied by American settlers. Both of these lands were presented as idealized versions of what they were based 

These were just the beginning of a much longer history of patriotic elements finding their way into the Disney Parks.

As Disney was looking to expand during its first decade, two of the planned expansions were based around adding more Americana into the park.

Liberty Street was planned to bring a colonial-themed area to the park, including an early version of Hall of Presidents. Edison Square would have brought the dawn of electricity to the park with an early version of the Carousel of Progress.

Neither of these would happen due to Disney's commitments to the 1964 World's Fair, but that would bring its own patriotic additions back to Disneyland.

Disney would sponsor the attraction of the State of Illinois at the fair that would become Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. This gave Walt his chance to do an attraction based on the presidents, that would be cloned (not moved) to Disneyland, giving Main Street USA an actual attraction.

Two of Disney's other attractions at the fair were also filled with patriotic themes. Notably for Disneyland Carousel of Progress followed an American family through the first half of the 20th century and eventually came to Tomorrowland at Disneyland.

Disneyland's first expansions furthered the Americana theme. The first new land brought a new section of America to the park in New Orleans Square. Tom Sawyer Island, an early extension of Frontierland gave the park a section dedicated to the works of a historic US author.

Through to today the park remains exclusively dedicated to American art forms. Disney and Pixar animated films, American live-action movies, the entire park is full of American art forms, classic to modern film.

It is constantly changing to fit the current mold of patriotism. Sometimes that means leaning less into westerns and more into the thrill factor, other times it means removing connections to problematic films and reflecting the changing dynamics of the country.

Disneyland in the US is distinctly more than any other Disney Park an American cultural institution deeply rooted in patriotism. Walt himself started this and it remains an important part of his legacy at the park through today.