Menu Close

Walt Disney Presents

Author Elaine Needelman
Air Date 10/26/1999

Disney Presents Transcript

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of one of television’s most successful shows, the first prime-time t.v. show for both children and adults, the show that gave us t.v.’s first mini-series. Here’s Elaine Needelman to tell us about it.

On October 27, 1954, “Disneyland” premiered on ABC. Hosted by Walt Disney himself, it was a new type of program series that cleverly used television as a sales tool for future enterprises. Walt Disney agreed to do television primarily to generate support for Disneyland, the new amusement park, he was building in Anaheim, California. In fact, the first show featured “The Disneyland Story,” which described coming attractions in the park that would open in the next year. Later shows featured promotions for upcoming Disney movies, cartoons from the Disney vaults, Disney films, nature shorts, and original tv series .

The hit of the first season was the three-part saga about Davy Crockett starring Fess Parker as the legendary frontiersman. This series produced a number-one song on the hit parade and inspired a nation-wide craze for all things Crockett — coloring books costumes, rifles, and especially Davy’s coonskin cap (over 10 million were sold).

The wildly successful evening “Disneyland” series changed names five times and networks three times over the next 30 years. It went off the air in 1990 but was revived on Sunday nights on ABC after Disney purchased the network.

Walt Disney used all types of media to establish “an image in the public mind” of what the word Disney should mean — primarily wholesome family entertainment. The Disney company premiered its own cable network in 1983 and became one of the biggest sellers of home video with several Disney titles often in the Top Ten of national video sales simultaneously. One of the spin-offs during the 1950s of Disney’s evening show, “The Mickey Mouse Club,” is in permanent reruns, it seems, on the Disney Channel and it has spawned updated versions of the old show that featured singers like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and future members of the group N’Sync, all of whom are now teen pop stars.

Walt Disney’s television series was a first of its kind, and its success and longevity has never really been matched. The many facets of Disney’s empire have not been without their detractors and critics, but one thing remains clear from that opening show — Disney’s vision that saw quite clearly even then how he would make his name synonymous with wholesome, quality, family entertainment.

Posted in Television