The entrance of Tomorrowland on Disneyland’s opening day, July 17, 1955. Notice the large crane lifting a cameraman on a platform for the ABC broadcast. He may have had the best E-Ticket thrill all day.
Jan. 15, 1955 - Walt Disney gave the order to go ahead with the construction of Tomorrowland for Disneyland’s opening after previously putting it on hold because there wasn’t enough time. In addition to wanting to offer more attractions to his guests on opening day, Walt was motivated by the sponsorship deal they had inked with TWA for the Rocket to the Moon attraction. One of Disneyland’s early icons was the Moonliner rocket, which stood outside the attraction and was the tallest structure in the entire park at the time, standing eight feet taller than Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
The design of the attraction’s building and theater was one of the first projects Disney Legend John Hench would work on at the park. Hench worked with famed German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun on the design of the Moonliner. In his book, Designing Disney, Hench explains that “I wanted an elegant shape that suggested high speed even though it would be stationary. The sides of the seventy-six-foot-tall rocket were actually straight — only the top and bottom sections were tapered — and I was fascinated by how people read the rocket as a continuous curved form even though it really wasn’t.”
1 - Rocket to the Moon and Moonliner
2 - Rocket to the Moon construction
3 - Moonliner construction
4 - Early attraction concept art by John Hench
5 - John Hench and Walt Disney
To prepare for the filming of the Tomorrowland episode for the Disneyland television series Walt met with famed rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and Disney Legend Ward Kimball. According to Kimball, as von Braun described the future of space “Walt listened wide-eyed, his mouth open in pure rapture at what he was hearing.” Walt was incredibly optimistic about how science could and would improve our future. He said “Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the space age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come.”
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 70s/80s we visited Disneyland on a regular basis and often after school, before "Annual Passes".