If you are a Disneyland fan, you probably think that everyone automatically knew that Disneyland would be a success. NOT! In planning Disneyland, Walt Disney asked for the opinions of amusement park owners. Amusement parks at that time were similar to the carnivals in county fairs.
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After Walt Disney presented his ideas for Disneyland, the reaction of the amusement park owners was unanimous. It would not work. Their comments:
“The proven moneymakers are missing – no roller coasters, no ferris wheel, no shoot-the-chute, no tunnel of love, no hot dog carts, no beer, and worst of all, no carny games like the baseball throw.”
“Custom rides will never work. They cost too much and will constantly break down. Only stock off-the-shelf rides are cheap enough and reliable enough to do the job. And besides, the public doesn’t know the difference or care.”
“Most of the proposed park produces no revenue and will be expensive to build and maintain. Things like the castle and pirate ship are cute but they aren’t rides so there is no economic reason to build them. There is too much wasteful landscaping. Things like city hall and the fire station are not designed to make money, so that is a poor use of real estate and will not add to the bottom line.”
They felt that Walt’s commitment to little design details was just not warranted. “People will vandalize the ride vehicles and destroy the grounds no matter what you do, so you may as well go cheap.”
Walt wanted the interiors of the buildings to be as highly detailed as the exteriors. “The interior finishing concepts of the restaurants are too expensive, especially since a hot dog and a beer are about all anyone eats at an amusement park. He will lose his shirt by over spending on things the customers never really notice.”
“Most importantly, the lack of barkers is certainly a bad idea. Without barkers along the midway to sell the sideshows, the marks won’t pay to go in. Customers are likely to leave with money left in their pockets.”
“Mr. Disney’s park idea is too expensive to build and too expensive to operate. Tell your boss to save his money. Tell him to stick to what he knows and leave the amusement business to people who know it.”
If you are a Disneyland fan, you will probably agree that the amusement park owners had it all wrong. They knew their business well, but could not think outside their box. It’s hard to convince people to believe in a new idea or something that doesn’t exist yet. They usually want to go with something that’s already ‘known’, something that is already a proven success.
But actually, Walt saw the negative comments as confirmation of his ideas. He wanted to build something better than the run-of-the-mill amusement park, he wanted to build the first ‘theme’ park. So-called ‘experts’ aren’t always right. Your dream may not always succeed, but don’t let naysayers kill your dream before you give it a chance.