Behind the Scenes of ‘Operation Disneyland’: How ABC Made TV History

Creating a happiest place on Earth is no small task, and trying to televise its grand opening was daunting even with the help of Tinker Bell’s magic. Yet on this day, Disneyland not only opened its gates for the first time, but it was broadcast in a 90-minute special called Dateline Disneyland. While the opening of the now landmark park certainly was an historic event, it is also noteworthy the program was the world’s largest live telecast. Five separate control rooms were set up. There was Central Control, plus rooms at Main Street, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, thus breaking the show into five separate remote telecasts.

The Central Control could punch up pictures from area controls just as area controls were able to punch up pictures from individual cameras. What wasn’t too noticeable on the air was the miles of cables from building to building, rooftop to rooftop, and window to window. In many cases, technicians had to wait for a building to be completed or a road to be paved before the cable could be strung. Thirteen hydraulic forklifts had special camera platforms so that the cameras could easily be moved from place to place and to be lifted over the heads of crowds and obstacles.

Eighty crowd control men were assigned to keep Guests out of the way of the cameras. It was quite a production as had never been done before. Veteran Hollywood choreographer Miriam Nelson was brought in and was responsible for various dances throughout the program as well as the parade down Main Street.

She recently told D23’s Scott Wolf, “I ran from land to land! And they had a big truck to put the dancers on to take them in a hurry to the next land where they had to change clothes since they were the same dancers. They lost the dancers once. The driver didn’t know where he was going on the back roads back there, but they made it on time.” While there was much mayhem and unexpected events, all in all it was unbeknownst to the viewing audiences. There were certainly some noticeable on-camera blunders, but it was all overshadowed by the wonderful new theme park which Walt Disney dedicated that day, “to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

Source: D23

Banner Photo Credit: Disney