Friday, July 22, 2011


For a man whose creative reputation is rooted in light, wholesome, family entertainment,Walt Disney has always been a lightning rod for the darkest of urban myths.

I don't know if he was cryogenically frozen in death, was a fascist in life , or treated employees with an inhuman and icy dispassion.I would hope he was above the aberrant and abhorrent behavior attributed to him.

But,there are plenty of blogs to explore his politics and persona. This one is designed to examine his role in network television at its nascent stage.

In that environment, he's best described as a pioneer and a video visionary.

In 1954, ABC-TV was a network in search of an audience.

Any audience.

ABC enjoyed occasional spikes in viewership, thanks to fan-favorites like THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET and THE LONE RANGER, but the alphabet net wasn't in the same league with CBS AND NBC.

ABC-TV executives needed a hit and they were willing to pay a significant premium to get one.

They knew that the expertise to create top-rated programs resided in the Hollywood creative community. They approached major studio heads looking for partnerships that yielded hit TV shows. But the almost all of the movie moguls, from Mayer to Warner, viewed TV as a dangerous competitor. Their answer was a resounding "no."

Except for one major film producer.

In 1954,Walt Disney was a show business entrepreneur in search of financing for his most ambitious project.It wasn't to fund one of his hallmark,animated movies, like Fantasia. It wasn't to develop a new animated character, like the beloved Mickey Mouse or Daffy Duck. It wasn't even to support his more recent foray into live action films, like his grand scale, all-star adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

Like so many in post World War II California, Disney needed capital to do a real estate deal. But,this wasn't about constructing tract homes in the San Fernando Valley or a shopping mall in Brentwood. He wanted to build an amusement park which embodied the family values Disney extolled on the silver screen, right in the Golden State.It would also leverage the vast array of Disney cinema characters and growing archive of film titles that had become a part of popular culture.

Disney would bring his rich talents and extensive collection of films, cartoons and original productions to ABC television, if ABC would bring cash to the table. The network did a multi-million dollar deal for Disney to produce a new one hour,family anthology series, called DISNEYLAND and in doing so, provided the financal support that allowed Disney to build and open a theme park that was unlike any that preceded it on the planet.It was also called DISNEYLAND.

From it's premiere episode,DISNEYLAND, the television show, was an immediate hit, debuting in 1954. His relationship with ABC resulted in other popular shows that brought ratings and revenue to the 3rd placed network, while leaving a major impression on the Baby Boom generation. The beloved programs included THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB,DAVY CROCKETT AND ZORRO!.

Along the way , he made stars of Fess Parkey ( Davey Crockett ) , Guy Williams (Zorro ),Annette Funiclello ( Annette ) and a lot of Mouseketeers.

His anthology brought a vital mix of new productions and the best of his classic,cinema catalog to home audiences and lasted on ABC-TV until Disney was lured to NBC-TV in 1961. There,his films and animated shorts could be viewed in LIVING COLOR. WALT DISNEY'S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOROR went on to become a Sunday night tradition for years, pushing large ratings for the peacock network and selling legions of color television sets for NBC's parent company RCA.

Less than a year after his television show debuted on ABC-TV, Disney unveiled the real life DISNEYLAND in Anaheim, California.It was an amazing and innovative venue for families to vacation and celebrate American life. The ground-breaking theme park featured space age rides , a railroad and a small fleet of submarines,and when it was opened at 4:30pm EDT on July 17,1955, the star-studded and extravagant ceremony was carried by ABC-TV, in one of the most complex, remote broadcasts attempted to that date.

On that occasion Disney refereed to wondrous resort as the Happiest Place On Earth. As the television show grew,and cash flow with it, the executive suite at ABC-TV may have been the second happiest place on earth.

It seems that in real life as on celluloid,Disney specialized in weaving a happy ending. The series served as a foundation on which ABC could build auidience.Other studios followed. Both MGM and Warner Bros. looked at Disney's success and realized the potential from producing for ABC televison.

As for Walt Disney, DISNEYLAND the television show and the theme park embodied his vision as a filmmaker and his strategy as a entreprenuer.For his company, they were Adventureland,Fanatasyland and Tomorrowland, all rolled together. They provided the financial capital and the promotional propulsion that launched the Disney media empire and decades later allowed Disney's acquisition of ABC-TV, itself.

Here, posted below from the DISNEYTV4ME YOU TUBE SITE, here is the April 4, 1956 episode of DISNEYLAND.Enjoy!!!!

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