According to Neal Gabler’s book Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, an estimated 70 million people — in a country of 165 million — tuned in to watch the unveiling of Disneyland co-hosted by actor and future president Ronald Reagan.
While the unveiling looked like something out of a dream, the actual opening was less than spectacular. Popular rides were closed, the temperature reached 100 degrees, it was overcrowded thanks to party crashers and counterfeit tickets, and the snack bars and restaurants quickly ran out of food.
Even by southern California standards, the seven-mile backup to Disneyland on the Santa Ana Freeway was epic. Passengers baked in their cars, and kids were forced to take bathroom breaks on the side of the freeway and even in the Disneyland parking lot.
“Probably for the first time in his career,” reported the Associated Press, “Disney disappointed thousands of youngsters.” For years to come, Disneyland workers referred to opening day as “Black Sunday.”