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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial boards. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at [go to Liebau index]

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!
Here’s to a Half-Century of Fantasy (and Americana) at its Best

[Carol Platt Liebau] 5/2/05

As it prepares for the celebration of its 50th birthday, Disneyland may not be “the happiest place on Earth.” But, as it’s been for the last half century, it’s close.

In an age when Americans seem too balkanized by political ideology, race, socio-economic status or even religion, Disney (and its empire of movies, merchandise and theme parks) is one of the last few cultural touchstones that all of us share. The vast majority of Americans have grown up with Disney stories, and then gone on to experience the thrill of walking their own children or grandchildren through the gates of the Magic Kingdom.

It seems right that Disneyland is one of the few remaining unifying experiences of American life, because so many of the films to which it refers honor traditional American values – the importance of being good, and working hard, and daring to dream. Even the park itself, with its emphasis on cleanliness and customer satisfaction, reflects good, old-fashioned American capitalist values. It likewise combines two prominent themes of American life – nostalgia for the past, reflected in Frontierland and the circa-1900’s decoration of Main Street, coupled with excitement over the promise of progress that the future holds, exemplified by the forward-looking Tomorrowland.

Cynics like to scoff at Disneyland and the comfortable Americans to which it caters, emphasizing the high prices and relentless merchandising. But they – like the people who resolutely refuse to believe in Santa Claus – are more to be pitied than blamed. They are missing the entire point. Disneyland is more than simply a theme park. It’s a place where the characters we have only seen in movies actually come to life. That, in itself, gives it an air of infinite potential and irresistible charm. In a sense, it teaches children that their dreams can come true; for adults, it suggests that – at least occasionally – one can become a child again.

Walt Disney was a staunch Republican, who believed in traditional values and in the promise of America – much like Ronald Reagan (who, incidentally, hosted the live coast-to-coast coverage of the theme park’s opening in 1955). He created a park that reflected his goodness and his patriotism. No, he wouldn’t like all the films or all the choices that his company has made.

But half a century after he converted Anaheim orange groves into a wondrous and wonderful place for families to visit, he would certainly be proud that the characters and the stories that he brought to life with a distinctly American twist are still treasured – and that the park he created around them has become a cherished part of so many families’ lives and vacation memories.

Walt Disney is a blessed man, indeed. What more could anyone ask than to have the place he conceived and lovingly built become known to millions, without irony, as “the happiest place on earth”?

Happy Birthday, Disneyland. tOR

Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and theOneRepublic / editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at

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