Today in Disney History, 1959: Disneyland Introduces E-Ticket Attractions

by | Jun 14, 2021 | Disney History, WDW Blog

The Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Submarine Voyage, the first E-ticket attractions, opened at Disneyland on June 14, 1959. 

Disneyland marked a major expansion with the grand opening of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Submarine Voyage, and the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System. What all did the hectic schedule for this grand opening event entail, and which famous politician was in attendance? Find out below!

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Disneyland Returns to ABC

June 14, 1959, marked Disneyland’s first major expansion since the park’s opening in 1955. As with the park’s grand opening, Walt Disney announced a televised special in celebration to be hosted on ABC with about 2,000 members of the press in attendance, including a future US president.

Walt had invited Richard Nixon, then vice president to Eisenhower, along with his wife Pat and the couple’s daughters, to attend the special event. 

The Nixon family arrived before the official televised ceremonies began for a special dedication of the new Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System on the morning of June 14, 1959. Walt joined them for press photos as they cut the ribbon and posed inside the front monorail cabin prior to its opening to park guests.

Walt Disney and the Nixon family cut the ribbon to the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Viewers at the time likely did not notice this small Easter egg, as the technology in the ’50s certainly did not allow for real-time updates like it would today, but the Nixon family actually participated in two dedication ceremonies for the Monorail

The first ribbon-cutting in the morning provided early press photos for news outlets that would be unable to cover the event in real time, while additional media coverage was provided at the “real” dedication for the Monorail at the end of the day. 

The day continued with the Nixon family, other invited celebrities, and the press settling in for a parade around noon, followed by lunch at the Red Wagon Inn for most of the journalists in attendance and a private lunch in Walt’s apartment for the Nixon family. 

Walt Disney and the Nixon family cut the ribbon to the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail

The attire of the Nixon family is visibly different due to there being 2 different photoshoots for the ribbon cutting. Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Also in attendance for the event were members of Walt’s family, including his brother Roy, his wife Edna, his daughter Diane Disney Miller, his son-in-law Ron Miller, and two of his grandchildren. 

Hayley Mills, known for her roles in Pollyanna (which nabbed her an Oscar) and The Parent Trap, attended, as did Meredith Wilson, the composer behind The Music Man

Art Linkletter, a noted radio and TV personality from the time, hosted the televised event. Since Wilson was in the crowd, he offered some fun commentary with the composer as the Main Street Philharmonic marched through the park in a performance including “76 Trombones.” 

The rest of the day was filled with dedication ceremonies for the Matterhorn Bobsleds and the Submarine Voyage, plus lots of press coverage on the rest of the park, enticing anyone who had not already planned a trip in the first four years since it opened to visit soon. 

Birth of the Disneyland E Ticket

A Walt Disney World E-Ticket, good for a number of high-profile disney attractions

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

This expansion of Disneyland brought not only nice media coverage for the park, but also a new ride type that remains a part of the theme park experience to this day: the E ticket. 

When Disneyland opened, guests did not simply pay one single admission price for access to all attractions for the day. They paid admission to enter the park ($1) and 10 to 35 cents per attraction once inside the park. 

While this system may have worked out well for guests who were not interested in going on lots of rides, it wasn’t the best from a business perspective, and it quickly became a hassle for guests to have to keep paying every time they wanted to experience a different attraction. 

Just a few months after opening, the park switched its admission format to ticket books, naming each attraction an “A”, “B”, or “C” ticket based on its popularity. The less popular rides were categorized as A tickets, the slightly more popular were B tickets, and the most sought after were C tickets.

In 1956, Disneyland introduced D tickets; some popular C ticket attractions changed their status to make up the most valuable tickets in the book.

E tickets debuted with the park’s 1959 expansion and included the Monorail, Submarine Voyage, and Matterhorn Bobsleds, along with other classic attractions like the Jungle Cruise and Rocket to the Moon. 

Ticket books often enticed guests to spend more money and time in the park than the old admissions format would have, as people loved experiencing “E” ticket attractions, and they often found themselves buying additional tickets to be able to ride more of them during their visit. 

Of course, we don’t use ticket books when visiting Disney Parks today, but the term “E ticket” is still widely used not just in Walt Disney World or Disneyland, but throughout the theme park industry. 

Disneyland discontinued ticket books in 1982, opting for admission similar to what you’d experience today (albeit in a less technological setting), where you simply purchase a single ticket to experience all the park has to offer in a given timeframe. 

Today, the phrase “E ticket” is still used to describe popular attractions, often in the context of new lands or parks opening as we discuss whether the area will have a standout attraction (like the Matterhorn Bobsleds). 

“E ticket” today tends to imply a thrill ride, but this was not always the case, as evidenced not only by the Monorail and Submarine Voyage’s inclusion as E tickets at Disneyland, but later in Disney Parks history, with attractions like Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, “it’s a small world,” and Country Bear Jamboree!

Disneyland’s Second Opening

Mrs. Mildred Nelson, wife of the chief machinist on the the first nuclear-powered submarine, christens Submarine Voyage's Nautilus with Walt Disney

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Walt recalled 1959 as the year of Disneyland’s second opening, and given the new attractions and additions to the park, it’s easy to see why.

The opening of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail marked the first time a monorail system operated daily in the Western Hemisphere. While Walt originally envisioned the Monorail as a vital form of transportation in the future, Disneyland’s Monorail started simply, primarily offering sightseeing for guests traveling above Tomorrowland. 

Of course, it’s easy to understand the legacy of the first Disney monorail system today, as a ride aboard the “highway in the sky” at Disneyland or Walt Disney World has become a tradition for families visiting the parks on either coast. 

The Matterhorn Bobsleds came with architectural ingenuity in the use of forced perspective, which makes the mountain appear larger to guests visiting the park. The ride was also the first known tubular steel continuous-track coaster, a system that later served as the inspiration for the track design for Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom. 

Submarine Voyage was a classic Disneyland attraction bringing guests under the sea to experience a ride via submarine. While the ride no longer exists in its original form, it has been rethemed to a Finding Nemo submarine experience that still runs in the park today.

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty castle, as seen in the Sleeping Beauty story books

Courtesy of Disney

We can’t leave 1959 alone without discussing one more vital piece of Disneyland history: the castle’s namesake!

Ironically enough, when Disneyland opened in 1955 boasting the beautiful Sleeping Beauty Castle, the film Sleeping Beauty had not yet debuted. 

Sleeping Beauty was released in 1959, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the classic tale and fully understand the theming behind Disneyland’s main icon, albeit four years after the park had opened its gates.


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Posts by Brittany DiCologero

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Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
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Authored by
Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
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