“I am a big believer in tradition,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told The Hollywood Reporter. “This just seemed like one of those traditions that if we changed it the empire wasn't going to crumble.”
As with most of Disney’s most controversial changes, it was a subtly worded post on the Disney Parks Blog that made the announcement: when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland Park next summer (a controversy in and of itself), one of its Wizarding World-style, in-universe food and drink stops will be Oga’s Cantina, an alien-run watering hole serving pilots, bounty hunters, smugglers, and galactic travelers with “choices for kids and libations for adults.”
You know what that means.
For the first time in its sixty-year history, alcohol will be available to the public at Disneyland, and that has ruffled a few feathers. Despite the outcry, it’s not the first or last time that alcohol has “invaded” Walt’s original park, or the other “castle” parks around the globe… But let’s start at the beginning.
Dry as a Bone (1955)
Around Disneyland’s 1955 opening, Walt had a lot to prove. At that time, there was nothing else like Disneyland or even close, so when Walt spoke of his desires to build the park, people could only envision the seaside “amusement parks” that dotted America’s coasts – boardwalks of gaudy neon signs, shouting carnival barkers, rickety thrill rides, and the beach-going public wandering about, causing trouble.
Even Walt’s own wife Lillian tried to snap her husband out of it, asking, “Why would you want to get involved with an amusement park? They're so dirty and not fun at all for grownups."
"Well, that's exactly my point," Walt told her. "Mine isn't going to be that way. Mine's going to be a place that's clean, where the whole family can do things together."
We know that Walt made a few key choices when it came to Disneyland, all in hopes of differentiating this new enterprise from mere “amusement parks.” For example, Walt ensured that his location scouts stayed well away from a beach, as we didn’t want the “barefoot crowd”; his park was not open for the public to amble through, but had one entrance with an entrance fee; no chewing gum, cotton candy, peanuts, or ice cream bars were sold, as they stickied and dirtied up amusement parks; Disneyland had a dress and appearance code…
And, most important for us to know today, Walt decreed that Disneyland would not serve alcohol to the public.
In the summer of 1956, Walt was interviewed by The Saturday Evening Post’s Pete Martin, who asked what exactly made Disneyland different. Walt replied in part, “No liquor, no beer, nothing. Because that brings in a rowdy element. That brings people that we don't want and I feel they don't need it. I feel when I go down to the park I don't need a drink. I work around that place all day and I don't have one. After I come out of a heavy day at the studio sometimes I want a drink to relax.”
But the introduction of alcohol in Disneyland actually began mere months after Walt’s death… but don't misunderstand: Walt did approve of it... Read on...