15 Failed American Remakes Of Foreign TV Shows


While American TV shows like Friends, The Nanny, and Married With Children have been exported to foreign markets, Americans have seen their fair share of poorly adapted remakes of foreign TV shows. Once in a while, there are imports—The Office, Sanford & Son, and All In The Family among them—that find their place in American pop culture, but every now and then, there are some straight up duds. Here are 15 that just didn't translate.

1. The Killing

In 2011, AMC premiered a new crime drama called The Killing. It was based on a popular TV series titled Forbrydelsen (The Crime) that first aired in Denmark in 2007. While both versions focused on the investigation of the brutal murder of a teenage girl, The Killing seemed to have plateaued in its 13-episode first season after its pilot episode, while Forbrydelsen thrived with a longer and more intricate 20-episode first season. The Killing’s season one finale was extremely disappointing and angered viewers, who didn’t return when the TV series came back for season two the next year.

The Killing was canceled after two seasons, but was later resurrected after Fox Studios, the studio behind the crime drama, made a deal with Netflix and AMC to bring the TV series back for a third season, which premieres June 2. Perhaps the third season will be the charm. 

2. Kath & Kim

Premiering in Australia in 2002, Kath & Kim was an instant success with viewers and TV critics alike. Australian writers Gina Riley and Jane Turner created Kath & Kim and also played the title roles, respectively. Although the original series ran for four seasons and spawned a TV movie and full-length feature film, its American counterpart—which starred Molly Shannon as Kath and Selma Blair as her daughter, Kim, and aired on NBC—struggled to sustain a full 22-episode season of TV. It was unceremoniously canceled after 17 episodes in 2009.

3. Spaced

Before actor Simon Pegg appeared in the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, he created a very popular TV comedy in the UK with writer Jessica Stevenson and director Edgar Wright. Spaced was a surreal, pop culture-heavy comedy with rapid-fire dialogue and jokes. The original British TV series was critically acclaimed and was thought to be a good fit for American audiences.

In 2007, Fox announced that director McG would make an American version of the show with actors Josh Lawson, Sara Rue, and Will Sasso in the lead roles, but the idea was scrapped after negative reactions from the original series' creators and its fans.

4. Fawlty Towers

The creation of Monty Python alumnus John Cleese and his then-wife, writer and actor Connie Booth, Fawlty Towers is considered one of the best British TV series of all time. The comedy surrounded the staff of a fictional seaside hotel and their zany misadventures.

There were actually three attempts to remake Fawlty Towers for American TV. In 1978, a pilot starring Harvey Korman and Betty White called Chateau Snavely was in development for ABC, but never saw production because of the numerous changes to the source material.

The second starred another Golden Girl: In Amanda’s, Bea Arthur played the owner of a seaside hotel. The show ran for 10 episodes before it was canceled in 1983. The third and final remake was called Payne and starred John Larroquette. It was a mid-season replacement on CBS and only aired for a month before it was canceled in 1999.

5. Cold Feet

Airing at the tail end of 1998, the British TV comedy-drama Cold Feet—about the up-and-down relationships of three couples—was considered ahead of its time. British critics applauded the show's depiction of social issues and use of pop music, as it was relevant to its contemporary audience.

The TV series was adapted for American audiences the following year, but received low ratings after its premiere episode, despite mostly positive reviews from critics. It was canceled after airing only four episodes of its eight-episode season.

6. The I.T. Crowd

The UK’s Channel 4’s The I.T. Crowd gained a cult following in England, but failed to make it to American TV when NBC commissioned a remake in 2007. Actor Joel McHale played the awkward Roy, originally played by Chris O’Dowd, while Richard Ayoade reprised his role as Maurice Moss from the original British sitcom. A pilot was made, but NBC’s new chairman, Ben Silverman, rejected it. In 2010, the original sitcom’s creator Graham Linehan stated a new American remake was in the works, but ultimately the project was junked after negative fan reaction.

7. The Weakest Link

In 2001, after the success of ABC's primetime game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, NBC tried to replicate that success with another foreign import. The Weakest Link was a similar game show that focused on a team elimination format rather than an individual one. The new version even imported the original host, Anne Robinson, to moderate the American contestants. 

At first, The Weakest Link saw strong ratings, but soon after it plummeted; American audiences seemed uninterested in the game show’s rules and the gimmicky catchphrase, “You are the weakest link—goodbye.” The show lasted just one year on NBC, with a follow up year in syndication on PAX TV and the Game Show Network.

8. The Ex List

Based on the Israeli TV series The Mythological X, The Ex List was developed for American TV by CBS in 2008. The comedy-drama followed Bella Bloom (Elizabeth Reaser), who is told by a psychic that her future husband was someone she used to date. According to the prediction, if she doesn’t find him within one year, she will remain single forever. This led Bella to explore her past relationships, hoping to find her future husband.

Although The Ex List received mostly positive reviews from critics, general audiences didn’t take to the series’ unappealing characters. It was canceled a month after its premiere.

9. Skins

The British teen drama Skins met commercial and critical success in the UK. The show followed a group of teenagers in Bristol, South West England, and depicted teen social issues including adolescent sexuality, substance abuse, and death. It was an unconventional series that changed out its main cast of characters every two years to keep the teen drama as accurate as possible. When it was adapted for American TV, it found a home on MTV.

While controversy surrounded both versions of Skins, American advertisers abandoned the teen drama because of its very candid subject matter. The U.S. version lasted just one 10-episode season, while its British counterpart enjoyed six good seasons of quality TV.

10. The Inbetweeners

While Skins was a dramatic depiction of teenage life, The Inbetweeners took a more comedic approach to the subject matter. The comedy followed a group of four awkward high school boys who weren’t cool enough for the cool kids, but not anti-social enough to be considered losers—hence the title.

The UK version spawned three highly rated seasons and spun off a successful movie adaptation. When The Inbetweeners was developed for American TV in 2012, it was picked up by MTV, but suffered the same fate as the American Skins. It was canceled after two months.

11. Sit Down, Shut Up

After the cult-classic Arrested Development was canceled in 2006, writer Mitchell Hurwitz developed a new animated TV series called Sit Down, Shut Up that was based on a short-lived Australian TV series of the same name—but while the American version was animated, the Australian version was not.

The remake reunited some of the Arrested Development cast, including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler. Both series followed the staff and students of a dysfunctional fictional high school. The U.S. Sit Down, Shut Up only aired four episodes on Fox before it was canceled in 2009 due to very low ratings. 

12. Coupling

Created by Scottish writer Steven Moffat, Coupling was a big success in the UK from its premiere in 2000 until its cancelation in 2004. It followed a group of friends consisting of three men and three women, and even drew comparisons to popular American TV shows like Friends and Seinfeld.

When the TV series was imported to the U.S. in 2003, it failed to connect with American audiences, who didn’t appreciate the word-for-word translation of the original pilot episode. (By the time the show premiered, the British version had already gained cult status after it aired on PBS and BBC America.)

NBC canceled Coupling after five episodes. Former President and CEO of NBCUniversal Jeff Zucker later said that it “just sucked.”

13. Life On Mars

The science fiction TV series Life On Mars was also a police procedural that followed a modern day police detective who fell into a coma after a terrible car accident. When he woke up, he found himself in 1973 instead of his own time. The show was such a hit in the UK that it spawned a successful spinoff series, Ashes To Ashes.

When it was developed for American TV, critics gave the cop drama glowing reviews for its vision and premise. Then, the show took a two-month hiatus, and after it returned, it could no longer sustain the interest of American audiences. To add insult to injury, the American version’s season one finale was one of the most perplexing finales in TV history: It revealed that the detective was actually on the first manned mission to Mars, and that both the 1973 and 2008 "realities" he experienced were created by the ship's computer while he was asleep. Fans across the board were furious.

14. Free Agents

Although the original British version of Free Agents was short-lived, the U.S. remake’s life span was much shorter. The series was a black romantic comedy that followed two co-workers dealing with a harsh breakup. The UK's version was raunchy and explicit, but the US remake had to tone down its language and subject matter to placate American censors and networks. It was canceled after airing four episodes in 2011. The remaining episodes were released on a few months later.

15. Football Wives

The American show Football Wives was based on the very popular British TV drama Footballers’ Wives, which followed the fictional Premier League football club Earls Park F.C., its players, and their wives. The American remake changed the sport from soccer to American football as the series followed the fictional NFL team the Orlando Stingrays.

While Football Wives had an all-star cast, including Lucy Lawless, Gabrielle Union, and James Van Der Beek, ABC did not pick up the TV drama after its pilot episode tested poorly with audiences in 2007.

© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
19 Surprising Facts About The Dark Knight
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Christopher Nolan didn’t set out to make sequels. As the director of hit thrillers like Memento and Insomnia, his personal style never seemed to mesh with the idea of helming a mega-franchise. After reenvisioning the Caped Crusader with 2005’s Batman Begins, though, Nolan couldn’t stop thinking about how his version of Batman would respond to the introduction of The Joker. The result was The Dark Knight, a hyper-real exploration of how chaos shakes up the mission of the righteous, complete with huge stars, incredible stunts, and an Oscar-winning performance by the late Heath Ledger. To revisit this landmark movie, which was released 10 years ago, here are 19 fascinating facts about The Dark Knight.


While it doesn’t adapt any one specific story to the screen, The Dark Knight did draw inspiration from several specific Batman stories in the pages of DC Comics. When researching and writing the film, director Christopher Nolan and his brother, co-writer Jonathan Nolan, specifically went back to The Joker’s very first appearance in 1940’s Batman #1 in search of how best to introduce the character. Co-writer David S. Goyer, himself a DC Comics contributor, also cites the classic stories The Long Halloween, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Killing Joke as keys to his research, with elements from each making their way into the film.


Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight' (2008)
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In addition to classic Joker stories like The Killing Joke, Nolan and star Heath Ledger drew on a diverse array of influences both in and out of comics to craft the film’s version of the Clown Prince of Crime. Before attempting to write the character, the Nolan brothers revisited Fritz Lang’s classic film The Testament of Dr. Mabuse as a study in how to write supervillains. Visually, Nolan also specifically cited the work of painter Francis Bacon as a touchstone for Joker’s distorted view of the world.

As for Ledger, he famously locked himself away in a hotel room for weeks, experimenting with voices and mannerisms until he developed something he was satisfied with. Among his inspirations: Sex Pistols icons Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious and the anarchist character Alex from Stanley Kubrick’s classic film A Clockwork Orange.


The Dark Knight is the first Christopher Nolan film to be a sequel, and though Batman Begins ends with Gordon handing Batman the Joker card as a kind of setup for the next film, the director wasn't exactly determined to return to Gotham City. Nolan and Goyer had ideas for how a trilogy of films would happen, of course, but after Batman Begins hit big, Nolan instead went off to make magician drama The Prestige. Ultimately, the lure of telling a Joker story proved too enticing for Nolan to pass up, and he eventually re-teamed with Goyer to begin mapping out the story that would become The Dark Knight

“I didn’t have any intention of making a sequel to Batman Begins and I was quite surprised to find myself wanting to do it,” Nolan told Empire Magazine. “I just got caught up in the process of imagining how you would see a character like The Joker through the prism of what we did in the first film.”


Though other stars like Adrien Brody expressed an interest in playing the film’s key villain, Heath Ledger was the only name on Nolan’s wish list.

“When I heard he was interested in the Joker, there was never any doubt. You could just see it in his eyes,” Nolan told Newsweek. “People were a little baffled by the choice, it's true, but I've never had such a simple decision as a director.” 


Because of the actor’s untimely death in January 2008, at the age of just 28, Ledger's performance as The Joker has been somewhat mythologized by fans, so the idea that he kept a secret “Joker diary” while getting into character might sound apocryphal. In fact, Ledger really did make a diary while preparing to play the character. It included various clipped art (Alex from A Clockwork Orange figures heavily), stylized notes, and even lines from the script recopied in his own handwriting. In 2013, Ledger’s father Kim revealed the diary in a documentary, and noted that his son did immersive work like this for every role but “really took it up a notch” for The Joker.


For the role of Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and current Gotham City assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, Nolan had to look for a replacement. Katie Holmes played the role in 2005’s Batman Begins, but opted out of the sequel ostensibly so she could act in the comedy Mad Money. So Nolan went in search of other actresses and ultimately decided on Maggie Gyllenhaal for the role. Gyllenhaal was the final choice, but she wasn’t the only one. Other actresses up for the role included Rachel McAdams and Emily Blunt.


For many actors, the prospect of starring in a sequel to a hit film is a major draw. For others, the prospect of finally being a part of a Batman film would do the trick. For Gyllenhaal, who stepped in as Rachel Dawes, there was only one key reason to say yes: Christopher Nolan.

“When Chris approached me about the film, it was almost incidental that it was about Batman,” Gyllenhaal said. “I was lured into becoming intrigued by the character through the process of making the movie. From the very beginning, Chris was so interesting and engaging—and so interested in me and my ideas about Rachel—that I wanted to be a part of it.”


Though The Dark Knight is unquestionably a Batman movie, Nolan and company didn’t consider the Caped Crusader to be the film’s main character.

“Bruce Wayne was the protagonist of the first film,” Goyer said, “but we decided early on that he would not be the protagonist of the second film—that, in fact, Harvey Dent would be.”

To that end, finding the right actor to play Gotham’s district attorney was crucial. Nolan ultimately chose Aaron Eckhart, who reminded him of Robert Redford, to play the part, but Eckhart wasn’t the only star considered. Other potential Harvey Dents included Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Ryan Phillippe.


Batman fans weren’t the only skeptics when it came to Nolan’s decision to deliver a new cinematic Joker. Michael Caine, who played Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred, was very apprehensive when  Nolan told him The Dark Knight’s villain would indeed be the Clown Prince of Crime, namely because Jack Nicholson’s performance as the character in 1989’s Batman still cast a very large shadow.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” Caine said.

When Nolan informed Caine that Ledger had been cast in the role, though, the film legend came around.

“I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ [laughs] My confidence came back. And then when I did this sequence with Heath, I knew we were in for some really good stuff.


Nolan deliberately resisted the idea of giving The Joker an origin story in the film, opting instead to portray him as a force of pure anarchy with no discernible motivation other than chaos. For this reason, the character’s scarred face—as opposed to the chemically-induced frozen grin given to the character’s previous movie incarnation—had no clear source. In fact, the character deliberately tells different stories to different characters to explain where the scars came from. As a result, prosthetics supervisor Conor O’Sullivan was driven to take inspiration for the scars from real life. So, he used an actual man on the street as a reference.

“I immediately thought of the punk and skinhead era and some unsavory characters I had come across during this time,” O'Sullivan recalled. “The terminology for this type of wound is a ‘Glasgow’ or ‘Chelsea smile.’ My references had to be real. A delivery of fruit machines was made to the estate near my workshop and the man delivering them had a ‘Chelsea smile.' I plucked up the courage to ask him for a photo and he told me the story of how he had got his scars while being involved with “a dog fight”; needless to say I didn't pursue the matter, but the photos proved to be very useful reference.”


One of the most identifiable characteristics of Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker is the way he almost constantly licks his lips inside and out, probing his scars with his tongue over and over again. It adds energy to the character as well as a certain menacing quality, but it apparently was not planned. According to dialect coach Gerry Grennell, who worked with Ledger on the film, that tic arose because the scar prosthetics—which extended into Ledger’s mouth—would loosen as he performed. So, he licked his lips repeatedly in an effort to keep them in place.

"The last thing that Heath wanted to do was go back and spend another 20 minutes or half hour trying to get the lips glued back again, so he licked his lips. A lot,” Grennell recalled. “And then slowly, that became a part of the character.


Though IMAX cameras are now on the verge of being used to shoot entire feature films, at the time The Dark Knight was made, the format was primarily used for documentary films to showcase things like the wondrous detail of nature. Nolan had longed for years to bring the format to features, and opted to use the ultra-heavy, ultra-expensive cameras to film several major sequences in The Dark Knight. Most famously, the film’s prologue—featuring The Joker’s bank robbery—was filmed on IMAX and released early, in its entirety, as a teaser.


For the scene in which Bruce Wayne is hosting a fundraiser for Harvey Dent in his elegant Gotham City townhouse, Ledger and a group of Joker goons were meant to burst into the party via the elevator. Caine, as Alfred, was supposed to be there waiting to greet guests as the elevator doors opened, only to be frightened by the appearance of The Joker. Caine was there waiting, the elevator doors opened, and he was apparently so frightened by what he saw that any lines he was meant to deliver during the scene completely left his mind.

"I was waiting for Batman's guests, but (the Joker) had taken over the elevator with—he has seven dwarfs and ... oh! wait until you see them,” he said while promoting the film. “So, I'd never seen any of it and the elevator door opened and they came out and I forgot every bloody line. They frightened the bloody life out of me.”


Embracing the hyperrealism of his version of Batman, Nolan opted to do many of The Dark Knight’s biggest stunts practically rather than relying on CGI. That includes arguably the biggest and most visually staggering stunt in the film: When Batman uses steel cables to flip The Joker’s 18-wheeler trailer over cab in the middle of a Gotham street. While another filmmaker might have opted to recreate the moment with computers or models, Nolan wanted to do it for real, on a real Chicago street. The task of pulling it off fell to special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, who ran tests in a more isolated area to ensure the flip wouldn’t harm any member of the crew or any neighboring buildings. With the tests successful, the production was primed to film the stunt … though Corbould still tried to talk Nolan into scaling it down.

“It was a funny thing—and this is always the way working with Chris—where he kept trying to talk me into a smaller vehicle,” Nolan said. “He said, ‘Can't it be one of those SWAT vans, not an articulated truck?!’ I kind of went along with that for a while and we storyboarded it that way and kept talking about it. And I finally just went to him and said, ‘Chris, you can do this, you're fine. It's gotta be a huge truck, it's gotta be a big 18-wheeler,’ and he went ‘Oh, all right,’ in that way he does, and he figured out a way to do it. Nobody had ever done it before and it was really a pretty amazing thing to watch."


One of the most beautiful shots in the film finds Batman, cape billowing around him, perched atop Chicago’s Sears Tower as he surveys his city. It’s a gorgeous image, but also one that easily could have been carried out by a stuntman so Bale didn’t have to take the risk. The star was having none of that. When he found out his stuntman Buster Reeves was preparing to perform the perch, Bale rushed to convince Nolan that he should be the one to stand 110 stories above Chicago for the helicopter shot. 

“It was important for me to do that shot,” Bale explained, “because I wanted to be able to say I did it. 

Bale also opted to perform a similar stunt in which Batman stands on a ledge of the IFC2 building in Hong Kong. By then, he was quite comfortable with the height. 


One of the great visual hallmarks of Nolan’s Batman films is the introduction of the Batpod, The Dark Knight’s sleek motorcycle. While it may look like an oversized version of any other bike, the pod didn’t handle the same way, so a specially trained stunt driver was required. Jean-Pierre Goy was the man. He took to the vehicle immediately and trained for months to master the high-speed sequences required for the film. Bale, who was more than willing to volunteer to drive the Batpod, was ultimately only able to ride it when it was attached to camera rigs.

“Jean-Pierre was the only one who could master it,” Bale admitted. “Everybody else just fell off instantly.”


For the scene in which The Joker sneaks into a panicked Gotham hospital to see Harvey Dent, Ledger dressed up in a nurse’s uniform. If you look closely, you’ll see that the nurse’s name tag reads “Matilda.” Matilda is Ledger’s daughter, who was born in 2005.


When The Joker and his goons crash Bruce Wayne’s fundraising party, almost everyone in the room is intimidated into silence. One man, though, is not. He tells The Joker “we’re not intimidated by thugs,” and The Joker then grabs him and holds a knife to his mouth. That man is Patrick Leahy, the Democratic U.S. Senator from Vermont. A lifelong comic book fan, Leahy has appeared in five Batman films to date, including 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where he sat alongside actress Holly Hunter in a congressional hearing.


Weird lawsuits surrounding major motion pictures are nothing new, but The Dark Knight inspired a particularly strange one. In late 2008, after the film had opened to rapturous critical acclaim and enormous box office success, Huseyin Kalkan—the mayor of Batman, Turkey—sued Nolan and Warner Brothers for what he deemed a negative impact the film had caused on his city.

"There is only one Batman in the world. The American producers used the name of our city without informing us."

Needless to say, given that Batman is still as popular as ever, the suit didn’t go anywhere.

Additional Source:
The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy, by Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy

10 Things That Went Disastrously Wrong on Disneyland’s Opening Day

Disneyland is commonly known as the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but when the park opened on July 17, 1955, it didn’t live up to its now-ubiquitous nickname. In fact, Disney employees who survived the day refer to it as “Black Sunday.” Here are 10 of the most disastrous things that went wrong.


Disneyland’s opening day was “invite only” and not for public consumption. Tickets were mailed out and only reserved for special guests, including friends and family of employees, the press, and celebrities, such as Jerry Lewis, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra. However, scores of counterfeit tickets were widespread on opening day. Disneyland was only expecting about 15,000 guests in total, but more than 28,000 people entered the park.

In addition, there were two sets of tickets with designated times: one for the morning and one for the afternoon. The time to leave Disneyland was printed on each ticket, so if it read 2:30 p.m., you were supposed to leave the park at that time to make way for the afternoon ticket holders to come in. Unfortunately, the morning ticket crowd didn’t leave, so attendance ballooned when the afternoon attendees were admitted.

There was even some money to be made from Disney's woes: one man set up a ladder outside one of the park's fences and charged $5 per person to climb it and sneak in.


Sukarno riding mini car with Walt Disney
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Since Disneyland and the city of Anaheim were not prepared for the amount of people that showed up, California's Santa Ana Freeway that led into the park was backed up for seven miles. The traffic essentially shut down the freeway for hours. In fact, people were in their cars for so long that when they finally made it to Disneyland, there were reports of families taking restroom breaks in the parking lot and on the side of the freeway.


Completing Disneyland was a race to the finish. Walt Disney wanted a quick turnaround, and it took exactly one year and one day from announcement to opening day, with construction crews working around-the-clock to meet their deadlines. 

However, once the doors opened, guests could easily see that it was not completely finished. Workers were still painting structures and planting trees all over the park. Along the Canal Boats of the World (now the Storybook Land Canal Boats), weeds had yet to be removed from the riverbanks. And instead of landscaping the area, Walt Disney simply added signs with Latin plant names printed on them to make it look like they were meant to be there.

In addition, a number of rides were still under construction like Tomorrowland’s Rocket to the Moon, which showed a glimpse of what routine space travel would look like in the distant future of ... 1986.


For the lucky people who made it into Disneyland on opening day, they experienced a shortage of food and beverages in every restaurant and concession stand in the park. Because of the unexpected influx of guests, virtually all food and drink inventory was wiped out within hours.


Entrance to Disneyland circa 1957
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

While there were plenty of water fountains on site, many of them were not working because of a plumbers’ strike during construction. Walt Disney had to choose between working water fountains or working restrooms for Disneyland on opening day, so he picked the latter because he felt the toilets were more important.

“A few weeks before the opening, there was a major meeting,” Dick Nunis, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, explained to WIRED. “There was a plumbing strike. I’ll never forget this. I happened to be in the meeting. So the contractor was telling Walt, ‘Walt, there aren’t enough hours in the day to finish the restrooms and to finish all the drinking fountains.’ And this is classic Walt. He said, ‘Well, you know they could drink Coke and Pepsi, but they can’t pee in the streets. Finish the restrooms.’”


Although Walt Disney had no control over the weather, it contributed to the disastrous opening day experience at Disneyland. Temperatures reached an intense 100 degrees, which must have been unbearable in a park without working water fountains. The day was so hot that the fresh asphalt became like a sticky tar, with guests complaining that they were getting their shoes and high heels stuck in the pavement of Main Street, U.S.A.


Like so many of the other workers toiling to make Walt Disney's one-year deadline, both Disney Imagineers and construction workers rushed to complete the theme park. As a result, a number of rides—including Peter Pan’s Flight, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland—broke down or were closed altogether because they simply were not finished yet.

The growing pains didn’t stop on opening day. During the first few weeks after opening, the stagecoach ride in Frontierland permanently closed when it was discovered it would flip over if it was too top-heavy; 36 cars in Autopia crashed due to aggressive driving (ironically the ride was designed to help children learn respectful rules of the road); and a tiger and a panther escaped from the circus attraction, which resulted in a “furious death struggle” between the animals on Main Street, U.S.A.


The iconic Mark Twain Riverboat in Frontierland was filled way over capacity on opening day, with about 500 people cramming into the attraction. This caused the boat to go off its track and sink in the mud, but the ordeal was far from over.

"It took about 20 to 30 minutes to get it fixed and back on the rail and it came chugging in," Terry O'Brien, who was working the ride on opening day, later recalled in an interview. "As soon as it pulled up to the landing, all the people rushed to the side to get off, and the boat tipped into the water again, so they all had to wade off through the water, and some of them were pretty mad."


A gas leak in the park prompted the closing of Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Frontierland for a few hours, while flames from the leak were seen trying to engulf Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Walt Disney was so busy during opening day that he didn’t learn about the fire until the following day.


Walt Disney had a partnership with the broadcast network ABC, which helped finance Disneyland with an investment of $5 million of the park’s $17 million price tag. In return, Walt Disney would host a weekly TV show about what people could expect to see in Disneyland, a full year before it was set to open its doors.

On opening day, Walt Disney hosted a 90-minute live TV special with co-hosts Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and future president Ronald Reagan. Over 90 million viewers tuned in to see the “Happiest Place on Earth.” And while the cameras showed the fun and excitement of Disneyland, the TV special obscured the numerous disasters described above.

However, the live broadcast itself was riddled with technical difficulties, such as guests tripping over camera cables all over the park, faulty miscues, on-air flubs, hot mics, and unexpected moments that were caught on camera—namely Bob Cummings caught making out with a dancer just before going on air.

“This is not so much a show, as it is a special event,” Art Linklater said during the live broadcast from Disneyland. “The rehearsal went about the way you'd expect a rehearsal to go if you were covering three volcanoes all erupting at the same time, and you didn't expect any of them. So, from time to time, if I say, ‘We take you now by camera to the snapping crocodiles in Adventureland,’ and instead, somebody pushes the wrong button, and we catch Irene Dunne adjusting her bustle on the Mark Twain, don't be too surprised.”

The live broadcast also featured the debut of the original Mouseketeers from The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, which premiered a few months later in 1955 on ABC. So at least something positive came out of all of it.


More from mental floss studios