Forty years ago, Walt Disney introduced Disneyland...


Forty years ago, Walt Disney introduced Disneyland to the world. But Anaheim wasn’t Disney’s first choice for his dream park. Burbank was.

Disney originally wanted to build “Mickey Mouse Park,” as he first called it, next to the Burbank studio he opened in 1939. Advisers finally convinced him that the space was too small, and there was opposition from the Burbank City Council. One council member opined: “We don’t want the carny atmosphere in Burbank.”

Ever since, Burbank has been getting no respect.

For 20 years, its dowdy image was the brunt of jokes on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” But after the Walt Disney Co. recently announced its planned $19-billion merger with Capital Cities/ABC, and Warner Bros.’ proposed a 5.8-million-square-foot expansion, the community may be getting the last laugh.


“Beautiful Downtown Burbank” is now a world media capital. Since Lockheed’s departure five years ago, Burbank has aggressively recruited entertainment and media companies for the city’s Media District, a 340-acre commercial zone that straddles the Ventura Freeway in the southwest corner of the city.

Anchored by Disney, Warner Bros. and NBC-TV’s West Coast operations, the Media District is home to more than half of the 90,000 jobs within the city’s boundaries.

Despite the city’s newfound popularity, most residents want to preserve the coziness of a small Midwestern town, with its red brick crosswalks, tree-lined streets and where top officials are still listed in the phone book.

Burbank Inside Out

FAWKES FOLLY: Los Angeles County’s first monorail, a cigar-shaped car suspended from an iron rail and powered by an airplane propeller, made its debut in Burbank in 1911. Inventor Joseph Fawkes built his Aerial Swallow to travel 60 m.p.h., but the contraption fell apart on its second run after achieving a maximum speed of 3 m.p.h. The episode was quickly dubbed Fawkes Folly.

BURBANK CAPER: Beneath the paved streets near Sunland Boulevard and San Fernando Road supposedly lies a king’s ransom in gold. In 1893, a Southern Pacific freight train was derailed and robbed. A man named Roscoe--for whom Roscoe Boulevard was named--was involved in the so-called Burbank Train Robbery. No one is sure whether Roscoe was the brakeman, engineer or robber. The loot was never found, though the bad guys were caught by the famous railroad detective Whispering Smith.

CELEBRITY TIES: Burbank’s small-town ambience inspired some noted success stories. Almost half a century ago, Debbie Reynolds was crowned Miss Burbank. Over the decades, the city has spawned other famous types, including Hollywood directors Ron Howard and Tim Burton and 19th-Century heavyweight boxing champion James J. Jeffries. Novelist James M. Cain wrote “The Postman Always Rings Twice” from his rented Burbank house.


THANKS FOR THE EXPOSURE: On the “Tonight Show,” Johnny Carson’s favorite heartfelt tribute to the town was this quip: “On a daily average, Burbank airport has 94 departures. No arrivals, just departures.” Far from being offended by Carson’s sarcastic references, the city named a park in his honor. Johnny Carson Park is located across the street from NBC Studios on Bob Hope Drive.

TASTE OF THE PAST: Bob’s Big Boy on Riverside Drive, which opened in 1949, is the oldest restaurant in the nationwide chain. The historic landmark has recently received a face lift, recreating the ‘50s carhop style--without the roller-skates.

FOUNDING DENTIST: Dr. David Burbank, a dentist and real estate tycoon from New Hampshire, knew how to cut a great deal. In 1867, he bought the land that later became much of the city of Burbank for $9,000. He sold it just 16 years later for $250,000. Burbank is the only city in Los Angeles County named for a dentist.


By The Numbers


Date founded: July 8, 1911

Area in square miles: 17.1

Number of parks: 24

Number of city employees: 1,323

1995-96 budget: $303 million



White: 68.8%

Latino: 22.6%

Asian: 6.4%

Black: 1.6%

Other: 0.5%



Population: 93,643

Households: 39,315

Average household size: 2.36

Median age: 34.8



Median household income: $35,959

Median household income / LA County: $34,965

Median home value: $260,200

Employed workers (16 and older): 50,189

Women in labor force: 60.1%

Men in labor force: 78.3%

Self-employed: 4,874

Car-poolers: 5,936



0-17 years old: 20%

18-34 years old: 31%

35-49 years old: 22%

50-64 years old: 13%

65 years and over: 14%



One car: 40%

Two cars: 37%

Three or more cars: 16%

None: 7%



Total stores: 969

Total employees: 9,807

Annual sales: $988 million

Source: Claritas Inc. Household expenses are averages for 1994. All other figures are for 1990. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.