Late Sunday morning, a rare piece of Disney memorabilia went up for auction at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, the earliest known map of what Disneyland would look like. By day's end, an anonymous buyer had shelled out $708,000 for the piece, a small price to pay for a slice of Disney history in some circles. (For real, it was expected to go for between $750,000 and $1 million.)

Here's the story …

In 1953, two years before it would open, Disneyland existed exclusively in the mind of Walt Disney. But the animator and original Imagineer had to sell that vision in order to fund the park's construction — and it wasn't likely anyone would buy into it if they couldn't see precisely what he had in mind.

The weekend before Walt and Co. pitched the park to all the major television networks (ABC, of course, wound up biting), he and friend/artist Herb Ryman holed up for the weekend as Ryman translated Disney's ideas into a physical map of the park. What he created is “the first large, tangible visual representation of Disneyland ever created,” according to Van Eaton Galleries, and it also became the public's first glimpse at what was going up in Anaheim.

As construction on the park wrapped up, the map wound up shoved in a corner of Walt's office. It was picked up by a young Disney employee named Grenade Curran, who took it home as a souvenir of his time at Disney and his friendship with Walt. For more than 60 years, Curran didn't realize he had an extremely valuable piece of Disney memorabilia in his possession.

The map was one of 1,000 Disney-related artifacts that went up for auction yesterday, presumably for less money.

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