By: Kendall Foreman
Before Anaheim became home to the world’s first Disney theme park, its land was helping to supply the United States with oranges from a 160 acre grove. Construction on Disneyland began in the summer of 1954, and it was nothing short of incredible that the rows of trees were converted in time for the park to open on July 17, 1955. The reality of this process included detailed plans, ground-moving equipment, and enumerable skilled individuals. Leading up to opening day, Walt employed all sorts of methods with which to pique the interest of the public, and for the littlest park-goers, Disney decided to craft a legend as magical as park itself.
Little Golden Books debuted in 1942 as an affordable series of children’s books, at just $0.25 each. The low price point and ease of availability must have been attractive to the Disney Company because they were the first to partner with series in 1944 when they released Through the Picture Frame. What better way to introduce Disneyland to the children of America than through the books that their parents were already purchasing in the grocery store aisles? In 1955, children were welcomed into Walt’s magical world via titles such as Donald Duck in Disneyland and Walt Disney’s Disneyland On Air, but there was one gold-foil bound book called Walt Disney’s Little Man of Disneyland that featured a character these young readers had never met.
According to the story, those vast orange groves in Anaheim were looked after by a little leprechaun named Patrick Begorra. When Mickey and his friends arrived to clear the land for the world’s first theme park, Patrick was none too happy and rightfully protective of his home. However, he was quickly won over once he saw how wonderful Disneyland was going to be, and he promised to go along with the plan as long as he was allowed to choose a tree within the park to make a new home for himself. Of course, Mickey was quick to oblige, so Patrick secretly choose a quiet place for himself, leaving his whereabouts a mystery to all.
For decades, this story was merely that – a nice story in a children’s book. From the time Disneyland opened, guests inquired as to where they could find the Little Man of Disneyland, but Patrick’s secret was always kept, and his house was left to remain in park-goers imaginations. But that all changed in 2015 as Disneyland was in the midst of celebrating its Diamond Anniversary. At the D23 Expo that year, a special edition of Walt Disney’s Little Man of Disneyland was available at the Expo and a little door, window, lantern, and chimney appeared at the base of a tree in Adventureland.
In the years since, observant guests have been able to spot the little house near the entrance to Indiana Jones Adventure. This small feature brings imagination to life and pulls the past into the present in a simple but wonderful way. It reminds guests that Disneyland is not just a park, but also the place where characters live, and in that same spirit, Patrick Begorra’s impact on Disneyland can be found in another area of the park.
When Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened in Toontown in Disneyland, its queue line was set up within the El Capitoon Theater. The interior is littered with costumes and props from Mickey’s most famous performances. Right before guests enter the theater to watch Perfect Picnic they are given the opportunity to peruse the treats at the concession counter. Of course, what are hotdogs without condiments, so a toon-sized set of Ketchup, Catsup, Yellow Mustard, Fancy Dijon Mustard, BBQ Sauce, Relish, Haggis, and Extra Hot Sauce are located in the middle of the switchbacks. They are hard to miss with their bubble-like shape and interesting taglines (the BBQ Sauce says “Classic Smoke Tree Flavor”), but it is easy to overlook the brand name of these products – Begorra Orchards. Yes, that’s right, Patrick Begorra is supplying the toon world with all of their flavorful toppings.
The sense of nostalgia among many of the current and recently-former Imagineers deserves a large round of applause. Without them, the story of Patrick Begorra could have been lost to time and relegated to the shelves of flea markets and antique malls. Instead the leprechaun has a home, an orchard, and in January of 2023, he was featured in another Little Golden Book, Walt Disney’s Little Man of Disneyland – A Change of Luck. This new adventure is filled with wonderful illustrations inspired by locations throughout the park, but it is a special treat for anyone who adores the Casey Jr. Circus Train and the Storybook Land Canal Boats.
The Little Man of Disneyland books deserve a place in every Disney Parks fan’s library. They can be enjoyed by young ones and adults alike as imaginative stories, pieces of history, and handheld examples of the magic brought to life.
All photos from the author’s personal collection.
Kendall has been a member of the WDW Radio Team since 2013. Today, you can read her work on the WDW Radio Blog or hear her join Lou for a number of WDW Radio podcast episodes. Kendall’s affection for Walt Disney World began with her very first family visit in the 1990s and has continued with each magical vacation since. Follow her on Twitter @kl_foreman.