Grandpa Builds Disneyland-Inspired Backyard Theme Park for His Grandkids
"He just got carried away and more grandkids came and it’s just magical."
— -- One grandpa built something extremely magical in his backyard for all his lucky grandkids to enjoy.
Steve Dobbs, of Fullerton, California, constructed his very own Disneyland-inspired backyard theme park called Dobbsland, painstakingly building a 100-foot-long working roller coaster, a “Sleeping Princess” castle and a “Winifred-the-Poof” ride, just to name a few.
“He’s always wanted to build a ride at Disneyland,” Dobbs’ daughter, Cori Linder, told ABC News. “He’s such a visionary and I love that and he was like, ‘Why not build it in my backyard for my grandkids?’”
So that’s exactly what he did. A retired Boeing aerospace engineer who now teaches engineering in college, this was small potatoes compared to his other huge career accomplishments, but was so much larger in sentimental significance.
"My interest perhaps started when I was 8 years old," said Dobbs, 68. "I lived about 2 miles from Disneyland and watched it being built on our bicycles. But my friends and I could not figure out what this place was going to be until it finally opened. The older brother of my friend worked at the gate and let us sneak in during the summer when it was it too busy, so for those first few years we played in Disneyland like it was my backyard."
It all started once upon a time, eight years ago, when Dobbs got the itch to create a homemade “Pirates of the Caribbean”-themed ride. He used cardboard to construct the pint-sized pirate ships and even had two ping pong shooters for dramatic cannons.
“He hadn’t ever planned on doing a theme park,” said Linder. “He had my kids over and thought, ‘How can I keep them entertained and make it fun and get their imagination going?’ He put them in this whole fantasy type of thing as pirates. It was very homegrown. I don’t think he ever thought he’d build a theme park, he just got carried away and more grandkids came and it’s just magical.”
Dobbsland kept evolving over time and eventually he enlisted the help of his students at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona as backup reinforcements. Together they crafted the “Madderhorn Roller Coaster” out of PVC plastic pipe, which can go up to 12-miles-per-hour.
“It was done in May. He had a launch party,” Linder said. “He had a guy certify it as a legit roller coaster.”
There are also now working teacups that spin, an airplane learning station, a car land and a "Finding Nemo"-esque submarine.
“It’s dark and he made thing glow inside,” said a proud Linder.
His wife doesn’t even mind giving up her entire backyard, as long as the kids and her husband are happy.
“My mom is so supportive,” said Linder. “She sometimes just looks in the backyard and shakes her head, but she just wants to see him happy and enjoy his retirement. He’s really fulfilling his passion, which she loves.”
As for the grandchildren, “They love it. They just see him as the most creative person in the world,” Linder explained. “He wanted all his grandkids to have that magical experience. My kids aren’t even surprised. They’ve grown up with this very creative grandfather."
She added: “To me what’s really inspirational about this whole story is that, here’s a guy who’s accomplished a lot in his life and he’s still finding the joy in giving that experience to others. He didn’t do this for himself. To create that experience for people to remember and celebrate, you see the joy on his face watching people enjoy it, and that to me is timeless and absolutely precious.”