Monday, February 27, 2006
At one time, the hub at Disneyland was more like a grand finale to Main Street. It had the elegant Plaza Inn and Plaza Gardens restaurants flanking the exit and the Carnation Gardens over on the far left side. When you were in the hub, you had the feeling that you were not only still in the turn of the century small town, but had entered into a little park of the era, with magical paths around the perimeter that showed glimpses of other worlds that gently drew you in. It provided a comfortable transition to the other lands and also had a sense of place.
Over the last ten years or so, the theme has been compromised, and the well planned magical little vistas that used to draw one smoothly into the various lands are slowly degrading. For instance; when the old Carnation Gardens restaurant was torn out a few years back, it was replaced with a practical expanse of walkway and some generic ‘back of western type building’ facades to hide the newly exposed backs of the Frontierland buildings. Now we are presented with a view there of what looks like a functional backstage break area, and the single magical little path that was the main entrance into Frontierland now has a cheaper twin. Cha-ching! Another little piece of the magic is gone. A better solution would have been to put some tall trees there to mask the building backs. Or better still why wasn’t it replaced with an even nicer Victorian Pavilion type eatery or attraction?
When you exited Main Street into the hub over the last few years and turned left, a sign in front of the vacant Plaza Pavilion proclaimed it as the “Annual Passport Processing Pavilion”. So a guest might think, “Oh, I’ve left Main Street now; here is an old building that used to be part of it somehow, but now they’re selling passports there.” So right away the smooth continuity of the theme is broken and it jogs the guest back into the world of today, leaving them impressed with the notion that Disney would rather use a themed building to sell things than to keep it integral to the story they were once telling. Cha-ching! Another piece of the magic is gone. Solution: Sell annual passports out at the front gate. Can’t we find a use for that beautiful old building or replace it with something better that fits the theme?
The placement of the Astro-Orbiter at the edge of the hub has already been written about, but to reiterate, the vista and view into the world of tomorrow that used to draw you in is gone. Instead you have this dark looming hulk of a thing bordering the hub almost repelling you back. Cha-ching! Another little piece of the magic is gone – another smooth transition lost. Solution: Nuke it!
The Partners statue of Walt and Mickey and the surrounding bronzes of other Disney characters at the very center of the hub are also out of place if we want to maintain the theme of the area. Although a wonderful tribute for the 50th anniversary, they pull the observer out of any sense they might have had of being in that small town park, and back into the present day again. Would these statues be better off somewhere else? One could argue that maybe they could fit in as something you might see in a turn of the century park and particularly in a Disney version of one - but maybe not.
These hub area theme issues are a good example of the kind of questions you need to constantly be asking and resolving in every part of every land in the park as you go about Re-Imagineering Disneyland.