Disney Design: Setting the Stage

Posted: October 21, 2008 in Disney Design
Tags: , , , ,
The area around Disneyland California vs. Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld

The area around Disneyland California vs. Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld

At Disney World it is all about the “Show”. The employees are called “Cast Members”, the customers are called “Guests”, anytime a Cast Member is in front of a Guest they are considered “On Stage”. It is this unique difference that makes Disney a theme park on a whole other level than any other theme park in the world.  While Disneyland California, the original Disney Park, is a very unique place in and of itself, Walt was never able to control every aspect of a guests stay. As the story goes Walt would stand at the park exit and greet guests as they left the park for the night. No guest ever left before closing time, so on one occasion when he spoke with a family leaving early he inquired as to why. “We could see the interstate from the top of the ride and wanted to get out before the traffic hit!”. It was then that Walt decided he would build the Walt Disney World resort, where one could completely escape the “real” world. Where when you leave your car you are completely immersed in a land that he created (hence a guest traveling over a mile after parking their car to the Magic Kingdom). More to come on this history of the parks later, but today I look at the unique “opening act” of the Magic Kingdom.

Setting the Stage

The Train Depot acts as a Curtain for the Disney Show

The Train Depot acts as a Curtain for the Disney Show **Side Note- The Train is perfectly centered in front of the train station first thing in the morning. Makes for a great photo spot.

As mentioned earlier, all of Disney, especially the Magic Kingdom, is a stage and you are the guests. To portray this image when you first come upon the Magic Kingdom Walt and the Imagineers used several interesting techniques. The ticket area where you purchase your tickets for the day is, of course, the lobby area. From here you cannot see into the park or see the towering Cinderellas Castle. This is because of the Train Station which acts as a curtain for the park. When entering you walk under neath this station which is suppose to act like the curtain rising. In the tunnel below the train station you will find “coming attraction” posters like you would find in any theater. Take a few minutes to check these out, they are for the different rides and shows around the park. Also, popcorn is being continuously popped in this area and fills the tunnels with a movie theater popcorn smell. Exiting the other side of the train station you are now “on stage” and fully immersed in the Disney experience.

Walt Disney's Window Credit, Overlooking the Castle at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor

Walt Disney

Also, as you walk down main street USA pay close attention to the names listed on the second and third floors of the stores. These act as opening (and closing when you leave) credits for the parks. These are the names of the people who played key roles in the development of the park. With the last name on the list of course being the Director, Walt E. Disney. His name is placed above the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and is the only name overlooking the Castle.
Some of the key names are (So you’ll know next time):
Walt E. Disney- The man himself
Roy E. Disney- Walt’s Brother
Elias Disney- Walt’s Father
Diane and Ron Miller- Daughter of Walt, their children’s names are also listed on the window
Dick Nunis- One of Walt’s assistants who later held various roles such as the Chairman of the Parks and Resorts
X. Atencio- Designer of the Haunted Mansion
Marty Skylar- One of Walt’s assistants who now serves as a Director in Imagineering
Marc Davis- One of Walt’s original animators
Blane Gibson- Sculpted many of the figures in the parks


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