One of my
fondest memories of Disneyland is one that both ages me and seems rather
quaint when I mention it; those Bell Telephone glass rooms at the
exit of the CircleVision building in Tomorrowland. For a few dimes or
quarters (the exact same price for a call as a regular pay phone we
marveled) we could all sit in a glass room and talk to someone at the
other end via a (drum roll please) "speakerphone."
Back when I was young (no
snickers from the Peanut gallery) speakerphones as an exotic contraption
were right up there with flying cars and making reservations to go to
the moon via PanAm Airways. Disneyland was a place where I could touch
the future, even if just for a moment in that glass booth, and nowhere
else in the world I had as a kid would that experience be duplicated. It
was little wonder I would spend weeks planning my single summer day
there, plotting just what I needed to do and see, and making sure I
wouldn't miss the latest yearly addition to the park, which was sure to
it wasn't just the optimistic view of the future that Walt Disney with
his park gave me as a child, it was the sense of wonderment I got
from being in a place that not only had rocket ships going to the moon,
but African adventures, wild frontiers and the most magical fantasy -
even a sense of nostalgia for my parents via its main entryway.
And it was the quality of
what I saw there too - attractions had professionally recorded
soundtracks, bands played like pros, even the "voice of
Disneyland" sounded just as first class as any movie or television
show. My parents would always complain about how much it all cost, but I
overheard Mom once say it was just like a real Broadway show in a way -
and I understood then they were just as impressed as I was.
people had a Rolls Royce operation in how Disneyland was built and run
- and all of us kids knew it. As we grew up, and our expectations did
too, Disneyland rarely let us down. I can still remember waiting in
lines all night for Captain EO and Star Tours, just as excited then as I
was a decade or so earlier when I found out the audience moved around
the show for the Carousel of Progress, or the Disneyland Railroad took
me back in time to Primeval World. Disney did things in the parks that
just weren't really done at those levels anywhere else.
Mind you, it wasn't all
perfect back then - there was a few years there before Michael Eisner
came in and revitalized the Walt Disney Company where we began to wonder
if Disneyland had frozen in time - but up until the year Paul Pressler
was thrown into the job of first running Disneyland, then all the parks
- things were happening again, what with exciting rides as Splash Mt.
and Indiana Jones, plus wonderful top notch entertainment such as the
Lion King Celebration, Fantasmic and the Beauty and the Beast stage
we know back then that Disneyland's 40th Anniversary was really the
beginning of the end of an era in theme park innovation for
Disney. As Paul Pressler, a former toy executive with little creative
vision, knowledge or interest in the theme park business took over, and
Eisner began to distance himself from the parks after executive Frank
Wells died, the thrills grew fewer, and the clunkers seemed to
Once the word got out
about Disneyland's expansion into a resort destination complete with a
second theme park, the initial excitement quickly gave way to
disappointment among long time visitors as a parking lot was developed
into a new park with an unworkable and unmanageable theme, and low
capacity / quality carnival style attractions, instead of the top notch
presentations we had become accustomed to at Disneyland over the years.
Since opening over a year ago, the public has stayed away in droves -
only showing up when admission is given away, or some kind of stunt
promotion is put in place, all at unbelievable costs to the company.
Meanwhile, the Oriental
Land Company also expanded their Tokyo Disneyland resort with a
DisneySea park - footing the bill for a quality addition that since
opening has pulled in an almost 30% increase in attendance. (A stunning
increase, considering they also suffered from fallout from 9/11 and an
even more dismal economy than ours in the years preceding.) Unlike the
Anaheim park, which is requiring all sorts of expensive retooling and
new additions, the Tokyo park is right on target and making money hand
over fist for the Oriental Land Co.
been a long time reader of MousePlanet, I think you probably
already know how I feel about the current lack of executive vision at
the Disney Company. With the lackluster expansion of the Disneyland
Resort, and the addition of the even sparser second studio park in
France, it almost seems (to me at least) that there is an incredible
corporate arrogance in place - a feeling that if the name Disney is
attached to anything, no matter how low in quality, that the money will
roll in. It's too soon to
judge the Paris numbers, but the difference between Tokyo and Anaheim's
figures are as dramatic as they can be. Visitors seem to respond in kind
to the superior experience offered in Tokyo.
The other thing that
struck me upon the opening of the two recent Disney parks, and the three
new local tourist destinations I will show you in this series, is just
how much the outside world seems to be either catching up to, or
surpassing, what is considered Disney quality detail and theming
nowadays. In each of these three destinations (basically two shopping
malls and a multi-screen entertainment complex) theming is taken to
heights heretofore unseen outside of Disney parks - and yes, you can
even touch the future a little bit too via some advanced technology they
It made me
wonder if maybe, in some ways, these new developments were in a way
"More Disney Than Disney." I think you may also be
asking those questions too, once you see what I am talking about.
It could well be that the competition may be
surpassing the limited vision Paul Pressler and Michael Eisner now have
for their parks. It is quite conceivable - considering these three
developments are just minutes apart from each other here in the
Hollywood area - that combined they may offer more for a visitor to
enjoy than the underwhelming California Adventure park does, even
without the carnival attractions.
I'll complete these
thoughts at the end of this series, and hopefully have some of your
feedback to include with them.
our tour with the new Hollywood and Highland complex, which is
also the new home of the Academy Awards show.
This huge complex (shown
in the montage above) is really a multi-use complex. Below we'll enlarge
the individual photos from above, to tell you about each area in it. The
Chinese Theater anchors the westernmost arm...
The new Kodak Theater
(below) abuts the Chinese - below is the entry arch to it, the actual
theater is set further back inside the complex.
centerpiece of the complex is the mall area itself - the Babylon
Court (below). If I am right, this area offers a full scale reproduction
of some of the elements from D. W. Griffith's Intolerance film set -
also below is a picture of the original set at a similar angle to give
you an idea of the scale.
The original D. W. Griffith
Intolerance film set above. (It used to sit where the Vista Theater
now is located, near the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood Blvds.).
Finally below you can
see the rest of the mall complex - nightclubs and a soon to open
museum occupy the upper levels, down below the building is a MetroRail
Subway station which can wisk you to Universal City over the hill in
the valley, or Downtown Los Angeles.