Looking to the future of Hollywood Landby Todd Pickering, contributing writer
With all the talk of next year's conversion of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! ruining the theming of Hollywood Land of the 1930s, I decided to take a good hard look at the set pieces and landscaping that make the Disney Parks so magical. Why are Disney Parks enthusiasts so up in arms?
When Walt Disney designed his beloved theme park, Disneyland, in 1955 he created a turn of the century reproduction of his hometown Marceline, Missouri. At the end of the street was a castle off in the distance beckoning a young Midwestern boy to turn his dreams into reality; Main Street U.S.A.. The Sleeping Beauty Castle is what Walt Disney called a weenie, like a piece of meat pulling a dog in the direction you want it to go. Just like a dog's treat, this castle would draw the crowd down the street and into the park. When Disney California Adventure was re-imagined the Imagineers followed the original concept of Disneyland, replacing Main Street with Buena Vista Street and the Castle with The Carthay Circle Theatre.
By walking in Walt's footsteps we time travel. We arrive on Buena Vista Street in 1923 eyeing his dream at the end of the street—a Hollywood movie premiere. We walk toward the beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival style motion picture palace to enjoy the exciting premiere of 1937's release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Next we enjoy that success by strolling down Hollywood Boulevard, which must now be 1937 and beyond. Be careful as you stroll down the street, you don't want to get hit by that Red Car Trolley. Once we get to the Hyperion Theater we turn right and see an abandoned Hollywood Tower Hotel.
But next year when you round the bend you may ask yourself what is this futuristic warehouse doing in Hollywood Land? Why is there a 1930s trolley rolling by a space-themed attraction? Are we on a sound stage full of anachronisms? And the biggest question of them all, is Hollywood Land truly ruined?
The first big question truly is, can one see the Hollywood Tower Hotel at all from Buena Vista Street? Yes and no. If you stand right in front of the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe or Clara Belle's Hand Scooped Ice Cream entrance you can see the top of it to the left of Carthay Circle Theatre. There is a little park in front of Elias and Co. Department store on the other side where you can still see the roof, but there are so many trees that you would be hard pressed to notice it at all. If you walk straight down Buena Vista Street, turn at the fountain, and then walk straight down Hollywood Boulevard you will not notice it at all.
Once you turn right at the Hyperion Theater it may become a bit jarring. To the left you see the Hyperion Theatre and to the right you may see the Red Car Trolley chugging along out front. My first observation is that the concept art of the new Guardians of the& Galaxy attraction reminds me of Metropolis, the 1927 black and white film about the future. It may be too colorful to evoke that era but we will soon see. We can't be sure of the finished product, but the top of the building from the view at Carthay Circle may actually blend in quite nicely with everything.
The second point is that Hollywood Land isn't exactly perfectly themed. It is a mishmash of an actual 1930s street with a bit of a back lot look and anachronistic architecture. The Soap Opera Bistro that was converted into Playhouse Disney is a bit modern for the 1930s and the Animation Building is more reminiscent of the Googie architecture of the 1960s. The Hyperion Theater may have a new show but not a new look. It still looks like a set rather than a true theater. If you look behind the buildings to the north you will see Monster's Inc., which certainly is rooted in 1960s animation style rather than the time of Walt's early films.
I think the view from "a bug's land" will be amazing; the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! will look like a child's toy set up in the grass. I look forward to seeing it from that vantage. Maybe fans truly don't have that much to worry about considering that there will also be an amazingly new themed attraction. Of course there will be things missed.
The above photo was taken before the announcement of the Guardians of the Galaxy conversion. It was meant to be used in an article about the terrific blend of lighting, perspective, sound, and music theming that makes Disney parks so amazing. Soon we will no longer be able to sit at this sign at twilight and hear the ghostly, tinny music of the 1930s Hollywood as a trolley car passes by and the sign slowly and magically changes from "The Hollywood Tower Hotel" to "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror." ;We hear screams, apparently coming from one of the top floors of an abandoned hotel… but by the time you crane your neck to look over your shoulder, the screams have faded and you wonder if the ghosts from the past might be getting a little closer… or fading into the future.