The (De-)Evolution of Downtown Disney

by MouseStation Crew, staff writer

MouseStation 121 - The (De-)Evolution of Downtown Disney

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Run time 0:40:46

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Featured Topic - The (De-)Evolution of Downtown Disney

In this week's feature, Mike and Mark discuss what has happened to Downtown Disney over the years, focusing on Pleasure Island.

Downtown Disney Marketplace

The Marketplace originally opened as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, then became the Walt Disney World Shopping Village, then the Disney Village Marketplace before finally becoming Downtown Disney Marketplace when the entire area was renamed.

The area originally had a more rustic feel, and was somewhat of a support structure for the Disney Village Resort, consisting of the Fairway Villas, Townhouse Villas and Treehouse Villas. It had an eclectic feel to it, including such shops as a haberdashery, the old Disney Character Shop, the Gourmet Pantry and other non-Disney locations. (Comment from Steven Ng while processing the audio for the show: "I actually purchased my first Hammered Dulcimer at DVM from the Folkcraft Music Store. They had a kiosk at DVM and one in front of the American Adventure. It was a nice place then. *Sigh*")

These days, it has huge, flashy locations like World of Disney, the LEGO Imagination Store, Once Upon a Toy, Art of Disney, and more. It's so busy that people are now being advised to avoid it at certain times because of crowds. The sleepy little shopping village is gone. (Will you need a Fastpass to avoid an 85-minute wait at Goofy's Candy Company?)

Downtown Disney West Side

The West Side really hasn't really had many changes in terms of venues and atmosphere in its 11 years, as opposed to Pleasure Island's 19 years and the Marketplace's 30-some-odd years.

Mike thinks that the Virgin Megastore is a great place to shop, and there is a lot of interesting entertainment there in the evenings. Mike really enjoys all of the dining and entertainment venues. He feels that DisneyQuest is still a lot of fun, and he has a great plan to get through all of the major attractions in a minimal amout of time, which is a major benefit when taking advantage of the reduced admission charge for the last two hours of operation.

Mike and Mark also reminisced about their adventure at DisneyQuest during the Everest Preview weekend.

Downtown Disney Pleasure Island

Mark ran down the original lineup of clubs, including the original configuration of the Adventurer's Club, where there was an upstairs exit into the Avigator's Supply gift shop, which carried Adventurer's Club merchandise. He and Mike also talked about the original membership kit, and the fact that his canteen is somewhere in the house that he can't find it.

Mark also talked about some of the changes to many of the clubs, and discussed the demise of the Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club, which will be closing on February 3. He also reminisced about when it was still the XZFR Rockin' Rollerdrome, when he and his wife went roller skating there, then down onto the dance floor below. With the club closing, Mark speculated that this will be the next step of Disney capitalizing on the waterfront aspect of Pleasure Island, likely leading to the establishment of another third-party themed dining establishment, which he first mentioned as a rumor back in November 2005.

Next up was discussion of the demolition of the Hub Stage and the West End Stage, with the opening of access to the island and creation of the Water Front Stage and the opening up of the center of the Island to the water.

Then it was on to the big change. Pleasure Island used to be a hard-ticketed area where you could not get onto the island without buying a ticket, and the open areas were much more of a party zone. Now that the Island is open anyone walking through, the environment on the Island no longer feels special. The midnight fireworks also faded away and disappeared. Now, local teenage kids get dropped off and it's a place to hang out instead of the mall.

Mike talked about the last few months of what was left of the fireworks, then Mark remembered the heyday of the midnight fireworks with the accompanying production numbers. He also recalled the bands that would play at the West End Stage and the dancing in the plaza and on the streets. Now live music is completely gone from Pleasure Island.

Mike compared the current incarnation of Pleasure Island to Universal CityWalk, and Pleasure Island did not make out favorably.

What do you think about Pleasure Island? Were you there in its heyday? Do you like the changes, or do you wish it went back to the way that it was? Let us know by sending an email or calling our toll-free feedback line (1-866-939-2278) and let us know what your favorites are!

Wrapping up

Steven Ng will be attending the NFFC Show and Sale in Anaheim this Sunday for a few hours. He will have his portable recording equipment with him, so look for him if you want to record a message for the podcast. You can find him or follow his adventures on his twitter feed.

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