Jul
30
2012

Buena Vista Street lets you see California through Walt Disney's eyes

Entrance to Disney California Adventure takes visitors to another time and place

Ever wonder where Walt Disney got his dreams? Well, Disney imagineers are hoping that you’ll feel it yourself when you walk down Buena Vista Street, the new entrance to Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort.

The opening of the new Cars Land area in Disney California Adventure has dominated the talks about the expansion – but there’s something pretty interesting on the way to it.

On one level, you can walk through Buena Vista Street and just enjoy the lovely ambiance of the 1920s-era street. The storefronts are vintage, the trolleys are authentic to the era, and it all harkens back to the era when Walt Disney himself stepped off a bus with a cardboard suitcase and big dreams. On another level, Disneyphiles will be particularly thrilled with the many layers of meaning that are everywhere you look here.

Along Buena Vista Street, each and every detail has been considered, from the colour of the tiles in the candy shop to the names on the storefront windows. If you look closely you’ll see references to things that popped up later in Disney’s work; the idea was that this was the place and time that influenced him.

“The whole street coming alive is meant to put you right there in the steps of Walt when he first stepped off the train in California and all the optimism and opportunity he felt was there for him at the time,” says Lisa Girolami, director and senior show producer, Walt Disney Imagineering.

“There are many more levels of details, which our Disney fans will recognize and discover. The more you want to know, the more you’ll get out of it. I think we’ve covered it, too, for people who may be visiting a Disney park for the first time.”

You will see singing, dancing newsboys (they regularly belt out “California Here I Come”) and clanging red car trolleys, for example. You will see vintage Disney toys in storefront windows that could have been plucked from the 1920s.

If you want to look deeper, you may note that the gas station at the front of the park is called Oswald’s – and you may or may not remember that Oswald was an early Disney character. You may also notice that Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Care is named after the three little pigs from the Disney animated short.

In one of the more subtle touches, there is a storefront called Atwater Ink & Paint. Atwater refers to a district of L.A. called Atwater Village, a place where Disney and his animators spent a lot of time in those early days.

Among the key things on this new streetscape are the Red Car Trolleys. Not just true to the era, the trolleys now provide a fun way to get around the park. They are inspired by Los Angeles’ historic Pacific Electric Red Cars from the 20s and 30s. There are two conductors on each, who provide commentary as the trolleys cruise the park (several times a day through Hollywood Land and to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror). Wheelchair and stroller friendly, too.

Carthay Circle Theatre

351 Photo courtesy of Disneyland.

Along the way you might notice the Carthay Circle Theatre, rising into the sky in all its white Art Deco glory. It dominates the streetscape and harkens back to the 1937 world premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It includes a fancy lounge and the even fancier Carthay Circle Restaurant, a fine-dining destination that serves up such treats as Angus Flank Steak Cobb Salad -- sounds like a fitting way to wrap up a full day at the park, yes?

Executive Chef Andrew Sutton defines the food there as “Old Santa Barbara with all the ethnic flavours.”

So go ahead, take your time strolling through the new entrance to Disney California Adventure. It’s a sweet little street from another time, and a great place to regroup as you move between high-adrenaline attractions.

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