Dueling Disney – Main Street versus Main Street

Written by Keith Gluck. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Dueling Disney, Features, Keith Gluck, Walt Disney World

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Published on January 30, 2013 at 4:03 am with 35 Comments

Welcome to the second installment of Dueling Disney. In our first column, we got a lot of good responses to our initial topic of RESORT SIZE. We asked to know how you felt, and you certainly told us! We got a lot of great comments, supporting both sides of the argument, and got a pretty good idea about which one wins.

We have also decided that due to the number of topics we believe can cover, while still maintaining a level of quality, that we are going to try to make this column a bi-weekly endeavor instead of monthly (thanks for the push folks).

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let’s move onto this week’s topic, and see who comes out victorious: Keith (representing Disneyland) or Jeff (representing Magic Kingdom). . .

Topic 2: MAIN STREET, U.S.A.

Jeff: I might have to pull a Keith, and concede to his win right off the bat on this one. However, there are some simply fabulous things about Main Street, U.S.A. at Walt Disney World that I absolutely enjoy. For starters, the moment you pass under the railroad and onto Main Street, you immediately feel like you’re in another world. Magic Kingdom doesn’t waste any time with starting the show for you, and the old town square atmosphere hits you right off the bat. Now, granted, this “small town” may be a bit scaled up compared to most, but I do get a nice feeling of nostalgia from it.

Keith: KGFTW already? Nice!

Well, “Jeff.” It is “Jeff,” isn’t it? I like to think that our Main Street at Disneyland greets you with a dose of nostalgia as well. Whether it be from the turn of the 20th century architecture, the wonderful ambient music, or the ride vehicles that Disney Imagineering Legend Bob Gurr designed (and in most cases personally drove to Disneyland), we’ve got nostalgia covered. Oh, poor Jeff. You’re gonna lose big on this one, bud.

Jeff: I do have to say, yours definitely has a distinct advantage over mine. Disneyland was the original (OG, if you will), and truly shows its colors. But, allow me to step into the time machine of your choice for a moment (because it’s a time machine, and we can come back to this exact second, duh), and talk about Walt Disney World’s Main Street, circa the mid-1980s, to when I feel MY Main Street was at its heyday. Though they don’t exist anymore (well, one side does), West Center Street and East Center street (which ran across Main Street) created an extra ounce of authenticity to the world that was created. Here, you could shop at the Flower Market (which I have a very vivid recollection of, if only for that time when two singers whose names I can’t recall sang in it during a special on TV), wander the street, and hear the citizens of Main Street living their lives from the windows above. I know the tap and piano lessons can still be heard, but some of the other small stuff is now gone.

Keith: I see your Doctor Who and raise you a Doc Brown. My DeLorean takes me back to a resplendent Main Street bursting with both charisma and commerce. Need to visit one of the only banks in the country open on Sunday? Why, pop on over to the Bank of Main Street, where you can not only cash checks, but open an account. Care for a magic show? I recommend a visit to the Magic Shop, where a young Steve Martin will dazzle you with acts of sorcery and prestidigitation. In the market for a darling Brassiere? Hollywood-Maxwell’s Intimate Apparel shop (also known as the Wizard of Bras) has just what you’re looking for! Over the years Main Street in Disneyland has featured all sorts of timely and timeless merchants that have catered to a wide array of guest needs. And coming back to present day, you can enjoy a wonderful meal at the Carnation Cafe, peruse the fantastic pieces of art in the Disney Gallery, or take in a little show that Walt himself worked on called “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.” Oh, and Jeff? Our Main Street Cinema shows movies.

Jeff: Great Scott, you’re right! But then again, our cinema showed movies as well, up until a few years ago. Granted, it no longer does, but a lot of things we’re discussing now are no longer in existence. But still, the Main Streets of Yesterland do, without a doubt, beat out the Main Streets of today. I think we can both agree on that.

One of the things I dislike about both Main Street’s is that they have essentially become a shopping mecca. The stores have taken over, and every square inch is for your shopping needs. Now, granted, both try to readjust their theme so it makes sense, but some of the small town charm we just spoke of is no longer evident in some places.

Keith: We do agree on that. Back in the day, store windows on Main Street in Disneyland were actual set dressings. They were not wall to wall displays of whichever “merch” was being pushed at the time. However, as stated above, we do have some free pleasures to enjoy. In addition to everything listed, you can also visit the very spot in which Walt Disney dedicated the opening of the park that started it all.

Jeff: Either way, even without some of the original stuff, I still enjoy my version of Main Street. We still have the windows dedicated to some of the greatest Imagineers (and yes, I know they are not the originals), some great streetmosphere characters, and a little bit of charm left. Even though I said earlier that I’d concede to you, I take it back…I only kind of concede.

Keith: Haha, fair enough. I was saving my trump card for the end anyway, which will basically crush any points you may have mentioned thus far, up to and including your partial conceding. Let me tell you a little bit about Walt Disney’s private apartment. Residing above the Main Street Fire Department, Walt’s little hideaway was beautifully decorated in the Victorian style by Disney’s Academy Award-winning set decorator Emile Kuri. Some of Kuri’s career highlights include winning an Oscar for 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, and supervising the decoration of Disney’s groundbreaking exhibits for the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair. Now, the apartment wasn’t just a place for Walt to retreat to for a breather during a hot Disneyland afternoon. He spent many nights there, often interacting with overnight workers, or treating the morning crew to fresh coffee on Main Street. So between the Disney Gallery, Main Street Cinema, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and Walt Disney’s private apartment, I’m afraid I am going to have to declare myself the overwhelming winner of this round, Jeff!

How about you good folks? Think Keith is right? Or was Jeff right to only partially concede, and Florida’s Main Street actually surpasses California’s? We’ll let you be the judge of this debate. Let us know what you think below!

Dueling Disney is written by Jeff Heimbuch & Keith Gluck

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at [email protected] or [email protected]

You can follow us on Twitter: @DisneyProject and @JeffHeimbuch

About Keith Gluck

Keith Gluck writes for and volunteers at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. He also runs a Disney blog called thedisneyproject.com, and travels to Disney Parks as often as he can. A fan of many facets of The Disney Company, Keith's main interest is the life and legacy of Walt Disney. For questions/comments, or to request a certain topic be covered, please send an email to: [email protected] Twitter: @DisneyProject Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Disney-Project/194569877288847

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  • JiminyCricketFan

    I feel it is unfair to compare parks of different decades to determine what is better. Those version are long gone. I have to say as a person who grew up going to Disneyland, I thought from the pictures I saw that WDW was going to be much more magical. Sadly, when I was there I kept on feeling a strange sense of phoniness. Certainly both parks have seen a decline in the quality of authenticity of their Main Street’s. But when I am atthe Magic Kingdom it really felt like a shopping mall that had a superficial theme added.Theme was misapplied. As an example, at the end of street of the MK there is a sports shop that has cast members dressed in baseball outfits of the early 1900′s. There was one over weight female who probably was in her 60′s where this baseball outfit. First off, no one of that time would have worn that outfit apart of being on a baseball diamond. Never in a shop. Then just because this woman was a baseball outfit, it looked ridiculous on her. No female of that period played baseball and certainly no one in their 60′s. It just showed how at MK they don’t understand what Disney theming is all about.

    • jcruise86

      And do you think Disney should have racially accurate theming too?

      • JiminyCricketFan

        No, but I think that there are many stores on Main Street where an older woman being the sales person would work perfectly fine. Customs that reflect the appropriate period would also help. I don’t expect a 60 year old woman to be forced to wear daisy dukes to keep her job. If the character is supposed to be an athletic person, I feel Disney can cast appropriately. I have not seen any overweight Cinderellas at Disneyland or 6 foot 4 inch tall Donald Ducks.

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  • Ravjay12

    Disneyland’s Main Street is definitely best in terms of the history, the scale, and the charm of it’s shops and buildings. However, Magic Kingdom’s Main Street is more impressive in detail and size. In my opinion, the Main Street in Paris is the best of all the parks. It has the charm, historical details, and the impressive arcades on the back sides of the shops. If I had to pick from Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, I’d have to go with Disneyland.

  • Disneylandfan85

    Disneyland’s Main Street wins every step of the way!

  • whamo

    Give me the original Disneyland every day of the week!

  • danielz6

    Ive never understood why main street USA was replicated so many times especially in the non US Parks. Its clearly made to appeal to Americans sense of nostalgia, thus Disney’s dedication “here you may relive fond memories of the past…” but I’m not sure its as charming in other countries . I’m not saying its bad, just saying they could’ve maybe done fresh and different entrances in the many Parks, kind of like Buena vista street, or Mediterranean harbor in Disney sea.

  • bryce

    As a resident of SoCal, I’ve been to Disneyland many more times, so when I walked into the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street one night, its larger scale made me feel like a little child again! Very magical!

  • lazyboy97O

    I prefer Disneyland’s over the Magic Kingdom’s, but Disneyland Paris’, which reused much of the Magic Kingdom’s design due to the last minute decision to nix the 1920s timeframe, over both.

  • Gullywhumper

    I really enjoy the glass blower at the Magic Kingdom Main Street, Disneyland used to have this, no more, it’s been gone for a long time. Also, the barber shop at thw Magic Kingdom. Is it still there? Disneyland never had a working barber shop.