Here we are, 5 columns into Dueling Disney! Don’t you think it’s time for a little break? I mean, we’ve been going at it for a while now. I think it’s high time that we kick back, relax, and maybe head on down to Downtown Disney to unwind a bit.
But wait! What’s this? There are TWO Downtown Disney locations we can choose from? Well, heck, it certainly looks like we’re not going to get the rest we’ve been looking for. Might as well jump right back into the fray, and fight to the death about which coast has the best Downtown Disney!
Representing the Disneyland Resort, Mr. Keith Gluck. Representing Walt Disney World, Mr. Jeff Heimbuch.
This week’s topic: Downtown Disney
Keith: Dude, have you ever experienced the awesomeness that is Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen? Great food, elegant theming, and nightly jazz performances ensure patrons will have a wonderful dining experience every time. And for dessert, be sure to order the beignets. They are not Mickey-shaped like the ones found over at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square, but they are just as delicious.
Jeff: Right off the bat, you’re talking about food? Man, you gotta ease into it. It’s way too early for me to be getting this hungry! You’re supposed to start off with a bit of history first! Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney opened in March 1975. Back then, it was known as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, and was intended as a one stop shopping location for everyone at Walt Disney World; both guests AND residents. But of course, most of the intended residential space was used for hotels over time, so it turned into a regular shopping complex. In the very beginnings of the idea of “keeping people on property,” Michael Eisner wanted to turn it into a full service entertainment location as well. So, come May 1989, Pleasure Island opened next to where the shopping district was, and the entire complex was renamed Disney Village Marketplace. It wasn’t long after, in 1995, that a third area was added after Pleasure Island to further everyone’s shopping & entertainment needs, and thus, Downtown Disney was born!
Keith: Well, in 2001, Disney plunked down about 1.4 billion dollars to add a second theme park and a shopping district to its modestly-sized property. Covering roughly 300,000 square feet, the shopping district was named Downtown Disney, and was designed with uniqueness in mind. To differentiate itself from your run-of-the-mill strip mall, four different types of architecture were used, and hard-to-find boutiques were added. Music fans could catch live acts put on by “street performers,” or enjoy ticketed performances at the House of Blues. Those dissatisfied with the Italian fare at Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port could now visit Naples Ristorante, which uses water from two East Coast wells along with imported Italian flour to create a more authentic dining experience. Sports lovers were given the ESPN Zone, a restaurant and entertainment center in its own right. Games and sporting events of all kinds could be viewed on over 120 HDTVs–one of them measuring 16 feet–throughout the facility, including (as Jeff Heimbuch shockingly only just found out), inside the restrooms!
Jeff: As any fan of Communicore Weekly knows, we’re into Bathroom Breaks. And admittedly, the bathrooms inside ESPN Zone are pretty awesome. Before I dive into my experience in there, though, I’m just going to move on to talk about Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney again.
One of the fantastic things about when they added Pleasure Island is that they added a whole back story to it. I will definitely give credit where credit is due, and while it wasn’t the best story in the world, Eisner really wanted to tie an overall theme into Pleasure Island. The story of the eccentric inventor and industrialist named Merriweather Adam Pleasure and his “First Family of Fun” that Imagineers crafted for this new area was a nice little touch (and a subject I will explore further for a future column!). Was it necessary? No, absolutely not. But again the importance of an overall story was evident here, even when just trying to tie together a string of nightclubs.
Pleasure Island was known for being the first “real” night-time hotspot meant strictly as a place for adults to spend their evenings. Chock full of nightclubs, dance halls, comedy clubs, and more, it really showed that Disney was trying to cater to the needs of the entire family. It also celebrated “New Year’s Eve” every single night for almost 15 years. That’s pretty awesome.
Don’t worry, Keith. I’m holding onto my trump card for this one still…
Keith: There was an episode of The Simpsons where the family went to Itchy and Scratchy Land, and one evening Homer and Marge went to a club called T.G.I. McScratchy’s. As Auld Lang Syne played, a waiter approached them with glasses of champagne. Marge said, “It must be wonderful to ring in the New Year over and over and over!” The waiter responded with, “Please kill me.”
Have I mentioned how much I love Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen? Like you guys, we have: a movie theater, art stores/galleries, and an Earl of Sandwich (ours is even shiny and new). Disneyland’s Downtown Disney is not only easily traversable, but it also functions as a liaison between destinations. On one side, there’s the original “on-property” resort, the Disneyland Hotel. On the other side, two theme parks. You guys do have DisneyQuest, however it’s not even close to living up to its potential.
I enjoyed what you wrote about Pleasure Island’s back story. Now I would like to request a little more information. Please tell us all about Pleasure Island’s current story. No worries. Take your time.
I have a hunch as to what your Trump Card is. And for your sake, bud, I hope I’m wrong, and it’s something that still exists.
Jeff: …I have words for you. Unfortunately, they are words that are not suitable or family friendly for this website. However, please check your text messages, and then come back.
Checked? OK, good.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand!
Listen, there are PLENTY of things that are celebrated every single night at ALL of the Disney Parks around the world; New Year’s Eve was just ONE of them. If they didn’t like it, they should get another job, am I right, guys?!
As totally cheesy as it is, I love the T-Rex Cafe at our Downtown Disney. Rainforest, in my mind, has overstayed its welcome, since they are everywhere. But T-Rex Cafe is one of my favorite eateries. It definitely immerses you in a cool theme. We do have a pretty awesome Earl of Sandwich, but this is the one time I would have to disagree with the famous philosopher Barney Stinson: Newer ISN’T always better. I think ours is better than yours. But that’s just me.
OK, so you’re right. My trump card ISN’T still in existence. However, it DID exist for a long time, and it’s something that was thoroughly enjoyed, loved, and currently missed, but many Walt Disney World visitors: The Adventurer’s Club. Say what you will about it being absent now, but in its heyday, it was one of the most amazing, interactive shows/restaurants/bars of its time. It was a feat of storytelling and Imagineering. I can close my eyes now and still hear a mighty roar of KUNGALOOSH! reverberating off the rafters.
Keith: I just checked them. We’ll talk later!
I am very sad to say that like quite a few former Walt Disney World gems, I was never able to visit the Adventurer’s Club. It was open during my first few visits, but unfortunately I wasn’t apprised of its awesomeness until after it closed. Since it no longer exists, however, I’m afraid I can’t allow the points (if we were allowed to actually use former attractions instead of just mentioning them, I would have kicked your patooty in the Tomorrowland installment). Now on to my Trump Card, which I am going to go back to a Simpson’s episode for assistance introducing: “Monoraaiill, Monoraaiill, Monoraaaiiilll!” Well sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine-bona fide-electrified-five-car Monorail! Sure taking a boat to Florida’s Downtown Disney is kind of romantic–provided there are no lovebugs in your teeth–but it can’t quite compare to the smooth ride of the “Highway in the Sky.” I’ll be the first to admit that I miss the days when the Monorail dropped you off at the entrance of the Disneyland Hotel, in plain view of The Monorail Cafe. That said, it’s still kind of cool to be in Downtown Disney one second, and get dropped off via Monorail inside the park the next. That’s something none of the parks in Walt Disney World can lay claim to, my friend.
Jeff: Ok, fine. I’ll give you that. While the Monorail at Walt Disney World doesn’t go to Downtown Disney, there are some lines that let you travel through the Park. But, that’s neither here nor there for this installment. I guess we’ll just have to leave it up to the readers to decide.
And that’s how Jeff and Keith see it. What do YOU think? Does Disneyland’s Downtown Disney win with its Monorail and Jazz Kitchen? Or does Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney get the win based upon size and variety? Let us know in the comments and vote in the poll below!
Dueling Disney is written by Jeff Heimbuch & Keith Gluck