The removal of the Court of Angels in New Orleans Square to make room for an expanded Club 33 has become the latest polarizing issue between traditionalists and those who are apathetic about change. How people view this little piece of construction says a lot about how they view the park in general.

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For those who are sad to see this little out of the way space go away, it represents one more example of Disney corporate greed over Walt Disney’s vision of creating exotic immersive environmental experiences for everyone. For those who never noticed The Court of Angels before or recognize that it represents an underutilized area that nobody visits even on the busiest day, their opinion tends to be “Get over it, things change.”

For anybody who has read Samland before knows, I am in the former camp. But I don’t want to get into that debate. Instead, I am going to take the opportunity to focus my lens on how filmmaking is used in Disneyland’s environmental design and how The Court of Angels is a wonderful example of an essential pattern to quality urban planning.

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First the film link. One of the things Walt Disney loved to do was to add little surprises throughout the park that guests could stumble upon. In filmmaking they were known as interstitials, events between the major events. Within the best films, you need occasional pauses in the action to catch your breath. If you remove them, the film would be a chaotic jumble of raw emotions. Disneyland and Walt Disney World were designed with interstitials in mind and that is why they are not a Six Flags style amusement park.

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The Court of Angels is an excellent example. Another favorite that is highlighted in The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide is the petrified tree in Frontierland. In July 1956, Walt and Lillian had driven through Colorado, near Pike’s Peak, just outside of Colorado Springs. Walt saw a “Petrified Trees for Sale” at Pike’s Petrified Forest. He pulled in and told Lillian to wait in the car. She was not happy with the detour and was starting to get agitated. When her husband returned, he proudly proclaimed that he had just bought her anniversary present; a petrified tree stump. The 5-ton stump was still in Colorado on their 31st anniversary on July 13, 1956. When she said that it was too big for the mantle, Walt brought it down to Disneyland. On Walt and Lillian’s 32nd anniversary, July 13, 1957, the 10-foot tree stump was installed next to the Rivers of America.

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For urban designers, an outdoor room such as the Court of Angels is recognized as essential element to creating spaces with a higher degree of life. In A Pattern Language, architect Christopher Alexander said, “An outdoor space becomes a special outdoor room when it is well enclosed with walls of the building, walls of foliage, columns, trellis, and sky; and when the outdoor room, together with an indoor space [the shops], forms a virtually continuous living area.” It is my belief that the Court of Angels satisfies that need and that is why so many people are lamenting its passing.

For today’s management, it is a tough call. They are being pushed to maximize the revenues for every square foot of the park and a beautiful “underutilized” space is very tempting. It is not like they have not already tried before. Look at the holidays when the space has played host to an expanded retail display. The baseline for revenues had already been set and it must be obvious that Club 33 should have a higher yield. But is that enough to close off a beautiful space to the general visitor? You be the judge.

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  • whamo

    Instead of remodeling Club 33 Disneyland needs to add a water park in Anaheim. The summer crowds and lines are too long. A water park would thin out the crowd, and give Disney fans another reason to stay in the park and spend money instead of retreating to their hotel or motel pools. Most of those have too many people in them.

    • HollywoodF1

      You’ll be thrilled to learn that Garden Grove just approved funding for an indoor water park a scant 1.5 miles south of Disneyland on Harbor Blvd! Now Disneyland doesn’t have to waste its extremely expensive real estate on a park where admission would be half of a traditional park, and which would be closed before sunset on days that its open.

  • KennyVee

    “Traditionalists and those who are apathetic about change?” Nice use of a false dichotomy. There’s a gigantic middle ground there that you are pretending doesn’t exist. This doesn’t have to be a “you’re either with us or against us” issue.

    • Golden

      No kidding KennyVee – a symptom of the negativity around here which Kevin Yee was dialoguing on the other day.

      The problem here is that its being painted as an issue of Walt v Corporate Greed – its a touchstone for a particular sector of people, calling themselves traditionalists, who feel as though the park is focussing only on the corporate dollar, and not on the quality of the show.

      The reality is, Walt was not only about the show. Disneyland was always there to make money. The current Disney runners are not all about the money, they also want to put on a very good show. I think the gigantic people in the middle ground are pragmatists who aren’t locked into black and white opinions of complex issues.

  • marksummer

    I think that so many people are upset about change in the park is that some of us grew up at Disneyland. As I’ve said before, I was born in 1958, so by 1959, going to Disneyland was an annual occurrence in my family. I’ve fantasized about someone keeping track of all the money I’ve spent at DL all these years. Certainly enough to somehow feel that I have a stake in what goes on in the park. We always called it “the park” and felt a special sense of owning just a little piece of DL. Of course that all changed with Walt’s passing and the rise of corporate greed and the need to please stockholders. I’m just saying this so that some of the younger readers can at least begin to understand some of the sentiments involved when something changes in the park. I love new rides. There have been precious few of them in the past few years. If you study DL history through “The E Ticket” magazine, and other Disney books, you’ll see that when Walt was alive, there was tremendous change almost every season. Walt put his heart and soul into the park, the way he did with everything he was involved with. I miss the “good old days” when I felt the park was changing for the better, growing more sophisticated but keeping the feeling of tremendous imagination and wonder. It felt like Walt and Co. were working tirelessly to create an alternate reality that was clean, beautiful and exciting. Now, when I go to DL, I just feel like it’s a cash cow for the company. Where are the grand projects like Tony Baxter’s Discovery Bay? Why are the newer additions, like Innoventions or Buzz Lightyear so lightweight and lacking true vision? I could go on and on, but as a community here, I think it’s important to try and understand why there is such resistance to change. I think the perception that most of the change coming to DL has little to do with creativity and mostly to do with corporate profits is correct. Hence the mourning of a little, quiet part of New Orleans lost to the public forever.

    • mousegirl72

      Well said!

  • eicarr

    Fighting for sections of the park being walled off for rich people only doesn’t make you a traditionalist. I fear the old Disney Gallery and court of angels is just the beginning.

    • dgpollard

      You must understand that the “old” Disney Gallery and Court of Angles never were INTENDED to be part of the general public areas anyways. Remember? Walt and Roy had that space allocated for their family apartment and for special dignitaries alike, etc.

      I understand though how after so many years of a given space be allocated in certain functional ways (a.k.a. Disney Gallery / quiet alcove for folks to take a picture at, etc.) and then changing those functions back to what they were more or less were intended for in the first place, could make one fell sort of “screwed”.

      I don’t feel “screwed” though nor am I envious of Club 33. Actually, I think that it just makes good sense.

      • amyuilani

        Just because something did not follow its intended purpose doesn’t mean that its ultimate function should be ignored. It was supposed to be private and it became public. Instead of being a treat for the high mucky-mucks in the world, it became a gift to the public, an adorable little space where you can retreat from the madness 20 feet away and feel like you’re in a special, hidden cove. That was the feeling I used to get when I was in the Court, and on the back patio of the Gallery. I will miss those things. It’s like the PeopleMover – there didn’t seem to be anything special about it until you were on it, above Tomorrowland, and given a unique perspective. Sometimes those teeny touches mean more to the experience.

      • Golden

        amy – fair point, but when people are making this story primarily about “walt v modern corporate greed’ – the original purpose is pretty relevant, don’t you think?

      • BigCountry

        Everyone seems to profess they know Walt’s stance – well take a line from one of his most famous speeches:

        “To all that come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land.” EMPHASIZE: ALL AND YOUR.

        With this move, the Walt Disney Co. is taking away a cherished piece of MY LAND and designating it for the rich and pompous (I have yet to meet a Club 33 member that didn’t have an elitist attitude and an entitlement because of their income/financial status, and I have met MANY) and excluding me as I will never be able to afford to see it again.

        The corporate officers are appeasing a few elite and are not giving consideration to THE MASSES that got them where they are today. Disgusting.

        How many marriage proposals have happened at the Court of Angels? How many first kisses? How many family photos have been cherished being taken on the winding staircase? How many cherished photos of friends? And how many of these MILLIONS will NEVER get to experience this LANDMARK ever again? Disgusting.

        This is enough for me to never renew my Annual Pass ever again. For me it represents not just a change to capitalize on an underused space – BUT A CHANGE IN MINDSET. NO LONGER ARE ALL WELCOME TO THIS HAPPY PLACE – BUT MORE AND MORE BITS AND PIECES ARE DELEGATED FOR THE FEW ELITE THAT CAN AFFORD THEM. Disgusting.

      • amyuilani

        Golden
        October 10, 2013 at 5:04 pm

        amy – fair point, but when people are making this story primarily about “walt v modern corporate greed’ – the original purpose is pretty relevant, don’t you think?
        ———-

        Yes and no. Intent is relevant to the times. A comparison would be arguments about the Constitution, specifically the 2nd amendment. Some people argue what the intent of the framers was, while others argue that the intent 200+ years ago can’t be relevant today because the world is so different. While that example might seem extreme, I hope you see where I am going.

        Do you think Walt would have done something different if he had known that we would become a world ruled by corporate greed and bean counting? It’s not like he existed in a bubble where he got to play with his imagination all day long. He had stockholders to answer to back in the day and he found a way to toe the line. It’s more likely that today’s executives lack both the creativity and cojones to do the same. I get the argument that dead space = dead profits. I disagree, as this was not dead space, but a momentary escape. It never bothered me when the Nightmare merch overflowed there. But when all of the private escapes disappear, the stress goes up, and the enjoyment of the overall experience goes down.

        In all honesty, I’m surprised the little waterway by Fantasia Gardens hasn’t gone yet. Will we cry “corporate greed!” when that disappears, too?

      • Golden

        To accept that, though, we have to accept as given that ‘today’s executives are not as creative and don’t have cajones’ and that ‘we live in a world driven by corporate greed’ as objective facts that apply today more than they applied in the time of walt, which I simply do not. They are just opinions. Valid opinions, but subjective ones.

        One thing I will say is, they are definitely driven more by OSHA regulations. I think it sucks that their original entryway caused them OSHA problems. But anyone who states that closing Court of Angels off is to make that area more profitable? How? Disneyland users pay a flat fee to get in the park, Club 33 members play a flat fee to get in – and I can’t see how the Court of Angels is in any way responsible for the number of flat fees they get in either case. Anyone who says its a lack of creativity? Why?

        I’m sad the court of angels is closed, and I definitely think its the wrong decision, but I don’t think it is being closed because of corporate greed and a lack of creativity. This isn’t a 99% thing. I think perhaps the conversations around this just reflect the times in the USA, its a touchstone to the American view of the world generally in these times, but I think its a fundamentally flawed accusation when it is put against the backdrop of ‘what would Walt do’ – because Walt would have private spaces for higher paying guests, he would create attractions based on his movies, and he would sell merchandise that tied into those movies. And this is just my valid, subjective opinion 😉

  • MrTour

    It seems like Disney is also losing sight of “tomorrow”. Disney has moved from aethstetics in urban/environmental planning to MERCHANDISING. I don’t think this movement can be stopped any more than the community was able to stop Knott’s from removing the Knott’s lagoon back in the ’80s.

  • TodAZ1

    Unfortunately, this is what happens when the bean counters have more decision making power over Disneyland than the people at DL who really do love the park and do all they can to make it special.

    I also find it curious that Disney or Disneyland haven’t said anything official about the COA closure.

  • Mr Snappy

    I love all the so called “purists” who constantly whine about this sort of thing but are the first in line for “limited” runs of merchandise, collectors items, Boxed DVD sets, special park events, premium ticket movie premier events, seperate ticketed park times (like Halloween parties), stays at the Grand Californian Resort, and premium AP’s. Corporate Greed? How trendy a term. How about the fact that Disney is providing for its demand? Do you know how long the list is to get into Club 33? I’ve read that it’s years long.

    So, as a company, what are you to do? Your job is to the stockholders FIRST…even Walt knew this. You maximize your profits by providing what your customer base DEMANDS. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. This looks to be a “no-brainer”. What do the rest of us give up? A 30-second peak at a picturesque spot that serves no other purpose. I thought it was cute as well…but honestly, has ANYONE ever thought to themselves when planning their trip to Disneyland “OMG, I CANT WAIT TO GE TO THE COURT OF ANGELS!”

    Uh…no.

    • Sifferz

      I wouldn’t really say Walt thought of the stockholders first all the time. He put his entire company on the line to build Disneyland; had it failed, he would have lost everything.

    • RBNeale

      Has anybody, when going out to eat at a fancy steakhouse, said “OMG, I can’t wakt to get a nice big glass of water!”??? No, probably not. But they’re sure glad they’ve got one.

      • HollywoodF1

        Cute, but not parallel– a glass of water approaches necessity, whereas the Court des Anges is more akin to a garnish than a glass of water, in your analogy. They’re not deleting the water, they’re deleting a radish cut into the shape of a flower, set on a piece of kale.

    • mcow1

      “My brother and I have been right together in that right from the get-go. And we’ve felt that assets is the thing that we are responsible for not appeasing some stockholder. We’re not afraid of the stockholder coming in to us because we know we’re doing what’s right for the company.” -Walt Disney

      (From a 1961 Interview with Peter Martin)

    • realsurf

      Hey Snap (I’m sure that’s what they call you at the office)
      Too bad you don’t get Disneyland.
      As Sam related in the article, it’s the little things that Walt included in the park that make it stand miles above any other amusement franchise. Do they need a piano player every day out on main street? Why not just recorded music? I’m sure you were happy they got rid of those old clunky old arcade thingies…more room for plushie crap for you to buy. And what’s with that Snow White fountain? I bet you would love another churro stand there.
      NOBODY goes to Disneyland for the details – it’s the joy of finding them that makes the experience. Sad that has to be explained to you.
      By the way…your Hunter Thompson imitation is pretty lame.

    • Susie63

      Actually…yes. That is the only place that we did family photos. I am glad we got to do one trip in September before it closed. We will miss COA.

    • Mr Snappy

      “Disneyland is like a piece of clay: If there is something I don’t like, I’m not stuck with it. I can reshape and revamp.”

      “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

      …..Walt Disney

      • DLFan1995

        Neither of those quotes were intended to excuse poor changes or profit over quality.

    • DLFan1995

      Their job is NOT shareholders first. Shareholders invest in the company because of what the company does. The company must continue growing and improving what the company produces. THAT’s what investors buy into. If the company doesn’t do what it does, and starts losing money, then investors can leave and find more profitable investments.

      If the company decides it’s going to make investors happy by increasing profits for them, but in the process, weaken their product, than they are doing neither the shareholders or the company any favors. Eventually they will have weakened the company so much that it’s no longer profitable and those investors will leave anyway.

      Eisner significantly damages the company in the 90’s by demanding a constant 20% ROA. The parks cut bask on maintenance, reduced hours, provided poor merchandise and food to the point where the company was in such poor shape that Eisner was eventually removed.

      Disney needs to focus on providing their guests, customers and fans with exceptional products that they will be more than willing to pay a premium for. THAT’s how to make profits, both for the company AND Stockholders.

      • Will G

        I apologize, I’m not taking the time to read everyone’s comments before posting my own, but I’m pressed for time right now and DLFan1995’s comment about Eisner struck me as a good place to put this thought I’ve had recently.
        I just read Eisner’s “Work in Progress” and Marty Sklar’s “Dream It, Do It” and I’m re-reading “The Disney Touch”
        I’m not a fan of everything Eisner did. I generally feel that after the passing of Frank Wells, Eisner lost an important sounding board and balancing influence.
        But we had better not forget that when those two came in Disney was in big danger of falling to a hostile take-over and broken up into its various pieces. I don’t think it’s too far to imagine that if Eisner and the “Money grubbers” hadn’t started maximizing profits, Disneyland could have been sold off toe Cedar Fair or Six Flags at some point.
        That thought should blow the tops off the heads of all Court of Angels lovers.

        There has to be a balance. No doubt.

        And further comments about degrading the value of the property not being in the stockholder’s interest seem to be colored by a belief that stockholders have any inkling of the future value of anything beyond the next quarter. The system’s evolution makes that unlikely.
        You turn a profit – a BIGGER profit now or I vote you out. Or I sell if I can’t vote.

        The market does not have a brain. It is an amoeba that can consume, repair and reproduce or die. It reacts to forces, it does not understand them.

        Things will get worse.
        But some things will get better too.

        And let’s not forget that everything Walt believed in was a winner. “Mickey Mouse Club Circus” anyone?

    • DobbysCloset

      I always did. For decades I would hop on the train, get off in New Orleans, ride Pirates, buy coffee and sit and drink it on those stairs, just grateful to be “home.” I feel like someone bought my uncle’s house and turned it into a resort for rich people and now I can’t even sit on the steps.

  • GothicManor

    I so Hate the Disney Corporation so much right now I have already let my AP expire and I am not going back to Disneyland EVER. I have been going for 50 yrs in the past sometimes as much as a few times a month, the main reason I am leaving as a guest for good is I am disabled and I find the DAS OFFENSIVE to Disabled people. But recently I have seen extremely poor decisions all in the name of making more $ in the short term but that strongly degrade the “Disneyland Experience” first there was the gutting out of the ice cream parlors 1910 recreation in favor of more queue space, now the gutting out of the Market Place for a #(*$&# Starbucks and the the demolition of my single favorite area in all of all the parks I have been too, all my life since 1967 i have loved this courtyard and would sit on the bench and soak it in and later park my wheelchair there and enjoy it now to destroy it to make a private club for the 1%’s to enjoy F U Disney Corporation!! GTH

    • Mr Snappy

      I doubt anyone will miss you. Keep your bitterness at home and keep pecking away at the keyboard.

    • DobbysCloset

      I must be about your age and am looking forward to being able to have the experience you have had, degraded or not, visiting the park when I need a smile. As a disabled person I am just grateful that people seem to suddenly be accommodating the dog (I’ve been training him for two years) and being with him can turn misery into joy not only for me but for anyone around who needs a bit of doggie love. I am sorry you are so angry. I hear your pain. The world in general has gone all money mad bottom line oriented tho, not just Disney.

      We will find a new special place… (I was in the art gallery that would have been Walt’s apartment and wanted to move in; I was in Club 33 for a moment as part of “Walt’s Footsteps” tour and it was loud and chaotic with teenagers chasing about. They can keep it.)

    • The Lost Boy

      Don’t let the door hit you on the tailpipe on the way out.

    • heysi

      I do love how disabled people want to be treated like everyone else….except when it comes to parking up front or cutting to the front of the line. The new system makes everyone equal so you’re pissed. Let your pass expire, stay home and enjoy your pity-party. “Boo-Hoo, they took away my free pass for every ride; they took away my quiet spot only me and 15 other people care about on a given day; they made a store bigger (and more accessible!!!)”. Congratulations, your life sucks…but losing your patronage will improve the quality of atmosphere for the rest of us. Good riddance.

  • Haven

    To commend to original designers who worked on developing New Orleans Square back in the 60’s let me say this: After growing up in Los Angeles and visiting Disneyland since age 2, I finally had an opportunity in 2001 to visit the real New Orleans. I was astounded at how much the two really did look alike (aesthetically if not culturally). On that trip I recall “stumbling” across a hidden courtyard while along Royal street complete with flower boxes, shuttered windows, brick paving, the works. At that moment I remember thinking “wow” we just found this courtyard just like the one at Disneyland, and my admiration for the designers was complete. To say people don’t notice the details, that they do not have an impact really means you have lost touch with the power of your own product. Thanks Walt for always getting it right 🙂

    • HollywoodF1

      I worry sometimes that “Walt” the metaphor has become “Walt” the literal in peoples’ minds. Walt’s talent was– and he would say this– his talent was in recognizing talent. And as far as New Orleans Square was concerned, the talent was Herb Ryman.

      “Walt was making his customary rounds early one morning, having just come off the offices of John Hench and Bill Martin. ‘Well, Herbie, I guess you guys of dropped the ball on New Orleans Square.’ I said I have some ideas, I knew how New Orleans ought to look, I knew how it ought to be, but it was not my project. ‘It is now. Do anything you wish. I’m coming back at noon tomorrow and I want my Square.'” –Herb Ryman, A Brush With Disney

      Ryman’s sketches of New Orleans Square, including two of Le Grand Court (the name Court des Anges came in 1997 to honor deceased Cast Member Sally McWhirter), are on page 185 of this book.

  • Mousecat

    Hello,

    If you like this sort of thing I would like to encourage you to Like my new Facebook page for The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide. The biography of the park comes out in a couple of weeks.

    Thanks,
    Sam Gennawey aka Samland

    • Mr Snappy

      LOL…so let me get this straight. You blast Disney for “Corporate Greed” then comment on your own thread to sell your book? Thanks for ruining this quaint, quiet place on the internet with your greed….i’m offended!

      • Mousecat

        Hello Mr. snappy,

        Yes I am plugging my book on my page.

        I suggest you read the article. You might enjoy it for what it is.

        To recap

        1. Walt Disney applied filmmaking techniques to the environmental design process. This was one of the breakthroughs of Disneyland and one of the reasons so many elements have been copied elsewhere.

        2. Based on Christopher Alexanders’s A Pattern Language, this type of space has been identified as essential in creating places that have a higher degree of life (quick plug: you could learn more about that in my first book – Walt and the Promise of Progress City).

        Any suggestion of corporate greed is just a recognition that management has shifted in its approach to manage its property.

        Now for the thoughtful comments…

        Apathetic

        You are right. That may be a bit harsh and I did not leave a middle ground. So noted. For that segment may I suggest that you too have such a place at the park and this was just not it? I am a fanatic for the Wizard of Bras porch more so than the Court of Angels. I think I know where you are coming from.

        Sam

      • StevenW

        If not for corporate greed, people will just allow themselves to be fired. I guess this is more noble.

      • Golden

        @Sam – I agree with kennyVee – and the Court of Angels WAS my place at the park, and my families. I have 5 new family members I’m bringing to the park next year, and I’m sad they won’t get to take our traditional photo there. But it’s possible to not agree with or particularly like a decision, but understand it and accept it for what it is.

        We don’t have to be attacking, we can be philosophical and sad without blaming it on a soulless company who has lost sight of Walt’s ideals.

    • DobbysCloset

      Dear Sam:

      For you I will visit Facebook and I will Like it. I hate Facebook. I find it intrusive and can’t stand most of what people think suitable to share.

      Is this biography a book that one can ask one’s library to buy?

      Today I was at a Community Planning/Fair Housing Advocacy meeting and, as always, I think of what you say about Walt having gotten it right. It inspires me to try to make every space as magical as Disneyland.

      • Mousecat

        Thank you for doing that. Yes, this would be a fine book for any library. It is a fully annotated history with over 800 footnotes. Good for research.

        Sam

  • swrdfghtr

    I’m not sure “apathetic” is an appropriate term. I, for example, have never found the area to be especially charming or immersive – and so I simply don’t feel impacted by it changing. While I acknowledge that one small courtyard with a staircase is the “favorite area in the park” for many people, I just don’t understand that. I feel bad for those folks, but because I don’t personally have an attachment to the space doesn’t, I don’t think, make me “apathetic.”

    • DobbysCloset

      ap·a·thet·ic
      ˌapəˈTHetik/Submit
      adjective
      1.
      showing or feeling no interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
      “apathetic slackers who don’t vote”
      synonyms: uninterested, indifferent, unconcerned, unmoved, uninvolved, disinterested, unemotional, emotionless, dispassionate, lukewarm, unmotivated, halfhearted; informal couldn’t-care-less; rareLaodicean
      “an apathetic workforce”

      It looks like Sam used the word correctly. Weigh in on the corporate greed vs folk treasure argument, or tell us…what would break your heart if commandeered for backstage use?

  • gtsouthard

    Personally I’m not thrilled about it. However I am FAR more concerned about the total Star Wars transformation in Tomorrowland that appears to be coming in the next few years. I was a die hard star wars fan long before I set foot in Disneyland and it bothers me.

    • DobbysCloset

      For me the chance of walking through the Millennium Falcon before I die will be a dream come true. It will be almost like if I lived long enough to see Zefram Cochrane invent warp drive. And if I should become delusional in my eighties and get confused and start thinking that Han is going to arrive any minute for our date, I’m sure the CM’s will be sweet to me.

      But I understand that it could bother someone. Are they going to screw it up?

      I am willing to calmly accept the loss of COA as part of that awful Carousel of Progress and assume it is understood that if the Millennium Falcon and the rest of that universe are’t immaculately constructed, Disney will have to contend with the Force as wielded by millions of Star Wars fanatics.

    • MagicKingdomBoy

      Just wait until they make a Star Wars musical on the Tomorrowland Terrace 😉

  • Chernabog

    I’m still pushing for Club 33 exclusive rides. Or lands! Just close off everything before the Hungry Bear, turn that into an “outdoor” Club 33 restaurant, and Splash Mountain becomes a perk of your “extreme value” $50,000 membership. “Thumb your nose at the cheapo park guests as you go down the drop, in your exclusive log ride!” Unlimited fastpass entrances? Why should assistance cards be limited to disabled guests, when Mickey can cash in on that? Merely an extra $1000 per month. Those Disney fans don’t care anyway — why I just read from someone on the Internet that “Splash Mountain wasn’t really MY favorite ride, and I almost never go into Bear Country anyway, so I won’t miss it.” Really, they just aren’t taking this far enough. 😉

  • chesirecat

    Great article, IMHO, as Disneyland was built by people who had film experience. Look at Universal, for a while you had some decent rides, but no “lands”, no amazing reveals when you see the Rivers of America for the first time, or ride the Mark Twain for the first time into the wilderness, you get a cinematic experience at Disneyland.

    Then Universal hired the same people who worked on the Harry Potter films to do Potterland . . . the result was amazing! Pixar was heavily involved with Carsland, and the result was similar, I think that the idea of just plugging in attractions without “interstitials” such as the Court of Angels is a bad idea, then you’ve got a theme park where guests just rush from ride to ride, making longer lines, and a more boring theme park experience.

    Hopefully, Disneyland will at some point get a quality expansion where guests can have more explorable space, such as a Frontierland expansion, or even a New Orleans Square expansion west of the train tracks which the company had plans for at one point with “World Holidayland”. In terms of crowd control, if the lands themselves are highly themed, almost walk-through attractions in themselves, then you don’t get the massive lines and the guests who don’t enjoy their time when they’re not on the rides. More than just a nice add-on, little areas like the Court of Angels are integral to Disneyland’s design and guest flow system.

  • StevenW

    Why does this “Court of Angels” need to be THAT “interstitials” that needs to be saved? Is the rest of Disneyland a bunch of “raw emotions”? Disneyland has plenty of quiet spaces. I just find it strange that people are decrying the removal of a space that really serves no purpose. The highlight is a stairs to nowhere. It doesn’t even take you upstairs. It’s a dead end and you usually enter from one spot. It can be a pass-through hall to another store in the back, but not always. It can be a meet and greet, but not consistently. The stairs is the real highlight and it isn’t exactly a quiet stop if people are trying to use it as a photo spot.

    The real problem is the closure of the lobby to members only. I question why it need to be closed off completely. Members should be allowed to pass through and regular guests should still be able to get an occasional peek and do a photo. Perhaps keep the meet and greet at the stairs for guests at specific time periods, thus access can be controlled and not restricted.

    • Mr Snappy

      Exactly. These rants are more about being excluded from the new Club 33 then the loss of any visual “Treasure”. It’s pretty simple, you either will pay to go to Disneyland or not, that is your only real option. I’m not saying that people are not entitled to their opinion, but I wish they would be honest about their motives…

      I’m not a member of Club 33 and never will be. I don’t lose any sleep over this fact. I would rather it stay as it is now over being converted to a place I will never be able to utilize, but it has ZERO impact on my DLR experience.

  • Algernon

    Club 33 belongs in Beverly Hills, not Disneyland. Get rid of it now—along with the elitist VIP railcar and the Dream Suite.

    “How do you take your caviar, sir?”
    Never cared much for it, myself…

    • Mr Snappy

      Wow, you really don’t understand free enterprise and business, do you?

    • Kevbot217

      If by definition, anything that Walt Disney himself did “belongs” in Disneyland, then yes, Club 33 belongs there. Because Walt himself created it.

      What you’re saying is that you want Disneyland to preserve something of Walt’s legacy because it’s integral to his aesthetic, but to get rid of something else from his legacy because you don’t like caviar?

    • DobbysCloset

      I love caviar…

      Walt needed a private place to entertain business guests he brought to Disneyland.

      I wish he were still here doing it. I wish the Dream Suite were a museum in his memory so that we all could look from the window and see Disneyland as Walt did for just a moment.

      Some of us sit in box seats, some in bleachers, but the game’s the same. That’s what’s important, right?

  • Country Bear

    Thanks for the article Sam, as well as the thoughtful comments. I would say I am more of a purist than anything, but this change has forced me to really evaluate how attached I am to this particular area. I can’t say that I visited this area every time I went to the park, but I know it existed. Just like Snow Whites fountain, I visit on occasion and it always reminds me how different these small areas feel from the rest of the park. Because I usually have the area to myself when I visit, it’s like a hidden treasure that no-one else is aware of. That feeling is what I would call the magic of Disneyland.

    Would Walt tear it out now if he was still with us? I don’t know (perhaps Bob Gurr, Rolly Crump or Tony Baxter could offer some insight into this). I guess if it made sense for the show and he saw the improvement in removing it as opposed to having it stay put, he would do that. We will likely never know. But what we do know is that Disneyland is now managed by accountants and this area has no cash value, but it will. I compare it to the tearing out of the waterfalls at the Disneyland Hotel. That issue made me livid in comparison because it wasn’t to improve the area at all, and the experiential impact was massive. I don’t feel as impacted personally by the Court removal, though I can imagine that for some this is every bit as impactful on their visiting experience as the waterfalls were for me. It’s sad but I guess that’s the way its going to be.

    Another thing that’s sad is how disrespectful some people can be when writing comments. There is a way to bring your point across in disagreement without having to berate the other party. Respect should come before a single word is written. It seems this is something not taught in online communications. Too traditional perhaps?

    Thanks for your great works Sam, keep it up!

    • StevenW

      Perhaps we should evaluate how we feel about public areas that are now closed areas because Disney ceased to have a ride or attraction anymore, which may be more acceptable than taking away for special access. I’m referring to closed rides and food locations.

    • MagicKingdomBoy

      I can’t believe how some of these people talk about the Club 33 members….as if we were the ones who have any say whatsoever in what Disneyland does or does not do. We are customers like everyone else, buying something being offered for sale. We have feelings just like everyone else, too. And we have the same say as any other guest in the park. The company does what it wants to do independent of anything any guest or Club 33 member says. They didn’t close COA to “appease the elite 1%, thumbing their nose at the common people.”

  • Gyoza Dog

    I’d like to echo some of the previous comments about your opening statement. You characterise everyone who disagrees with your opinion as “apathetic about change” and by describing your side as “”traditionalist” imply your opponents do not believe in traditional Disney values.
    It was a cheap rhetorical trick and an ugly self congratulatory beginning to what was otherwise an interesting article.

  • QPerth

    I’m all for a Club33 expansion if that is what is needed, what I don’t understand is why they can’t still leave the Court of Angels open to the paying public and still use it as the entrance to C33?!
    I have no chance or desire to be a C33 member, have never seen the COA myself yet I understand the need for such a club and am happy for it to exist, but after discovering COA though great articles and pictures, I am sad now I will never get a chance to see this design perfection, this unique place and it’s story and details.
    What will be closed next, Main Street Station of the DLRR to be used as an exclusive Members Only or extra ticketed price benefit? What is stopping that from happening?
    This is a very poor decision on Disney’s part, and I think they should reopen it to the paying public.

  • themur

    I love that the first and biggest argument is that it is all about Disney Corporate greed! I bet pop up retail in the Court of Angels generated more money that what the Club will add just from the Court (members aren’t paying more for using the space but yes more people will have the opportunity to join the club)

    Many of the people who make this argument are AP holders who go so often that their effective cost to visit is mere dollars! I renew my AP annually because I feel I get an outstanding value for the dollars spent. When I compare it to other recreational activities including sporting events, concerts, skiing etc, Disney looks like a bargain. But everyone has different values!

    Maybe Disney should price the park at what the real cost for a day in one of the greatest theme parks in the world actually costs. Most would not be able to afford it. But Disney looks for a variety of ways to separate visitors from their dollars to get to an average dollars spent per guest per day. What does that mean? That true tourist as well as guests who are not as price sensitive are helping to make the park available to the more budget conscious people. Eat outside the park, there is a family picking up your share but buying lunch and dinner in the park.

    We all love Disney because we have great and fond memories. It is sad to lose things we hold near and dear in our heart. I am sad that it isn’t available to everyone but will it still feel like New Orleans; you bet. There are all sorts of hidden court yards behind gates and doors. Part of the beauty and mystery of the Big Easy.

  • Klutch

    I live near the area where Walt bought that petrified tree. It’s now a park where there are petrified remnants of a once great redwood forest. The local park ranger told us “horror stories” about how people used to haul away the petrified trees and sell them for fireplace mantles. Doh! I guess Walt Disney contributed to one of those horror stories.

    I grew up just down the street from Disneyland and have been visiting the park since the late 1960s. But not until last November, after living in Colorado for twelve years, did I ever notice that petrified tree. I guess I always too busy heading to the next ride!

    Anyway, thanks for the story about the petrified tree, Sam.

  • BigCountry

    Everyone seems to profess they know Walt’s stance – well take a line from one of his most famous speeches:

    “To all that come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land.” EMPHASIZE: ALL AND YOUR.

    With this move, the Walt Disney Co. is taking away a cherished piece of MY LAND and designating it for the rich and pompous (I have yet to meet a Club 33 member that didn’t have an elitist attitude and an entitlement because of their income/financial status, and I have met MANY) Aand excluding me as I will never be able to afford to see it again.

    The corporate officers are appeasing a few elite and are not giving consideration to THE MASSES that got them where they are today. Disgusting.

    How many marriage proposals have happened at the Court of Angels? How many first kisses? How many family photos have been cherished being taken on the winding staircase? How many cherished photos of friends? And how many of these MILLIONS will NEVER get to experience this LANDMARK ever again? Disgusting.

    This is enough for me to never renew my Annual Pass ever again. For me it represents not just a change to capitalize on an underused space – BUT A CHANGE IN MINDSET. NO LONGER ARE ALL WELCOME TO THIS HAPPY PLACE – BUT MORE AND MORE BITS AND PIECES ARE DELEGATED FOR THE FEW ELITE THAT CAN AFFORD THEM. Disgusting.

    • StevenW

      ” PIECES ARE DELEGATED FOR THE FEW ELITE THAT CAN AFFORD THEM.”

      You do realize that you’re talking about the entire park. The whole of Disneyland Resort is unaffordable, yet people are still coming. So you can claim that a few elite can afford them, when actually quite a few are buying into Club 33, thus the private restaurant is taking up more Disneyland real estate, and the general public are increasing attendance to the parks fueling more complaints. But we all know these rants are meaningless.

      • BigCountry

        You are missing the point – the number of people who cherish this quiet location/photo op/life event occurrence location FAR OUTNUMBER the few elite that are club 33 members.

        “quite a few are buying into Club 33” Are you insane? this is a LUDICROUS statement and SUPER UNSUBSTANTIATED – for years the club had a 20 some-odd year waiting list (possibly longer), closed….and now with expansions MIGHT open to a few select number of memberships.

        AND most memberships now are corporate memberships (big bucks for Disney, I know) which is far removed from the individual memberships when the club first opened.

        the Walt Disney Co. is now catering to a few elite by remodeling Club 33…in reality most likely to keep up with the offerings at the ‘1901 Lounge’ within the Carthay Circle Theater, the Club 33 equivalent in California Adventure.

        Prior to the opening of Club 1901 in California Adventure I was one of a select few who was chosen to participate in a marketing analysis event which inquired about various details of things to be desired in Club 1901 (they put us up in the Grand Californian for the night and gave us passes) – I am sure I was one of the standard layman invited (never able to afford such a club offering), but numerous Club 33 members were invited as well – and let me tell you, their “hoity, toity” give me more, give me more entitlement attitudes made me want to puke!

        AND affordability is kind of relative. But the facts are this: while Disneyland resort is expensive – it is definitely affordable to those who desire strongest to go. Anyone with a job can save to go if it is made their priority – even if it is once every couple of years. Club 33 – absolutely UNOBTAINABLE to a guaranteed 90+% of Disney fans. Why close off a cherished part of the park to a majority of people, who as I said above, ARE THE REASON DISNEY IS THE CORPORATE FORCE IT IS TODAY, just to be enjoyed by a select few whose mindset is that of never being satisfied until the park is theirs exclusively?

        “To ALL who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is YOUR land.”

      • DobbysCloset

        No, they aren’t meaningless. They reflect the views of a small group of folks to whom Disneyland is more than just an occasional vacation destination, people who are the opposite of apathetic — passionate?

        And you are right, both of you.

        But since most folks on this overpopulated planet don’t get to visit Disneyland EVER in their entire lives. We are privileged and elite to even have these discussions. We could all be sitting in the Market House around the stove talking about whether we should cut down a few trees and put in a children’s play yard in our city park.

      • StevenW

        @BC: “quite a few are buying into Club 33″ “Are you insane? this is a LUDICROUS statement and SUPER UNSUBSTANTIATED – for years the club had a 20 some-odd year waiting list (possibly longer), closed….and now with expansions MIGHT open to a few select number of memberships.”

        No, I’m not insane and you immediately contradict yourself.

        A waiting list means they met their quota. Thus, they don’t need more people to join the exclusive club. This means quite a few bought into the Club.

        The expansion means they will open it up to more members and more diners. Otherwise, they can’t service the amount of people who are willing to pay the price of joining.

        “AND most memberships now are corporate memberships (big bucks for Disney, I know) which is far removed from the individual memberships when the club first opened.”

        There are corporate memberships and individual memberships. It isn’t an “either or” scenario. While corporate membership will cost more in aggregate, Disney will make more money off of individual memberships based on per person spending. Besides, in this corporate environment, I don’t forsee corporations spending money frivoulously. Thus Disney may rely more on individuals buying memberships.

        As for your main point of “the number of people who cherish this quiet location/photo op/life event occurrence location FAR OUTNUMBER the few elite that are club 33 members.”

        You should say the Club 33 members and their guests of which I was priviledged to go at one time and I didn’t even know the Club 33 member. I went via invitation of a family relative who knew the Club 33 member as a business associate.

        Based on these accounts from the nervous Club 33 guests who also regret the closing of the Trophy Room, which I haven’t see at all, I wonder who won’t get the vapors of the next great renovation.

        The Trophy Room is history. The Court of Angels is still there. Okay, I haven’t visited either much and I am apathetic.

  • soletrain

    if people want a quite place to relax at disneyland there is a HUGE quite place that NOBODY ever goes to. It’s called ToonTown.

  • The Lost Boy

    The fact that the petrified stump ended up in Frontierland was actually just making the best of a bad situation. Walt Disney was under the influence of it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time-itus when he purchased the stump as a present for his wife. Mrs. Disney did not like the stump (as most wives would). Putting it in the Park was a compromise since it cost a lot of money, however, if it ended up in the backlot in Burbank or the dump that would have suited her as well.

    Those people who think Walt Disney was some pure artist who was above cashing in the proceeds of his business certainly don’t know the history of WDI, the original WED, and RETLAW. In a nutshell, these were the vehicles for Walt Disney to license himself to the corporation yielding some very lucrative proceeds for him and his family. This arrangement was a bone of contention between Walt, Roy O., and other stockholders because it essentially allowed Walt to ensure that he was paid first. These entities were eventually sold back to the corporation for a lot of money. I don’t begrudge the Disneys a penny of this money, but what’s ironic is that for all the whining and handwringing over today’s Disney merchandising, These entities were the way Walt Disney was compensated for merchandising himself.

    For that sub-infinitesimal group of people who claim that they are offended by Disney’s (fill in the blank) policy, please feel free to stay away, like the feller above said, you won’t be missed.

    And for those who believe that Disneyland is actually their “land”, admission is a license to enter, not a transferral of property rights.

    • EC82

      The well-considered statement Walt Disney made when opening Disneyland was and remains: “Disneyland is your land.”

      Walt was a fantastic business man. He is rarely credited for what he managed to achieve, and today’s Disney wants him seen as simply a kindly old man. Walt Disney and Roy Disney together influenced more of today’s entertainment industry than anyone really realizes.

      But his own company no longer follows the examples he set. If they did, it would be a very different, and likely much more fascinating and amazing, company — I’m guessing it could have become more like Google than what it is today. Still … admission is not simply a license to enter. Had it been that from Day One, Disneyland likely would have failed spectacularly; it really was “your land,” and Walt listened to his customers in ways that his namesake company could certainly stand to do today. He never stopped creating; today’s Disney simply never stops raising prices and finding ways to wring more money out of guests while providing an increasingly sub-standard experience.

  • eynsteinp

    I find it amazing how many people KNOW exactly what Walt wanted. The fact is that Walt Disney was a business man and made many millions of dollars off of his creations. He lived a life of luxury in many ways and did create club 33 for the “elite” guests to enjoy, not the common man. He wasn’t giving away his product for free. It is likely that he would have made whatever changes he felt would maximize profits and still cater to the masses so that he could have a viable longterm investment, just like every business man would. I love Disneyland and have been an annual passholder for many years and going to the park for more years than I would like to acknowledge. While I love Disneyland (and Disneyworld) the fact remains that Disney is not a non-profit corporation setup to satisfy the wants of any particular group, it is a for profit company attempting to maximize returns and continue to develop its products. They would not be expanding Club 33 if the demand from the public was there to support it. For any of you to categorize all of the members as the rich elitist and to portray them as committing some sort of crime for having financial success is offensive. I seriously doubt that any of you would turn down a free membership to club 33 based on your moral objections to such an elitist place. Disneyland really is not some sort of secret war between the haves and have nots. Its a great place for all visitors to go and escape from reality. People need to stop thinking of Disneyland as some sort of perfect “Eden” where any change can only be for the worse and Walt as some sort of God that could never want to profit from his creations. I am pretty sure that not only did Walt make millions and live a life that very few, if any of us are living, but he made so much money that his children, grandchildren and many future generations will be able to live off of his success.

    • EC82

      Sorry, but many of the assertions here are incorrect. Walt DID live a life of luxury, but took his children to a free merry-go-round and was always, ALWAYS aware of and concerned about how “average” people would respond to his creations, because despite the polo playing and ocean-liner excursions, he really believed himself to be just an ordinary guy who got lucky. He even had etched into bronze, “DIsneyland is YOUR land.” Not “Disneyland belongs to those who can afford it.”

      He did not create Club 33 for elite guests, he created Club 33 as a place where he could court potential investors, business partners and sponsors. It had a very specific business purpose and was never intended to be opened to the public. It’s called Club 33 for the number of companies invited to be part of it; it’s not called Club 33,000 for the number of members it can accommodate or the dollar amount of the membership fee.

      Walt Disney strenuously objected to the idea that his company should be taken public specifically because he didn’t want it to have to be focused on making money.

      In that sense, he was way ahead of the business curve. He was an extraordinary businessman who did something that today’s executives are far too timid to even try: He funneled almost all of his company’s profits into new projects, not into his wallet. His annual pay, his bonuses, and the amount he gave to his staff are all very well-documented. Walt Disney was most certainly not focused on the revenue potential of his business, and he certainly didn’t worry about P/E ratios, EBITDA and year-over-year comparisons.

      In that regard, people still quote the “What would Walt do” mantra because it is still very relevant. He built a massive company off of a vision and a desire to remain true to his unique style. If he was able to do that, the question becomes: Why can’t other executives? Certainly Eisner and Wells came the closest.

      I believe Walt would be ashamed of what his company has become. I think he would have insisted on continuous and massive change at all of his parks, and I think the speculation about what he might have done remains both relevant and important because his company should continue to find ways to be a singularly phenomenal creative company, not simply a “brand-management” and entertainment-media-acquistions company that is driven purely by financial considerations. “What would Walt do?” should be combined with “What would Michael and Frank have done?” And the answer to both questions is likely that they would not have let the company devolve into one that is so focused on money that it has become genuinely incapable of envisioning and developing its own creative destiny.

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  • dgo33

    Sam, thanks for your outstanding articles. I love what your interests/comments add to this site.

    I posted this over in the DASneyland article but thought I’d add it over here too for interested readers.


    Regarding The Court of Angels, I was recently re-reading the 1996 book “Imagineering A Behind the Dreams Look at Making Magic Real” and gosh golly, right there on page 22 is a Herb Ryman drawing of The Royal Court. “Walt Disney asked Herbert Ryman to draw up some sketches that would capture the romance of New Orleans. The Royal Court, seen here, would become a central focus of New Orleans Square when it opened in Disneyland in 1966.”

    I’m assuming the Ryman drawing of The Royal Court would become The Court of Angels, giving us a background slice of the intention for the space from Walt, Herb, and the Imagineers.

    The complete caption for the drawing reads:

    “Walt Disney asked Herbert Ryman to draw up some sketches that would capture the romance of New Orleans. The Royal Court, seen here, would become a central focus of New Orleans Square when it opened in Disneyland in 1966. The stairway in the center of the sketch leads to a suite of private rooms that would have been a private apartment for Walt Disney. (Walt passes away before the apartment was ever used.) Today, the rooms are part of The Disneyland Gallery.”

    One could argue that precedent was set in 1955 with exclusive areas (backstage, Walt’s apartment over the firehouse, the planned apartment in New Orleans Square, and Club 33) and the expansion of Club 33 into The Court of Angels is not some radical new occurrence of exclusiveness. However, given that Walt, Herb, and the Imagineers originally conceived and designed this space to be a ‘central focus of New Orleans Square’, we can’t simply dismiss the loss of a space that is no one’s main reason to visit Disneyland. It was originally designed to be part of the atmosphere and feeling of the entire land. I remember the first time I stumbled upon the space, thinking “oh, where does this go?” and at first shocked I had found a dead-end (which if you think about it, is hard to find in a Disney park). But then to stand there and absorb the space, its feeling, its away from the crowds, its great design, it changed my understanding and respect for the Disney experience.

    Is it a national disaster the space is now lost to the general public? Not really. Will it be missed? Sure. Will anyone remember it and miss it in 5 years? Probably not many.

    We’ve been through a lot of these “how dare Disney!” (the pirate chase scene changes in PotC, the addition of Jack Sparrow to PotC, the holiday overlays of attractions, the loss of quiet nighttime river cruises on the Rivers of America, the pirate overlay of Tom Sawyer’s Island, etc etc etc).

    I’ll miss spending a few quiet minutes in The Court of Angels when I visit the park. But I have my memories of the space and the first time I “found” it. And it is a shame new visitors will no longer have the opportunity to stumble upon it and find their moment of Disney magic. But, everyone has their own moment of “Ohhhhhhhhh! I get it!!” Well, not everyone. Most folks are too busy on their cellphones to have that experience anymore.

    I read into that caption that

    • StevenW

      “pirate chase scene changes in PotC”

      They done away with this completely. No more chasing of anything, food or women. Goodbye chase scene.

  • EC82

    I’m not upset about change at Disneyland — I’m upset about two things:

    * The false notion that empty space is bad space, and that every square inch needs to be marketable, monetizable or useable. Court of Angels served no purpose except to be beautiful, and there really is very little higher purpose … except in the minds of greedy executives who can’t see with their heart, only with their dollar-sign-filled eyes

    * The use of this space for the exclusionary, private Club 33. I hate to say, “This is not what Walt wanted,” because it’s a stupid, impossible-to-prove cliche. But this is not the intention of Disneyland. This is not why it was created. This is not what has made it successful for 58 years. A private club open only to the well-heeled is a sad commentary on our money-obsessed, status-crazy society, it exists only to remind non-members that they are not important. The use of a beautiful open “public” space for a private, exclusionary, expensive “club” is a horrifying step in the wrong direction.

    • HollywoodF1

      I can tell you that your cause and effect are utterly wrong. You have judged why this has happened, but your judgement is wrong. You have conjected the motivation of those who made the decision, but your conjecture is wrong. The slanderous statements you have made are based on a supposition that is, again, wrong.

      Some benefit of the doubt on your part is in order for the following reason: You do not know the truth, because you weren’t involved, consulted, or made aware. You have leveled a judgement based on what you have observed, but much has been kept secret from you, so your observations are not wholly objective.

      You have guessed at the truth, and you have guessed wrong. So take a deep breath, let go of your unfounded hate, and wait. In the not-too-distant-future, the truth shall set you free.