Disneyland‘s newly renovated and expanded Club 33 began testing for special guests over the weekend as more scaffolding and walls began to come down from the New Orleans Square buildings that were affected during club’s expansion. The changes that were revealed are dramatic, making the private club more noticeable than ever thanks to major changes throughout New Orleans Square. Elsewhere in the park, Disneyland debuted its new Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush! interactive game to great enthusiasm from early players.
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We’ve got a big update for you today, with a lot of Club 33 news to look at. Let’s get started!
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Disneyland Celebrates 59 Years
Disneyland will celebrate its 59th anniversary this Thursday, July 17 with a special rededication moment in Town Square at 10:00 a.m. Select Disney Parks Blog readers will also be enjoying a special sneak preview of Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary celebration Thursday morning in Disney California Adventure.
Back in Disneyland, construction on the new Guest Flow Corridors is now underway, with construction walls up at the old American Egg House facade in Town Square and the relocation of First Aid down on Center Street.
We took a last look at the old American Egg House facade in last week’s blog just as its construction walls had gone up. The Egg House will now be the Town Square entry point for the eastern corridor, with its Central Plaza entry point between the Plaza Inn and First Aid facility.
Down on Center Street, Disneyland’s First Aid facility has temporarily relocated to the regular home of the Main Street Lockers facility. Disneyland will continue to be without lockers until later this fall.
At the end of Main Street, the regular First Aid location is now behind walls as it begins a major renovation and expansion project that will include a slight relocation of its entrance. The Disney Wish Lounge is also relocated temporarily to the Main Street Conference Room behind the Guided Tour Gardens. The Baby Center will remain open.
Back in New Orleans Square, construction walls and scaffolding have started to come down as the private club’s major renovation and expansion project wraps up.
As more walls come down and more is unveiled, it becomes increasingly clear just how invasive this project was. This expansion not only brought big changes the the second floor interiors of New Orleans Square, but also major changes to the exteriors of the land.
Back out in front of Cafe Orleans, it looks like the newly-added window is finished. This new window replaced two faux windows (shutters covered the “windows”) and balconies along with the Cafe Orleans marquee.
The bridge lacks all of the rich detail that characterized the rest of New Orleans Square; it’s really surprising how incomplete the theming looks here. This bridge isn’t insignificant, it’s right there in the “front” of New Orleans Square. This isn’t hidden in the back of the land, it’s now one of the most prominent things guests see while walking down Orleans Street.
On Saturday, the temporary wall at the side entrance to the Court of Angels was still in place. Portrait artists used to set up shop in this area, with the wrought-iron gate to the Court of Angels partially open, allowing guests to explore…
…by Sunday, that blue construction wall had been removed, revealing the brand new Art Nouveau-inspired stained glass gate that now separates average Disneyland guests from Club 33 members. The Court of Angels is now used as the main lobby for Club 33.
The gate’s design reflects the new Art Nouveau theme for Club 33. While the Art Nouveau style may work inside the club, seeing it on street level just doesn’t make sense. It style looks wildly out of place, the shape of the gate doesn’t match the tunnel opening, and it dramatically calls attention to itself only to be a dead end.
The intentions may have been Art Nouveau but it isn’t even a good interpretation of the historic art style.
Looking up, giant new windows along the original club’s main hallway now allow guests to view directly into the club. What happened to this being a private club? What’s the point of having stained glass block the view of the Court of Angels lobby if we can all just look up and see into the club anyway?
The huge new windows are a major departure from the hidden nature of the original club, which seemed to take every measure to operate out of sight and out of mind from regular park guests. Gone are the days when club members were guaranteed a private experience and the exclusive, expensive club wasn’t flaunted in the faces of average park guests.
The Club 33 expansion has certainly brought dramatic structural and aesthetic changes to New Orleans Square. Most of the new changes that we can now see appear to be afterthoughts or the victims of poor design. It’s likely that the interior of Club 33 will look lovely, probably richly-themed to the point of excess. Unfortunately, the exteriors seem to have been given the bare minimum to blend in, resulting in an across-the-board aesthetic failure. Meanwhile, other design choices were so obviously made for the benefit of Club 33 members, with a total disregard for the average park guest, which outnumbers Club 33 members by the tens of thousands on any given day. These changes — such as the addition of huge new windows or the closure of Court of Angels — aren’t going unnoticed by fans. As more Club 33 changes were uncovered last week, Twitter lit up with very vocal fan outcry, with hardly any approval of the changes.
What Disneyland is doing to arguably the best designed land in any U.S. theme park right now is really, really, really sad.
— Mark Willard (@MarkWDW85) July 11, 2014
Showing my mom the pictures of the Club 33/New Orleans Square facade renovations and she's really upset.
— Kayla McC (@crownsandcurls) July 12, 2014
The New Orleans Square construction tarps have come down. Wow. The tarps had better theming than the actual buildings. #disneyland
— Christian (@Tarihc78) July 12, 2014
The amount of windows along the top edge of New Orleans Square really does make Club 33 look bad pic.twitter.com/Eg1OmpiYU4
— Dre (@VashSky) July 12, 2014
The bridge over New Orleans square is pretty ugly. I don't usually complain, but it really is. #Club33
— Christopher (@BuenaVista28) July 12, 2014
Now so much of NOS has been destroyed, there's no cool secret aspect of Club 33 and it is all so bad.
— WDW Vacationer (@WDWVacationer) July 13, 2014
I don't understand why they're making club 33 more obvious. It's supposed to be a mystery; a sense of wonder.
— Cristina (@C3PHoe) July 12, 2014
50% of the charm of Club 33 was that it was kept hidden and little known. 50% was the historical value. Sounds like both are being destroyed
— Jessica Mayer (@jessmayer) July 12, 2014
Perhaps the most upsetting issue here is Disney’s disregard for its own history. New Orleans Square was the last land Walt Disney personally oversaw. Walt unveiled the plans for New Orleans Square on the Disneyland 10th Anniversary special and he later described New Orleans Square as “authentic in every detail,” noting that the original “architecture and atmosphere” of New Orleans of the 1850s had been retained. Some will point out that Walt also said “Disneyland will never be completed…” but if Walt designed Disneyland’s private club to be private, then do you think he would have changed in a way that meant the Club so aggressively encroached on areas designed for the public, or so notably changed the appearance of the rest of the land?
Expanding Club 33 isn’t the problem here. Actually, giving the underused space above the French Market to the club is a great idea. Adding another bridge to help with member access isn’t a bad idea, either. The problem here is the surprisingly poor execution. From the closing of the Court of Angels, to the huge new windows; these changes are surprisingly invasive and the final product so far looks cheap and second-rate. If Disney was set on making such significant changes to New Orleans Square to accommodate Club 33 expansion, some consideration for quality, the average guest, and their own history would have gone a long way.
It’s rare that I actively dislike my time in the park spent on covering the news for this blog. I may be critical of Disney at times, but I adore Disneyland and love writing this blog. Unfortunately, this was one of those very rare instances where the news of the week made visiting the park an unpleasant experience. Seeing New Orleans Square like this is particularly disheartening and the new changes brought on by the Club 33 expansion are, frankly, an embarrassment. Forget about exceeding expectations; these changes fail to even meet the bar set nearly 50 years ago when New Orleans Square first opened. How was this project botched so spectacularly?
Below, watch Walt Disney introduce television viewers to the newest land in his Magic Kingdom. For continued Club 33 expansion news and photos, check out MiceChat’s In the Parks and our friends at Dlandlive.
Over in Tomorrowland, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage continues its refurbishment.
Unfortunately, none of the merchandise is Disneyland or New Orleans Square-branded, but it’s all French, Jazz or New Orleans-themed, which all in-theme for the land. This is a great improvement and much appreciated.
In Frontierland, the new Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush! game we previewed for you last week debuted on Wednesday. I spent some good time walking around observing the game but didn’t have enough time to get involved and participate. From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed too complicated to join casually but guests who had invested the time to get involved really seemed to be enjoying themselves. This is a game that is very obviously targeted at local Annual Passholders who can dedicate a lot of time over repeat visits to play. The regular tourist probably won’t get much out of this game.
Our good friend David at the Illusion of Life blog played the game for several hours on its opening day and had some thoughts on the new experience.
Today, Disneyland launched a new “interactive experience” called “Legends of Frontierland.” It’s best described as a strange hybrid of an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) with Live Action Role Playing (LARP) in which you, the guest, get to create a character, align yourself with one of two competing factions, and then do various tasks to help your faction achieve victory over the other. The premise is that two bordering settlements – Frontierland and Rainbow Ridge – are engaged in a land dispute, and whichever side ends the day owning the most land wins. Land can be purchased from the local trading post for bits (Frontierland currency) that can be earned by collecting bounties, delivering telegrams, gambling, or doing other odd jobs for the denizens of Frontierland and Rainbow Ridge.
You can also engage in duels with other players, buy property out from under its current owner, send other players to jail, and so on, and so forth. If all of this sounds excessive and needlessly complicated, well, it is. To make matters worse, the conveyance of all of this is handled really poorly. None of this is conveyed through play, and unless you take time to read the extensive rules beforehand you’ll end up being hopelessly lost; even then, things still may not be entirely clear. Couple that with obtuse gating mechanics and other frustrations, and there are so many reasons why this game should not work. Going into this I was ready to gleefully snark away at what would almost certainly be a monumental disaster, but then a funny thing happened… I actually started having fun with it.
It’s an interesting thing to reconcile, because the mechanical design of the game is undeniably bad – so bad in fact, that they break a cardinal rule of ARG design by having a failsafe mechanic built in where Cast Members are allowed to break character and explain both the game and the metagame to players – but the game’s secret weapon, the thing that makes it work in spite of everything else, is that the Cast Members playing their parts in the game are really, really, really good at their jobs. The interaction between live performers and guests as part of the game is a really exciting thing to experience, and the Cast Members go above and beyond – both in character and out of character – to make the experience as fun and intuitive as it can possibly be, often paving over many of the game’s fundamentally flawed design choices. At one point I was getting frustrated when I had seemingly hit a dead end in the game, but this was quickly reconciled by calling “time out” and discussing the metagame with one of the Cast Members.
Another thing I learned by discussing metagame with this Cast Member is that the game is designed to reward frequent players in a way that’s genuinely exciting. While the core mechanic of land purchasing resets every day, players get to keep any bits they have and use them when they return. In addition, as you continue to play your notoriety in the game increases. Cast Members will remember you, remember your allegiances, and some of the tasks you’ve accomplished. As you increase in notoriety you will essentially “level up,” unlocking new challenges and new ways to play.
From my experience today, and my out of game discussions with some of the Cast Members, it’s clear that the game is only in its early stages right now, and will continue to evolve as more people play it. Hopefully they’ll eventually work out fixes to some of the game’s more frustrating mechanics, but regardless, I’m interested to see where it goes. As of right now, the game is a mixed bag – broken gameplay tempered by stellar work by the participating Cast Members. It doesn’t get everything right, but the things it does get right are exciting and sometimes even groundbreaking. “Legends of Frontierland” is highly imperfect, but I’m honestly looking forward to spending more time with the game and seeing it evolve, and that’s A LOT more than I thought I’d say of a game I expected to hate.
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|Weekly News & Information Round-Up|
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July 14 — 20, 2014
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July 14 — 20, 2014
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|Alright, that wraps up this week’s edition of Dateline Disneyland. What do YOU think of the Club 33 changes? Do you think they look good? Am I out of line with my thoughts on the changes in New Orleans Square? Please join in the discussion and let me know what you think!
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