Disneyland celebrates 59 years and looks ahead to 60 as Club 33 reopens with major changes

Written by Andy Castro. Posted in Dateline Disneyland, Disney, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Features

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Published on July 21, 2014 at 7:03 am with 128 Comments

About Andy Castro

Andy is a Southern California native, raised with Disneyland and a life-long fan of Disney theme parks and animation. Andy writes the weekly Dateline Disneyland column, which can be found every Monday on MiceChat.

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  • JCSkipr79

    What the heck happened to Bat En Rougue? It’s basically Tren-D now. Where’s the NBC and HM Merch and the Mansion theming?

    • The Haunted Mansion and Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise (along with theming to match) was moved over to Port Orleans a while ago. We reported on this back in June.

      Thanks for reading!

  • MrTour

    “Walt’s Park” is becoming less and less so, unfortunately.

    • Haven

      Looks like what happened to Knott’s after Cedar Fair arrived. Fortunately, the tables are turning there again, maybe this will end up being Disney’s “Cedar Fair” cycle and it too will end someday…. Thanks for the photos of the new Court of Angels, seeing I will never see it again!

    • FixitKronk

      Why did Walt build club 33? He was spending more and more time living there at disneyland. When he needed to wine and dine big out of town corporate honchos there was no 5star restaurant in Orange County. Back in the 50s big deals were made by handshake at club 33 after a tour of the park and a few drinks. Since the establishment would sit empty the rest of the week a private club was created for wealthy individuals in so cal.

      None of that is necessary now. Sponsorship deals are not made over a martini At club 33. Most decisions are made in Burbank. No disney board member visits disneyland weekly let alone live there. There are dozens of 5star restaurants in Orange County. And the pricey membership is easily paid by thousands of Orange County residents. Only a waiting list got in the way.

      Club 33 now is expanded, modernized, upgraded, revitalized, and probably able to create a buzz in the affluent community it targets. These are people that will buy the premium passes for their entire family and spend generously while visiting.

      Looking from that perspective why would team disney Anaheim hesitate to make the changes they did? It looks gorgeous inside and I can’t wait to eat there. The outside needs some work and I’ll bet it gets done in the next few weeks.

      • Co Foo

        I don’t think there’s anyway that the purpose behind this is to sell premium APs to the few select people that are able to gain access to Club 33.

  • LoveStallion

    That Nashville photo-op really is bad. And while I actually enjoy the show Nashville and its music, the content of the show is a faaaaar cry from what Disney wants to promote within the hallowed berm.

  • Ravjay12

    Great update, and thanks for the pictures inside Club 33! I guess we have to go back to that wise saying: “It’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts.” They have done a truly remarkable job on the inside and I’m sure it will be a wonderful space for those exclusive few to wine and dine. It seems to me that so much attention was put on the inside, that the outside was an after thought. I refuse to believe the Imagineers were involved in this. The outside is a huge disgrace to the overall scale and original design. I don’t care if they changed out the historical value of the inside, because change was necessary. But for them to screw up the finished product outside? Guests also lost the Court of Angels. They may as well just have put a large wall in front of New Orleans Square and called the area Club 33. Wow!!
    I just hope the same company who built this thing is not in charge of the Main Street backstage makeover.

    A 60th Anniversary sneak preview event without any sneak previews of what’s coming? I don’t understand.

    • Marko50

      Thought I read that Imagineering nowadays was little more than independent contractors hired for a specific project and then let go.

      • stevek

        Nope. From what I understand, there is a full staff of Imagineers still under employment.

  • MyFriendtheAtom

    Theyre gonna theme that NOS Club 33 window right?

    It looks so angry maybe fill it with tsum tsum idk

  • bamato

    I’ll hold judgment until I see it for myself, but if I were to go off of only your pictures and review here, I feel I’ll be greatly disappointed by the work done to Club 33 and NOS. You’re absolutely right, they’ve amputated something that was rich with park history and theme. The lift-turned-table-for-one is almost an insult, rather than what seemed to be an attempt at pleasing history buffs and people who appreciated it beauty and the ambiance it offered to the entryway.

    Walt always said to keep moving forward though, and while it could be argued that this is progress (the lavish decor and animated painting are a nice touch), it shouldn’t have come at such a high cost.

  • tooncity

    Disney has gone to great extents to remove real, legitimate legacy and substituted a ”faux” PR created, fictions story of Walt. But in the end, nobody really cares. Folks, only care about what they can get (AP’ers) instead of the quality they’ll enjoy. To this Disney management is predispose to simply ignore their customers are saying, because the spending keeps coming.

    • stevek

      If you are referring to the Club 33 redo, not sure how that applies to APer’s. 99%+ of them will never visit the club.

    • DL7171955

      The California AP’s don’t care about the average out-of-town guests. It’s about them and what they can get. Very one-sided. They ruined what the park initially means….”Friends and Family enjoying Disney’s original park”. Now it’s “Try to avoid the mass of AP’s who don’t spend any money and pretend it’s THEIR park and us out-of-towners are THEIR guests”.

      But half of this is Disney’s fault for letting it become so hard for out-of-towners to enjoy the park. We spend all this money on travel, hotels, tickets….just so we can be rudely bumped into and look down upon by those CA AP’s.

      • Marko50

        Sorry you feel that way. Too bad most of it is just not true.

      • SRGFernandez

        Do California AP’s really look down upon guests? I’m a deluxe passholder and local and I’ve never looked down upon other guests. Funny enough I’ve never seen any hostility at Disneyland but have seen 2 instances of guest being hostile while visiting Disney World last year. Maybe it’s something passholders don’t see or maybe it’s the Florida weather that puts guests on edge. I have seen rude guests here though nut what I saw in WDW ended in a fight between families. Rudest I can think of was like 13 years ago when my family and I got a spot for fireworks and my mother and I got up to get hot cocoa and coffee for the rest of us and when we got back a small chinese family took my mother and my spot and my family tried to ask them to move and they wouldn’t because they didn’t speak English so we all decided to move. That’s the only rude occurrence I can think of.

      • Charly871

        As a Premium AP holder myself, I can agree with some, but not all of your remarks. I tend to avoid the park when the SoCal Select and SoCal passes are valid. I’ve seem some rowdy behavior, so we go when only Deluxe are valid. I’ve been an AP holder for years and never have we felt that tourists are beneath us, on the contrary, I always find it fascinating when speaking to out-of-towners about DL and how they see the experience. Having said that, unless you speak a different language, it’s hard to determine who’s a tourist and who’s an AP. I had a tourist run me over with their electric wheelchair and didn’t get an apology – so it goes both ways really. I for one do not like the crowds, it’s my biggest gripe.

      • stevek

        I’ve been an AP for 12+ years and have never once felt any sense of entitlement. Does that mean it doesn’t exist? No, not at all as there are plenty of folks out there, some that write for this very site, that do. At the end of the day, the problem is not the individual AP per se but the AP program in general. Disney created it and they let it get out of control. You cannot for one minute blame any AP that makes the most use as possible out of their passes. As for rude people, they come in all shapes and sizes at DL, not just AP’s. And quite honestly, as an out of towner, how exactly do you know which folks are and aren’t AP’s? I can’t tell and I’ve been there plenty of times.

      • tooncity

        I gave up my AP some 10 years ago, when in line for Peter Pan a APer opened up her 3 year old’s zipper to let him urinate in the bushes. Yeah, great group of classless pigs! Entitled jerks. “I have rights I’m a Annual Pass Holder”. Just like those creeps with the phone disability pass. just so they can get tot he front of the line. People have ABUSED the privileges and Disney knows they can dish out the crap to this crowd, because they’ll just keep coming.

        Yeah, APer HAVE ruined the park. Disney knows they can do a half-assed job on the details. Why? Who are they trying to impress? the Morons who keep paying for an annual pass year after year.

        In 20 years I’ve never been able to get a good view of Fantasmic. Because the Apers have set-up their blanket and beach chair homeless camp in the best sports. Who hasn’t seen a bunch of these LOSERS camping out at NOON for a 9pm show? What a classy RUDE bunch.

        Yes, get rid of the APs. Every single one of them. That stupid un-centered window is just plain insulting. Disney can Build a Buena Vista Street when they have to, but when they don’t have too, they do the wrong thing. Because they know they can get away with it.

      • FixitKronk

        Tooncity in four paragraphs you used morons, pigs, creeps, homeless, jerks, loosers etc. I’m guessing your probably pretty rude to everyone when your there. Maybe your the grandpa type that lines to look fondly back to your white dominated homogenous Richie Cunningham past. Get over it. Do you talk to the traffic in the car also?

        My son likes to ride a few rides and then thrown down a blanket and eat our dinner by the river waiting for fantastic. Do you want to tell a six year old how they SHOULD spend their time at disneyland. Is there a specific order he should enjoy the rides in?

        We enjoy a night out talking to the other guests willing to wait. Why don’t you go ride a ride while we wait the line is a little shorter cause of that, just like it was back in 1963! You should like that- but maybe not.

      • FixitKronk

        Marco50 you are right most of the AP hate just isn’t true. Mice chat writers like to incite the mob to riot sometimes.

        When we see a family holding a map and looking confused me or my wife always ask if they need help finding something. Often we’ll walk them over to the line their looking for even if it takes us away from where we were headed next.

        It’s a joy and a treat to talk to out of towners about or love of the parks. I hope that there’s a lot more people like that out there than what is insinuated on this site

      • pattimarie

        Do you “card” the people who bump into you to verify that they are ‘AP”ers? Otherwise your statement just doesn’t hold up as anything other than rank prejudice of a supposed group who you think are all alike. Do all ‘AP’ers look alike to you too? Do you think they all know each other? Maybe they have meetings specifically designed to get you when you come. Or maybe it’s just a lot of confused out-of-towners who are bumping into you?

      • atherton

        Tooncity…i’d say you’re an idiot, but that’s disgracing idiots everywhere. Firstly, not sure I believe your story…but even if I did…did you ask them if they were A/P holders? Did the mom just openly state “I have an annual pass…i’m allowed to do this!”??

        This rhetoric that A/P holders act like they own the park and can do whatever they want is such a tired line of chatter. I’ve been a Premium A/P holder for some time now and i never act like that. I mean..i don’t even understand where this comes from. I have no clue who is a regular at the park and who isn’t. Sure, i can guess based on looking and scrutinizing. I can probably guess who isnt from the area. But knowing who owns a pass? Come on.

        And really? People that only visit the Resort once a year or maybe once EVER are going to care enough to make sure they leave everything pristine and not dare do anything wrong there? But people that love Disney and pay hundreds of dollars a year in A/Ps along with the money they spend at the Resort are going to trash the place? That makes zero sense.

        Micechat is full of so many haters it’s pathetic. i honestly thought this would be a cool place to interact and talk to people that love Disney as much as I do. Instead I’ve found it’s merely a place for people to hate on Disney and pick it apart.


  • Cory Gross

    While I wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered, visiting Club 33 has stopped being a goal of mine. I missed my chance to see the original Club 33 when it actually had connections back to Walt. Sure it looks nice on the inside, but blandly generic in a way that only effacing actual history can be. There are lots of other perfectly nice restaurants across the Disneyland Resort that you don’t need to be well-heeled or well-connected to get into.

    If I have to think of a symbol for the renovations, like the French life for Andy, it would have to be that off-center window. I was right about it being centred for the inside… A fixture designed for the benefit of those on the inside that detracts from the experience for those on the outside. I think that describes the new Club 33 to a tee.

    • stevek

      Yep, a more unique feature for the club itself would have been to make it off-centered on the inside and kept the exterior clean.

  • Larry Parker

    As for the demoralizing “on-the-cheap” New Orleans Square disfigurement, I suggest contacting Corporate Disney at: https://secure-disneyland.disney.go.com/help/email/

  • SolidWorks Mike

    As a former cast member of Club33 it certainly is sad to see the trophy room gone forever. I remember when I would be working that room and a guest would ask about the microphones in the chandeliers, it was always fun to explain to them why they were there, and also tell them about the audio animatronic birds in the room. It makes me wonder what they did with the radio room where the equipment for the trophy room was. At the time I was there we were using it for a managers office.

    I’ll also have fun memories of working the coat check downstairs and helping guests go into the lift to go upstairs. For most the ride wasn’t to avoid the stairs, but to be able to ride in a piece of history.

    The jazz club expansion is nice, it was just a storage area for us we called ‘the cage’, and I’ll always remember going out onto one of the small fake balconies from the cage to catch part of Fantasmic each night.

  • ChrisNJ

    Really enjoyed your heartfelt update on Club 33. I feel your pain. I got a bit angry when I saw the French lift – that’s really a kick in the head.

  • eicarr

    The Dole whip souvenir cup is genius. Already making space in my cupboard.

    I’ve NEVER liked the existence of Club 33, so the destruction of its charm and history warms my heart.

    • stevek

      What exactly did you dislike about it? The exclusiveness of it? Inaccessibility to the average guest?

    • Kennyland

      Why does Club 33′s destruction of its charm and history warm your heart? Is it because it’s not accessible to you? Just imagine all those local low income families who pass by Disneyland knowing it’s not accessible to them. It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. Club 33 is not accessible to me, but I still feel sad about what’s being done to it.

    • Westsider

      eicarr, you have to excuse our chuckles. Someone who is lucky enough socio-economically to visit Disneyland regularly such as yourself shouldn’t begrudge the 00.005% of the park’s visitors who can also visit a remodeled Club 33.

      There are a couple Billion people on the planet who don’t know how, or if, they will get tonight’s meager dinner. Those Billions would kill to be in a place where Disneyland is a normal entertainment option for them.

    • daveyjones

      the cup was introduced last summer. then they ran out. and now they’re back! the bowl, however, is totally new, and i can’t wait to grab one. ps the cup comes with a sweet flexy straw.

      • stevek

        They had the cups at Trader Sams outside as well for awhile.

  • stevek

    I’m a bit torn on the changes overall. I was lucky enough to visit the original club 33 once but never really felt any connection to it before or after the visit. The change will neither improve or diminish my visits to the park. As for the new club itself (based solely on pictures), the interior looks beautiful IMO. Nice features, great design. The one think I will agree with Andy on is the Lift. While I understand that it was not going to survive the redo, it should have not been put into the actual club as a seat. Looks completely out of place and let’s hope it finds a better home in the near future.

    Unfortunately, the only area that would likely impact any visit for me would be the exterior changes and I’ll really have to judge those in person. The pics look ok to me beyond the off-centered window and yes, it’s disappointing to lose the Court of Angels. But that loss is likely felt by a minority of the folks visiting the park, not the average guest. NOS appears to still be a beautiful area of the park by everything I can tell.

    And yes, I completely understand that concern that the park is morphing into something that is no longer Walt’s Park. But the reality is that it stopped being Walt’s Park decades ago. Very little remains unchanged or untouched since his death and there are likely a multitude of changes that never would have happened under his watch…or maybe he would have changed it more. We can no longer play the What Would Walt Do card as the park as he only spent 11 of the 59 years in the actual park. His legacy still remains in name, in certain spaces and in the overall concept of the park but this is not the same park from 1955 or even the one I started visiting 40+ years ago. But despite those changes, some far, far more dramatic than those at club 33, it’s still a place I love coming back to year after year.

    • disneyland255

      “Very little remains unchanged or untouched since his death and there are likely a multitude of changes that never would have happened under his watch…or maybe he would have changed it more. We can no longer play the What Would Walt Do card as the park as he only spent 11 of the 59 years in the actual park. His legacy still remains in name, in certain spaces and in the overall concept of the park but this is not the same park from 1955 or even the one I started visiting 40+ years ago. But despite those changes, some far, far more dramatic than those at club 33, it’s still a place I love coming back to year after year.”

      You Nailed it EXACTLY! Thank you!

    • Cory Gross

      I don’t know of anyone who is against any changes to Disneyland for the sake of being against changes to Disneyland. I totally agree that I wouldn’t want it to be the same park it was in 1955 (1995 is another story).

      Certainly there are the gripers who just want to complain and don’t even know what they would actually want Disneyland or WDW to do. But what I think most fans who care at all about this kind of stuff have a problem with are negative changes… Poor design choices, bad show, diminished artistry, and basically making something worse than it was before instead of better. I think we can all point to relatively recent changes that we’ve liked (for me, Constance is a good example) and ones that we haven’t (for me, all the vandalism to Pirates of the Caribbean). Some people reach a point where the changes are just too great to justify going there any more, not because they changed but because it’s not a place they enjoy going anymore. At the very least, between the loss of the Court of Angels and the ugly reminders everywhere that Club 33 exists and losing the Disney Gallery and the vandalism to Pirates, New Orleans Square has shot down from one of my favourite lands to being towards the bottom with Tomorrowland and Critter Country.

      The mega-gripers are useful insofar as they help the rest of us focus on not being like them. Like you, I think it would still be a while before I’d look at Disneyland like it’s not a good investment of my time and money. But I do think there is a place for sensible, rational, critical thinking when engaging with theme park design. It’s good to maintain a positive view overall… it is a theme park, when all is said and done… but not every change is a good one either.

      • stevek

        No doubt. As someone said on Twitter, can you imagine if the internet was around when The Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland was removed? Just think of the uproar when the peoplemover or adventure thru innerspace closed. And don’t get me started on the TL redo of gold/rust.

      • Cory Gross

        Heh, those are all attractions that I wish I could have seen and I actually liked the idea of the 1998 Tomorrowland. It’s just too bad that it was undone by cost-cutting.



    Thanks so much for the great article and pictures!!!

    Art nouveau design is in New Orleans and there is a tremendous amount of it in the new remodel. However, there is very little art nouveau in New Orleans, and not there is alot of it at Disneyland. So not only have they made some very bad design decisions, they have added theming that is completely out of character.

    It is a Disney trademark design style, but it has no place in Walt’s New Orleans Square.

    I believe this is Robert Igers email address: [email protected]. I’ve contacted him before, and you usually get a call back in 24 hours. Maybe they can fix it

    • FixitKronk

      Robert Igers title is chairman of the board, the boards sole duty is to protect the interests of the stockholders and insure their investment in the corporation is sound.

      The 500 shares of disney stock my son received when he was born 6 years ago have more than quadrupled. At its current rate those shares will probably pay for 3 years of college education in 2026.

      Tell me again how Robert Iger is doing a bad job?

      • atherton

        nailed it!

  • daliseurat

    Terrific update. I can’t believe how they mangled New Orleans Square. It WAS one of my favorite places to hang around. And while the interior of Club 33 looks nice, they have completely obliterated all of it’s charm. Removing all of the historic elements and turn the lift into a BOOTH? Ugh. First the Disney Gallery, now the Court of Angels and the mangling of the facades and the club itself. Very sad. It looks like a cruise ship to me.

    • daveyjones

      “Very sad. It looks like a cruise ship to me.”