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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  • tahoe9813

    Andy,

    I wanted to comment on how much I agree with your comments about Club 33 and what they’ve done to New Orleans Square. I live on the East Coast and try to get out to Disneyland at least every couple of years. I always enjoy the ins, outs, and “hidden” passageways around the resort, in general. New Orleans Square is the epitome of those “hidden” passageways.

    I’ve always been intrigued by Club 33, the concept, and it’s connection to Walt Disney. At this point, they’ve thrown away so much history, and your comment about what they did to the lift sums up so much. I believe they could have done so much more and still opened a fabulous new space.

    Despite the changes, I still hope to visit the club one day.

    Thank you, as always, for the update, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

    Best regards,
    Ben

  • muse4mouse

    I was lucky enough to visit and eat at Club 33 last year. It was so amazing and historical. Seeing the new pictures breaks my heart in a way. Walt’s creation is completely gone. The original lift is now a booth, which to me, seems like an insult. At least they kept it though? The coolest part of Club 33 was walking into the small lobby, taking the elevator up and seeing this grand, historical restaurant. I understand them wanting to modify and update things, that is fine. But this was such a historical landmark of the park, and now, it doesn’t seem that way.

    Thank you for the update

    • peoplemover1

      I think they would’ve done more justice to Walt’s lift if they would’ve just left it where it was, unused. It would’ve been that one little secret about Club 33… :(

  • JiminyCricketFan

    I am so glad that the wealthy have a nicer and more elaborate place to enjoy their park. Too bad there was no money in the budget to add to the elaborate ironwork treatment Walt did. But we have to remember that would just be for the common people and cannot really expect to get any extra special treatment. No new attractions, parades or fireworks to announce for the 60th — Well, that is just for the common people. We should feel privileged to be able to share the park with the wealthy people. We get to look up to the windows and see glimpses of the luxury that we will never know. Those in the club have got it and they flaunt it. That is their privilege. Let the rest of the people eat cake…

    • Stinkerella

      My sentiments exactly. While the new interior is lovely, it looks like every other high end restaurant available to anyone with the desire and ability to pay. I’ll stick with Blue Bayou for theme and Napa Rose for flavor (it is the same chef). Turning that budget into additional rides, themed spaces, or even better cuisine in the established eateries would have been a positive long-term business move imo. Seems as though the 60th Anniversary will only be as good as the fake diamonds they used for the faux sneek preview while management panders to the few. Glad I gave up that top end AP and moved to Knott’s.

    • stevek

      It’s been there for decades. There is also one in DCA. Epcot had all sorts of VIP lounges in their rides as well. This is not a unique concept and it sounds like you are bitter that you don’t have access to it. I always wanted to visit and got to once. But I never felt the contempt you feel for the “wealthy” (which I am not) that have access to it.

      • JiminyCricketFan

        Walt never intended Club 33 to be an exclusive experience for rich people. It originally was a place to reward corporate sponsors who invested greatly in Disneyland. On opening day, celebrities like Frank Sinatra were just ordinary guests. There was no special treatment for the rich and wealthy. Walt wanted Disneyland itself to be the VIP experience, not a second class experience. If Walt was around, that area would be accessible to everyone. There is no need to reward cooperate sponsors now.

        Yes, over the years, Disney’s move to greed has now made Disney corporate want to make Club 33 a cash cow. Ten thousand a year to get in! That is an exclusive club now that wants to flaunt their exclusivity to the average guest at Disneyland, “we are just a class better than you.”

    • Will G

      “I am so glad that the wealthy have a nicer and more elaborate place to enjoy their park. Too bad there was no money in the budget to add to the elaborate ironwork treatment Walt did. But we have to remember that would just be for the common people and cannot really expect to get any extra special treatment.”

      Where is everyone’s concern for the poor weathly people that no one really cares for? Disney smiles and welcomes them into beautiful spaces, but all they really want is their money! :,-(
      And if they have no money, the “love” goes away.
      How would that make you feel if you were burdened with wealth?! “They act like I’m special, but really it’s my money, isn’t it”

      WillG

  • AaroniusPolonius

    I’m none too happy about what Disney did to New Orleans Square. It looks really out of proportion and disjointed.

    I’m less annoyed with the interactive frontierland stuff, as it, at least, looks and plays to the theme of the land itself. It makes sense to have the game there, however one feels about these in park interactive experiences (I’m not a fan, but I’m not the audience, and I don’t knock what looks to be thematically right and complete.)

    The Nashville show…oy. Beyond the cheap and tacky cut outs of the cast (see also: DHS and the Frozen “event,”) the thing that really bugs is that it’s so entirely off for the theme of Frontierland, and it could act as a device to take a guest out of the theme, which is to say, out of the experience of being on the American Frontier 150 years ago. Tomorrowland in Florida makes the same mistake, where four of the seven attractions happen in the present. What adds insult to injury here is that right across the berm, they could have added the Nashville concert to Hollywoodland at DCA, and it would have fit in just fine.

    It seems that we’ve gotten to a very bizarre place with Disney, where theme is defined extraordinarily broadly, where Stitch in Hawaii is somehow the future because aliens, where contemporary country music is somehow frontier because country, and where royalty from the kingdom of arendelle can visit the kingdom of Hollywood because profit.

  • linkeq2001

    The picture that stirs up the most regret and frustration for me is that off center window…. Sure the park should not be a museum yes they can and probably should update things I can live with that I am not so in love with the park that changes are like a dagger to my heart. HOWEVER, to offset a window so obviously on the outside, to the point that in any kind of commercial or residential building a project manager would have a fit and make someone change it before the building was done….simply so it could be on center inside the club where a few elites can see. That is not disneyland, that is disneyland “jumping the shark”, moving away from what it meant and is. You would never see that at universal, or heck ANYWHERE in a public building. It is ugly, and kind of pathetic.

  • MonteJ

    Not only did they mutilate NOS, they seem to have forgotten the meaning of the word “discreet”. I have no problem with Walt’s original Club 33. It was a place to entertain VIPs and high end clientele – but it was totally discreet, without any airs of class discrimination. Making the new Club 33 so visible (and yet unobtainable for the average guest) while at the same time compromising the appearance of NOS is a significant P.R. faux pas. (at least in my opinion)

  • Charly871

    Thank you for the wonderful pictures! I’m saddened access to Court of Angels was blocked off. Have so many beautiful pictures there with family and friends. I loved NOS, it was one of my favorite spots, well, still is, but looks like it has lost it’s charm a bit. I’m also not very good with “change” so any changes in the park send me in to orbit :-)

  • atherton

    Great update as usual and I really appreciated seeing the new club 33. I do have to say that I think your take on New Orleans Square is extremely biased due to your love of that area of the park. I, too, have a strong love for Disneyland and the history of it all. I worked there and I continue to own a Premium pass and go far more than I should at my age because I feel like a kid.

    I find it a tad odd that New Orleans Square was where your fervor for Disneyland really got a foot hold, but to each their own. I would probably list it far down my list of reasons why I love Disneyland. I definitely see some of your points about the refurbishment and none more than that ghastly off-centered window. However, I feel many of your points are incredibly harsh and nit picky to say the least. I suppose it’s your job to overly critique the park and I think if I was forced to do that it would take away much of my love of being there. I tend to just lose myself while there just as I did when I was a kid. When i was younger I never looked around and tried to spot places that needed paint or areas with rust or anything like that and as an adult I make sure to do the same. Many times it actually takes articles on Micechat or Dateline Disneyland or somewhere else to even realize some of the areas that need attention. I just don’t want to be that person and until I walk around the resort and feel like it is run down (like Knotts or MM or the like) then I’m not going to worry about it because I know there is nobody better at keeping up a park than the DLR people.

    Disneyland hasn’t lost any of the historic feel in my eyes. And nothing in this article changes that. I promise you that if i get to go into the new Club 33 I’m not going to sweat the updates and cry about the history lost. We will never get 1955 back. Never. I embrace the new changes intermingled with the past.

  • KENfromOC

    Great article Andy I bet it was fun to go into the new 33. I had the privaliage of eating there twice and it was a great experience. I have to agree with the comments made by “stevek” – It hasn’t been Walt’s park for decades. and in reality there are plenty of Walt’s touches still throughout the park.
    But I do agree with you concerning the Lift – in someway that should have been preserved.

  • atherton

    And I’m cracking up reading the people crying about the wealthy people compared to the “poor, huddled masses” Boo hoo!!!!

    I don’t know ANYBODY that has gone to Club 33 because they are wealthy. I know people who know people that work for corporations that own memberships. So what if we see them through the window. I think that’s kinda cool. If anything it’s the people in the club that should want it private.

    Disneyland is so mean to the common folk. Just such a snobby place where only the rich are courted and served. Give ma a break!!!! Guess what….DON’T GO!!!

    Please…i beg of you…if you are whining about so many things Disneyland does wrong and the Disney Resort then please…do me a gigantic favor….please don’t go. I would cherish that!

    • stevek

      Classic, love it. The only reason I went was because a friend worked for a corporation that had membership. This whining about the rich comes off as a jealous rant. Had I never gone (and I likely won’t ever go again after the $400 in food costs), I wouldn’t care nor would I have had even a twinge of regret or jealousy.

      • atherton

        Exactly!! It’s like crying that I’ve never stayed in the Dream Suite. Guess what else I’ve only done once….stay at one of the main hotels on the resort. That’s by choice. it’s too expensive for me. And what about a SUITE at one of those hotels? Shouldnt your every day joe get to do that whenever they want?!?

        So jealous!!

        And i TOTALLY disagree with the person that said that if Walt were alive today Club 33 would be available to everybody. Umm…..think again.

  • TodAZ1

    The inside pic of Club 33 that made my heart sink was the ‘new lobby’ photo. It looks like the check-in desk at a Vegas hotel. And not even one of the good hotels on the Strip!!

    Well, as someone said before, I can scratch off wanting to be a Club 33 member off of my ‘to do’ list.

    • WDWorldly

      Spot on–really awful lobby.

    • atherton

      You could have scratched that off a long time ago, brother. You ain’t getting to be a member regardless if the lobby was AMAZING!!

  • Disney_Dad

    The comments so far have been quite measured I feel. As a long time Disneyland enthusiast who fell in love with NOS some forty years ago when I first saw it in photographs, I have to say that the external changes represent an act of pure vandalism to what was the most impressive part of the whole park. I can hardly believe what I’m seeing and am incredulous that Disney allowed these insensitive ham-fisted changes to be made. Thank God Herb Ryman isn’t still around to witness this.

    • Country Bear

      “Vandalism” – what an appropriate word to use here. I agree totally.

      • stevek

        Vandalism? C’mon, let’s not be overly dramatic. There is a clear line between the true meaning of vandalism and poor design. This clearly falls into the latter for many.

    • Tinkbelle

      I agree. I can hardly believe what I’m seeing as well. It’s like the people making the changes have no clue what makes Disneyland great.

  • Dizzey

    We went to Universal a few years back to see what it’s all about and to see if we would like it as much as Disney. The theming was poor, the “spaces” disjoint, everything was too loud, but what I really hated was getting bombarded constantly by advertisements for new movies coming up, TV shows, etc. The Nashville cheap cut-outs remind me EXACTLY of that. I want to lose my sense of current place and time, not be reminded that I should be watching TV instead.

    I’m also one of the “whiners” that’s going to gripe about the Court of Angels. We took a family photo there every year the entire time our kids were growing up. It was beautiful and quiet. Resent it’s new “exclusivity?” – You bet.

    There’s enough left of Disneyland that we still go and still love it. But this year I’m buying one day at Knott’s and getting one less day of Park Hopper Pass. I won’t buy anything from NOS. I’m reducing my Disney spending in proportion to my disappointment. I encourage ya’ll to do the same. Vote – just a bit – with your dollars.

    • WDWorldly

      In this case, it won’t matter unless Club 33 members are as vociferously against this as we are here and “vote with their dollars.” I wonder how they’ll react to the changes.

      • stevek

        I doubt they will care as the interior of the club looks quite nice. That being said, if any of them are dead set against the overall changes in NOS and the club, they should have conviction and end their memberships or at the very least, make their disappointment known.

      • vnormth

        WDWorldly:

        We Club 33 members were as shocked at the loss of CoA to the public just as much as we are still shocked at the mind-numbing criticism we take from so many about just being members (see JiminyCricketFan as an apt example; I doubt he uses his brain for much more than to hold his ears apart).

        The cost of a Gold-level membership to Club 33 is about $11/day. That doesn’t require being “wealthy” to the degree that so many critics assume members possess.

        Our member discussions generally show we were quite mixed about losing the Trophy Room, we’re overwhelmed by the beauty of the interior, frustrated with the added restrictions Disney has put on how we use our membership, sad to see Chef Marcel go but delighted with the new staff and menu and still scratching our heads in dismay at how the exterior happened.

        We “vote with our dollars” every time we decide to drop in for a visit and dine there…which is as often as we can.

    • atherton

      Knotts is HORRIBLE!!!!

      But i’m glad you won’t go there as much. You won’t be missed.

      • stevek

        Knott’s is much, much better than it used to be and I’m very happy they are investing in it again. I’m still not a fan of the steel coasters everywhere but Ghost Town, The Log Ride and Calico Mine Train are classic areas or attractions that rival Disney. It’s not my first choice for a theme park visit and the clientele gets a bit dicey at times due to lower price of entry.

  • WDWorldly

    Should we storm the bastille and #OccupyNewOrleansSquare, or is this justified because DLR’s AP-heavy visitor base means they need Club 33 as another vital revenue stream? Theme parks don’t profit much off of admission tickets, supposedly, because its so costly to operate the park. Dining and merchandise sales thus become essential, but the majority of DLR’s local visitors don’t spend much. So it seems like expanded exclusive offerings for the higher end of the Southern California market like Club 33 are necessary to make up for those shortcomings.

    • stevek

      No, we shouldn’t. It would only make Disney despise the hardcore fanbase more than they likely already do. The resort is doing just fine but I’m sure that any other ancillary revenue stream i.e. Club 33 helps. There are probably much better revenue streams like hard ticket Christmas events…which they hopefully never do.

  • Country Bear

    Looks like the folks who built the original DCA are still alive and well in Disney’s management group. Imagineering (if it still exists) has clearly been squashed by someone in an executive office.

    I see the differences in the Club 33 interior and while I don’t like them for their lack of nostalgia, they don’t really impact my personal visit to Disneyland. What does impact it is the “find anywhere” architecture and lack of theming to the outside of this renovation. You can clearly see that these changes are based on modern construction and design ideals and have little to no consideration for where the dang thing was built. There is certainly no consideration to the integrity of the original design (or scale!). Like building a WalMart in a historic district. “Oh sure, we’ll put up a couple of theme appropriate window covers with shutters to make it fit in better.” I would expect to see this afterthought theming at a Six Flags but not at a company who’s entire existence is based on the word “Quality”. However, it seems to be right in line with all of the de-Disneyification that is happening in their hotels each time they “renovate” them. At least those hotels don’t sit in the middle of the greatest themed environment ever created. But this does.

    This was not built by Disney; it was built by Iger.