Disneyland celebrated its 59th anniversary last week and announced plans for a big celebration of 60 historic years that will start next spring. Yet, as Disneyland prepares to celebrate that big 60th anniversary milestone, Disney has made significant changes to historic areas of park in an effort to expand the private Club 33 in New Orleans Square. Today, we take a look at the Club 33 project, inside and out, and talk about the importance of Disney’s history. We also update you on Frontierland‘s new interactive game, the new Music of: Nashville show, and recently-announced plans for a new interactive experience in Adventureland.
Don’t miss your weekly Disneyland Resort crowd forecast — provided by our friends at MouseAddict — in the Weekly News and Information Roundup at the end of today’s update!
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It’s another big week for Disneyland news, so let’s get started!
|Happy 59th Birthday, Disneyland!|
The Mayor of Main Street welcomed guests and started the festivities by bringing the Dapper Dans up to perform a medley of songs from Disneyland attractions, including “Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room,” “Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me,” “it’s a small world (after all),” “Miracles from Molecules” and “A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow.”
Then, the Mayor of Main Street spoke a bit about the park and its history which led to the announcement of Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration, and with another burst of confetti, the 60th Anniversary logo was revealed and a photo contest was announced. The Diamond Celebration will officially begin Spring 2015.
I was lucky enough to RSVP for a spot at the Disney Parks Blog “sneak peek” event. Unfortunately, the sneak peek didn’t actually give a preview of anything. Guests of the sneak peek were treated to cupcakes, however, and could take pictures at meet-and-greets with Anna and Elsa from Frozen and Mickey and Minnie.
|Club 33 Inside & Out|
Disney officially reopened its fabled Club 33 over the weekend, wrapping up a project that has brought not only major changes within the Club itself, but also to large parts of New Orleans Square. Below, the original club entrance on the left has now been converted into a merchandise store room for the neighboring Le Bat en Rouge shop.
On the other side of the store, two sets of French doors previously allowed guests access to the neighboring Court of Angels. With the Court of Angels now acting as the new lobby for Club 33, those doors are no longer necessary. One has been removed entirely, with the space filled in and covered up by a merchandise display case. This is partly because a new elevator for Club 33 was built on the other side of the wall. The other door’s windows were frosted over, blocking guest views into the Club’s private area.
Over on Orleans Street, the new bridge built to connect the main Club 33 dining room to the new jazz lounge expansion has received some more thematic elements, but they do little to help make the addition feel complete or like a natural part of the land.
To the left, the upstairs hallway leading to Club 33′s main dining room was expanded, causing the facades to be pushed out. This expansion of the hall led to a complete redesign of the facades here, adding huge floor-to-ceiling windows that give a clear view into the club from the ground level. A private club, indeed.
The large windows disrupt the very carefully-designed and very effective forced perspective found throughout New Orleans Square. The scale is now completely off, and if the windows alone don’t cause problems for the illusion, then seeing a Club 33 member walk past these windows really does.
Of course, the hallway expansion has the facade pushed out further now than it was originally designed to be, and because of that, the expanded hallway now covers a good portion of the facade above what was previously the entrance to the Court of Angels.
Looking back down Orleans Street, the backside of the new bridge that connects the main Club 33 dining room with the new jazz lounge has received some extra thematic touches, but again, they don’t fix it.
It’s worth noting that these gates aren’t glass at all; they’re plastic. The argument could be made that glass would be impractical here. I tend to think that’s a lazy excuse, but if glass was indeed seen as a liability here, then surely a more elegant solution than plastic could have been cooked up by the Imagineers.
The Court of Angels was a very important part of Disneyland for me. As a whole, New Orleans Square is the part of Disneyland that took me from being a casual fan of Disneyland to someone obsessed with the park and themed design. New Orleans Square’s various elements — the architecture, Disney Gallery, the Court of Angels — were where I formed deep, emotional connections to the park. These spaces were where I had what I call my a-ha! moment, where I really gained an understanding of what themed entertainment was and that Disneyland was far more than just a collection of rides and shops. I was very lucky to have enjoyed several meals at Club 33 over the years and long before my first visit, I was fascinated with the history the place contained. The exclusivity played into it, but more than anything its connection to Walt Disney was what appealed to me the most. So, when I was invited to dine and tour the new club over the weekend by a very generous and gracious member, I jumped at the opportunity. I had to see first-hand what had become of these spaces that had played such important roles in my Disneyland fandom. Below are some photos, information, and some thoughts from my experience in the new Club 33. The opinions expressed below are solely mine and are not representative of the rest of my dining party or of this web site.
The former L’Ornament Magique shop is now a small check-in area for the new club. There’s nothing terribly remarkable about the tiny space, but it’s certainly pleasant. Passing through the new reception area, members and their guests emerge into the beloved Court of Angels. Seeing the Court of Angels again was a remarkably emotional experience for me. It was like seeing a very old friend again. This space is so much more than “just stairs,” which is how some fans described the space while others mourned its closure last year.
A new elevator for the club has been installed, filling in the space between the stairs and the side of Le Bat en Rouge. Some stairs, a balcony, an awning and a doorway that were up in the corner here, just as pure theming, were removed for the new elevator.
That doorway to the right would be about where the old entry hallway would have been, with the Trophy Room and French lift just beyond. The hallway leads to the existing main dining room, but has been significantly widened.
If Club 33 got one thing right, it was bringing Napa Rose executive Chef Andrew Sutton on board. I enjoyed what was, perhaps, the most remarkable meal I’ve ever had at the new Club 33. The old club had great food, but the new menu is truly a revelation. Below, the Prime New York of Beef Seared Black and Blue with Tarragon-Roasted Garlic Puree, a first-course selection.
Of course, the new Club 33 includes a major expansion above the French Market Restaurant. That upstairs space, previously used as storage, was transformed into a jazz club-inspired lounge. Below, the hall leading to the new jazz lounge.
Alas, what is tucked away in the corner of this very lovely new jazz lounge area is what remains of the French lift that Walt Disney had commissioned based on one he saw while traveling in Europe.
And it’s that French lift that, more than anything else, really defines the entire Club 33 project for me. I can complain endlessly about the exterior changes or rave forever about the impossibly stellar new menu. But throughout my entire experience up in the club, I was perhaps most affected by what really appeared to be a wholesale wiping of the Club’s history. Sure, a few items were retained as “tribute” objects, but the club itself is largely unrecognizable from what it was previously and the club’s most historic elements have been almost totally eradicated. If you look through the glass above the club’s original door, you’ll see a glimpse of the original lobby, which is now stripped of all theming and fitted with with chain link fencing and shelving for merchandise storage. Inside the club, Walt Disney’s trophy room is completely gone, now converted into kitchen space. New Orleans Square was the last theme park land that Walt Disney personally oversaw, and that included Club 33. The Club had changed over the years, sure, but his personal touches could still be seen throughout. All of that is pretty much gone now.
I had a great time in the club and I am very lucky to have been able to see it again. Unfortunately, Club 33′s appeal no longer comes from that very real magic that Disneyland has: its history. Instead, it comes from its incredible new menu and sometimes over-designed, kind of gimmicky things like animated paintings, color-changing stained glass ceilings, or pianos that can live-stream performances. These sorts of things are nice and probably have a place in Disney theme parks, but they should never come at the expense of things that are so entrenched in history and company lore. If things that Walt Disney personally commissioned for Disneyland must be cut out of a need for expansion, then they shouldn’t be converted into such regrettable things such as a restaurant booth. Move it somewhere else, donate it to the Walt Disney Family Museum, give it to the Disney Archives. Don’t dismantle it and turn it into a half-hearted nod to your past that you are so aggressively removing.
As Disneyland approaches its 60th Anniversary, it is — more than ever — imperative that Disney really takes the time to take a look at its history and realize that it is the company’s most valuable asset. What was passed down to today’s Walt Disney Company from Walt Disney and his brilliant team is a legacy other companies could only dream of having. What was done to New Orleans Square and Club 33 is largely a very unfortunate purging of that that rich history and legacy.
So, what do you think? Do you think the new Club 33 looks good? Will you visit if given the opportunity? Is the history still intact? Is the history even important? Please be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section at the end of today’s blog.
For more on Club 33 history and photos of the old club:
Daveland: Club 33
Disney Tourist Blog: Club 33 Disneyland Photos, History & Review
Disney Parks Blog: Inside Club 33
|Magic Kingdom Makeovers|
Back on Main Street, not much can be seen on the new Guest Flow Corridors being build along the back of Main Street.
In Tomorrowland, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage continues its refurbishment…
Also new is the L.B.’s Elixirs cart, where you can buy a very small cup of one of three special drinks that are supposed to give you special powers in the game. No idea how this actually functions in the gameplay, if at all.
Last week, Disney announced it would debut another new interactive game in Adventureland. Starting August 1, the Adventureland Trading Co. will open, sending players on quests to collect “juju.” This game was play tested at last year’s D23 Expo and was a pay-per-play experience. No word yet on if it will cost money to play when added to Disneyland, or how it will function in Adventureland’s relatively tight space. Will it take over a portion of the Adventureland Bazaar?
Below, a clip from the show
|This and That|
|Weekly News & Information Round-Up|
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July 21 — 27, 2014
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|Okay, that wraps up this week’s edition of Dateline Disneyland. Are you excited for the 60th anniversary? What do you think of the big New Orleans Square and Club 33 changes? Join in the discussion and let us know in the comments section below!
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|FTC-Mandated Disclosure: Promotional consideration for this edition of Dateline Disneyland was provided by the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel & Water Playground.|