Photos in Wonderland – The Disneyland Difference

Written by Rustin Peece. Posted in Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Features, Photos In Wonderland

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Published on July 27, 2012 at 11:00 pm with 7 Comments

Welcome once more to Photos in Wonderland, your digital photographic trip through the realms of the theme park!

For this installment, the topic at hand revolves around Disneyland. Everyone knows the big photographic opportunities within the park: the Castle, the various character photo-ops, the Rivers of America, and all the rest of the stand-out ‘featured’ structures. This time, however, we will be going rather more abstract: to the realm of the ‘mundane’ textures and surfaces that comprise most of what the average guest spends time looking at.

In your average, less-premium amusement park, unthemed concrete, wood or hastily painted walls are not uncommon. Here again is a way Disneyland stands out: the variety of textures, patterns, objects and visual differentials which make up just ‘plain’ walls or dead space not being used for a featured themed showpiece. Once you start looking for these spots and seeing the craftmenship and thought put into a area the average guest will barely glance at, you truly start to appreciate them (or at least I do).

So, without further ado, here are some of the textures of Disneyland. Clarification of location and purpose will be provided where necessary to give context to images.

Our first photo is a example of using textured surfaces to lend visual interest to a common area necessary to any public venue. While waiting for friends or loved ones to emerge from the restroom facilities, guests either will end up leaning against or staring at this ‘divider wall’ structure of rocks which shields the entrances to the facilities. Instead of the bare minimum blank flat wall, as one might find elsewhere, a small waterfall and variegated rock work was created.

Over at the Haunted Mansion, wrought iron shaped in the form of vines and leaves cloaks the side of the house where guests wait to enter on busy days. The repeating pattern manages to symbolize the wild strands of kudzu and other vine-like plants which can grow on the more antique houses in the South while still retaining a clean and orderly appearance: not overgrown or neglected. In addition, the twisting shapes which from a distance resemble leafs and vines prove to have ‘hidden’ bird heads upon closer inspection: the first use of a motif of hidden faces and watching eyes which is used much more extensively inside the Mansion.

When Star Tours 2.0 opened to massive crowds, additional indoor rooms opened as well to hold the switch-backs of queue space. This mural circles guests with its’ abstract depiction of stars and interstellar clouds: a vague hint of the adventures to come but not too showy, leaving room for the more intensive and detailed spaceport that guests will enter shortly afterwards to take the story/experience to the next level.

In Frontierland’s former Pendleton store, a set of stairs leads to a narrow balcony, inaccessible to guests. This small vignette hints, as was often the case in the Old West, that the owners of the story might also inhabit it on the second level, with the use of the ‘homey’ quilted patterns, plant arrangement and subtle blocking off of the path upstairs to casual guests.

A more temporary array of texture, designed to entice the customer visually with use of the varied colors and textures at work: you can almost taste the sugar crystals, chunks of coconut and smooth frosting just gazing at the cookies on offer.

 

Most guests exiting Splash Mountain past this ‘barn painting’ are likely too distracted to give it much attention: checking for dampness levels of clothing or laughing with the rest of their party over the just-viewed photos of themselves careening down Chick-A-Pin-Hill. The rustic design style and placement hearken back to real-world roadside barn advertisements and the uneven board lengths/placement along with rougher pieces of wood and cracks add add visual interest instead of being a solid/uniform mass in the style of a traditional billboard.

Waiting for a bite to eat at the Jolly Holiday Bakery? This delightful wallpaper runner lines the ceiling divider, giving a fairly subtle but interesting bit of visual diversion when compared to the more sedate clean white walls, dark wood, and more ‘bland’ and uniform design used above as the main wallpaper element.

This is one of my personal favorite design elements in the park, precisely because it is so seldom-noticed or appreciated. Look above you when waiting for your food at the Tomorrowland Terrace, and you’ll find this ceiling-wide abstract panorama of galaxies, planets, and small points of light. It is especially lovely at night-time, for obvious reasons.

This one, admittedly, is deceptively simple. But the sheer ‘normalcy’ and real-world appearance of the shingled roof, the cozy windows with objects glimpsed inside, the window flower box all sell a reality that is crucial to taking the ‘leap of fantasy’ that occurs, in this case, when you step inside the attraction within and board a individual pirate ship for a flight through the night sky, over the twinkling lights of London far below and straight on till Neverland.

Lastly for this session, we merely need look across the courtyard from Peter Pan’s Flight to find these thick wooden doors. The sturdy, pointed metal work and large bolts hint at something sinister, possibly dangerous inside requiring such stout construction and heavy doors. An apt warning, and one that no doubt adds to the mood for the guest as they round the corner and see the small dungeon scene where the Wicked Witch and her cawing raven plot to poison Snow White. These two doors both do not serve a functional purpose, doubtless, in such small a space: but the combined use of the stonework, angled doors, metal plates and cramped space adds to the fortress-like appearance and insinuation of unease/potential danger by association, compared to the open and welcoming spaces or doorways found at Toad Hall and Peter Pan across the way.

That wraps up this installment of Photos in Wonderland: thank you for reading along with us! What are your favorite details at Disneyland? I will see you next time you pass this way again…it be too late to alter course, mateys…

About Rustin Peece

Photographer, horror enthusiast, professional cook, collector of old junk and morbid curiosities. Overly enthusiastic about area music, set-dressing and the obscure and historical as it pertains to the Disney theme park experience.

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7 Comments

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  1. Thank you so much for these pictures. Disney’s attention to details in everything they do is why I love the parks so much. I arrive a day earlier than the rest of my family just so I can go around and soak in all these details. Oh I’m getting so excited and I still have 2 whole months to go.

  2. No doubt that the details make all the difference in the world. Thank you so much for reminding me of these particular details and allowing me to step back once again and remember that it’s these touches even more than the big exciting things (like RSR, which I can’t even seem to get on when I go lately) that make Disneyland such a special place to visit!

  3. Ha! I have almost that exact same picture of the ceiling of the Tomorrowland Terrace. Who paints a ceiling like that? Disney does.

  4. Disneyland has wonderful textures and surfaces–except for the ground. In the old days, the pavement was smooth and featureless. It gave the impression of being in a dream. Then they began adding paving stones, which were a real-world intrusion, and had a lot of graphic weight that drew people’s attention to the ground and to the stones themselves. And where they didn’t have the paving stones, they put lined cement, which also drew attention to itself. I would love to see a return of the old pavement, and much smaller trees all around, except for the Jungle Cruise and Rivers of America. Disneyland should be a mix of sun, sky and plants–but the right mix.

    • I’ve got to admit that I really like the fancy new detailed surface treatments. Most of the time. The fake ‘old’ look of the cracked pavement bothers me on Buena Vista Street. I like my Disney to look perfect, not worn down.

      Great article Rustin! The magic of Disney is certainly in the details.

  5. I’m always astounded by the time and effort spent on these kinds of details at Disney parks.

    The individual artists, designers and craftspeople that create these details are incredibly talented, but you can also step back and consider how each of these details are elements that create a mood or set a time and place, and how they often (I think) register on a strictly subconscious level for many people. So many things in our world are done in a “mediocre” way—it’s always great to see that Disney will put real thought and artistry into creating their parks.

    I can’t get enough of this stuff—hopefully we’ll see more posts like this!

  6. The attention to all the little details is why Disneyland is such an interesting place to “look at”. Forget the rides and entertainment. Just look all around you. Disneyland is perfection.
    That’s why the Directors of “Tangled” spent time in Fantasyland when trying to come up with the look of Rapunzel’s village. It was inspiring and transported them into the fairy tale.