I found these two Wikipedia articles very useful -
Diorama - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Disneyland Railroad - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
According to the first article, a diorama is a partially three-dimensional, full-size replica or scale model of a landscape typically showing historical events, nature scenes or cityscapes, for purposes of education or entertainment.
So the idea of a diorama is that it represents an actual place. As to whether that means it's designed to "transport" you to that place upon viewing it, or simply give one a general idea of what that place really looks like when there, isn't entirely clear, but I would think it could be interpreted either way.
The second article holds some very interesting info -
The 1958 addition of the Grand Canyon
diorama painted by artist Delmer J. Yoakum
necessitated a change in the rolling stock as well; instead of facing forward, the new flatcars' benches now faced right so that the passengers could better enjoy the scenes. The diorama, which includes taxidermic animals (the only ones in the park) in lifelike poses, is the longest in the world. Painted on a single piece of seamless canvas and representing the view from the canyon's south rim, the rear of the diorama measures 306 feet (93 m) long, 34 feet (10 m) high and is covered with 300 gallons (1,100 L) of paint in 14 colors.
Animals that are included in the diorama include mule deer
, mountain lion
, desert bighorn sheep
, golden eagle
, wild turkeys
, striped skunk
. A 96-year-old Hopi
chief, Chief Nevangnewa, blessed the trains on the diorama's opening day. The cost was US$367,000, and it took 80,000 labor hours to construct. The main theme of Ferde Grofé
's "On The Trail," the third movement from his Grand Canyon Suite
, is piped in through the train's sound system as it enters the diorama.
In 1966, the diorama was expanded with a prehistoric theme to become the "Grand Canyon/Primeval World" diorama, with Audio-Animatronic
dinosaurs from Walt Disney's 1964 New York World's Fair
attraction Ford Magic Skyway
So, within the context of Disneyland, is the GC/PW diorama designed to transport us, however briefly, to the Grand Canyon (in an unstated time period, but presumably within the last 500 years) and then millions of years back in time to the Primeval World, or is it designed for us to sit back and admire the handiwork of the diorama makers?
IMHO, while the historical uniqueness of the Grand Canyon Diorama is certainly worthy of respect and the Diorama deserves to be kept intact for public viewing (perhaps donated to the Walt Disney Family Museum?), Disney could, very validly, make the decision to either revamp that portion of the DLRR so that it shows a more immersive 3D (without glasses) Grand Canyon & Primeval World landscape, perhaps using some sort of blend of Audio Animatronics, diorama set design, and large screen video technology (surrounding the entire train, not just one side of it), or perhaps present entirely new imagery altogether. They could even, theoretically, do this in other parts of the DLRR, to indicate the "traveling through time and space" aspect the DLRR has always subtly implied in its path around the berm. This way, transitioning from Main Street to Adventureland, and so on around the Park, could be presented visually, with the current GC/PW location being the final transition, from Tomorrowland back to Main Street. How that would be presented could always be changing, giving Imagineers an ongoing project to work on, and giving Park Guests plenty of reason to hop on the DLRR every time they visit.
Just some food for thought. Not meaning to alarm or infuriate anyone. But in this case, I have to honestly ask - what would Walt do? Knowing what I know of the man, I'd like to think that, given that the DLRR was his baby, he'd want to make the DLRR experience even better than it is now, if that was possible.