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  1. #1

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    Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    I find it interesting that when the debate of Disneyland vs. Disney World comes up, one of the common arguments in favor of Disneyland is its "charm" or "intimacy."

    I came across this article in doing a Google search for something else Disneyland-related, and it may come across as a bit too academic for some in terms of recreational reading, but the article from the blog Passport to Dreams Old & New, which is titled The Awkward Transitions of Disneyland!, is really thought-provoking and makes you look at the boundaries between lands, or between the hub and Main Street, in a whole new light.

    Here are a few excerpts that capture the main argument:

    The thing you hear all the time about Disneyland ultimately comes down to two words: magic and charm. Now, "magic" is a reappropriated marketing word, so it's really not helpful, but it points towards our second term, charm. Disneyland is intimate and human sized. Magic Kingdom is spectacular and epic sized. Everyone who's been to Disneyland knows it's got something special about it - but what it is, nobody seems to be able to say.

    [cut]

    Disneyland grew up as the men and women who made it were still making up the rules as they went, and so it grew in fits, starts, and stops. A fairly holistic theme park with lands that were siloed off from each other expanded, tacked new things onto areas where they were not meant to be, the areas bled together, additional demands for capacity forced development of unlikely spots, and urbanization of the surrounding area blotted out hopes of blowing the park out very far beyond its railroad tracks.

    Disneyland built things where it could, and so very often buildings are dropped down perfunctorily, only very rarely placed to achieve any specific pictorial effect. Depending on where you are, there can be three levels of themed design occurring around you on different registers. This makes Disneyland visually dense while retaining a somewhat prosaic thematic effect. This is what people mean when they say Disneyland is charming: it's a massive pile of ideas slammed down, one atop the other, with very little room to spare. This means that it's very common to find areas where one kind of texture or surface treatment just ends because it collides with another.


    [cut]

    This is what I mean when I say that Disneyland and Magic Kingdom are aesthetically dissimilar - your basic assumptions about the way the place was put together have to be different. Magic Kingdom generally handles its transitory spaces with slow, subliminal, incremental changes, some sort of real life version of a cinematic fade. The part WED Enterprises chose to exclude, of all the things they could have excluded, are the moments in Disneyland where one set of themed design choices meets another in a very small space.

    I'm fascinated by those moments, partially because it was exactly that which was excluded with almost surgical precision from every Disney theme park that came after - every subsequent version builds on the 1971 park, not the 1955 one. Therefore, it must by definition be one of the things that makes Disneyland so charming - that thing they removed, that special condition.


    The blog post has lots of photographs that illustrate her point. I can't do justice to the brilliance of her observations from the three quotes I pulled out above, so if your interest has been whetted, I suggest you read the entire article.

    Towards the end of her lengthy article, the author comes to this point:

    Disneyland is sort of like that. It was so cutting edge in its day that the subsequent evolution of this thing we now know to be a theme park means that its tricks, the moments where the illusions meet awkwardly, is very obvious to modern eyes. This is what creates the sense of cuteness, of charm. This is what I mean when I say that Disneyland is naieve: what it's up to is right out there in the open for all to see. It's a great place to start to learn about how theme parks work because what Disneyland does thematically tends to be very clear and easy to comprehend.

    But I don't think that just that aspect alone makes one thing inherently superior to another. The increased sophistication of something like Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom is, just like Disneyland, reflective of the era in which those parks were built. I enjoy the artistic aspects of those parks without finding them to be a threat to Disneyland's similar but also quite different excellence, just as I don't find Peter Jackson's CGI gorilla to be much of a threat to the legacy of the 1933 King Kong.

    On one hand, modern audiences tend to laugh at the effects in King Kong or Jason and the Argonauts, things that held me in rapt attention as a child as dazzling, seemingly magical expressions of technical skill. Yet Disneyland has largely not dated in the same way, and I think the secret is because even in 1955 the park was about nostalgia. You don't traipse 1955 adults down a fantastical recreation of what America was like in their childhoods for just no good reason. Disneyland never once asks us to believe that what it presents is reality, it has and will forever be intentionally retrograde.



  2. #2

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Very interesting. I've always been a bit bothered by this; the biggest offender in my opinion is how Splash Mountain seems to be a few inches away from Haunted Mansion...that whole area of the park seems like a sort of carnival with the traveling attractions plopped wherever they can fit along one slim road (of course, better themed).

    I think what makes Disneyland charming is the fact that there is history and the coziness of it can be justified. No doubt that if Disneyland were built as it is today, it would not be as highly regarded because there are several violations of theme that people just call nostalgia and the history of Disneyland.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Quote Originally Posted by TylerDurden View Post
    ...that whole area of the park seems like a sort of carnival with the traveling attractions plopped wherever they can fit along one slim road (of course, better themed).
    Really?

    New Orleans Square and Critter Country are 2 of the most atmospheric areas of the park. Both have excellent placemaking and a strong sense of place.

    A carnival it definitely is not.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Quote Originally Posted by disneylandfan95 View Post
    Really?

    New Orleans Square and Critter Country are 2 of the most atmospheric areas of the park. Both have excellent placemaking and a strong sense of place.

    A carnival it definitely is not.
    If you look from BTMRR and see a group of buildings, a haunted house, and then a log flume mountain all within a stone's throw of each other, it doesn't *look* like a carnival, but it's kinda like they gave that same "what the heck, drop it there" mentality. Sure they had no room but it still looks weird and not well-themed.

    See, OP, be careful when posting things like this. People get very defensive over Disneyland.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    I consider Disneyland more like walking through portals and WDW walking long, long distances between lands (long, long, long distances ). Disneyland does have some extended walkways that help the transition like between BTMRR and Fantasyland, but even those are more portal-like.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Quote Originally Posted by TylerDurden View Post
    ...it doesn't *look* like a carnival, but it's kinda like they gave that same "what the heck, drop it there" mentality. Sure they had no room but it still looks weird and not well-themed.
    What exactly gives you the idea that they had a "drop it there" mentality? If you follow the river clockwise, you start in the main city of New Orleans, then go along the outskirts of the city toward the plantations (Haunted Mansion), and continue around the bend into the backcountry (Critter Country). It's fantastically well themed and completely thought through by the design teams.

    To say New Orleans Square is "not well-themed" leads me to believe you've never been there. It's undoubtedly one of the greatest theme park environments ever built.

    See, OP, be careful when posting things like this. People get very defensive over Disneyland.
    I agree with the OP completely. A major part of Disneyland's charm is the fact that it's so compact and some transitions are absolutely awkward. I'm just defensive over the fact that you could call one of the best theme park environments ever created (New Orleans Square) similar to a carnival. I just don't understand it.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Quote Originally Posted by disneylandfan95 View Post
    What exactly gives you the idea that they had a "drop it there" mentality? If you follow the river clockwise, you start in the main city of New Orleans, then go along the outskirts of the city toward the plantations (Haunted Mansion), and continue around the bend into the backcountry (Critter Country). It's fantastically well themed and completely thought through by the design teams.

    To say New Orleans Square is "not well-themed" leads me to believe you've never been there. It's undoubtedly one of the greatest theme park environments ever built.



    I agree with the OP completely. A major part of Disneyland's charm is the fact that it's so compact and some transitions are absolutely awkward. I'm just defensive over the fact that you could call one of the best theme park environments ever created (New Orleans Square) similar to a carnival. I just don't understand it.
    Lol...listen. I'm not talking about in the actual land. I'm talking about when you walk from Haunted Mansion to Splash Mountain, it is a sudden, jarring transition that is not well-themed. It is not good theme to have a New Orleans-style mansion right next to a waterfall from the Deep South. If you look at this 'area' between Critter Country and New Orleans Square, it is jarring.

  8. #8

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Quote Originally Posted by TylerDurden View Post
    If you look from BTMRR and see a group of buildings, a haunted house, and then a log flume mountain all within a stone's throw of each other, it doesn't *look* like a carnival, but it's kinda like they gave that same "what the heck, drop it there" mentality. Sure they had no room but it still looks weird and not well-themed.

    See, OP, be careful when posting things like this. People get very defensive over Disneyland.

    I don't think people get too defensive it's just a difference of opinion. When I see the HM and Splash mountain I always look at it as New Orleans giving way to the deep south. I think they mesh together really well.To me nothing is better than strolling from Frontierland around the river and transitioning to NoS and then to the south AKA critter county. I feel that part of the park really shows how Disneyland transitions awesome.

    If you look at some of the others they are pretty weak. TL to FL not much there. FL to TT not much there either. The hub to all the lands for me is awesome too for me. Mainstreet to the hub is epic to me as well. In WdW it's so big you don't really feel the transitions because they are kind of far apart and I felt myself going am I there yet lol

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Quote Originally Posted by biggsworth View Post
    I don't think people get too defensive it's just a difference of opinion. When I see the HM and Splash mountain I always look at it as New Orleans giving way to the deep south. I think they mesh together really well.To me nothing is better than strolling from Frontierland around the river and transitioning to NoS and then to the south AKA critter county. I feel that part of the park really shows how Disneyland transitions awesome.

    If you look at some of the others they are pretty weak. TL to FL not much there. FL to TT not much there either. The hub to all the lands for me is awesome too for me. Mainstreet to the hub is epic to me as well. In WdW it's so big you don't really feel the transitions because they are kind of far apart and I felt myself going am I there yet lol
    Hmmm...I actually think that the other transitions are much smoother, and nothing beats Frontierland to Fantasyland in my opinion. I do agree that the hub to the lands are great because each sign is well-themed and gives a good look into the general area and really conveys the aesthetic of each. I really just don't like how close Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain are.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Quote Originally Posted by TylerDurden View Post
    Hmmm...I actually think that the other transitions are much smoother, and nothing beats Frontierland to Fantasyland in my opinion. I do agree that the hub to the lands are great because each sign is well-themed and gives a good look into the general area and really conveys the aesthetic of each. I really just don't like how close Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain are.
    I love big thunder trail especially on foggy nights it's creepy!!! The weakest though is TL to FL followed by AL to NOS at least to me.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    Quote Originally Posted by TylerDurden View Post
    Very interesting. I've always been a bit bothered by this; the biggest offender in my opinion is how Splash Mountain seems to be a few inches away from Haunted Mansion...that whole area of the park seems like a sort of carnival with the traveling attractions plopped wherever they can fit along one slim road (of course, better themed).

    I think what makes Disneyland charming is the fact that there is history and the coziness of it can be justified. No doubt that if Disneyland were built as it is today, it would not be as highly regarded because there are several violations of theme that people just call nostalgia and the history of Disneyland.
    Splash Mountain was put in post-Walt.

    There is quite of bit of transitions that work quite well in between the lands. One that comes to mind off hand is the transition between Main Street and the Tiki Room. The Main Street side is Victorian (Jolly Holiday bakery) but with more of a tropical plantation feel to it. So when you go to the opposite side which is the Tiki Room everything blends quite nicely even though they are right next to each other.

    Today's Imagineers lack the imagination necessary to pull something like this off. Therefore you get incongruencies such as HM and Splash. This is my biggest worry about the new PFF being built. It's not that it is on Main Street it's the whole transitional element that I am afraid will be absent to convince the guest that the area does not exist until they are physically in it. Walt's Imagineers would have been able to pull it off. I'm not so confident with today's Imagineers.

  12. #12

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    The place I notice the lack of transition is between splash mountian and the haunted mansion. My favorite transtition is Adventureland to New Orlean Square. Just love walking over that bridge into a new land

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    The old transition between the mansion & Bear Country was done really well. The mansion was surrounded by tall trees and it really felt from the guest's perspective like stumbling upon a creepy house in the middle of some deep spooky forest.

    However, once you were past the mansion walking towards Bear Country the theme gently transitioned into a friendly wilderness campground/lodge vibe. The small town inside Bear Country wasn't even visible until you were far far down the path.

    Credit to Yesterland for this:
    Name:  bearcountry_entering1974ww.jpg
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    I agree too that Splash Mountain is a jarring transition that's against everything that Bear Country once was. But if you asked me what could be done to make it better I would have nothing to suggest. Over the years I guess I've gotten so used to the mansion's crypt being the transition line that I've taken for granted how beautiful Bear Country's used to be.
    Many Bothans died to bring you these fastpasses.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    I think it's interesting how many people are pointing to the Frontierland/Fantasyland transition as being one of the best. To me it's one of the most awkward in the park. Sure, you've got the long Big Thunder Trail wrapping around the back of the mountain, but then it just abruptly ends in a pair of backstage doors and then boom, you're in Fantasyland.

    The most elegant transition, in my opinion is the corner that connects Adventureland, Frontierland, and New Orleans Square. The way the architecture blends together from one land to the next is really rather fantastic.

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    Re: Disneyland's charm partly due to awkward transitions between lands?

    The most akward, as far as I'm concerned, is the transition from Frontierland to Fantasyland. Otherwise, I don't really lose my sense of place.

    As far as the transition to New Orleans Square to Critter Country, it's fine to me. Visa/verse... maybe it's a tad awkward... but, if you'd been to the black waters, you'd see there are a lot of real-life transitions that are just as stunning. I'm fine with it.

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