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  1. #1

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    Main Street USA, circa...?

    Apologies if this has come up before, but I've never seen it, so...

    I was looking at Main Street photos today, and it got me thinking. Most of us know that when this area was built, it was inspired by, and made to reflect, the town that Walt Disney grew up in. In essence, it reflected the childhood of his generation, and I believe Walt said as much, in advertising the place - fond memories for grandparents, and a chance for children to see the world an older generation grew up in.

    It occurred to me that now, half a century later, that generation has passed on, and Main Street USA no longer represents our parents or grandparents' childhood, but an old-timey, once-upon-a-time-in-America feel that's not really nostalgic so much as dreamily historical.

    My question, then, is this: how would you feel about, for instance, a Main Street USA that was set in the 1950s? I'm not asking, 'should it be replaced' per se, but if it were to exist, would it have a different 'feel' or effect for you? Do you think it should ever be updated, if Disneyland were to be open fifty years from now?

    I don't really have a firm opinion myself - I love Main Street the way it is and there is something really special and fun about Turn of the Century history - it was a good time. On the other hand, I'm not sure if it really was the intent of Main Street to become as detached from the modern world kids live in as the wild west of Frontierland.

    It struck me as an interesting thought, and one I'd never thought of before. Do you have any opinion?
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  2. #2

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Main Street, USA has established itself as the ideal of small town America. The 1950s would not work on the same emotional level, as universally as does the turn of the century. That time is still seen as a part of the American past and culture. Small town, downtown revival projects follow Main Street, USA and in turn guests today would still recognize the small town charm and romanticism.

  3. #3

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    IMO it would infect Main Street with the same problem Tomorrowland has--undefinable boundaries. The MS appearance would be forced to change generationally, which is asking quite a lot, IMO. Like many, I find the 50's a fascinating time period in American History. Rail still enjoyed an everyday presence in cityscapes, car culture was at its zenith, and we held a hopefulness for the future, and the wonders it would bring to us all. MS as it is already captures the charm and idealism of a by-gone age without changes--I wouldn't mess with it. But an interesting idea--one I had not considered before. Good post.

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Believe it or not, some kids are growing up with Main Streets very much like what you see at DL, with a quality of life that is eerily reminiscent of the "Main Street" ideal. So, perhaps it's not as dated as you think? My kids have a Main Street very much like what is at Disneyland today on White Street in Wake Forest, with a mom-and-pop hardware store, brick buildings, old-time lights, and until recently, an ice-cream soda fountain. Towns like Main Street are the norm around here, not the exception, and as I suspect, it's this way in much of the contry. Check out Main Street or Broadway in Chico, CA for another, closer example.

    Besides, as a representation of historical era, what makes it any different from 1840s Frontierland, 1860s New Orleans or 1500s Fantasyland?

    As for nostalgia, I didn't live throught the 1950s, and likewise didn't live through the 1900s. But I certaily have more nostalgia for the latter.

    Main Street represents a far more watershed period in American history than the 1950s. It was, as Walt said, the crossroads of an era, in a way the 50s never were.
    Last edited by Steve DeGaetano; 06-10-2008 at 09:23 AM.

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    I love Main St. now, if it was up to me I would never change the style because it is indeed ageless. Interesting thoughts on your part though
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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    I saw two people (in separate groups) smoking cigarettes on Main St. last night. That would qualify for a 50's look...

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Instead of changing Main Street to a 1950s look, Disney should expend the time, effort and money on restoring Main Street to the way it looked in 1955.

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Quote Originally Posted by vfire View Post
    I saw two people (in separate groups) smoking cigarettes on Main St. last night. That would qualify for a 50's look...
    Because people didn't smoke in the late 1890s/early 1900s?

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Quote Originally Posted by fo'c's'le swab View Post
    IMO it would infect Main Street with the same problem Tomorrowland has--undefinable boundaries. The MS appearance would be forced to change generationally, which is asking quite a lot, IMO. Like many, I find the 50's a fascinating time period in American History. Rail still enjoyed an everyday presence in cityscapes, car culture was at its zenith, and we held a hopefulness for the future, and the wonders it would bring to us all. MS as it is already captures the charm and idealism of a by-gone age without changes
    Very true, and a good point. MS will always be yesteryear's town, and I agree that its meaning remains much the same even if personal identification with the time period is gone. As an American, it's still your past.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve DeGaetano View Post
    Believe it or not, some kids are growing up with Main Streets very much like what you see at DL, with a quality of life that is eerily reminiscent of the "Main Street" ideal. So, perhaps it's not as dated as you think?

    Besides, as a representation of historical era, what makes it any different from 1840s Frontierland, 1860s New Orleans or 1500s Fantasyland?
    I live in a small town in the midwest myself. We really do have a Main street with a mom and pop hardware store, a tiny diner, a fabric shop and (until recently) a drugstore. I definitely know what you mean, there. And certainly, small-town America will always exist (I hope!)

    I do see a difference between Main Street and other lands because it seems to represent a real, personal past, not a past of legend, folklore, historical figures or tradition.
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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Quote Originally Posted by PleaseRemainSeated View Post
    I do see a difference between Main Street and other lands because it seems to represent a real, personal past, not a past of legend, folklore, historical figures or tradition.
    Main Street USA is only slightly based on Marceline--and by "slightly" I mean there is virtually nothing on Main Street USA that had a counterpart in Marceline.

    In reality, it's a representation of *all* Main Streets, not just Walt's. It represents just as much a flight of fancy as all the other lands--stylized, overly-romantic views of reality that never existed--but should have.

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Quote Originally Posted by PleaseRemainSeated View Post
    It occurred to me that now, half a century later, that generation has passed on, and Main Street USA no longer represents our parents or grandparents' childhood, but an old-timey, once-upon-a-time-in-America feel that's not really nostalgic so much as dreamily historical.
    You're absolutely right. That original nostalgic connection to Main Street is not present in today's audience. That has had several dismaying affects chiefly being that Main Street today is more of a cartoon version of Main Street rather than a realistic portrayal. Sure people still feel nostalgic for it, but mostly they're feeling nostalgic for a Main Street that has been at Disneyland for 50 years, not any real Main Street from 100 years ago.

    I seem to remember years ago, as plans were being drawn up for EuroDisneyland that some young brash Imagineer had suggested that instead of a 1900s Main Street, that EuroDisneyland be given a 1950s American Main Street, in hopes that it would draw on the nostalgia of some of their guests. That idea obviously got shot down, but even then the Imagineers were still toying with the idea of even pushing out the time frame of Main Street out into the 1920s and 1930s.

    So definitely this has been an idea that has popped up from time to time in the halls of WDI. There are a lot of good reasons to build something that will connect to your current audience, but then there are a lot of good reasons why it hasn't happened yet. Foremost of course is that when you set out to sell a new Disneyland to a new audience, they are expecting a certain kind of product. They are expecting a copy of Walt's Disneyland and as such it's far safer to build something that mirrors what was built in Anaheim in 1955.

    The other being that while Walt was probably the first person to build an enterprise around nostalgia, he certainly wasn't the last. Yes people are(or 'were' as time marches on) very nostalgic for the 1950s, but unlike 1955, there were many people who capitalized on that nostalgia. Movies, TV shows, 50s themed diners and drive in movies....

    Building a Main Street today based on the 1950s would almost seem cliche.

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve DeGaetano View Post
    In reality, it's a representation of *all* Main Streets, not just Walt's.
    I do agree, and would like to clarify - when I say 'personal' - I do mean in relation to the guests, not to Walt. It's a land that represents your roots and your ideals as Mr. and Mrs. American. It's your hometown, in a way the scope of the other lands doesn't allow.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrLiver View Post
    That original nostalgic connection to Main Street is not present in today's audience. That has had several dismaying affects chiefly being that Main Street today is more of a cartoon version of Main Street rather than a realistic portrayal. Sure people still feel nostalgic for it, but mostly they're feeling nostalgic for a Main Street that has been at Disneyland for 50 years, not any real Main Street from 100 years ago.
    Excellent points! I do see the differences in color schemes etc. between the original MS and today's and I really agree - it seems like the response to the passage of time has been to heighten the nonreality of Main Street, when, if anything, the realistic aspects deserve to be highlighted.
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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrLiver View Post
    That original nostalgic connection to Main Street is not present in today's audience....Sure people still feel nostalgic for it, but mostly they're feeling nostalgic for a Main Street that has been at Disneyland for 50 years, not any real Main Street from 100 years ago.
    Speak for yourself.

    The Imagineer who designed Disneyland Paris' Main Street and I discuss this from time to time. He has a GREAT nostalgia--as do I and many others--for the Victorian theme of Main Street. We're not just nostalgic for Disneyland's Main Street, and for you to suggest that is condescending in a way only you could do.

    The 1890s were 60 years removed from 1955. The era was in no way personally remembered or even "relevant " with the "audience" of that era--families with kids. The same audience as today.

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve DeGaetano View Post
    Believe it or not, some kids are growing up with Main Streets very much like what you see at DL, with a quality of life that is eerily reminiscent of the "Main Street" ideal. So, perhaps it's not as dated as you think? ...
    I agree 100% - I grew up in Michigan, but spent many summers with my family in a small town in Indiana called Fairmount. This was in the late 1970's through the mid 1980's. Now that I'm older - every time I go to DL and walk down MS I can't help but think of Downtown Fairmount. Now it is not exactly like MS, but the feel is there. Of course, I haven't been there in almost 20 years, so I'm not sure what it's like anymore, but in my mind ... it's MS USA or maybe it's just what I think of as typical for Small Town USA.

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    Re: Main Street USA, circa...?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve DeGaetano View Post
    The Imagineer who designed Disneyland Paris' Main Street and I discuss this from time to time. He has a GREAT nostalgia--as do I and many others--for the Victorian theme of Main Street.
    Neither of you were alive to experience a real turn of the century Main Street. Can you really feel nostalgic for something you never experienced?

    I think the original intent of Main Street was indeed to evoke the emotional connection to childhood that many older guests had. Walt obviously felt nostalgic for that time, and most likely felt that if he would be interested in reliving those memories, someone else would be too.

    Now you and Eddie can say you're nostalgic for that time period but how are you ever going to know the same feelings that people who actually lived through that period feel when they walk down Main Street? You don't have the same childhood memories and in fact today I doubt there are but a handful of people who still do.

    We all declare for nostalgia, but in using the same word we do not mean the same thing.

    The 1890s were 60 years removed from 1955. The era was in no way personally remembered or even "relevant " with the "audience" of that era--families with kids. The same audience as today.
    You're right it wasn't nostalgic for families with kids. It was nostalgic for grandpa and grandma, and that's exactly how I remember it being billed. Obviously SOMEONE was feeling nostalgic for it, otherwise it wouldn't have been built at all.

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