Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Disneyland - Plaza Gardens Requiescat in Pace

An icon of the Hub is soon to be gone.
I saw the skeletal remains of its old red and white, metal "circus tent" roof protruding over the construction wall on my trip to the Park last Sunday.
The colored metal pieces had been removed, leaving only the empty frame behind.
Perhaps the Disney folks are carefully dismantling it so that it may be reconstructed someplace else in the Disneyverse.
Probably not.
Walt danced there, under the circular roof and across its sparkling floor.
Louis Armstrong blew his trumpet from the tiny stage.
The Osmond Brothers made their debut.
Les Brown and his Band of Reknown used to perform before a floorful of happy swing dancers.
The original Mickey Mouse Club Mousketeers had many stints there as well.
The dance floor under the canopy was an area of the Park that had remained relatively unchanged over time.
The sparkling electric sign over the entrance was as much a feature of the Hub as the Castle drawbridge, the Frontierland entrance, the Adventureland sign or the popcorn wagon.
The little wooden bridge that led to Plaza Gardens was tucked beneath shady trees and crossed a winding brook.
Peace amidst the busy, crowded Park at almost any time.
Indeed, to this day it remained one of the few "parklike" areas in Disneyland, where guests could just sit and be refreshed.
Years ago I wrote a lament for this beloved corner of the Park once before, never, ever expecting to later be writing of its utter and complete demise.
I believe Walt wanted the Park to grow, to ADD new things, as long as imagination is left in the world.
Adding or "plussing" something was one of his many traits of genius.
I'm not so sure he would favor seeing "Fantasyland" intrude upon Main Street's Hub when presented with a storyboard or design drawing.
He probably would have coughed and raised that dark eyebrow the moment some overzealous Imagineer ridiculously suggested taking the Rocket Jets down from their old spot and planting them on the Hub, too.
Growing and adding new things is not the same as ripping out old things.
I suppose Sleeping Beauty Castle has had its day.
Maybe we can dismantle it and put up a "meet and greet" area for other "non-princess" Disney characters.
I mean where do you go these days to see Gaston, or Mr. Smee, or Horace Horsecollar, or any cast member from "Watcher in the Woods," "The Black Hole" or "The Black Cauldron" and other such "classics"?
That mountain over there with the bobsleds?
Don't repaint - REMOVE! REPLACE!
Enough with Pirates and Ghosts and Peter Pan!
We can yank 'em all out and put in attractions that have more "crossover" appeal, like "Wizards of Waverly Place Magical Hollow," "Phineas & Ferb's Platypus Manor" and "The Suite Life On Deck's Cruise of Terror."
Imagine an audio-animatronic Mr. Moseby, Zack and Cody in a dark attraction based upon rehashed "Love Boat" episodes and overgrown twins that have lost their appeal.
The heart thrills at the thought.
And Main Street.
What the heck is that place all about?
Does anyone really care about turn-of-the-century America anymore?
Let's lose the 1890s facades and trick out a West Coast version of Times Square!
Slap up some skyscrapers on either side of Main Street, with gleaming steel and glass.
Penny Arcade?
We've installed "Studio 54," a 1970s disco tribute bar and nightclub in its place!
Come on in kids, it's a blast!
There's a life-sized "K.C. and the Sunshine Band" animatronics stage show that repeats itself every 15 minutes!
Put on your Boogie Shoes 'cause that's the way aha, aha, we like it!
Over on the east side of the street, the lame old Market House has been transformed into the Guggenheim West!
Immerse yourself in a post-modern, cutting edge retrospective of International Abstractionism, along with some classic Kandinsky!
Oodles of family fun await!
And the horse-drawn streetcars of yesterday are now the Manhattan Taxis!
Take a memorable journey through the streets of New Main Street in the back of a smelly cab operated by a guy with a thick accent and a meter that never stops!!


I got a little carried away there.

Carnation Plaza Gardens, I will miss you.

Thanks, as Bob Hope said, for the memories.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Disneyland - The Price of Poker's Gone Up, Kids

Renewing my annual pass recently, I saw that the Park has significantly raised admission prices.

Why not?

The Euro has collapsed (it's just waiting for everyone to "officially" admit it).

The dollars that we here in the United States have electronically "minted" (through the looking-glass magic of the Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" program) are holding steady, supposedly, at somewhere around $2 trillion.

Among friends, after all, what is $2 trillion anyway?

Here in California, the cataclysm of today's "economy" is visible everywhere.

Count the shuttered car dealerships.

The carcasses of former banks.

The "for lease" signs at the mini-malls and corporate parks.

The empty "big box" stores.

The failed restaurants.

The boarded up department stores.

As an example, the Montclair Plaza shopping mall in Montclair, California, has had a huge amount of retail square footage at its eastern end sitting vacant since 2006.

The space used to be a Broadway store from 1968 until it became a Macy's in 1996.

It stayed a Macy's and finally closed its doors in 2006, never to reopen.

It's kinda weird to see a mall in the middle of populous Southern California with a giant, empty store at one end.

All those stores, banks, dealerships, mini-mall shops, restaurants and retailers were once filled with people.

And merchandise.

And jobs.

Banks would accept money from businesses and individuals for safekeeping.

Workers would deposit their paychecks and businesses would deposit their cash receipts.

Banks would take the money and invest in assets and lend some of money back into the community---to businesses and consumers.

Businesses would use the money to buy product, build things, create retail space, hire employees, etc.

Consumers would borrow money to buy cars and homes and appliances.

They would also earn money from working for the businesses and restaurants and such.

In turn, they would save a little of their money in the banks and, of course, spend a little at the restaurants, amusement parks and businesses in their community.

THOSE were the days.

What is YOUR home worth today?

Are you even still living in a house?

Still employed? Thank God.

You know several people who are not quite so fortunate.

Even here in Southern California.

California was once the 6th largest economy on the planet, I've heard.

If we in the "Golden State" have such visible signs of decline, I can only imagine how others in this grand country are faring these days.


Folks will still find a way to buy admission into Disneyland.

The Park is perhaps taking the place of the old movie theaters of the 1930s, where Americans escaped the woes of the Great Depression by spending precious money on a matinee or a double-feature.

An hour and a half of "fantasy" in the darkened cinema, with Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Fred Astaire, Giner Rogers, Shirley Temple, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Mickey Mouse or the Three Little Pigs, brought a respite from the literally depressing state of Americans' daily life.

While today's malls may be emptier, the Park has remained crowded to capacity.

Cars Land and the recent efforts to "fix" the Eisner-iffic masterpiece known as Disney's California Adventure have sparked further interest.

The Park has cleaned up its act tremendously in the past four years.

Check out the newly refurbished West Side of Main Street, from the Emporium to the Candy Palace.

Look at the gleaming new Matterhorn paint job and the mountain's suddenly glowing waterfalls.

Do waterfalls actually glow in the Swiss Alps?

Ah. I digress.

March along with the crowd of guests around you.

Start doing the math.

Think what each of them has spent to be there (either as an annual passholder or a ParkHopper purchaser).

Of course, each of them has to eat and drink and perhaps grab a plush toy or a sweatshirt.

Where are all these folks getting all this money?

Disney seems quite happy to provide them with a beautiful place to spend and enjoy it!

The Park masterfully anticipated the coming financial collapse by permitting passholders to pay for their passes on a monthly basis over the course of a year!

Now Disney has an income stream, even if folks can't make it to the Park.

It worked.

The crowds are thick as ever.

The guests seem pretty darn satisfied, too.

I am still one myself!

Hike the price?

Looks like we all will still gladly pay it.

Even in the midst of the Greater Great Depression of 2008-present!

Of course, I imagine the number of Greek, Italian and Euro-zone guests may have dropped off a bit of late (and more so in the coming weeks and months, no?).

How's Euro-Disney doing these days, I wonder?

For us in Southern California, the Park remains a place to set aside one's cares for a while.

Truly a place to "leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy," as Walt wished for his guests when the Park flung open its waiting arms in 1955.

I am still willing to pay to answer its embrace.

Sorry for being gone for so long, Jungleteers! I missed each of you deeply!