Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Great Gray Beauty - Disneyland's Parking Lot; What Ever Happened To Slow Days?

A shot taken in the Pinocchio area of the Disneyland parking lot circa 1980-ish (long before Whoopi Goldberg invaded). This view is from the Thumper/Tinkerbell sections, looking north toward the west side of the Park (those are Jungle Cruise trees ahead of you there past the Monorail tracks. The parking lot's wide open expanse of asphalt stood in sharp contrast to the bright colors of Disneyland. Walt and the gang knew their stuff. The gray of reality was left behind as you entered the turnstiles and strode through the tunnel onto Main Street.

In 1984, I worked many shifts as a sweeper out at "Main Gate." This was the area comprised of the ticket booths and the main entrance (where the Mickey flower display is located). For one thing, "Main Gate" was a hot assignment in the summer. All that concrete and not a lot of trees added up to some serious ambient temperatures. By mid-day, "Main Gate" was pretty slow. Most guests were well into their visit and there were not many who would leave or enter the park at that time. I would chat with my fellow cast members at the turnstiles, ticket booths or strollers as I made my rounds. I got to know a few of the security guards out there, too. Those poor guys drove up and down that massive parking lot in un-air conditioned carts looking for law breakers. Talk about hot!

I like seeing the old tram in this photograph. The light blue seats and yellow trim stood out nicely against the asphalt. You also did not have to walk as far to get to a tram stop as you do with the new Mickey And Friends monolithic parking structure.

Better still, as a cast member, when you pulled into work from Harbor Boulevard and entered the employee parking area (on the northeastern side of the old parking lot), you could gaze across the guest parking area and get a visual indication as to how crowded or busy the Park was going to be that day. It's harder to do this today, because you can't easily see if all levels of Mickey & Friends are full.

Back when everyone parked in one big lot, you knew right away if you were facing a 25,000 day or a 60,000+ day.

Which brings me to my next point: slow days. One of the things I miss most in "modern" Disneyland is a true "slow" day. To stumble upon one is indeed a rarity. I mean a day when there is a small number of guests in the Park. A day when you can see lots of pavement. It's really difficult for a cast member who has worked opening or closing shifts (and consequently was able to amble through a completely open and empty Disneyland) to battle the maddening and seemingly omnipresent crowd. This is especially true at that "pinchpoint" located just in front of the River Belle Terrace, the Bengal Barbeque, the entrance to Indiana Jones, the entrance to Tarzan's Treehouse (gack!) and the eastern end of the bridge walkway that crosses over the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean. Next time you're in the Park, see if you can navigate through this dense spot of humanity without taking an elbow (or throwing one for that matter). It is usually filled with guests moving in all different directions and often has a number of simple-minded folk who have decided that the middle of this major walkway is a great spot to stop and have a group meeting to decide what attraction to visit next. Aarrrgggh! Does common sense EVER kick in with some people?? Doesn't it ever occur to them: "Hey?! I am creating an embolism, a thrombosis, in a main pedestrian artery! Maybe I should stop and have a chat someplace OTHER THAN HERE!"

In the end, it really isn't the guests' fault that this area is so susceptible to congestion. The guests didn't decide to locate the entrance to Tarzan's Treehouse at this ridiculous spot. The guests didn't build the bridge in front of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Nor did they have a say in the placement of queues and tables and all sorts of other contributing factors that make this spot possibly the worst pedestrian location in Disneyland. In fact, I state quite clearly---this IS the worst pedestrian location in Disneyland (followed closely by the Adventureland entrance near the restrooms and the south entrance to Frontierland).

Give me a slow day once in a while, where I can see my surroundings! I love my fellow guests and all, but the Park becomes a bit less of a...well...a park when it is so crowded you can't move.

Done with my mini-rant.