Re-imagining Disneyland – Part 1 – Main Street USA

Original Disneyland

While some people “fan cast” potential movies with actors and directors they want to see, I’ve always fantasized about what I would do to make Disneyland even more amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Happiest Place on Earth more than you can possibly know, but if you take a step back with an in-depth look, you have to admit that not everything in the park is perfect. And like the man said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

Recently, the Connecting with Walt  podcast (obligatory plug) started a series where the hosts re-imagine the park, land by land, into their ideal Dream Disneyland. It’s a good listen and you should definitely go check it out. The topic also inspired me to finally sit down, write out all the ideas I wish could be implemented, and share them through a series of blog posts. 

Walt
WWWD? What would Walt do?

In the podcast, they set some ground rules to name only one attraction, entertainment, shop, and dining. Lucky for me, I don’t have any such restrictions, so in each blog I will be throwing all my ideas at the wall for your reading pleasure. That said, there are a few guidelines I’m going to abide by:

  1. I’m not going to remove any existing lands or add any new ones.
  2. The castle and the hub directly in front of it (with Walt and Mickey’s statue) will remain the same. As will Snow White’s Grotto (because it’s lovely).
  3. The Disneyland Railroad stations will not move, though I may talk about adding a few things to the grand tour from time to time.
  4. I will point out some shops and restaurants I plan to keep/change, but in no way am I going to name every little food or merch cart.

Okay, with all that out of the way, let’s take a little stroll through the front gate and visit Main Street USA.

main street

SOME THINGS ARE PERFECT AS THEY ARE

One of the things that Disney does better than any other theme park is how immersive it is when you walk into a land. When done properly, and with a bit of imagination, it can make you feel as if you have been taken to a different time or place. As the heading says, Main Street is pretty perfect in most regards. The decorations, the buildings, the store windows, the shop interiors, the cars and trolleys are all meant to make the guests feel like they have been transported away to Walt’s ideal small American town.

Sadly, not many people stop and take notice of all the tiny details that surround them, simply shuffling past in the morning to reach more exciting areas of park. In the evenings, arguably the most populated time for this land, most people are only looking the fireworks, or shopping in the plethora of stores.

BIG CHANGE #1:
Up The Immersion Factor

You are entering a small populated town, and let’s run with that. Not only with the cars, facades, smells, and sound effects, but with some character cast members on the street as well.  This is one of the things I think Buena Vista Street over at California Adventure does really well. The Red Car Trolley News Boys, Five and Dime, and the Citizens of Buena Vista Street all help create that 1920s/30s atmosphere.

Citizens of Buena.jpg
Colorful Characters Abound At DCA

So why not see some Citizens of Main Street or a few shows that more closely fit with the time period presented?  Yes, I know there are the Dapper Dans, and they are perfect for a turn-of-the-century aesthetic, but I want more of this. The Firehouse Five are fantastic, as are the Disneyland band, but let’s theme their shows to the time period a little more.

Also, why not some funny, colorful character skits and sketches like they do outside the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland?  The “Mayor of Main Street” could give a speech in front of city hall, or some of the street’s proprietor’s (all those names on the upper level windows of each buildings) could wander around and talk with guests.  These are all things that make people slow down, stop, and pay attention to just how much detail has gone into this under-appreciated land.

BIG CHANGE #2:
Upgrade the Main Street Cinema

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Enjoy Animation History

One of my favorite spots in all of Main Street is the cinema. Why? Because I love animation, and I especially love the old black and white Disney cartoons. To me, this is the perfect spot for a rest during a busy day at the park.  But here is a question: Why not make it into a proper cinema with real theater style seating, and one big screen that can play all the cartoons on a loop? This way all the cartoons can play with sound instead of most of them being silent. I would love to see this venue as a place where people can come and go as they please, sit in a nice air conditioned space, charge their phones, and enjoy a series of fun shorts.  They could even expand the viewing selection to include other cartoons (Oswald, Donald, Silly Symphonies, etc.)

Another thing they could add are old-timey newsreels between each cartoon (like the one in the Indiana Jones queue) that can tell real bits of news from the time period Walt was making these shorts, and/or advertise any events happening in the parks that day.  On top of that, it can also double as another venue for guest speakers to come a chat with guests.

BIG CHANGE #3:
Add Another Attraction

This might actually be better filed under “Crazy Changes That Will Never Happen,” but this is my imagining of Disneyland, so I’m putting it in anyway.  Right now, the only real attractions on Main Street are Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (which is awesome and should never go away), the Railroad station, the Main Street Vehicles (which stop before the parades start), and the Cinema (sort of). The rest is shopping, character meet and greets, and a few dining spots/carts.

I want to add another show building with an audio-animatronic show to help alleviate crowds. In fact, given the very patriotic nature of the Main Street USA, I’m going to bring back and upgrade a show from Disneyland’s past.

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Wait, wait, wait, come back…

Listen, I know America Sings doesn’t get a lot of love, but hear me out.  First off, this attraction never belonged in Tomorrowland. If anything, America Sings is about history, patriotism, and the ideals of what America should be. What better place than Main Street USA for a show that celebrates all the things that make America great through music?  Now, while I loved the show as a child, I understand it would need to be severely upgraded with state-of-the-art audio-animatronics and a new script to make it fit with 2018 sensibilities, and remove any old… ummm… problematic parts.

And I’m not saying to build a whole Carousel of Progress style rotating theater (though I would love that), but America Sings can be a Country Bears style show with a similar theater if space is an issue. Plus, more attractions mean less crowding in other portions of the park, right? So why not add this one here with a theme that fits so perfectly?

Coming And Going Lightning Round

Things to Keep:

  • Carnation Cafe: Great food, and has to stay due to its importance to the history of the park.
  • The Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs: Best corn dogs you will ever have. Ever.
  • Emporium Window Displays
  • The Magic Shop

Things to Lose

While I wouldn’t lose any specific stores, I would give each shop more of an individual personality/specialty.  Main Street already does this, but why not add more to increase the immersion factor?

Final Thoughts

One last thing to change. As mentioned above, Main Street USA is such an important part of Disneyland. That is because of Walt Disney, and as such, I think there should be more of Walt here. Yes, there are the guided tours and we all know about the lamp above the firehouse, but I believe there should be an area where people can learn more about Walt the man, his dream, and his life. Maybe a small museum, or a show that plays from time to time in the new cinema.

Honestly, Walt probably would have hated that idea 60 years ago, but today I think it is important we remember that all the happiness and joy we experience each time we go to Disneyland is because of one man and his dream.

So there you have it, the first land down in my Disneyland Re-imagining. What are your thoughts?  Anything you would add or remove from Main Street USA? Start a discussion below and we can throw ideas around!

  • DAC

2 thoughts on “Re-imagining Disneyland – Part 1 – Main Street USA

  1. Jack-Pumpkinhead

    I like a lot of what you’re saying. While I only visited Disneyland CA once, I have been to WDW FL 5 times in my life as of last month (the big one being part of the Disney College Program). If I might offer some insights;
    I see what you mean about citizens of Main Street. When I worked down there, the Fire Chief would come out & talk to guests & show off his pin collection once in a while, which was quite fun. And the characters at Disney’s Hollywood Studios achieve what you’re talking about, helping sell the time period for the park.
    I like your idea about the cinema being an area to charge phones, relax, & watch some old cartoons. At Magic Kingdom, the cinema is just the fine art store, & Town Square Theater is mainly a meet n greet with Magician Mickey & Tinkerbell, with a small area to sit & relax. So yes, that’s a nice idea. But I didn’t like the idea of putting a Broadway-style theater in Main St because you don’t go to WDW for a Broadway show (so glad they canned that idea)
    I never got to see America Sings, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack, sounds like a fun show. The only concern would be the fact that most of the animatronics were moved into Splash Mountain, but updating the show would probably eliminate the problem of an observant 5 yr old saying they look the same in 2 different shows.
    The Walt Museum thing actually exists at Disney Hollywood Studios, called One Man’s Dream. I cold see a smaller version of the show being rather popular out there. I like it, but it feels a little out of place in that park now.
    Also, consider borrowing a couple places from FL; Tony’s Town Square Restaurant (my aunt & uncle love their Italian food), Casey’s Corner (nice hot dogs), & the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Card Game (interactive card game where kids hold up cards at designated walls & windows to defend the park from the villains, gets them into some buildings they don’t normally go to).
    I look forward to reading the rest of your series.

  2. Pingback: Re-imagining Disneyland – Part 2 – Adventureland – Words by the Pound

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