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Tuesday
Oct012013

Club 33 Expansion

Disneyland's private "hidden" Club 33 restaurant will soon undergo major changes. To help understand the Club 33 layout and its expansion, we've created some visuals.

The design of Disneyland's New Orleans Square is elaborate, yet small. It's layout is simple, yet it's architecture is complex. The detailed land appears to be made up of dozens of buildings, yet the basic structure of the main square consists of only three main buildings, connected by enclosed bridges. A fourth building sits beyond the Railroad tracks and houses the bulk of Pirates of the Caribbean. Outside the main square sits The Haunted Mansion which is connected to it's show building, also beyond the tracks.

The diagram above shows the current Club 33 layout.

Below we see the space soon to be occupied by the jazz club expansion. Please note: That details of this space (walls, furniture, backstage areas, etc.) have not been publicly released, therefore we present only the most basic structure of the building.

Simple Expansion Summary

  • New Club 33 logo
  • The Club 33 entrance door will no longer be used.
  • Court of Angels will be sealed off on side and the other will be used as the new Club 33 entrance.
  • The glass elevator will be moved but won’t be used day-to-day.
  • A new, more-compliant elevator will be installed and accessed from within Court of Angels.
  • The Trophy Room will be closed.
  • Kitchen facilities will expand into what was the Trophy Room.
  • The main Club 33 hallway will be expanded. 
  • Restrooms will be relocated (unconfirmed).
  • The fireplace will be removed and windows will be added in its place.
  • The decor of the current Club 33 space will be redesigned with a brighter color palette.
  • New decor will be more “New Orleans” and less “Country Club”.
  • A jazz club will be added to space above the French Market and adjoining shops.
  • The jazz club will be called Salon du Nouveau.
  • Salon du Nouveau will exhibit concept art from Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog”.
  • The decor of Salon du Nouveau will feature dark woods, reds, and greens.
  • A skylight will be included in Salon du Nouveau.
  • A “magic” piano will be added to Salon du Nouveau. This allows a pianist at a remote site to “play” this piano.


Humor me as I share a few thoughts about some of the things we already know.

Club 33 Expansion

Expanding Club 33 is a fine idea, in my opinion. It’s not one of those expansions where they take a small, intimate room and triple its size, making the space noisy and unfriendly. The expansion will take place in a neighboring building, connected only by a hallway and a narrow bridge. One of the most charming things about the current Club 33 is its various rooms of different shapes and sizes. Adding a couple more of these rooms will be nice.

Court of Angels

Closing the Court of Angels to general park guests is a real shame. It was one of the best and most peaceful little environments in any park in the world. It had a way of making you feel that you were the first person to discover its charm. It would be nice if no private expansion took away from any public area. 

Unused Space

We often complain about unused or under-utilized space in the parks (The old Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland land, Motor Boat Cruise Lagoon, Magic Kingdom’s Adventurland Veranda and Diamond Horseshoe, Epcot’s Wonders of Life, and Walt Disney World’s abandoned River County, to name a few). The upper levels of New Orleans Square are prime real estate for fine dining. Those views need not go wasted any longer.

Exclusivity

Here’s a touchy one. I’m not a member of Club 33 and will most-likely never be one. I’d like to be one but there’s that little $25,000 fee that gets in the way. But should a private club like this be cheap? And look at the demand for membership, even at that price. May I make a prediction? If Disneyland ever opens Club 33 to the general public (which I’m sure they won’t), the same fans who cry out against exclusivity will be upset that the Club would be losing its sophistication and hidden nature.

Price

Right now, from what I understand, Club 33 memberships start at $25,000 and are maintained at a price of $11,000 every year after the the initial year.

Consider this... There are different levels of dining throughout Disney properties. This makes sense. Walt Disney World’s Victoria and Albert's Restaurant at The Grand Floridian Resort offers a drastically different meal and dining experience than the Corn Dog Wagon on Main Street. A drastic price difference can be expected. Club 33 is a step up from Cafe Orleans which is a step up from French Market which is a step up from the churro cart. 

Money Money Money

The Club 33 expansion is about money. It just is. People are lined up for years waiting to pay thousands of dollars for the opportunity to pay hundreds of dollars for quality meal in a nice place. Should money be the driving force behind creative offerings like theme parks? I don’t believe so. Should excellent environments and guest experiences come first? I’m one who believes more money will come if you do things in this order. 

What Walt Wanted

Walt wanted a place to wine-and-dine his special guests. He loved showing his park to his friends and associates. But remember... Walt couldn’t easily walk though Disneyland or dine or enjoy attractions without interruption. Park-goers generally knew who he was and often approached him for autographs and such. He enjoyed being among the people but also needed private space. 

It’s unclear, from what I can tell, exactly what Walt would have done with his club. I believe he wanted people to use it when he wasn’t using it. I believe he planned on reserving the Trophy Room for his private affairs while park guest used the other portions of the restaurant. 

Would he have advertised it? Did he want private memberships? I can’t be certain. If the unmarked entrance is any indication, I'd say it was supposed to remain somewhat secretive. I say "unmarked" because, technically, the "33" sign is an address marker, not a restaurant marker.

The Jazz Club: Part 3 of Walt’s 3-Part Plan to Wine-and-Dine

I’ve recently learned a little about Walt’s intentions for the Jazz Club Space above French Market. Supposedly, Walt planned on using what will soon become Club 33’s Jazz Club as an actual Jazz Club. His wine-and-dine plan for special guests would have included:

  1. Visit time in his private apartment above the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance.
  2. Dinning in Club 33.
  3. Live Music and cocktails in the Jazz Club.

Are Walt’s Intentions Relevant?

This 47-year-old dilemma is a tough one. 

One one hand, you might say Walt has been gone for a long time and that things have changed. You might say that since Club 33’s current purpose is so different from its original purpose, Walt’s wishes don’t apply. 

On the other hand, you could say that Walt clearly knew what he was doing and had pure motivations. 

Perhaps the best answers come about when both sides are considered.

Conclusion

It is my conclusion that the announced (and still very mysterious) Club 33 expansion is too complex to entirely dislike or entirely love.

I really like the idea of opening the upper level of the already-connected and under-utilized building next door. I love that the new space will offer a different decor. I love the introduction to more land-appropriate music 

I dislike the idea of repurposing Court of Angels. It is, however, comforting to know the Court will still exist in one form or another (hopefully it won’t be changed too dramatically). I’m saddened to see the Trophy Room go extinct. It’s a little sad to see the beautiful interiors of Club 33 take on new forms. I’m sure the new designs will be tip-top and I look forward to returning to the location.

 

Related posts:

New Fantasyland 1983
Imaaaaaagination
THEN AND NOW: Disneyland [Part 1]
THEN AND NOW: Walt at Disneyland
Walt Disney and the Santa Maria Railroad
A Story About Disneyland Fireflies

 

Friday
May312013

"As Long as There Is Imagination Left in the World": Putting the Phrase to Better Use

Recently, my buddy and I were talking about how Walt Disney (the person) is too often misquoted. There's one quote in particular that stood out in our conversation. I asked this friend to write an article about this topic.

Article by Guest Author, Stan

[Author’s Note: My intention here is not to have a “whine session”; but rather have a “wish session” where positive solutions to these current problems could be considered and “imagined” by readers. Thanks.]


Walt Disney said:

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. It is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to.”

This oft-quoted statement is a good one. In context, it describes Walt Disney’s development philosophy and plan for his beloved theme park. Unfortunately, this statement is also ill-quoted all too often by many in the Disney ranks who seem to say it anytime the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts business is discussed publicly or anytime changes to the parks are announced. Whether the changes truly are imaginative additions or solutions doesn't seem to matter. The quote has been tied to announcements and discussions for not only new and revamped attractions, but also for meet and greets, time shares and radio frequency wristbands. What was once a philosophy about park additions and innovations now often seems like an excuse for mediocrity and neglect.

If there is any imagination left in the world, and I think there is, maybe it could be put to better use by solving some of these problems currently plaguing the U.S.-based Disney theme parks:

1. The Giant Sorcerer Mickey Hat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
I can imagine a once-gorgeous and perfectly scaled theme park entrance that could be made beautiful again with the removal of this promotional structure which has, unfortunately, overstayed its welcome by 12+ years. The Hollywood Boulevard entrance used to be a brilliant first act to the park. Scaled using the same forced perspective as Main Street, U.S.A., but with buildings and facades reflecting architectural styles found in Southern California during the golden age of Hollywood, and using the design of a classic movie palace as the park’s “castle” so to speak, it was like Disneyland dedicated to the love of movies. It sure made this movie and Disney fan very happy and inspired, at least in the year 2001 B.H. (Before Hat) and earlier. Even though all of the buildings and facades are still there, I believe that the giant hat severely detracts, if not completely erases, all of the beutiful proportions, charm, and artistry of this formerly great entrance. I can imagine that someday this wonderful entrance could return. What do you imagine?

2. Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.
I can imagine a land that embraces a cartoon alien/monster-free future and adds instead fun and truly futuristic attractions in their places. I’ve never had much of a problem with the Magic Kingdom’s 1994 Tomorrowland re-do in which “the future that never was” actually arrived in the form of metallic retro sci-fi futurism. It’s the attractions that reside inside the retro-futuristic facades that I think miss the mark. Stitch’s Great Escape (I can’t even bear to include the exclamation point) misses the quality and excellence that are the hallmarks of a well-designed Disney attraction all the way around. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is a enjoyable and well-run attraction in a wrong part of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. I can imagine that these two attractions could be replaced by experiences that are more in alignment with what the Tomorrowland dedication plaque in Disneyland states: “A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements...a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals: the Atomic Age...the challenges of outer space...and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.” What do you imagine?

3. Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.
I can imagine a Tomorrowland that works. Whether it’s the removal of the former People Mover/Rocket Rods track (since it’s probably never coming back in any form), the returning of the Astro Orbiter/Rocket Jets to its rightful place where it was from 1967-1997, or the addition of an enjoyable and innovative ride-through attraction where the Carousel of Progress/America Sings/Innoventions building now resides, I can imagine (and truly hope), that needed aesthetic and functional changes could be coming soon to Tomorrowland. What do you imagine?

4. The Disco Yeti in Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
I can imagine this attraction closing down for a few months in order to get a better solution in place for this eternally broken audio-animatronic. I’m quite baffled why one of the best effects in a flagship ride in a park that really needs a flagship ride never gets fixed. I can understand that operationally it might not be feasible to close down the attraction for the length of time needed to make the repairs and modifications. However, wouldn’t it make sense in the long run to get things working? It all seems very short sighted to me. I might not be able to see the entire picture, but I can imagine that a solution is plausible and possible. What do you imagine?

5. All of Future World at Epcot.
I can imagine a return to beautiful, relevant, inspirational and well-maintained Future World pavilions. Of all of the current problems happening at Disney theme parks, the current state of Future World is the most heartbreaking to me. I don’t pine for a return to the 1980s (although they were awesome); what I wish for is a return to the “future” in Future World. Let me reference again a dedication plaque, this time it is Epcot’s plaque from opening day in October 1982: “EPCOT Center is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.” What current Future World pavilion lives up what is stated in the dedication plaque? I can imagine that Disney (The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Imagineering, Team Disney Orlando, or whoever will make this decision) would want to allocate the money and resources necessary to restore and renew this portion of the park to its intended aspirational vision and guest experience. What do you imagine?

 

Related posts:

That's What Walt Said
Walt Disney and the Santa Maria Railroad
My 10-Point Plan for Better Character Attraction Placement
Disney Management Apathy / Hockey Analogy
Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center
Vintage Disneyland Home Movies- Meeting Walt Disney Himself
THEN AND NOW: Walt at Disneyland


Thursday
Nov012012

That's What Walt Said

I put together a few of these images recently to post to Twitter and decided to do a whole collection.

I think some of my relatives and neighbors think my wife and I talk like this at home. We did meet each other at Walt Disney World but we also have brains. And so did Walt Disney. Walt didn’t go around speaking in fluffy buzz words. He was a respectable, realistic, intelligent, and rather blunt man. To “future Imagineers” I often suggest keeping the fluffy stuff to a minimum. Keep your resumes and behaviors professional, perhaps a little fun, but always mature enough that the company wouldn’t be embarrassed to hire you.

If you seek a career at Walt Disney Imagineering, read the words of legendary Bob Gurr. And good luck!

 

Related posts:

THEN AND NOW: Walt at Disneyland
Vintage Disneyland Home Movies- Meeting Walt Disney Himself
Walt Disney and the Santa Maria Railroad
Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center
Carolwood Pacific and Other Backyard Railroads
Walt Disney and Steve Jobs