Much has been written, and rightfully so, about the new and beautiful book, The Art of Walt Disney World. As I have drooled over all the beautiful renderings from the geniuses at Walt Disney Imagineering, visions of stunning but unrealized World Showcase pavilions at Epcot have danced through my head.
In California, Disney Imagineers of olden times were no less adept at creating some of the most gorgeous lands ever conceived. As seen in The Art of Disneyland, it is easy to understand that New Orleans Square remains at the top of the list of anything designed for the Disneyland Resort. (We can only hope that the poorly named Carsland at California Adventure turns out so well!)
It is not just the original attractions found here- the masterworks of Marc Davis, Rolly Crump, Claude Coates and company- Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion- that make New Orleans Square what it is. It is the combination of ground breaking and beloved attractions surrounded by excellent storytelling. There is painstaking attention to detail and beautiful shops and restaurants. Lush landscaping and elegant lighting. The Imagineers had a clear love for the city of New Orleans, its people, its landscapes, and its lore.
Sam McKim's original 1957 concept (above) for the land entices. Yes, there is still a wax museum on the painting, a different street layout, and the alternate exterior of the Haunted Mansion, but the essence of the land is what was finally built. The painting and the end result: sheer artistry. This Disneyland original is both a beacon to park guests and the long enduring standard of comparison for anything built on the East Coast. Or Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, or soon, Shanghai.
(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)