October 21, 2015

Top Ten Things I Miss From Disneyland

There's so much excitement about Shanghai Disneyland and all its stunning concept art! Deservedly so! It's been years since Disney suits have allowed it skilled Imagineers such free reign to design anything that incredible for Walt Disney World. And unfortunately, it's even true in regards for Walt's original park.

California Adventure's Cars Land is stunning, and the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland are certainly beautiful to look at. Cars Land delivers what it promises, but the recent Florida addition, is woefully lacking in the substance department. The Magic Kingdom parks have always been the focal point of each resort. Each park holds its charms. Absolutely none compare, however, when it comes to the devotion of fans, care by employees, and attention to detail by Imagineering that's lavished on the grandaddy of them all- Disneyland.

Thinking about Disneyland, especially in its 60th year when I cannot visit, I have been thinking about what I miss and what makes it so special. So, in contemporary manner, as I did with Disneyland Paris a few years ago, here are the Top Ten Things I Miss From Disneyland. I'll start with Number Ten and work my way to Number One.

Number Ten- A real live working submarine attraction. No, it's not the defunct 20k Leagues Under the Sea with its beautiful crafts and emerald lagoon, but the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage does provide a stunning backdrop against the Matterhorn Bobsleds as well as being the only submarine ride in any Disney park that actually goes under water.

Number Nine-  Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. A clear "C Ticket", not a blockbuster must see, but one of the minor attractions that give Fantasyland a unique flavor and tons of charm. Toad Hall is built with care reserved for attractions with much more clout. Only proving that sometimes great things come in smaller packages. Ex-Imagineer Tony Baxter was one of few contemporary artists for the company that really understood this. So sad that he's gone.

Number Eight-  The warmth and tiny size of Main Street U.S.A. Honestly, there's something so heartwarming about a walk down this street. It's something I've done so many times and with so many different people through the years, it's become a tradition that means the day ahead is going to be full of memories. Be it the clip-clop of the Horse-drawn trolleys or the toot-toot of the Omnibus horns, there's a special sense of coming home as you travel down the boulevard past the Emporium and the Main Street Cinema- which still shows films, by the way.

I love Big Thunder, but I miss Nature's Wonderland too!

Number Seven- A Frontierland that still evokes an authenticity to representing the Old West. The land is much smaller and less fleshed out than the perfect execution found in Paris, and there are not as many incredible attractions as when it first opened. The stagecoach is gone, the pack mules have been sent packing, and Nature's Wonderland is now but a memory. In deference to  Americans now too jaded against our own history to really appreciate what the men and women of the century did at the time, the land continues to shrink. But it's still there and still waiting to be expanded one day. Yes, even after Star Wars Land is built, there's still much that can be done to bring the Old West back to life.

Number Six- That mini- Alice in Wonderland area comprised of the ride through attraction, the Mad Tea Party and the Mad Hatter Shop. There are certainly more beautiful Fantasylands, but probably none of them have this much charm (and beautiful mature vegetation) packed into such a small area. This is something Walt's original park does so well: cramming different elements together in perfect harmony in such a clever way that the guest is awash with intriguing photo worthy opportunities wherever they look.

Number Five- The Jungle Cruise. It's so retro. It's so campy. It's so quintessentially Disneyland. No need to say more.

Number Four- Walking onto the castle drawbridge late at night from the courtyard of Fantasyland. What is it about "When You Wish Upon a Star" that seems to be the perfect song for just the perfect Disney park moment? Particularly as its close to the end of the park's operating hours, and you feel like you are almost left to yourself. The sentimental value of this is powerful in its innocence and simplicity.

45 Years of the Haunted Mansion.

Number Three-  Cruising The Disney Gallery. I know other parks have something similar, but here, there's something real honest about the intent and purpose. The Gallery celebrates the richness of the park and doesn't just exploit it for financial gain. I don't feel that sense of honest integrity in other locations which sell merchandise connected to the parks.

Number Two-  Mint Juleps in New Orleans Square. Sitting in a sidewalk cafe, listening to jazz and drinking a green tinted gem, soaking it all in. The Mark Twain Steamboat glistening as it rounds the bend, all the while knowing Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion are right there waiting to be explored. What more could a theme park fan ever want?

Imagine having Walt as your granddad!

Number One-  The very fact that Walt Disney walked this park. Granting its place in history for theme park enthusiasts. His hand in design and his personal care in giving guests more for their money can be found all over the place. Nothing was too good for his Disneyland- and Walt made sure that remained true during his lifetime. There's more to a visit to Disneyland than rushing from attraction to attraction. There's a sense of history to be found, an inspiring elegance and rhythm to the park unmatched by others that came after it. If visitors look for it, they will find Walt's touch everywhere. That single fact gives the Anaheim park an appealing aspect that none other will ever have. 

(Most Photos copyright Mark Taft.)

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