January 6, 2016

Design Detail: The Red Car Trolley

The magnificent Cars Land was not the only success when the second Anaheim park, California Adventure transformed from the proverbial ugly duckling into a gracious and much desired swan. The entire entrance finally conveyed a sense of time and place with the lovely Buena Vista Street setting the stage for experiences to come. Ugly, hip, and edgy structures became warm, elegant, and timeless- something the Imagineers do extremely well. The public responded to the transformation in droves.

I love this "interior" look at the Red Car Trolley as it is temporarily stationed in Hollywoodland next to the iconic and wonderfully frightening Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The dashboard as it were shows a clean design approach even in the midst of being saddled with the necessity of 21st Century engineering "under the hood". Lesser parks and lesser design teams would overlook the need to keep it all consistent, but not at Disney. Take a look at what frames that beautiful California sign: era appropriate black iron work, wood finishes, gauges and pulleys all that are part of the show.

These design details and so much more like them are what make guests enveloped in the story behind the lands and attractions of Disneyland and all the company parks that came afterwards. With the initial flop heard 'round the world when California Adventure debuted in 2001 (and the Walt Disney Studios Paris, to a lesser degree), I think the suits have finally learned a hard lesson: Give the customers high quality and good design and you will always bring them in the front door.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

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