December 30, 2016

Liberty Square Keeps Florida's Kingdom Unique

As a Disney theme park fan, one of the delights of visiting the different parks is seeing the unique attractions and lands each has to offer. It is one of the main reasons I am so against the quick cookie-cutter additions of attractions placed in several parks at once. It may be economically a smart move (or is it?), but in the long run, doing so only detracts from the overall experience. Even the same themed attraction can take on a new and fresh perspective and presentation, making it a must-see adventure for the fan to explore several different parks. The perfect example would be in the quintessential park attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean, uniquely different in the original vs. the excellent Parisian version and also in the new crowd pleaser in Shanghai Disneyland.  The same could be said for the Haunted Mansion / Phantom Manor / Mystic Manor trio of attractions.

Abandoned Disney's America.

For this reason alone, I remain thrilled that the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square has yet to be duplicated anywhere else. Certainly if built as planned, the Disney's America project would have made Florida's land look like the standard cliff notes version, but for now, this elegant area remains an exclusive to Florida.  

The outstanding Hall of Presidents and the spirit filled Haunted Mansion are the headliners here, but a cruise on the riverboat is another must do. Looking around the land, two smaller items are worth notice. One, a copy of the Philadelphia Liberty Bell itself, and also, the Liberty Tree- a massive specimen that holds 13 lanterns representing the original states in the Union. These bits of history and historic reference strengthen the theme, making the area more compelling. (In an odd move earlier this year, Disney made a mistake adding the 20th century Muppets show to the land, but a guest can visit the area off times and not experience the break in theme.) 

Liberty Square is so much more than the sum of its attractions, however. The land is filled with shops once offering unique items completely in theme. Sadly, that is no longer. Even though the buildings are now filled with generic Disney merchandise, they remain wonderful pieces of architecture. There's still a couple of great places to eat, however, the Columbia Harbour House (one of the few places in the Magic Kingdom offering seafood) and the Liberty Tree Tavern.

The concept art (top) is not an often seen piece of Imagineering art. We usually find the more common finished product depicted instead. If you look closely, you'll find the Liberty Tree is there. What you'll also see but was never built is directly to the left of the Hall of Presidents: the beginning of a series of streets and even courtyards a la Disneyland's incredible New Orleans Square. Would it not have been great fun to explore colonial America by getting lost in a network of shops and cafes? New Orleans Square is certainly one of the greatest pieces of design at Disneyland, effectively mimicking real world New Orleans as well as places like Montmartre in Paris and numerous bazaars found in the Middle East and Asia. 

One day, the Imagineers may choose to expand the area around the Rivers of America, opening up a pathway beyond the Haunted Mansion to ease guest traffic flow or to provide access to new lands and attractions. If so, I hope they include a bit more Liberty Square into the mix. It's a land that keeps the Magic Kingdom unique and celebrates a country like no other.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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