When Carnation Plaza Gardens closed earlier this year to expand the Disney Princess Fantasy Faire, fans were upset because the historic park location had been enjoyed not only patrons since 1956, but also by Walt himself. Although Suzy Brown, a spokeswoman for Disney, stated “Swing dancing will return to the park when the Fantasy Faire opens next year,” and that “the area is being designed to host a variety of entertainment, from princess meet-and-greets during the day, to a wide range of musical offerings, including our popular swing bands, in the evening,” fans of the area were of the opinion that it should be left alone. “Keep it vintage. Keep it classic,” said one fan quoted in a piece in The Orange County Register.
This certainly wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that the public wanted an area or attraction to remain in its original state. It reminds me a bit of the 1981 Carousel of Progress welcome address: “At every turn in our history there was always someone saying ‘Turn back. Turn back.’ But there is no turning back. Not for us.”
Walt did not want the parks to be frozen in time (insert Walt-sicle joke here), but he also did not want to lose the essence of the park that made Disnelyand so unique and popular since its grand opening. The oft quoted WDI slogan “Disneyland is not a museum” can be tempered with this quote from Walt himself; “Disneyland will be sometimes a fair, an exhibition, a playground, a community center, a museum of living facts, and a showplace of beauty and magic.” In fact, there is a fantastic piece at Re-Imagineering from 2006 on this very dichotomy, literally asking the question “What did the maestro really want?” (Note to Disney marketing: start a line of “What Would Walt Do?” themed merchandise to kick-off 2014…..you can thank me later. A free condo in Bay Lake Towers is all I ask).
As you can read and see in the Re-Imagineering post, there are some attractions that have been kept in (or restored to) their original state and others that have not. So, to a degree, things at the park are following Walt’s wishes, even if there are some disagreements between Park executives and the public in terms of what should be saved and what should be replaced or updated
Given all of the above, and discussions on various Disney history pages on Facebook, I thought it would be interesting to hear the insights and opinions from someone who was a Cast Member at the parks during periods of change. Don Payne is that Cast Member.
Keeping that in mind, I asked Don 2 questions:
1) What area(s) do you think should be continually developed / refurbished / etc. in a manner that Walt would have approved of?
2) Are there areas and attractions that should be preserved because of how closely they are tied to Walt?
The answers will be featured in the next post in the series, but for now, enjoy Don performing at The Golden Horseshoe Jamboree from the 1986/1987 season.