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by Ken Pellman (archives)
June 25, 2003
Ken analyzes which lands should have characters from Disney's animated films.

Should content from Disney’s animated films only be used in Fantasyland, or other areas of Disneyland Park?

Down that Jolt Cola, that churro, and those Twinkies, settle in, and let’s examine a debate over design.

Why Do I Ask?
While Disneyland Park was a great leap forward in 1955, the attractions were rudimentary by today’s standards, almost fifty years later. Disneyland, however, worked. It worked as a Magic Kingdom transporting guests to times and places that didn’t quite exist in the outside world, though some of them were strongly inspired by actual places.

For the next twelve years, Walt grew his park, making it bigger, better, and more sophisticated. Some speculate that Fantasyland was due for a major overhaul and would be rebuilt using some of the same design principles that created New Orleans Square and Tomorrowland 1967, both multilevel lands featuring elaborate attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean and, Adventure thru Inner Space, and Carousel of Progress. After all, It’s a Small World had expanded the park, and there was now more room in Fantasyland to play with.

Unfortunately, Walt Disney passed away, working on what would become the Walt Disney World Resort up until his death.

During Walt’s life and continuing after he passed away, Disneyland Park became a world-famous and widely enjoyed, admired, and copied for many reasons. There are many more factors that have gone into the success of the park's design than meets the average eye at first, second, or third consideration. Much of that has involved the rules to the theming of the park.

Most of the people visiting want to see that tradition of success and excellence continue, so we pick the place apart to figure out what works and why, and how Disney can keep doing things that work. Proposals and actual additions that conflict with our theories can tick us off. We don't like to see "the rules" that made Disneyland Park what it is broken.

If you frequent the discussion area here (or other places for that matter), you know there was heated debate about the appropriateness of Pooh in Critter Country, and to a lesser extent, Buzz Lightyear and Stitch in Tomorrowland. That's because some people think it is breaking the rules to put animated characters in those places.

Some people staunchly declare that one of those rules is as follows: "Attractions based on Disney's animated films belong only in Fantasyland."

I have tended to disagree with that statement. The areas of Disneyland park seem to be ordered around times and places, not the content's previous medium of presentation. Walt didn't build "Live-Action Land", "Black and White Television Land", “Color Television Land?, "Animation Land", "Comic Book Land", and "Novel Land".

Animation is a medium for telling the story. It can depict any setting.

Early Disneyland Park
When Disneyland Park opened, it was a much simpler place than it is now.

Main Street U.S.A. represented Walt Disney’s childhood; the heart of a midwestern city at the turn of what would become the American Century. It was a place of nostalgia for senior citizens.

Adventureland represented what was exotic in the mind of most people in the U.S. - far-away jungles. I will grant that, during design, it was referred to as "True-Life Adventureland", a reference to Disney's documentaries on wildlife.

Frontierland was built for little boys - riding the wave of the popularity of westerns on the small and large screen, and also another nod to American heritage.

Fantasyland was a storybook area geared more towards little girls, complete with the fairy-tale castle and a carousel to ride, set with an English tournament feel. Most American culture had its roots in Europe.

Tomorrowland represented Walt’s optimistic outlook for the future, where technology, industry, and international cooperation would create a better tomorrow.

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