Sunday, April 29, 2012

Goodnight, Sweetheart

henever someone asks me a question about Disneyland, I begin with the technical name for whatever it is I was asked about. I then proceed to wince a little after I say those words hoping that whatever term I just threw out there (I choose to mention the true name because I feel they should know or learn) strikes a chord within them and that I don’t have to explain, explain, explain. That part, as essential as it may be, usually really bores the question-asker because they feel like they only asked me a ‘simple question’. In response, I either find a face that lights up with recognition and lets me know I may continue my thought or I get that confused, dull, unknowing stare that makes every Disneyland-aficionado’s stomach sink. And typically, if the term does not have the word ‘mountain’ in it somewhere, I *only* get that dull gaze – and that sinking feeling - my wince was preparing me for.

But something is different about that little infamous performance stage just off of Main Street, U.S.A..

The one question people ask me most is, “What do I ABSOLUTLEY HAVE to do when I go to Disneyland on my next trip?” And because I use this to my advantage, I tell them the most urgent information I have for them at the time. Ever since that fateful day in 2011 when the powers-that-be at the D23 convention announced the defamation of Carnation Plaza Gardens by converting it into the Princess Fantasy Faire (currently located at the Fantasyland Theater), I almost can’t breathe when I mention it.  So, right now, and with a deep breath, I tell these future guests: “You HAVE to go to Carnation Plaza Gardens. Grab a seat and enjoy the entertainment. If there is none, take in the beauty and the history there and have a little snack!” And right about here is when I do my wincing, because it actually physically hurts me when someone doesn’t know classic Disneyland. But, each time I say the words ‘Carnation Plaza Gardens’ every single person's face lights up like magic. “Yeah, I know that place, I love it there!” they exclaim. Never a dull, unknowing stare, not a once, and I will admit that it is a very pleasant surprise. To this day, I have not had to explain about or give directions to assist anyone on their way there – they all know exactly where to go. It's then that I wince for them because I have to deliver the news about the ‘Princess’ cash-cow phenomenon the Disney company is still squeezing blue milk from. Their faces grow concerned, then saddened and they shake their heads dissaprovingly. “Wow, that’s a shame… that has been there for as long as I can remember. I will make sure to stop there.” Every single time. These words are not from annual passholding people like the ones that run this blog. They are from many different people and they are your average Disneyland guest. They see Disneyland only a handful of times throughout their entire lives and they only remember a handful of things that stick with them over the passing of years. Clearly, Carnation Plaza Gardens has this sticking quality and it creates the kind of memories people like to hang on to. After all of the conversations I’ve shared on the subject of classic Disneyland, that quality is one that is very hard to come by, indeed. Then, there are those annual-passholding-Disneyland-freaks-and-bloggers, like me, who can’t help but see hearts in our eyes for reasons there are not enough bullet points in the world for when we see that red and white gazebo and pass beneath that infamous sparkling sign.

I am about to say some of the harshest words for me to utter:  Walt Disney is dead and has been for 46 years. I am rudely reminded of this every time I visit Disneyland, but here, I acknowledge it in writing. Fortunately, he’s the man who invented Disneyland and I’m able to enjoy his true spirit when I visit places there
like Carnation Plaza Gardens. With this overwhelming blaze-faire attitude the modern world has developed about how change is “inevitable”, it makes me wonder if anyone realizes that we have the power to both change AND preserve things. Also, that some things don’t need to be changed just for the sake of changing it. Since the Carnation Plaza Gardens opened on August 18, 1956, it has been and still is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the park. And not only that; it has consistently attracted to its stage some of the most incredible talent in music, including The Elliott Brothers. It’s given the people a place to dance their cares away - especially the swing dance crowd - and given romantic date-niters the chance to "dance slow and dream". There are even routes designed
to funnel people into this spot. What made the Gardens a target for this change? Is it the red and white stripes? Is it because it doesn’t have a plushie depot for guests to throw their money at (well, heck, I’d buy a plushie of the Gardens, it would be refreshing!)? Is it because it is an area that is not often in use? If that’s the reason, I definitely have 2 things to say about that:

  1. There is a list I could run off of places in Disneyland that are not used very often – if at all – that this ‘Fantasy Faire’ could be relocated. For the purpose of your attention span, I will only mention two.
    •  There’s ‘Character Corner’, a platform that was built by taking out part of the Motor Boat Cruise lagoon when they decided ‘Light Magic’ was a good idea. This often unused area is actually INSIDE of Fantasyland, which would also please many of the nay-sayers that feel the Faire would be removing something that belongs within Fantasyland and spilling it into Main Street, confusing the atmosphere.
    • What’s wrong with the actual space the Princess meet-and-greet is already in? I realize it is originally the Fantasyland Theater but it hasn’t been that for quite some time now and has not been used for anything of much significance since Videopolis was shut off in 1995 after a 10 year run. I am not privy to inside information or future plans for the park until they announce them to the public, but I am beginning to think someone there has a serious problem with guests dancing on the Disneyland grounds. However, I do know it was never Mr. Disney. My point here is, I am willing to give up the Fantasyland Theater completely if it means keeping the Carnation Gardens and all of its history alive. And that says a lot, coming from me.

  2. Why not actually utilize the Gardens of its full potential? Guests are drawn to this area whether there is something happening there or not. They can be seen having an ice cream, coffee, or a chit chat, reading a book and even sometimes enjoying a very nice cuddle. It is an area of the park that deserves to be paid more attention to and guests actually want to give it their attention. That says public demand to me. It is these adults that are paying the tough price of admission, why not give them some kind of sanctum to actually enjoy themselves? Why not take a page from Disneyland's very own history and recognize that the power of more live music might stimulate both children AND adults… together? That is, afterall, the one reason Disneyland was dreamed up for in the first place…

    Sadly, the most likely reason the new location for the Princess Fantasy Faire has been chosen is because it is immediately at the exit door of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - you know, that place where little girls go to look like Cyndi Lauper if she had ever gotten a makeover from a retired Ice Capades skater with a penchant for 90’s hair extentions. 

    Despite my exhaustive rant and the many people I’ve urged to handcuff themselves to the Carnation Plaza Gardens elegant gazebo poles, the fact remains that after today, April 29, 2012, the Gardens will no longer exist as we know it. Happenings such as this one are the purpose that ‘…But It Wasn’t Always That Way’ has come to be, and in that respect, I wish it didn’t have to exist at all. But harsh reality is the theme of this blog entry, and that is just another one. For this reason, we have decided to dedicate our entire blog to the memory of the Carnation Plaza Gardens. It is the perfect paradigm of those that have come and went before it, and those that will surely follow. It is only bittersweet at best, but this time the Gardens are a loss that will not only make just me - but EVERYONE else - wince and stomach-sink in unison.

    In some strange, ironic way, Mr. Disney is still bringing us all together... side by side.

    Carnation Plaza Gardens, 1956 – 2012

    "With the playing of 'Goodnight Sweetheart', we are very sad to bring
     this dance to a close." - Bill Elliott, 1956

    Friday, April 27, 2012

    ... But It Wasn't Always That Way!

    ello everyone! 
    Welcome to the year 1982.

    Progress is in motion in Southern California. Fantasyland raises its drawbridge for the first time since July 1955 and begins construction of the ‘New Fantasyland’. The ticket system retires, employing all-day passes for this thrift-saavy generation of Reagonomics. Tron enters the gamegrid of Tomorrowland. A sense of vitality and momentum is in the air - Disneyland is ushering in a new era.

    … And we are born.

    Leaving the land of the 1980’s and entering the world of the present, we look back at ourselves as children of this burgeoning new age, frequently visiting the aforementioned kingdom of all-day passes and animatronic-heavy dark-rides. We were raised in a time when Big Thunder Mountain was a staple of Disneyland and where Star Tours had existed as long as we could remember. Complete strangers to relics like pirate ship restaurants and E-tickets, as well as barker birds, Old Unfaithfuls, authentic pharmacies, Progresslands, and so much more history waiting to be discovered. It didn’t take us very long to uncover the remains of this hidden history in every corner, and slowly but surely we found ourselves asking, “Was it always this way?”

    “We” are - of course - Eric and Ginger, the authors of this love-labored blog, and it's very nice to meet you. The hand of fate was kind of enough to place us in Los Angeles, a mere 35 miles away from Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom. Fate was also good enough to bring us our bestfriendship, bound by a mutual love of art, heart, culture, laughter, and… yes, the Happiest Place on Earth.  It’s no surprise that in Disneyland we feel most like ourselves; it is a culmination of all these passions, in a most delightful way.

    As children at Disneyland, it was impossible not to fall in love. It’s exciting, it’s stimulating… it’s charming and classic. There is an inescapable nostalgia that almost every kid carries home forever… along with their very own hitchhiking ghost. The great news is, the perks only get better as adults! There is a world of culture, hard work, innovation and creative hands to be recognized and admired. The strongest pair of hands belonging to Walt Disney himself, and we see them everywhere. But why does it feel like most of the time we are simply two of very few?

    There are words thrown around for people like us. Flamers, Purists… Debbie Downers. We’re not here to bring anyone down. We want to teach those who have never known, assist those who might not remember, and learn from those who do. Our goal is to spread a tenacious hope that tradition, class, and Walt Disney’s vision will prevail once again at Disneyland. Mr. Disney himself was a purist and perfectionist. He “flamed” when something wasn’t absolutely perfect. “Whenever I go on a ride,” Mr. Disney has been quoted, “I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.” We feel that if we don’t follow suit, who will? A small voice in a big crowd is still a voice and it is only with honor and great respect to this legacy that we share our blog with you.

    The thing is, we missed out on 22 years of Disneyland’s lifespan. That’s a lot of time to lose and it drives us crazy-over-Daisy. Equipped with a plethora of keen observation, diligent research, a toolbox of curiosity and our unprecedented ability to time-travel, we are ready to spelunk into the quarries of Disneyland Past. As the saying goes, the best place to start is from the beginning, and there we shall. We have a LOT of work ahead of us in order to experience Walt Disney’s Disneyland - the way it was truly meant to be - and we can’t wait to share our findings with you!

    Quiet, now… as we travel back.