Thursday, October 03, 2013

Main Street, U.S.A.: Bringing Back The Fun

It has been rumored that the back of East Main Street will be developed and open to the public, functioning as an overflow path to help move foot traffic during peak times. Although not a new idea (it goes back to at least 1957, when Liberty Street came this close to becoming a reality), it's a great opportunity to re-think Main Street, U.S.A. and to restore a healthier balance that is not so heavily focused on retail.

Suggestion #1: Expand the Main Street Magic Shop.

Who doesn't love magic? Sure, the sleight of hand tricks that cast members currently do in the Magic Shop are fun, but why not expand the shop a bit and have a performance room, similar to the Magic Castle in Hollywood? Main Street could use more pizzazz, and what better way to perk it up by adding to the showmanship with some very talented magicians? How about forging a relationship (aka sponsorship) with The Magic Castle and allowing the Main Street location to be a testing ground for new magicians?

Suggestion #2: Revamp the Main Street Cinema.

The Orlando version has already been removed; it wouldn't surprise me if Anaheim's was eventually changed into a retail shop as well. Currently, Disneyland's Main Street Cinema is like a mini-multiplex, with a number of screens that show Mickey Mouse cartoons in black and white. There is no seating; instead, guests walk around or stand still, typically walking out only a few short minutes after their entrance. What to do? Restore it back into a real (albeit small) theater with seating that shows real silent movies (in shortened versions) like it originally did. At Halloween, they could show excerpts from silent horror classics like "Phantom of the Opera" or "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," and have cast members in costume as the characters from the film, just like they did back in the early years. Once again, a little showmanship that heightens the excitement of the guest experience.

In non-holiday periods, the park could show edited versions of the silent movies that inspired Walt in his early years to make "Peter Pan":

And "Snow White":

Cast members dressed as the Disney versions of those characters could hang out by the theater acting as barkers, enticing guests to see what inspired the Disney animated classics. By doing this, you would satisfy the old-school purists while creating a memorable experience for the young who would be introduced to something they may not be familiar with. Wasn't that what Disneyland was supposed to be about? Sharing experiences across the generations?

Suggestion #3: Bring back characters to the Market House

Although it's wonderful that the stove, checkerboard, and party-lines were retained in the conversion to a Starbucks location, Imagineers relegated these items into mere props. Why not bring back some Keystone Kops or create new characters that could challenge guests to a game of checkers? Have a sign-up sheet and let guests challenge their favorite Disney character to a short game.

Use the "barker" function to show guests what the party lines are for; why waste these cool items that can actually provide some entertainment value? If you're going to call the old Disneyana a book store, have a cast member in costume do storytelling in a corner, with appropriate Disney characters appearing at the proper time to bring those stories to life.

Suggestion #4: Ditch Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour and expand Carnation Cafe into the space.

Put a soda fountain counter into the Gibson Girl space and train cast members to use some showmanship when creating frozen sundaes and concoctions for guests who are eating lunch/dinner in the Carnation Cafe. Those who have dined at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours back in the day would be familiar with what I am talking about. Many a child (and adult) happily celebrated their birthday at a Farrell's location while drums, bells, and whistles heralded the happy occasion. Creative frozen treats (anyone remember The Pig's Trough?) would be whisked out to the table and employees would gather around and sing a tribute to the guest that was celebrating. It's all about energy, showmanship, fun, and tasty food. What a welcome addition to Main Street this could be. For guests who want ice cream on the go, add a quick serve window location on the new street that backs up to East Main Street, or restore the pickup window that once operated at the back of East Center Street.

Most cast members at the Carnation Cafe seem to give good service, but why not elevate it to a performance? Make the food fun by adding a little entertainment and bumping up the $$ amount of the checks by serving a dessert accompanied with a show!

Suggestion #5: Restore the Penny Arcade with a Shooting Gallery.

Time has not been kind to the Penny Arcade. The Candy Palace has encroached onto its real estate and invaded what was once a lively space. Shove the candy back over to the other side, restore the shooting gallery, and have cast members in costume challenging guests to try all of the vintage machines within. You can't expect today's average guest to know what half of the contraptions in there are for; do a little Disney showmanship and engage the guests!

Suggestion #6: Put a vintage costume and photo studio behind the Photo Supply Company.

Keep this area as a place for ordering and pickup of prints and convert the back area (that is now currently retail) into a photo studio where guests could pose with park-related backgrounds and dress in vintage costumes. Another experience you couldn't have anywhere else. On the plus side for the bean counters, it would still be an opportunity to make money!

Last one...

Suggestion #7: Put a Music/Home Media shop in The Disney Showcase Town Square location.

Take out the bland retail shop that currently inhabits this space and convert it into a Music Shop that offers vocal "lessons" and sells music and other home media. In a little sound booth, guests can pick Disney-related songs and have professional cast members give them vocal coaching before they get recorded. What guest wouldn't like to take home a CD of them singing with the Dapper Dans? Or a Disney Princess?

What ideas would you have to spice up Main Street, U.S.A.? Or do you like it just the way it is?

See more vintage & current Disneyland Main Street, U.S.A. photos on my Main Street web pages.


HBG2 said...

TERRIFIC ideas all around.

From your mouth to Disney's ear.

Mark said...

In DLP, those arcades behind Main Street are gorgeously designed, informative, and very functional. After the late night show at the Castle, crowds moved almost effortlessly through the streets to the exit. Such a contrast to the nightmare at Disneyland on summer nights and Christmas holidays!

K. Martinez said...

I love all your ideas Dave. I especially like the idea of sponsorship by the legendary Magic Castle for an expanded Magic Shop. It’s my favorite shop left on Main Street from the earlier years. Having a magician in a performance room would be an awesome addition.

As for Main Street Cinema, I’d suggest the controversial idea of making it an upcharge attraction and actually show complete silent movies. I really don’t think the average Disneyland guest even cares that the Main Street Cinema even exists, so why not make it something special where those who are truly interested in enjoying a classic silent movie. I’d pay for the experience. How would it be any different than charging for the Frontier Shootin’ Exposition? Perhaps even a film student could be on hand afterwards to answer questions about the film being shown. In other words make it a special experience and charge for it, thus making money on a space that otherwise generates no revenue. Of course the space would need to be slightly expanded and reconfigured.

As for the Penny Arcade, I think having old fashioned 1920s type games like Fascination and Skee-Ball introduced as well as a return of the shooting gallery you mentioned could generate plenty of revenue if they would issue tickets for the amount of points scored when playing these games. These tickets could be redeemed for exclusive Disney prizes not found elsewhere in the park. It’s kind of carnival/midway like but so is the Penny Arcade. In turn people would play with the other machines due to increased crowd activity in the arcade. It would make the Penny Arcade a place of lively excitement and interest again.

I’d like to see Disney reintroduce the idea of a “Chinatown Alley” on East Center Street, just beyond the Market House and Disney Clothiers. Disneyland seriously lacks an Asian food outlet and this would address it.

That’s about all I can think of at this point. Thank for sharing your great ideas.

Anonymous said...

Long time reader, Dave, first time poster. Love your ideas here, one can only hope Disney hears them.

One Disney fan's input:

Suggestion #1: Completely 100% as you described. Pure brilliance and a perfect partnership as both have similar approaches to entertainment and quality standards.

Suggestion #2: Perfect. Rotate the movies. Keep some old B&W Mickey's but use one screen for rotation every now and then. Not so sure the idea of upcharging is a good idea for this. Keep it free and inviting so as to attract people, not detract them.

Suggestion #3 & 4: Yes

Suggestion #5: Not so sure I like the idea of a shooting gallery. Why not just repopulate a portion of the floor with vintage games but make sure they're actual vintage games? There's reality TV shows ( maybe more fiction than real ) that show such game cabinets being restored. Surely Disney still has more than a few penny arcade machines?

Suggestion #6 & 7: Not so sure.

Daveland said...

Thanks for the feedback all! Glad that much of my post resonates. I like the suggestions you have put forth as well.

K. - The Chinatown Alley was a great idea; it would also be cool if they introduced it over at DCA as a "subdivision" of Buena Vista would somewhat tie into the proposed Monsters Inc. land nearby and the Harryhausen's restaurant scene.

Anonymous - would love to know your hesitations on 6 & 7? Agreed that the shooting gallery concept could be a bit controversial these days, so your suggestion of more restored vintage games would probably be a better idea. I love watching those shows that restore them!

DBenson said...

I don't think Main Street Cinema was ever a sit-down theater; I don't see that flying now as I can't imagine spending expensive time inside the park watching silent films that (at long last) are readily available outside the park.

I remember it fondly as a place where you'd wander in and look at the various screens, maybe staying put for a whole film (usually a single 10-minute reel, a few ran 20). This was when silent film was genuinely hard to see aside from Robert Youngson compilations on TV ("When Comedy Was King") and occasional PBS (then educational television) showings of a handful of features.

Now, modern fans are spoiled by TCM showings and jaw-dropping DVD collections (You can own -- affordably -- nearly all the Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd and even Langdon features).

If it were up to me, I'd keep the current arrangement but schedule in the best comic two-reelers I could find. I like the idea that a young adult or a kid, knowing nothing about silent comedy, could wander in for the air conditioning and suddenly discover Buster Keaton. It could be life-changing.

That said, I can't really disagree with the current focus on Mickey Mouse cartoons. Disneyland exists because of Mickey getting laughs on small-town theater screens.

Daveland said...

I didn't personally remember seats in there either, but I recently read (can't remember the source, of cousre!) that in the early years, there were seats.

I do agree that with all of these movies readily available, it might not seem as appealing, but...just because they're available doesn't mean the youth of today actually watch them. That's why I think having cast members in costumes drawing people in, and letting guests know that these movies inspired the Disney movies might had the interest to get people in...and to at least stay for a respectable amount of time. Mickey is great...but I think he could share the screen with others, too!

K. Martinez said...

I don't ever remember seeing seats in the Cinema either. I think it was always meant to be a quick drop-in where people took a glance then moved on to other things in the Park. Nowadays it seems like a place where tired guests take naps.

I still think it would benefit from a redesign into a small seated movie theater with special ticketed events for local film buffs and APers to attend. Not everything in the park has to cater to the day visitor who only has limited time to visit the core attractions. You could still show shorts during the day, but have special events in the evening that would generate revenue for this space.

Mickey Mouse cartoons wouldn't have been shown in a turn of the century cinema from Walt's youth. Mickey didn't exist until 1928. Silent movies would be more authentic to the time period. Of course there are many anomalies in the fantasy worlds of Disneyland. It's part of the territory.

Daveland said...

Ken - Not sure if you've noticed, but I believe a few of those Mickey Mouse shorts were actually filmed in color but were transformed to BW for the MS Cinema.

K. Martinez said...

I knew the color cartoon "Mickey’s Polo Team" (1936) was converted to BW for the MS Cinema, but wasn't aware of other color cartoons converted for it.

MRaymond said...

Great ideas but I like the cinema the way it is versus a sit-down. But I do like the idea about what films are shown. The arcade needs to come back and I like the shooting gallery. For the shooting gallery to be PC you don't shoot at the animal or prop, you hit a target that makes the animal or prop do something. The barker at the shooting gallery could be one of the mounts from the CBJ. Maybe the moose, I always liked him)

Anonymous said...

Dave, these are great ideas. I'd love to see them implemented, especially the "back side of Main Street".

We could only hope for creative additions, there are only so many keyrings, coffee cups and stuffed animal toys in the world.