Thursday, July 24, 2014

Court of Angels Celebration

Sometimes when the idea well has gone dry, I visit This Day In Disney History for inspiration. Today, I was reminded that it is the anniversary of the opening of New Orleans Square, a 3 acre parcel that was once my very favorite land in the park. I have not been back since the completion of the Club 33 remodel, but based on the photos I have seen, the design perfection that Walt personally oversaw has been marred. Rather than focus on the current mess, today's post will celebrate The Court of Angels, that special corner of New Orleans Square, showing it from beginning to end. And yes, I mean end, as the regular ticket-buying guest can no longer experience its beauty.

A view of the original model for The Court of Angels:

Here is a shot of New Orleans Square under construction:

Zooming in, you can see the stairs still under wraps:

"I had the honor of standing next to Walt for the opening of New Orleans Square. His eyes missed no detail and he spoke of how he would improve on the concept. Accompanying us was the mayor of New Orleans." -1966 Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson

Here is New Orleans Square on opening day, with a gala celebration:

Zooming in for a closer view of the Court of Angels:

This staged publicity shot shows what a perfect place this area was for photos:

It didn't take long for guests to figure that out; here's an August 1981 shot of a lovely lady posing there.

What made The Court of Angels so wonderful was that it always felt as if you had stumbled upon a very secret place. New Orleans Square (unlike its Louisiana namesake) has a number of curved streets with twists and turns, which makes it feel larger than it really is.

And once you enter, wow…what a gorgeous place.

Now, blocked from view by a pair of poorly designed colored acrylic windows, it is gone for the masses.

At least I have my memories and my photos. Adieu, Court des Anges.

See more Daveland Disneyland Court of Angels photos at my main website.

Follow my Daveland updates on Twitter and view my most recent photos on Flickr.


K. Martinez said...

I like your comment about how you at least having your memories. I feel so fortunate that I was able to experience and enjoy Disneyland and Walt Disney World in their early to mid-years. While the parks have changed and lost much of their charm over time, I still have those memories.

The images you posted today seem extra special. Great distant shots of the Court of Angels. Thanks ,Dave. said...

This is such a heartbreaking post. Your last post also was heartbreaking with those wretched flower lamps grappling the staircase.

I wonder what the Club 33 member response will be to the changes.

Major Pepperidge said...

I think the thing that bothers me the most is the feeling that the folks who run Disneyland are taking away this beautiful little spot so that they can further cater to a select few (but very wealthy) Club 33 members. And based on the new terrible logo (the old one was so simple and elegant!) and that kitschy vine on the staircase, there are apparently no designers at Disney who have a clue.

The original Imagineers were accomplished artists with decades of experience who *became* theme park designers. Maybe that's the difference.

Major Pepperidge said...

I also noticed that the staircase, which used to be a soft gray, has been "punched up" to a vibrant deep blue. Things can be subtle and still be beautiful, but these days the solution (which is much easier) is to just use intense colors everywhere. I wonder what John Hench (a master of the psychological use of color) would think.

outsidetheberm said...

Would have to agree with Major. Based on the photos so far, the new exterior architectural elements register as a major miscalculation. They certainly don't mesh well with the existing scale and design of the area. Much of it comes across as a combination of Vegas cheese and historically inaccurate fluff. The old club had a unique 'old world' charm and appreciation for Walt. There's little reason to return now, it seems.

CoxPilot said...

Most of the studio artists and designers have died off or retired, leaving the young and less experienced. Now it's more politically appointed, less worldly, ego driven types that have little use for nostalgia.

Fifthrider said...

One might be very surprised to learn that most Club 33 members ( that I've talked to ) aren't okay with this either. One might think they would believe "Yay! It's all for us!" but it's actually "You screwed with Walt's vision!" Also, the new glass walls that overlook onto the pin trading shop are a monstrosity. The members don't seem to enjoy the loss of privacy, and for the rest of us it's just odd looking up there. So why do it? Because Tom Staggs and Bob Iger, need I say more? They perceive it as a way to drum up more members. "Look what's going on up here in the big glass walls you can see into! Wanna join?!" Well,... No. Not anymore. They're ruined the magic with what they've done.

I have yet to meet a member who thought the new logo was better, either. EVERYONE has complained about it. The popular statement is that Kim Irvine signed off on it, therefore it has some stamp of approval from the old guard. If this is true then I wish she would have stood her ground and said no. Her dad would have, Walt would have, and most of you would have too.

TokyoMagic! said...

Yes, it is truly heartbreaking! Why couldn't they have just added the elevator to the Court of Angels to make Club 33 ADA compliant and still kept the original Club 33 entrance and foyer? Why did the hallway and windows of Club 33's Lounge Alley have to be enlarged? And why change the original logo? I'm glad to hear that the members don't like the changes either. Maybe the "suits" will actually care about what they think. Or maybe they'll only care if membership decreases instead of increases.

Fifthrider said...

That's just it, I can guarantee the suits will NOT care. Their perspective is "Oh? Unhappy? Then I guess what we need to do is get rid of the unhappy members and bring in the ones who like what we just made." This is the Staggs/Iger way of doing things. Hammer a square peg into a round hole and then get rid of those who notice it doesn't work until their actions are applauded by those who remain.