Happy 56th birthday, Disneyland

July 16, 2011, 2:58 PM · Disneyland celebrates its 56th birthday on Sunday. Walt's original theme park opened July 17, 1955, the flagship of what is now a collection of 11 (soon to be 12) Disney theme parks around the world. Even though it's Disneyland's birthday, the present just opened across the plaza at Disney California Adventure - the new turnstiles are open.

New entrance to California Adventure
Photo courtesy Disney

As we noted before, the park's new entrance will look familiar to any Disney fan who's visited the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park at Walt Disney World in Florida. Both the California Adventure turnstiles and Hollywood Studios ticket booths borrow their designs from the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Pan Pacific Auditorium entrance in 1956
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Pan-Pacific opened in 1935 and served as a convention center, sports arena and concert hall until it was closed in the early 1970s upon the opening of the Los Angeles Convention Center downtown. The building showed up in a few movies and TV specials, but pretty much just decayed until it was destroyed by fire in May 1989, just days after the opening of the then-Disney-MGM Studios in Florida.

The new turnstiles are the first complete step in the transformation of California Adventure's entryway from a somewhat cartoonish contemporary California theme to a 1920s-era Buena Vista street from Hollywood. When the transformation is complete (next year, perhaps?), we'll have an 1890s street welcoming visitors to the original Disneyland park and a 1920s street welcoming people to California Adventure.

Which raises a question: What's your favorite architectural period to see represented in a theme park? (Cite an example in the comments.) Or, if your favorite era isn't in a theme park yet, why not suggest a way it could be used?

Replies (2)

July 17, 2011 at 8:01 AM · Happy Birthday!

I like the architectural style of Main Street USA.

July 17, 2011 at 7:19 PM · The new entrance is very much an improvement from the original CA gates (although no giant CALIFORNIA letters will mean many lost photo-ops by visitors) - but if the new main street and park is to represent 1920's Los Angeles, why are the entrance gates based on a 1935 building?

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