Review - Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure

June 14, 2012, 5:21 PM · Cars Land might be attracting the bulk of the media's attention in Disney California Adventure's relaunch this week. But I wouldn't be surprised if Buena Vista Street turns out to be the change that ultimately convinces the public that California Adventure is now a first-class Disney park.

Carthay Circle fountain

California Adventure's original entryway was supposed to represent a giant tourist postcard from California. But people want to exist in three-dimensional, livable spaces, not a 2-D stereotype. That's the genius of Disneyland's original Main Street, with its well-spaced storefronts and abundant places to sit and just "hang out." California Adventure's original entry area didn't have much identity. It felt like an airport terminal- a place to get through as quickly as possible, and never a place you'd linger voluntarily.

Disney's torn that failed space to the ground, replacing it with a fanciful recreation of the Los Angeles Walt Disney arrived in during the summer of 1923. Buena Vista Street brings us an idealized Los Angeles of eternal possibility - where a man with little more than a suitcase and an idea for a cartoon character can build an entertainment business empire.

Buena Vista Street Mickey

But Buena Vista Street works primarily because it is not a stereotype - a crude notion of what people who don't live in California think California somehow must be. Buena Vista Street draws its inspiration from actual buildings that grace (or once graced) the city Los Angeles, anchored by the Carthay Circle theater, the movie palace where Walt premiered the first featured-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Carthay Circle, home to a table-service restaurant, looms over the park, much like Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It's the visual weenie that draws you into the park, and a symbol of the success that awaits the 1923 Walt, who is memorialized in a new statue in Buena Vista Street's heart.

Storytellers statue

Walk through the doors of the Elias & Co. store on Buena Vista Street (named for Walt's middle name), and you'll see echos of classic LA department stores, such as the Bullocks Wilshire. Disney's use of high-quality building material pays off here, as you feel part of a real place people would long to visit, and not like you're stuck inside a cheap amusement park.

An imported Italian chandelier inside Elias & Co.

Sit down for a sandwich or Starbucks coffee inside the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, and you'll enter an Arts-and-Crafts inspired space, evoking Greene and Greene's classic homes such as the Gamble House in Pasadena.

Inside the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe

The dumb city-inspired puns on location names are gone, replaced by a physical memory of a Los Angeles that many of us who were born here long to visit again. Disney's provided multiple places in this land where we can sit and, for a moment, be back in that old LA once more.

On the Carthay Circle 'hub', outside Elias & Co.
Plenty of seating on the Carthay Circle 'hub', outside Elias & Co.

Los Feliz Five & Dime

Disneyland's Main Street USA was inspired by towns "back east," such as Walt's childhood home of Marceline, Missouri and Disney art Director Harper Goff's hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado. But this, Buena Vista Street, is more for and by people from here. This place isn't a stereotype of California presented by and for people who aren't from here. It's what California really was and continues to stand for to anyone who longs for a California adventure.

Replies (1)

June 16, 2012 at 1:56 PM · Once the Red Car starts running, it will be the Los Angeles my mother remembers. A place where you went to the Bullocks on Wilshire for tea even if you couldn't afford anything else in that store and a ride on the Red Car to the beach was a speical summertime treat. At last someone finally got it right at "Disney's" California Adventure, the place "where dreams come true".

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