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The story behind Buena Vista Street told by Imagineers, emotionally inspired by a little of Disneyland and a lot of Walt Disney

in Disney, Disney's California Adventure, Disneyland Resort, Entertainment, Theme Parks

When developing Buena Vista Street as the new entrance to Disney California Adventure, Walt Disney Imagineers carefully considered how to reintroduce the park in a similar to manner as how Main Street USA serves as the gateway to the themed lands of Disneyland. The goal was never to duplicate Main Street but instead to create a new area with the same purpose, inspired by an entirely different part of Walt Disney’s life.

I recently sat down inside the park’s new Carthay Circle Restaurant with the men and women behind the creation Buena Vista Street. They’re a group of Imagineers and creative professionals responsible for the development and design of every detail that now graces the new entrance to Disney California Adventure, having worked tirelessly on the project for the past five years. With its completion, they shared stories of what inspired them to reach back to Walt Disney’s past and take a few cues from the park that started it all, Disneyland.

Bob Weis, executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering emphasizes the desire for guests to feel a bond with a park that formerly didn’t reach visitors on the same level that Disneyland has for years. “We wanted more emotional connection to the park,” said Weis. “Because what people get from Disneyland is they’d like to be there – they just want to be there – and we wanted to have a lot more of that.”

Tom Fitzgerald, senior creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, has been an Imagineer for 33 years, watching the parks grow and change shape, including the initial creation of Disney California Adventure. The approach to redesigning the entrance of an existing theme park was a unique challenge for him and his team. “When we actually started on Buena Vista Street, we really were looking at Disneyland saying, okay, how does this become the companion, in a sense, to Disneyland?”, explained Fitzgerald. “If that really was inspired by Walt’s childhood in Marceline, this can be inspired by Walt coming to Hollywood and to California and what does that mean?”

Alan Bruun, creative director for entertainment at the Disneyland Resort, noted, “It is the reintroduction of a huge dollop of Walt Disney into this park to the extent that it affects everything else that happens in the park.” He explained the idea behind Buena Vista Street was not to create shops and restaurants themed to Disney characters, but instead create places that might have inspired Walt Disney to create those characters in the first place.

2 Comments

  1. Bryce Cossitor

    Ricky,
    Really enjoyed your coverage of the DCA updates. The item I found particularly interesting was the discussion of choosing a “Castle” for the centerpiece of Buena Vista Street. I couldn’t help but think about the same discussions that must have happened during the design of Disney MGM Studios when Grauman’s Chinese Theater was chosen and beautifully executed. Sadly, though, we still have a cartoon hat hiding what was intended to enhance the storyline in Florida when guests entered the park. The hat would look great on the hillside to the right, just outside the park entrance – I would bet there are Imagineers that would agree……

    1. Ricky Brigante

      The Chinese Theater was definitely intended as the “weenie” of the park. It’s been passed around that licensing issues are to blame for the hat covering it up. Whether that’s true or not, there are definitely Imagineers who have publicly said they’d like to see the hat removed.

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