Where’s the love for Main Street? The epitome of small town U.S.A., Main Street is also a gateway into the magic of Disney Parks worldwide! Since the opening of Disneyland in 1955, guests have begun their journey into the worlds of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy by way of a rich collection of shops, restaurants, and entertainment — all featuring stylistic elements from a much simpler time.
However, Main Street serves a much more significant function than meets the eye. Similar to the berm circling Disneyland Park and the expansive swamps around Magic Kingdom Park, it effectively creates a barrier to the outside world, separating the timeless lands of enchantment from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
It is an introduction to the show that is Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. In fact, looking at the windows lining the shops, one might even liken Main Street to that of a film’s opening credits; with windows dedicated to those who took part in the planning and construction of Disney Parks.
John Hench, former Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering once referred to Main Street as an uncontrolled experience of time and space. “Strolling down [the street], guests set their own pace. Imagineers cannot control their progress, but we can guide it, using visual forms and their interrelations as incentives.” Main Street truly communicates a feeling that nothing else in the world can.
With five Disney Resorts worldwide and five very diverse incarnations of Main Street, we thought our readers would enjoy hearing a bit about the differences between each one. Over the next few weeks, we will begin to explore each one, beginning with the park that started it all: Disneyland!
Main Street U.S.A. was designed to resemble a turn-of-the-century American town. Inspired by Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri, the street represents a progression through the early years of the 20th century.
Beginning in Town Square, gas lamps purchased for $.03 a pound from the city of Baltimore, Maryland line the sidewalks as horse-drawn carriages trot down the street. Steam-powered locomotives pull into Main Street station — trains recently became the newest form of transportation in this region, able to cover great distances at high speeds. Antique cannons sit in the center of the square; while they are disarmed now, they are actual pieces of artillery used by the French army in the late 1800s.
The past meets the future, and gas lamps eventually turn into electric lights as one walks closer to the central plaza at the end of Main Street. Gas-powered vehicles transport guests up and down the bustling street. The fire-engine, built by imagineer Bob Gurr, was a favorite of Walt’s — often taking it out for a morning joyride around the park before guests began arriving for the day.
Walt forbid any sharp 90 degree corners on the sidewalks of the street — they were too threatening. Instead, pleasant and welcoming round curbs stretch along the the street’s perimeters.
And there you have it! Which Disney Park shall we examine next? Comment below, and get ready for an analysis of magical proportions!