Sunday, May 5, 2013
Is DCA's Buena Vista Street Just A Little Bit Soulless?
A couple of points about my initial encounter with Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure. First, the new entrance to DCA and Buena Vista Street improves the original DCA entrance and the old Sunshine Plaza a hundredfold. Remember the garish cutout signage that was suppose to represent California postcards, the fake Golden Gate Bridge, the endless loop of California based pop songs for the 60's? Good-bye, good riddance! It wouldn't be difficult for Disney to come up with a better way for guests to enter one of their parks and they gave us a gem with BVS.
Point two is I am, at heart, a city boy. I grew up in large city (San Francisco) and through the years, never really left my city roots (even though we moved out of the city when I was 16). As a kid, going downtown was a bus ride or two away where I was greeted with a mecca of huge department stores, theaters, assorted restaurants (and bars), and the hussle and bussle of downtown city life. A trip downtown was exciting and a bit overwhelming. Warm and welcoming? Not so much.
Disney Imagineers did a first rate job of recreating the urban Hollywood that Walt Disney walked when he first arrived in California in 1923. With the Carthay Circle Theater (actually a restaurant) providing the focal point, the surrounding area evokes a bygone era in Southern California. The Red Car Trolleys add a nice touch though the overhead wires sure get in the way of picture taking. And the new Partners Statue of Walt and Mickey (even though Mickey came a few years after Walt's arrival) is nothing short of inspired.
But here I am a few weeks later thinking about Buena Vista Street and probably unfairly comparing it to Main Street Disneyland. And in the end - it doesn't compare. Buena Vista Street makes for a wonderful entrance but that's it, you enter, pass through and move on to the better things in Disney California Adventure. Could I see myself grabbing a seat a bench somewhere on BVS and just spend time people watching? Not really. Where's the atmosphere? As much as they try to make BVS a place to spend time shopping, dining, and enjoying street entertainment, in the end you do what you need to do and move on. The place turns out to be rather shallow and soulless.
On the other side of the esplanade sits Main Street USA. You see where I am going with this. Entering through the Disneyland turnstiles, passing through the tunnels beneath the railroad tracks, guests walk out on to Main Street, a place that warms the heart and instills memories. Main Street USA really is the street of Walt Disney because he built it. He even lived on it from time to time. You could walk up and down Main Street for hours and hours and still not see all the details. For me a seat on a bench just soaking up the atmosphere and gently watching the time pass by is as good as any Disneyland attraction. It sure beats standing in a line somewhere.
So that's what it comes down to for me. While Disney did a great job with Buena Vista Street and I like it a lot, it still pales in comparison with the original Disneyland Main Street, a place that I truly love.