Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Orleans Square: A Land or...?

While recently looking through one of the Sunday bonuses posted at Vintage Disneyland Tickets, I took note of the way the publication talked about New Orleans Square. It's unquestionably regarded as one of the "lands" today, but its status seemed a little more uncertain at first.

The Summer 1966 Disney News says, "Together, New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean are virtually a new 'land'--the largest attraction in Disneyland." Well, which is it? One big attraction or a land? Was it heresy to have a new land that didn't have land in its name? (For that matter, was Holidayland a land proper?) The issue sometimes also refers to it as "the New Orleans Square," which sounds a little funny to our ears because we've accepted New Orleans Square as its own proper noun.

I looked to newspaper coverage to see what it was called on opening. The following advertisement should put to rest any doubt what Disney considered the area in July 1966:

The July 25 Long Beach Press-Telegram called it a "2.7-acre parcel of Americana." The Pasadena Star-News of the same date said it was part of Walt's plan "to develop the theme of Americana." The article concludes by noting, "Disney said his next 'land' to be developed will be the Territory of the Gadsden Purchase." Of course! The Territory of the Gadsden Purchase...


outsidetheberm said...

The Territory of the Gadsden Purchase actually sounds pretty cool! There's some neat possibilities there...

Leave it to Walt.

FoxxFur said...

Not to be a total contrarian since I'm pretty sure NoS was always regarded as its' own land, but it was in many ways developed as an extension of Frontierland's "New Orleans street" and most of the original Haunted Mansion facade blueprints list the location of the structure as Frontierland. So evidently Paris wasn't the first to have a Haunted Mansion in that area. ;)

Major Pepperidge said...

Was the Gadsden Purchase reference talking about the development of "Thunder Mesa"? I can't imagine what else it would be. Maybe it was for something that never saw the light of day at all?

Mike said...

The Original "Gadsden Purchase" involved an area in extreme southern New Mexico and Arizona south of the Gila River. It was purchased by the United States from Mexico in 1853 to ensure territorial rights for a practicable southern railroad route to the Pacific Coast. Maybe Disney was thinking of pushing the Disneyland RR past West Street!

Anonymous said...

My moms second trip to Disneyland was when NOS opened and she said it was crazy how excited people were about the new land.

Kevin Kidney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Kidney said...

How funny, but you know I think I've actually never considered New Orleans Square as an actual 'land" really. To me, it's more of a suburb of Frontierland. Since I've always thought of the Rivers of America as wholly being a part of Frontierland (including the old Indian Village, as well as the Plantation House Restaurant, River Belle Terrace, Magnolia Park, and the Mark Twain Riverboat - all very "Louisiana" if you think about it...) So the banks around the River are really Frontierland to me. (Whatever anyone else thinks about it is fine, too.)

And now that I think of it, Bear Country has, to my reckoning, always been the backwoods, redneck zone of Frontierland, too.

Oh my god!! Frontierland is HUGE!!!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how people think? I think of Frontierland as this weenie little land that you just walk through. Only because in my mind, the Rivers of America and the Pirates Lair are their own little land.

Anonymous said...

Major Pepper,

I was about to chime in with exactly what you said. Gadsden simply became Thunder Mesa.

And "the first new 'land' since Disneyland opened" can only be true if you pretend that Holidayland never happened.

Todd Pierce

Anonymous said...

I think in it's earliest development, New Orleans Square was cinsidered an extentio of Frontierland...but by it's construction, it was it's own "land". Bear Country too, an augmentation to Fronrierland has always been it's own "land"....even in it's pre-press and opening it was billed as "A whole new band in a whole New Land!"

Technically HOLIDAYLAND wasn't opened to the general Disneyland guest (or was it??) It was used for private company parties and events.

Not to divert from Disneyland, but Walt Disney World's CARIBBEAN PLAZA would be a bigger question. WED always refers to it as it's own "land" and even gave it such a designation on it's 1982 Pirates of the Caribben attraction poster..but the park itself always groups it as Adventureland. It has it's own restaurants, attraction(s) -if you include the old Pirate Arcade...and location specific overall theming. So is Caribbean Plaza it's own "land"?

-Mike Cozart
TomorrowLounge 67

Jason Schultz said...

Thanks for all your comments! Some follow-ups...

* Major and Todd: I contemplated that the Gadsden Purchase idea became Thunder Mesa, but the topography didn't quite match up. So, rather than suppose that one western idea begat another, I ignored it!

* Mike: Knowing Walt's love of railroads, maybe he did have plans for it to play in the new "land"!

* Todd and Mike: I'm unsure what to call Holidayland. I'm not ready to enumerate everything that I consider necessary for a "land," but Holidayland certainly offered a much different experience than the real lands.

* Mike re: Caribbean Plaza. I don't think having specific theming and its own restaurants/attractions necessarily denotes a different land. When Frontierland opened at Disneyland, it had eight different areas!

Jason Schultz said...

The last part of my comment should read that 1950s Frontierland had eight different areas--not at 1955 opening.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you regarding the areas of Frontierland, however from the begining, the land was boasted as a general overvew period celeebrating the many times and facets of the American Frontier --mainly 1820's thru 1880's--all authentic, but very swayed by popular design styles of the actual time the attractions were created. NEW ORLEANS SQUARE however was given a very specific time frame 1850's-1860's. When that specific style of architecture was instyle and the city was in it's heyday. BEAR COUNTRY too has specific dates on the 1890's thru the early 1900's -the Nothwest Frontier around the Klondike Gold Rush. But with CARIBBEAN PLAZA, the time frame is vaugue, but the styling is very specific.

Mike Cozart
TomorrowLounge '67

Anonymous said...

I agree that Thunder Mesa would have had nothing to do with a Disneyland "Gadsden Purchase" area/theme. It's interesting to note: that during the short time the Disney Gallery at Disnyland sold real -genuine WED artwork, art collections released many peices that were just not identified correctly.....a small group dated from the late 1950's that featured elaborate American-Southwest-Mexican was assumed these were design considerations for CASA DE FRITOS/MEXICANNA....however they were pretty extensive -also very Zorro-esque. (ironically a fountain in one rendering looks almost identical to one actually built in Caribbean Plaza!) Anyway, I wonder if maybe these renderings were possible "Gadsden Purchase" area theme concepts.....untill Jason's mention of this Gadsden concept I had never heard of such a plan.

Mike Cozart
TomorrowLounge '67

outsidetheberm said...

Yes, a land full of the romance of 'Zorro' was the first idea that came to mind.

Anonymous said...

The question of whether or not New Orleans Square is an actual "land" is a good one, and it's answer depends on several factors. Obviously, it is not a land in two basic senses: it does not contain the word "land" in its title, and it was not one of the original lands of the park. At the same time, it is generally treated by guests and the company as a separate land.

When I was a child, the two American parks (there were no other Disney parks) matched nicely. Each had Walt's original five lands plus a "square:" NOS in Disneyland and Liberty Square in WDW's Magic Kingdom. It seemed to me (and still seems to an extent) that the squares marked a "step up" in sophistication from the original lands. Their theming is virtually unmatched anywhere in the parks in terms of detail, authenticity, and atmosphere. They also both contain some of the most sophisticated and elaborate attractions and they tended towards more upscale dining and shopping options than most other areas of the parks.

One of the problems in designating them as separate lands seems to be the extraordinary artistry that went into creating transitions between the squares and the adjacent lands. This is especially true of Liberty Square, where the transition to Frontierland is not only seamless but actually tells (architecturally) the story of Westward expansion from the colonial period (the Haunted Mansion at the earliest chronological point and the farthest east historically) to the far west (Big Thunder Mountain at the latest chronological point and the furthest west historically--note: this progression was broken by the later addition of Splash Mountain to WDW's Frontierland; it is out of place chronologically and geographically). This brilliant work of design could easily lead to the idea that Liberty Square is but an anteroom to Frontierland.

Further, one could make the case that Liberty Square is a part of Frontierland based on the fact that their attractions seem somewhat jumbled. The WDW Riverboat, clearly a Frontierland icon, departs from Liberty Square, though steamboats on the Mississippi have nothing to do with colonial America. The same was true of the Mike Fink Keelboats, which departed from Liberty Square. Additionally, the Diamond Horseshoe, which is clearly a western saloon, sits mighty close (if not inside the boundary) to Liberty Square.

It is almost as if the squares were designed to "plus" the lands. You can almost see the wheels turning in Walt's brain: "Yep, the originally lands are great, but now lets spread our wings, pull out all the stops, and see what we can really do."

For me, the squares, be they "lands" or not, have never been a problem to place. The true problem has been the "lands" that came after them. Bear Country is clearly an annex of Frontierland, created solely for the purpose of hosting the Country Bear Jamboree, and Critter Country is clearly an expedient created for the purpose of hosting Splash Mountain (out with the bears and in with the critters). In either case, the "lands" were built because of the need for a place to put certain attractions. They have little of the detail or sophistication of the squares. The same could be said for the Toontown areas, which seem even less like lands and more like tacked-on annexes to Fantasyland (especially at WDW, where the theming cannot begin to match that of Disneyland's toon area).

Having said all that, New Orleans Square because of its physical placement, does pose some interesting problems. If it is its own "land," then it is one closely connected to it's neighbors, especially if you consider the fact that it divides Frontierland from the standpoint of those who are walking (this assumes my thesis that Critter Country is part of Frontierland). Also, of course, NOS's orientation towards the River's of America is historically much stronger than that of Liberty Square.

What interests me is NOS's orientation towards Adventureland, something that is not a factor for WDW's Liberty Square. NOS is interesting in that it marks the intersection of three areas: NOS itself, Frontierland, and Adventureland (by the way, I have never encountered anyone who seriously or casually seemed to think of WDW's Caribbean Plaza as a separate land). At Disneyland it seems that one minute you are in Adventureland and the next you are in NOS, with little or no transition, unless one considers that there was some relationship between the Swiss Family Treehouse (pirates figure heavily into that film) and the Pirates of the Caribbean, its neighbor and the first thing one comes to in NOS when walking from Adventureland. Now that the treehouse has been transformed into a funhouse for Tarzan, I suppose that theory is down the tubes. Any thoughts on how the transition from Adventureland to NOS works or was supposed to work?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought that up regarding the WDW "Liberty Square -Frontierland" timeline. It's was an interested design thought to do that, rather than a land featuring an assortment of styles and times mixed together to create the theme. To follow the trasitions of the earlietst Dutch-Colonial style thru the basic development of the Colonies and architecural style is an ultimate way to create the transition into Frontierland...also following the Westward movement via architecture thru a "St. Louis Style".the "Colorado Plateau" and into the "Southwest" ending in the Peco's Bill Cafe area....and ultimately Big Thunger/Thunder Mesa.

I think sometimes there is a situation that happens --like in the case of NOS, that they did what they could. To take advantage of the Riverfront orientation, and knowing that the only place to really house a Pirate Showbuilding (since th Mansion's exterior was already situated) they kinda had to place NOS where it ended up. The section of Frontierland called New Orlean Stret was already a good lead-in for a New Orleans Square, but Adventureland/NOS I think kinda ended up as a slightly blunt - quick theme chang. I think maybe it works in the sense that guests exiting Adventureland were probably so impressed with the view of New Orleans Square, and the interest created of the winding street and the desire to explore it, maybe drew attention away from what they were leaving from (???) The stone block wall with the stone lion finial seperating the "Jungle" from New Orleans Square was a simple divider-an elgant period correct archutecral element with a lion(...lions on Adventureland) from that view maybe the Adventureland "Jungle" acts as a continuation of the Louisianna forrerts or bayous beyond.

Mike Cozart
TomorrowLounge '67