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The Hidden Main Street

The Hidden Main Street

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I hope they will build it someday. It might be controversial, unsettling, upsetting, it nevertheless would be fascinating to know what the original concept for Disneyland Paris' Main Street would have been like. What original concept ? The one of a Main Street set-up during the '30s and not at the turn of the twentieth century, a Main Street where jazz, cinema and gangsters would have ruled. A booming, violent and dynamic Main Street.

What would it have been like? Well, you already saw some concept art for that project in the book "Disneyland Paris - From Sketch to Reality," but there was quite a bit more to it as I found out by talking to some of the Imagineers that had worked on this early version of the park.

In this version inspired by the '30s, each shop reflected the personality of an immigrant to the United States. A circle-vision cinema was disguised as one of the grand classic cinemas of the time. Instead of the restaurant Walt's, there was a 'speakeasy', one of those clandestine bars that sprang up due to prohibition. You went into a relatively innocent looking night club, but a few seconds later the walls would revolve to reveal a 'Cotton Club'-style jazz hotspot. And an elevated train ran along the facade on one side of the street. After reaching the station in front of Discoveryland, it came back to Central Plaza, in front of the Castle, passing in front of a diorama featuring New York and Chicago.

The Imagineers had one last refinement that they wanted to add to that version of Main Street. They wanted to create a private restaurant as luxurious as the Club 33 at Disneyland, California. It would have sited behind the Main Street Transportation Co. building, with a secret door which would lead you into one of the steam train's carriages. You would have had the impression of actually dining on a train.

While this concept for a '30s Main Street was abandoned, the train remained a central element of the mythology of the land. According to that mythology, the Plaza Gardens building was one of the first ones to be built in the little town. In fact, around 1861, before the town boomed, it was actually totally isolated, close to a lake where folks would bath during the summer and ice-skate during the winter. And then the train arrived and the town mushroomed from 1870 to 1880, between the old restaurant and the new hotel that was raised close to the station.

While the buzz of life is obvious in all parts of Main Street, it seems even more intense on Market Street, close to the middle of Discovery Arcade.

Market Street was inspired by Market Street in San Francisco. It's a cozy area where you can hear all the sounds of daily life. There's a Chinese mahjong player there that you can listen to and close by, from the private detective office comes the sound of a dog barking. In fact, before the park opened, a security guard nearly went mad one night looking for the animal making the noise. In the same area, in one of the original concepts for Main Street, which was later abandoned, there were huge doors in Discovery Arcade which would open to reveal an outdoor market.

By the way, the mahjong player and the dog are not the only sounds that the art director of Main Street, Eddie Sotto, included in the land (sometimes recording them himself): a piano lesson can be heard through another window and, in the family hotel above Victoria's, one of the hotel guests can be heard taking a shower.

Talking about Eddie Sotto. In the 80s, he had worked with illustrator Jim Michaelson on a travelling show about Baltimore. Jim Michaelson - who by the way was responsible for Richard Nixon's campaign posters in 1958 - is the artist who designed the futuristic town posters that are displayed in Discovery Arcade. To create those Jim was inspired by the French XIXth century artist Robida and by the American magazine Popular Mecanix. Those posters have always stroked me as being the best pieces of art that one can admire at Disneyland Paris. And, of course, the Baltimore one includes a tiny reference to the travelling show project.

That's it for today. I will come back in a few weeks with a final part for this series about the secrets of Disneyland Paris. But before wrapping-up, here are a few odd additional details and titbits:

Tom York and Louis Lemoine were the principal designers of the Disneyland Paris trains. Train enthusiasts will appreciate the fine details, all authentic, right down to the serial number on the sides which indicates the engine number and the carriage number. All the details on these trains date from the period, even the whistles. That being said, the serial number on one of the trains is actually the birthday of Eddie Sotto!

The gas lamps in Liberty Arcade are the same design as those in the Universal Exhibition of Chicago of 1893.

The photos in Liberty Arcade come from the Statue of Liberty Museum and from the New York Library. You can also discover in the display cases some valuable miniature reproductions of the statue, which were actually handed out on its inauguration day.

Since I always refer to the book "From Sketch to Reality" in that series, I just would like to remind you that, at the latest news, Didier Ghez still seemed to be selling limited and regular editions of the English version of the book at a discount price. For more information you can contact him at [email protected]

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  • Idea of building Disneyland Paris' Main Street is really fascinating that will surely increase the charm and attraction of this beautiful city. Click top5writingservices.com/edubirdie-com-reviews for more help in essays. I think Government of France should think to create such street in the heart of Paris.

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