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Pruning Carnation Plaza Gardens makes room for future growth at Disneyland

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Pruning Carnation Plaza Gardens makes room for future growth at Disneyland

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As any good gardener will tell you, Fall is a great time to prune.

Why For? Because once the leaves are off the tree, you can actually see what you're doing. More to the point, flowering plants that are pruned back in the autumn usually experience vigorous regrowth the following spring.

Photo by Noe Valladolid

So taking that info into consideration ... I guess it's kind of appropriate that - sometime later this Fall - the construction walls will go up around Carnation Plaza Gardens. So that this portion of Disneyland Park can then be reimagined as Fantasy Faire, a new storybook village square that will -- in effect - bump out the borders of Fantasyland. And thus (the Imagineers hope, anyway) reinvigorate this theme park's Hub area.

Oh, I know, I know. Whenever a band is performing on Plaza Gardens Stage and the swing dancers are cutting loose, this corner of Disneyland can get pretty lively. But let's be honest here: How often was that actually happening these days?

Photo by Noe Valladolid

Truth be told, this primo piece of property -- right at the center of Disneyland Park -- stands empty 99% of the time, completely under-utilized.  And given how little inside-the-berm real estate the Imagineers currently have to work with when it comes to expanding this theme park's roster of rides, it's kind of surprising that Carnation Plaza Gardens has stayed in business for as long as it has.

And in a weird sort of way, it's entirely appropriate that - given this outdoor entertainment venue officially opened its doors on August 18, 1956 - that Thomas Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced on August 19, 2011 that Carnation Plaza Gardens would soon be shuttering. 55 years and a day. That's a pretty impressive run, don't you think?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

More to the point, given that Staggs and George Kalogridis (i.e. President of the Disneyland Resort) promised D23 EXPO attendees that - once night falls on Fantasy Faire - the swing dancers would be welcomed back to this part of the theme park. So that they can once again cut a rug to the big bands which will still be performing on the Fantasy Faire Stage, rather than the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage.

Besides, if you're familiar with the layout of Carnation Plaza Gardens, you're going to find that this reimagined corner of Disneyland looks an awful lot like the part of this theme park that Fantasy Faire replaced. In that the Fantasy Faire Stage will pretty much occupy ...

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... the exact same spot where the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage now sits on.

Photo by Noe Valladolid

More to the point, if you're used to taking that short cut between Frontierland and Fantasyland (You know the one that I'm taking about? Which takes you right by Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante's restrooms? Which can be found behind that blue set of double doors in the photo below) ...

Photo by Noe Valladolid

That short cut will still be there once the Imagineers finish reinventing Disneyland's Carnations Plaza Gardens area. Only in this future version of that theme park, the Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante's restrooms will now be located between the Fantasy Faire Theatre and Royal Princess Hall.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

As for the Carnation Plaza Gardens' outdoor dining area (which used to support one of Disneyland's quick service restaurants) ...

Photo by Noe Valladolid

... this will soon be replaced by Tangled Tower, an iconic sculpture inspired by that 2010 Walt Disney Pictures release. This will also be the area where Disneyland visitors will be invited (several times daily) to take part in the Royal Ribbon Festival. Which is when these Guests will then get the chance to join a  Disney Princess and her royal court attendants in a dancing celebration.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Alright. I know. There are a number of JHM readers who are genuinely upset with the Imagineers' plans for the Carnations Plaza Gardens area. If only because this means that yet another corner of this theme park is now being used to support / promote a set of Disney characters and/or franchise.

Which is the exact same problem that some people are having with the works that's now being done on Disneyland's old Plaza Pavilion restaurant ...

Photo by Noe Valladolid

... which - after an extensive rehab - will re-open for business in January of 2012 as a new Mary Poppins-themed eatery, the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café.

Photo by Noe Valladolid

But here's the thing: Though theme purists may squawk whenever a classic Disneyland attraction like Tomorrowland's Submarine Voyage is then reimagined as a character-heavy show like the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, the fact of the matter is that Disney's assortment of characters is one of the main reasons that many Guests make that drive down the 5 to Anaheim.

I mean, Knott's Berry Farm has rides too. And Universal Studios Hollywood has shows as well. But only Disneyland has Mickey Mouse & the Disney Princesses & Mary Poppins.

Photo by Noe Valladolid

And given that "Mary Poppins" featured that memorable-tea-party-with-the-penguins scene during its chalk-painting sequence, the folks who work in Food & Beverage are hoping that a new Main Street, U.S.A. eatery which features occasional appearances by the Poppins characters will be very, very popular with Disneyland visitors. Which is why construction crews are basically gutting the Plaza Pavilion ...

Photo by Noe Valladolid

... taking this place back to the bare walls. So that yet another under-utilized corner of Disneyland can then be turned into a brand-new themed environment that the Guests will be eager to experience. Which (again, the Imagineers are hoping) will help reinvigorate this theme park's Hub area.

More to the point, by moving Fantasyland's Fantasy Faire to Disneyland's Carnation Plaza Gardens area and by moving Main Street, U.S.A. 's bakery up towards the center of this theme park ... Well, that then frees up other parts of the canvas.

Photo by Noe Valladolid

And trust me, folks. Once Cars Land opens and work on the Buena Vista Street section of Disney California Adventure is completed in 2012, the Imagineers will then be turning their attention back to Disneyland Park. With their main goal being to find new ways to increase the capacity of this 56 year-old theme park.

"And where is WDI thinking of possibly building some rides, shows and attractions for Disneyland (which will then help increase this theme park's capacity)?," you ask. Well, the way I hear it, the three areas inside-of-the-Berm that are currently being considered for future expansion are:

Now I know that building a new attraction on top of Disneyland's old Motor Boat Cruise might seem highly unlikely. Especially when you consider all of the logistics involved / all of the construction challenges.

But know this: As early as 1988, the Imagineers were seriously talking about significantly simplifying the route of both the Monorail & PeopleMover. So that the corner where Tomorrowland & Fantasyland meet could then become home to the Little Mermaid's Village. Which was to have been a whole new "land" at this theme park which would have then become home to an early, early iteration of "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But that's a story for another time here at JHM. For now ... Well, I'm wondering how your folks genuinely feel about Disneyland's new Fantasy Faire area as well as the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café.

Do you think that these upcoming additions to the Hub will actually help reinvigorate this part of that theme park? Or do you feel that removing the seldom-used Carnation Plaza Gardens and the long-shuttered Plaza Pavilion restaurant will have a lasting impact on Disneyland's charm.

Your thoughts?

Special thanks to Noe Valladolid for providing many of the images that were used to illustrate today's article.

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  • I remember back in middle school (2006), I was in band class, every year we'd go to Disneyland and the 8th graders would perform in Carnation Plaza. 8th grade finally came for me and we played in this area... and well, it was pretty empty. It was a bunch of 8th graders and like 5 adults. I'm not surprised they are tearing up this area as it's never seemed like a busy place.

  • I think these improvements will freshen and enliven the hub.  It's good that the Plaza Pavilion is returning to its roots as a dining location - it's a primo spot for eating outdoors and enjoying the ambience of the heart of Disneyland.  And this will free up space to restore Carnation Cafe.  The Fantasy Faire relocation is a good idea, too, and will be no more jarring off the hub than the castle, the Matterhorn or the entrance to Tomorrowland currently are.

  • Both the new bakery location and the fair seem wonderful as stand-alone ideas, but seem odd where they are intended to be placed.  What is Mary Poppins doing along Main Street, ***U.S.A.?*** and wouldn't it be better to keep Fantasyland as a desination you reach when you are beyond the Castle drawbridge?  So, great ideas, but wrong places theme-wise.  Why not fit them along the relatively barren area between the Storybookland Canal Boats and its a small world?

    No question that, as the previous commenter mentioned, the Astro Orbiter now placed at the Tomorrowland entrance is also very distracting to the Main Street/Hub theming and does not belong at all.

  • I think it'll be fine. Osmond Brother's die hard fans may be upset that they're demolishing the stage where the brothers made their T.V. debut. I'm looking forward to the changes.

  • Well I'll be the first to say it but as much as I love swing dancing ( I really do!) it doesn't sound like it'd mesh with a fantasy renaissance theme... I think it'd be cool to get some Folk era costumed Jethro Tull/Steeleye Span cover bands in there.  It just seems more theme appropriate, while also more contemporary.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • "The site of Fantasyland's old Motor Boat Cruise"

    I would think this location would be fixed first before the Carnation Plaza.

  • given how Walt himself believed that Disney land will always be a work in progress and never be complete. the new additions should be looked at as the imagineers keeping that vision plus the company trying any way to get new visitors to the park its main goal .for after all why let unused space that could be used to improve Disney go to waste as long as its used right.

  • I keep hearing about a place for Princess's to gather, and that brings up the question of where do the Prince's gather as well?  At least with the Sword and the stone area, anyone who shall pull this sword from the stone will be King for the day. It seems like this area should be open to both Princess's and Prince's.

  • I'm pretty okay with both of these projects.  To me, Main Street USA ends at, well, the end of the street - right at Coke Corner and the Kodak store, then empties out into a new area called "The Hub" - which is sort of a nether-world between the lands.  There's always been too many visual cues to other Disneyland locations to really make The Hub an immersive "old timey America" experience.  The castle, the matterhorn, the thatched huts of Adventureland and the stockade fence of frontier land aren't exactly hidden from view.   I'm also pretty excited by the idea of the Fantasyland Theater getting a show again.

  • I'm really excited about these new changes.

  • I've been to Disneyland more than 6 times, and I never realized that there was a "Carnation Plaza Gardens." In fact, I can't remember ever even seeing the area the above pictures depict.

    Well, I guess I won't miss it that much!

    I don't mind Disneyland having attractions based on characters from movies, but I think they should also try to come up with original characters for the parks. As an example of why I think they should do this, two of their most popular attractions, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, were original ideas. In addition, Pirates of the Caribbean went on to inspire a very successful movie franchise

  • The saying goes, "As long as there is imagination in the world, Disneyland will never be complete" does not mean try to fix something that isn't broken. I can only assume it means to add to, not replace. As a swing dancer at Carnation Plaza, I feel that the imagineers are now encroaching Fantasyland onto Main Street U.S.A. If there already is a Fantasy Faire, in the back near ToonTown Depot, why on earth are they bringing it out past the castle? Doesn't Fantasyland begin once you pass through the castle? I mean, please, correct me if I am wrong, but I don't see how this works.

    I think what they should have done, was repaint/clean-up Carnation Plaza, and maybe take down some trees. It's in such a secluded location, that when passing by, one can hardly see it unless they're looking for it.

    Swing dancing won't ever be the same there anymore. It's a shame that something Walt loved to watch is going to be turned into something that's only been made to help whatever imagineer that came up with the idea, keep his job.

  • This makes me sad! I used to perform at plaza garden every year when I was in high school for jazz and show choir, I'm just thankful that i performed on it before they decided to remodel.

  • I think these are good ideas. I wish that Disneyland would make their food better. The food isn't tasty. Also there store merchandise sucks every store has the same stuff and the and they sell too many pins.

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