Monday, July 07, 2008
Disneyland (LA) is an amazing place. It's corporate and wrong in so many ways, yet it still manages to do a bunch of things right. I just went there today and walked away with bagloads of ideas. I thought I'd talk about a few of them here.
Everybody who's seen the Peter Pan ride is familiar with the outdoor entrance, which is a sweep of rooftops that leads to an open children's room window. Now let that sink in ...you're not even inside the ride yet, and you're already confronted with a major architectural idea: a huge floor-to-ceiling, barn door of an open window overlooking complex and interesting rooftops! I don't know about you, but I'd kill to have a real window like that.
And the window overlooks beautiful rooftops (above)...that's so rational. Real-life rooftops are sometimes the most beautiful part of a building. You don't want to waste that. You want windows overlooking it, as in the Dulac painting above (Thanks to Steve Worth and the ASIFA archive), or maybe a whole gallery overlooking it, as in the Hungarian castle above. Who would benefit most from such windows? Kids of course, they have the imagination to appreciate it. If they somehow managed to avoid falling to their deaths, they'd surely grow up to be geniuses with visual stimulation like that! ....Just kidding of course, but it's fun to free associate.
There are a few unsettling misfires on the rides. Alice's forest and signs (above) were far more interesting in the film. Oh well, let's not dwell on negatives.
The Pinnochio ride reproduces Ghepetto's workshop, and specifically the brilliant toy shelf conceived by Gustav Tenggren (above). It's great to be reminded of that. If you're an artist, you see something like that and you want to drop everything and sculpt toys. Tenggren's best work is full of charisma...he creates environments that you want to walk around in and touch.
Here's a ride (above) that jaded people hold in contempt: the Casey Jr. ride from Storybook Land. It looks lame so lots of people never give it a try. Actually it's one of the most stimulating rides in the park. That train really tears along and the perspective and volume contrasts along the way are always unexpected and shocking. Ride the open car, second to the last from the back. Always ride in the back when you're on small train rides...that's where you experience the the most centrifugal force. It's also good for people watching.
Here's (above) the Mad Tea Party ride. The Mary Blair-type colors are awe-inspiring, and the action takes place on a broad, sweeping plain slightly below ground level, and under a canopy of beautiful but menacing lanterns. The hedges that surround it are dark to set off the color. The effect is that of a Witch's Sabbath where cups spin madly under a canopy of hovering demons. The fact that half the people in the spinning cups are on the verge of vomiting adds to the wonderful weirdness of it all.
Here's (above) what looks like an outdoor puppet theater above the entrance to a building. Could this be accurate? Did the Swiss ever stage puppet shows above the entrance of puppet theaters, just to lure the public inside? It's a great idea, even if the Disney people made it up.
Here's (above) a model of Mr. Toad's car. I've sat in similar life-size cars in Toon Town and I can testify that these are fun designs that would be worth adapting to real, working automobiles. The car is essentially a high sofa with wheels, which in my opinion is the design that's most fun to drive in real life. You have the wind in your face, the comfort of a sofa, and the airy freedom of driving without restraining walls on the side. it's the closest thing to a magic carpet ride. I sat in a real car like that (owned by Jay Leno) and the experience was thrilling, even when the car was standing still.
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 1:48 AM