Oct 24, 2011

Disney Construction Adventure

Courtesy {link}

I've come across a couple posts on the internet lately making the suggestion that the construction walls at Disney California Adventure are in some way bad show.

Disney parks are designed as theatrical shows, with cast members, sets, etc. They are carefully designed to be as immersive as possible while still allowing for the needs of an operating theme park. They are not build to be realistic recreations. That distinction is important as many claims of bad show are simply a necessary evil of running an theme park.

Bad show is when a thematic element is breaking with the theme or causing a distraction. Based on this, you might say that the construction walls are definitely bad show as they are a huge distraction. Construction walls aren't part of the show though. Construction walls are part of the safety system to keep people out of construction areas and at Disney's parks, safety trumps theme. Period. It's actually in the Cast Member training and instructions. Safety wins over show always.

Some people seem to think the walls should be much taller to block out views better. Impractical for a number of reasons. Firstly, bracing. A wall that tall would require significant bracing to keep itself vertical under its own weight, the wind and people bumping it or leaning on it. The current walls require simple bracing that doesn't require a lot of space. Having a corridor of much taller walls would really feel claustrophobic as well. It would create a corridor effect that would be depressing beyond belief. There is a very real psychological reason the walls are not taller.

Lately when buildings get refurbs, they have been wrapping them in tarps with the building printed on them. This has also been made as a suggestion. A problem with this idea is that in DCA, the buildings aren't there yet. The Carthay Circle Theater is sort of there, but they don't want people to see what it looks like till they are dong building it. In future, if it needs work, they will almost certainly wrap it in a painted tarp. But for now, that is inappropriate. With the Buena Vista Street buildings, it is even more impractical as they are still putting up heavy steel and need room for lifts and cranes.

DCAs walls are already improved over walls from past projects as we'll see shortly. They are themed and provide a glimpse of the future without getting too in the way of either the guests or the construction. They are a happy medium while being a necessary evil. Work has to get done or things would decay and rot away and when work is happening, they need to keep the guests safe. That is good show.

To end, let's take a brief look back at Construction Walls of the Past...

Tomorrowland Construction in 1967
Both courtesy {link}
In the upper photo, the walls were candy stripped and a little taller than the average construction worker. Plus, they appear to have put standard construction sawhorse barricades up around the edges of the walls. In the second picture, the walls are now about waist high and bright red/orange giving perfectly clear views of heavy construction equipment.

New Orleans Square 1964
Courtesy {link}
These walls look identical to what Disney uses today. Same color, same height. The even appear to have some posters on them.

It is important to note that both of these projects were happening while Walt was still alive. Walls of this type, a bit taller than a person, have been used in the parks for decades.

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