Apr 24, 2012

Save Main Street From Swing

Image Courtesy {link}
Given the furor that this is creating across the fan boards I figured I'd chime in on it.

As you've probably heard, Disney will be closing the Carnation Plaza Gardens next week to re-theme them to a medieval village square for the Princesses. The stage that has been used for swing dancing for many long years will remain, but be re-themed. Once this area is complete, the swing dancing will indeed continue in this area.

I'm pretty certain that 99.8% of Disneyland's guests don't really care, but the self proclaimed "hard-core" fandom is raging about this. There are complaints that the stage is a hugely historic location given that many famous Jazz artists have performed there including Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Still others complain that changing this area to match Fantasyland is an invasion of theme upon Main Street. Yet another oft seen complaint is that the swing dancing will be out of theme with the new area itself, the only valid concern here.

Here's how I see it. The swing dancing has always been out of theme here, if you count this area as part of Main Street at all. Swing dancing began in 1926 in Harlem at the Savoy Ballroom. Hot Jazz and Swing Jazz were newly emerging music forms and quite popular to dance to. In 1928 at a dance contest in New York City, one of the winners coined the name "Lindy Hop, " in honor of Charles Lindbergh's "hop" across the Atlantic, as an off the cuff name for his fancy footwork in response to a reporter's question. The name stuck and Lindy Hop became the first swing dance. Later the name was changed to the Jitterbug. Main Street USA represents a turn of the century, small mid-west town's main street. As such it is decades and  miles removed from the world of swing. Swing did become popular across the country but not until the 30s and 40s.

On top of this, the Carnation Plaza Gardens are located in the Hub, not on Main Street. In fact, they are on the far side of the hub with the entrances to two lands, Adventureland and Frontierland, intervening. The Hub is an area where many themes meet and co-mingle. You have the Astro Orbitor, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, the Tiki Room, Jolly Holiday Bakery, etc all existing in this area together. There really isn't a theme here at all. Calling it Main Street is no more valid or true than calling it Tomorrowland. It is simply the Hub. As such, there really is no theme and extending the Castle theme out behind trees and on the far side of the moat river can not be considered a thematic invasion at all. Even under the strictest of interpretations. In fact, looking at park maps throughout the years, this area has been listed as belonging to both Fantasyland and to Frontierland at times.

Really, the only valid concern is that having swing dancing in an area themed as a medieval town square is breaking theme. However, even here I would advise caution. We do not yet know what the final layout or look of the area will be. Nor do we know if there is a planned change of decor for the dancing. In fact we know next to nothing about this whole project. All we have are less than a handful of concept art sketches. Making such harsh judgments at this stage of things is completely impossible. Expressing concern or worry is another matter and completely understandable. Unless you are a member of the team working on this, or have regular access to the inner sanctum of Disney Imagineering, we simply do not know enough to make informed judgments.

We can say a few things with certainty though. 1) If you believe that the area belongs to Main Street, then the swing dancing is horribly out of theme. 2) If you believe that the area isn't part of Main Street, but part of the Hub where themes collide with impunity, then the swing dancing is perfectly okay, but you must also believe that it is okay for Disney to change the theme of the gardens without breaking thematic rules.


  1. I think people care entirely too much about it in my opinion. I am a HUGE Disney fan and I trust that what they do will be just as seamless and amazing as the rest of the park. Therefore I have no concerns! I can understand your point of view entirely though. I love reading your posts! It's the only way I found out what is going at with Disneyland!

    1. Yeah, that's exactly how I feel too. I trust them. They've been doing this for 57 years now. I honestly can't believe how worked up some people are getting over this incredibly minor thing that is going to end up being amazing.