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What You Need To Know About ‘Star Wars Land’

Current Disneyland Boundary With Projected Star Wars Land Outline

A long time ago in theme park really, really close…

… Disney CEO Bob Iger unveiled a new ‘Star Wars Land’ for Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In this post, I’ll dive into everything we know about this new Disney ‘Land’ here in California, including a few educated guesses on how it might look.

What Is ‘Star Wars Land’?

The characters and storylines from your favorite sci-fi epic are invading Disneyland. A new 14 acre section full of droids, aliens, and adventures is being carved out from a sleepy corner of the park.

‘Star Wars Land’ will be a completely new ‘Land’ at Disneyland, similar to Frontier ‘Land’ or Adventure ‘Land.’

What Rides Will It Have?

According to the latest from Disney, there will be two ‘signature attractions’ in the new land.

One will be ‘an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.‘ The second will allow you to ‘fly’ the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission.

Without any more details from Disney on exactly what the new rides will look like or how they will function, its hard to form much of a theory.

I will say this – based on the description of the ‘signature attractions’ alone, I think either one could work for a relocated Star Tours. However, the Star Tours debate is a whole other topic and I’m writing a separate article for it. Stay tuned.

What Planet Is It?

'Star Wars Land' Concept Art © Disney
‘Star Wars Land’ Concept Art © Disney

The new ‘Land’ will feel like a remote trading outpost and won’t represent any particular planet we know from Star Wars movies, books, or comics. I think this is a great choice of theme for several reasons.

First, it will be easy to blend the theme of the new ‘Star Wars Land’ land into the existing feel of both Frontierland and Fantasyland from that section of the park.

Also, since the ‘trading outpost’ will be a completely new fictional place, there should be a lot less of the inevitable nit-picking by hard-core Star Wars fans (though this certainly won’t be the case with the Millennium Falcon on display).

Where Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be Built At Disneyland?

Current Disneyland Boundary With Projected Star Wars Land Outline Zoom
Current Disneyland Boundary With Projected Star Wars Land Outline

The new land will be located at the rear of the park, encompassing Big Thunder Ranch and some areas beyond the berm.

In the image above, I’ve roped off part of the park that fits the area and description of the land provided by Disney. It encompasses 14 acres, overlaying Big Thunder Ranch and a large chunk of the Disneyland backstage. This includes the Pope House and Circle D Ranch.

The horses from the ranch will live off-site, while the Pope House will be relocated elsewhere. In fact, the permits to move it have already been approved.

I have an article taking an in-depth look at everything in the likely site of the new ‘Star Wars Land’. Check it out -‘Where Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be Built At Disneyland?

What Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Look Like?

'Star Wars Land' Concept Art ©Disney
‘Star Wars Land’ Concept Art ©Disney

Other than concept like the image above, we don’t have a lot to go on when it comes to the design of ‘Star Wars Land.’ However, I’ve given some thought about how the entrance might look.

It will undoubtedly have a sunken entrance that takes you below the Disneyland Railroad, similar to the one for Mickey’s Toontown.

As you approach from the Rivers Of America, I’d expect to see something with a Southwestern/Tatooine feel. You’ll have Big Thunder Mountain on your right and they won’t be able to hide it easily without spoiling the view from both the path and the ride. I’d expect Imagineers to work the feel of the mountain into the entrance theme.

The entrance space should be pretty wide, swallowing up everything from the ‘photo wagon’ by the Rivers of America to the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. I think this should allow enough space to vary the theme slightly across the width of the entrance to accommodate the shifting themes from the adjoining lands.

When approaching from the Fantasyland side, guests will step almost directly from Pinocchio’s Village into a galaxy far, far away. The current transition between the village and BTR is helped by some large, plain, wooden doors, concealing the backstage areas behind Big Thunder BBQ and breaking up the competing themes.

I’d expect those doors to stay, they grant Cast Members access to the inside of the park and the backstage area of Big Thunder Mountain. However, I would like to see the ‘Fantasyland side’ of the entrance be more whimsical than the other ‘hard-bitten’ Frontierland side, possibly with some characters from the film. Imagine a big BB8 rolling around and checking out the scene?

Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be It’s Real Name?

Hopefully, Disney Imagineers will come up with a better idea than just tacking ‘Land’ onto the end of a valuable franchise, though you never can tell what they will call things in this modern era.

Welcome To Cars Land Sign In Disney's California Adventure
‘Welcome To Cars Land’ Sign In Disney’s California Adventure

Over in California Adventure, Disney stuck with the “highly imaginative” name ‘Cars Land’ instead of changing it to something more magical like ‘Radiator Springs’ or ‘Route 66.’ Mercifully, they have changed ‘Avatar Land’ in Disney’s Animal Kingdom to the nicer and more mysterious ‘Pandora: The World Of Avatar.’

On the flip side,  Disney has also announced a ‘Toy Story Land’ for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which they may stick with or change slightly to ‘Toy Story Playland’ to match the one in Hong Kong.

I’m hoping Disney will be bold and choose a name like ‘Planet/Outpost What-cha-ma-call-it: Galaxy of Star Wars’ and then 10 years from now, when it’s sunk sufficiently into society’s collective consciousness, drop the last part.

How Will You Get To ‘Star Wars Land’ In The Park?

Access paths to 'Star Wars Land' at Disneyland
Access paths to ‘Star Wars Land’ at Disneyland

If it’s one thing Disney is an expert at, it’s traffic control. So this begs the question- how will they accommodate the increased flow of traffic back into this sleepy, hardly used corner of the park?

One of the many innovations Walt Disney made when constructing Disneyland was to give it a single entry/exit point. Instead of parking on one side, exiting on the other side, and having to walk miles around back to your car, all traffic flows in and out from a single point.

If you look at the location of ‘Star Wars Land,’ it’s actually closer to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure than it is to the front gate. That make me wonder:

Will Disneyland build a second entry gate for ‘Star Wars Land’?

I’m going to say no for several reasons:

  1. It’s much easier to control traffic from a single entry point.
  2. It’s tradition.
  3. It also will stamp out the complaining from people who won’t be able to use the gate, like the problem Disney has at the DCA gate from the Grand Californian Hotel.
Two Paths To Star Wars Land At Disneyland
Two Paths To Star Wars Land At Disneyland

So, assuming that you’ll have to reach the ‘Star Wars Land’ from the front of the park, there’s only a couple of ways to do it- left or right around Big Thunder Mountain.

  1. Go through sleeping Beauty Castle, past the line for Peter Pan’s Flight, around the King Arthur Carrousel, and on to ‘Star Wars Land,’ or
  2. Turn left at the hub, through Frontierland, and hook right on the path around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Either path will take you to ‘Star Wars Land’ and it will be interesting to see which one works out better, especially first thing in the morning.

The Fantasyland route is slightly shorter, but it bottlenecks through the castle and area just beyond. There will also be fleets of strollers to contend with going this way.

The Frontierland path, while a bit longer, has a wider path and is far quieter when the park first opens (at least right now). I’m betting it will be overall quicker and more sane to take this route to ‘Star Wars Land’ than to rush through Fantasyland.

There is, of course, a third option, which would involve construction of a new path behind Fantasy Faire in still more backstage area.

Alternate Path To Star Wars Land Through Fantasy Faire Backstage Disneyland
Alternate Path To Star Wars Land Through Fantasy Faire Backstage Disneyland

A new route through Fantasy Faire would only be slightly shorter than the one through Fantasyland, and would also limit Cast Members backstage access, so I find it unlikely that such a route will be built.

When Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Open At Disneyland?

At the most recent D23 Expo, it was announced that construction on the new land wouldn’t begin until 2017. In reality, construction has already been announced to begin on January 11, 2016.

This is another massive topic for discussion, so check out my post When Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Open at Disneyland for more information.

How Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Compare To The Rest Of Disneyland?

Nine 'Lands' Of Disneyland Including 'Star Wars Land'
Nine ‘Lands’ Of Disneyland Including ‘Star Wars Land’

According to Bob Iger, the new land will fill up about 14 acres. While I’m sure at least part of the area will be new backstage area (off-limits to guests), I thought it would be interesting to compare that number with the rest of the Disney ‘Lands’ to get a mental picture of just how large the new land will be.

Original Disney ‘Lands’

When Disneyland was first built, there were five original ‘lands.’ All of these areas have grown in one way or another in 1955, leaving us with the existing boundaries we know today.

In this table, you’ll find the current size of the original ‘Disney lands.’ These numbers are based on what I call ‘guest areas,’ or the section of the park that we can all enjoy and not including backstage or support areas.

LandCurrent Size (acres)
Main Street, USA6.3
Adventureland6.7
Frontierland15
Fantasyland13.3
Tomorrowland14.2

As you can see, ‘Star Wars Land’ will be around the size of Frontierland, Fantasyland, or Tomorrowland. It’s hard to picture the size it just with these areas as a reference though.

The size of Frontierland includes much of the Rivers of America, most of which you can’t see from any one place. The main section of Fantasyland behind the castle is easy to imagine, but then it hooks around the Matterhorn and all the way back to It’s A Small World and the Fantasyland Theater.

Tomorrowland can feel massive, but like its western brother across the hub, you can’t see half of it with Autopia winding out into the trees beyond.

The concept art we have of ‘Star Wars Land’ shows a more open layout. If so, I’m sure it will feel huge and otherworldly, no doubt what Imagineers have in mind.

Added Disney ‘Lands’

LandCurrent Size (acres)
New Orleans Square6.4
Critter Country3.7
Mickey’s Toontown3

The size of later ‘Land’ additions to Disneyland hardly compares to the first ones. ‘Star Wars Land’ will be roughly twice the size of New Orleans Square. This is good news to me, because NOS feels massive when you’re in it.

A lot of the reason behind this is through the use of forced perspective in the streets and back alleys of NOS. I’m sure Disney Imagineers will utilize this concept with ‘Star Wars Land’ to its utmost potential.

Conclusion

What we don’t know about the new ‘Star Wars Land’ far outweighs what we do.

  1. Location: Back, left corner of Disneyland
  2. Size: Approximately 14 acres
  3. Rides: At least two
  4. Construction Timeline:
    1. Demolition: Begins 1/11/16
    2. Completion: Who knows?

Disney has so much construction going on around the world that it feels like the first half of Michael Eisner’s reign as CEO, when theme parks and resorts were popping up like daisies and there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be accomplished.

I’m going to keep a close eye on this new ‘Star Wars Land’ and write more as new details are revealed. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news about this and all of information on everything in the Disney universe.

Are you as pumped as I am about ‘Star Wars Land’? What excites you the most? Leave me a comment below. As always, thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!

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New Club 33 Face Lift Looks Good On New Orleans Square

Frosted glass above the new Club 33 entrance with the new logo.

A freshly renovated New Orleans Square.
A freshly renovated New Orleans Square.

Even though it’s the busy summer season, the Disneyland Resort still has the usual mix of construction and refurbishment taking place. The workers are leaving New Orleans Square and heading behind Main Street, USA or inside the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Let’s take a look.

New Orleans Square Looks Renewed And Reinvigorated

Since we last looked at it in June, the tarps and scaffolds have come down and New Orleans Square (NOS) looks better than ever. The exterior walls and railings are freshly repainted and the whole land looks renewed and full of life.

The new Club 33 jazz lounge has large windows overlooking the Rivers of America.
The new Club 33 jazz lounge has large windows overlooking the Rivers of America.

The French Market patio entrance has fancy new brickwork and fresh paint.
The French Market patio entrance has fancy new brickwork and fresh paint.

Newly refurbished facade and windows near the French Market NOS.
Newly refurbished facade and windows near the French Market NOS.

Place-setting artwork on a balcony over the French Market.
Place-setting artwork on a balcony over the French Market.

Freshly painted area of New Orleans Square next to the Mint Julep Bar.
Freshly painted area of New Orleans Square next to the Mint Julep Bar.

Fresh paint on the New Orleans Square storefronts.
Fresh paint on the New Orleans Square storefronts.

A newer, more accessible exit stairway leading from the Club 33 expansion over NOS.
A newer, more accessible exit stairway leading from the Club 33 expansion over NOS.

Though mostly complete, a few finishing touches are still being added to the perfume shop.

A corner of the perfume shop is still be refurbished in New Orleans Square.
A corner of the perfume shop is still be refurbished in New Orleans Square.

The shop near the NOS bathrooms that was dedicated to pins has been reassigned to bath and style products.

The New Orleans Square pin store has been re-purposed to bath and body supplies.
The New Orleans Square pin store has been re-purposed to bath and body supplies.

New Rooftop Railings Have Been Installed

The entire southern roof perimeter of NOS has a new decorative railing, extending from the Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) exit to the train tracks. It reminds me of the handrails CAL-OSHA forced Disney to install on the exterior of the Alice in Wonderland ride.

Safety rails above New Orleans Square near the train tracks.
Safety rails above New Orleans Square near the train tracks.

New safety rails have been built above the NOS buildings.
New safety rails have been built above the NOS buildings.

In this satellite picture, you can see where the new safety rails have been installed. This imagery is over a year old and doesn’t show the updates to New Orleans Square, but you can get the general idea. The rails secure the area on top of the POTC show building, which runs behind all the shops on the South side of NOS.

New Orleans Square rooftop railings installed during the recent refurbishment.
New Orleans Square rooftop railings installed during the recent refurbishment.

I figure the rails were installed for one of two reasons:

  1. The State of California made Disney install the rails to protect workers on top of POTC from falling off the building.
  2. Disney is going to build a rooftop patio or fireworks viewing platform on top of POTC, with great views of Fantasmic on the Rivers of America.

I consider the second option to be the more likely answer, because it fits into management’s new strategy of extracting more money from Club 33 members via new locations like the jazz club expansion and Lounge 1901. Maybe they’ll call it the ‘Southern Terrace.’

Such a prime location could easily be rented out for weddings and special occasions for a premium without disrupting normal park operations below.

You Can See Club 33, But You Still Can’t Go Inside

In the refurbished New Orleans Square, everywhere above you is now Club 33. You can see the ‘secret’ hallways and corridors across the entire second story of the land.

Updated and refurbished windows along a passage for Club 33.
Updated and refurbished windows along a passage for Club 33.

New Club 33 expansion passageway above New Orleans Square
New Club 33 expansion passageway above New Orleans Square

Louvered windows cover one side of a new passage for the Club 33 expansion.
Louvered windows cover one side of a new passage for the Club 33 expansion.

While I’m happy to see NOS looking great, it makes me sad to know that I won’t be able to go into the Court of Angels anymore. From every angle, it’s been locked off and covered up.

Frosted glass doors stop regular guests from seeing inside the Court of Angels.
Frosted glass doors stop regular guests from seeing inside the Court of Angels.

Here we can see the two main arched entrances to the Court are blocked by fancy art-deco gates and the. Above, a side door into the area is covered with frosted glass, covering the new Club 33 elevator installed just outside.

The pretty side gate to the Court of the Angels at Disneyland.
The pretty side gate to the Court of the Angels at Disneyland.

An art-deco looking gate blocking off the Court of Angels from regular guests.
An art-deco looking gate blocking off the Court of Angels from regular guests.

The new door to Club 33 sits in the middle of one of an arch, painted to match the rest of Royal Street and blend into the background.

The new entrance door to Club 33 through the Court of Angels.
The new entrance door to Club 33 through the Court of Angels.

A decorative face-gate sits in the middle of the door, so that Cast Members can talk to those wanting to enter the club without giving up its secrets unnecessarily.

Decorative door viewer slot for admitting guests into Club 33.
Decorative door viewer slot for admitting guests into Club 33.

Above the entrance is a frosted glass window with the new Club 33 logo in the middle. There is also an electronic intercom next to the door, also emblazoned with the logo.

Frosted glass above the new Club 33 entrance with the new logo.
Frosted glass above the new Club 33 entrance with the new logo.

New Club 33 intercom with new club logo.
New Club 33 intercom with new club logo.

I happened to be lucky enough to catch some guests entering the club and was able to get a picture behind the door. It looks like the thick archway has been partitioned into a separate entry room.

Guests entering the new Club 33.
Guests entering the new Club 33.

Guests entering the new lobby of Club 33 in Disneyland.
Guests entering the new lobby of Club 33 in Disneyland.

You can see a painting on the wall to the left of the door, with what looks like a New Orleans jazz band with straw hats.

Painting of a jazz band in the new Club 33 lobby.
Painting of a jazz band in the new Club 33 lobby.

I squeezed out a few pictures through a crack in the fancy new gates. You can’t see much, other than some bushes and a cast-iron patio set. There are some great images from inside the Court itself, as well as the newly refurbished Club 33, over on the Davelandblog. Make sure to check them out.

A peek through a crack in the gate surrounding the old Court of Angels in Disneyland.
A peek through a crack in the gate surrounding the old Court of Angels in Disneyland.

A peek through a crack in the gate surrounding the new Club 33 entrance.
A peek through a crack in the gate surrounding the new Club 33 entrance.

A Club 33 Cast Member caught through a crack in the gate.
A Club 33 Cast Member caught through a crack in the gate.

Conclusion

After all the paint and the mess, New Orleans Square is the most beautiful area of Disneyland. It captures the best feeling of the Crescent City without all the booze and the clamor. I’m disappointed that the Court of the Angels is seemingly forever inaccessible to guests, but in the end it’s really a small thing and I won’t let it ruin my life, like some die-hard fans.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look over the fence into the Tomorrowland submarine lagoon and see what, if anything, they’re doing on that side of the park. Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!

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Mickey-shaped Beignets from New Orleans Square | Food Friday

Mickey-shaped Beignets covered in powdered sugar.

Mickey-shaped Beignets covered in powdered sugar.
Mickey-shaped Beignets covered in powdered sugar.

The Mickey-shaped Beignets (proper pronunciation is ben-yays, but we affectionately call them beg-nets) are a wonderful treat, any time of the year. I think that we have gotten them almost every time we’ve been to Disneyland, either gobbling them up while we walk around the park or sitting down to eat them leisurely while watching the Royal Street Bachelors play a set.

Food Facts

  • Dish: Mickey-shaped Beignets
  • Location: Mint Julep Bar, New Orleans Square, Disneyland, California
  • Price: $4.19 for 3, $6.19 for 6
  • Cuisine: American/Southern, Snack food
  • Seasonality:  Year-round
  • Ease of Eating: Cautiously mobile
  • Allergy Considerations: Eggs
  • Jamie’s Opinion: Simple, sugar-coated, delicious treat
  • Mom-in-Chief Scale: 3.2 out of 5
  • Envaluator Scale: 4.3 out of 5

What’s It Taste Like?

Here's my family enjoying hot Mickey-shaped Beignets at the French Market on a recent trip to Disneyland.
Here’s my family enjoying hot Mickey-shaped Beignets at the French Market on a recent trip to Disneyland.

Warm, sweet, slightly crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. Doughy, happy, Mickey-shaped goodness!

Orders are in three or six and the beignets are about the size of a coaster. The dough is shaped to look like a classic Mickey and deep-fried.

Once the beignets are cooked, they drop them into a white paper bag and pour a cup of powdered sugar on top.

I recommend giving the bag a hearty shake. Even though this creates a cloud of icing sugar dust, it gives the beignets a better coating.

Is It Easy To Eat?

The service at the Mint Julep Bar isn’t very quick and each batch seems made-to-order. Therefore the beignets are hot, so watch your mouth!

Each little doughnut is about three to four bites big, so they’re not too hard to get into your mouth. Let the beignets cool just a bit to take the burn off, but then dig in while they’re still warm and soft. We’ve waited too long to eat them in the past and when they’re cold some of the magical, tasty goodness wears off.

Quick tip: Don’t inhale while you’re biting into the beignet, otherwise you’re inviting a powdered sugar induced coughing fit.

Beware of hitchhiking sugar! I tend to favor darker clothes, so after eating the Mickey-shaped beignets I always end up with a sheen of powder marks on my shirt and pants. Hold the beignet out from your body and lean forward to try to bite it without repercussion.

Mom-in-Chief Jamie’s Opinion

Mickey-shaped Beignets from the French Market are served in a white paper bag. Roll up the top of the bag and shake for maximum sugar coverage on your fried treats.
Mickey-shaped Beignets from the French Market are served in a white paper bag. Roll up the top of the bag and shake for maximum sugar coverage on your fried treats.

As I said above, this is a messy snack, but the plain batter of the beignets, with the added powdered sugar make this a big hit with my son. He’s into the bland stage where he only wants plain, starchy foods like spaghetti and hash browns, but of course like any other kid he digs on the sugar.

For this reason I don’t just hand a whole beignet to my toddler and let him go at it. Also, I think all that sugar is too much for his little body to take (or for me to have to deal with when he comes down from a massive sugar high!). I like to tear off little pieces for him to munch on, with most of the powder dusted off. It’s a sweet little treat that keeps him happy and we are at the Happiest Place on Earth after all!

In moderation, this is a fun snack for kids to enjoy. Plus, mommy gets to eat the rest and lick the powdered sugar off her fingers!

Chief Envaluator Alex’s Opinion

A greasy bag of Mickey-shaped beignets from the French Market at Disneyland.
A greasy bag of Mickey-shaped beignets from the French Market at Disneyland.

One major logistical challenge with the Mickey-shaped Beignets involves the bag. Being freshly fried, the grease from the doughnuts soaks into the paper and can make a real mess. On one trip, we placed the hot bag on the shade liner of our stroller and it left a big stain on the fabric. Either hold the bag or try putting them in a different container, like the storage method we discussed for the Cinnamon Crisps.

A 3-pack of Mickey-shaped Beignets runs $4.19 and a 6-pack at $6.19. At Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, the world beignet authority, you can get three for just over $2. These great little treats are definitely priced at an inflated, vacation level. Compared to other similar snacks in the resort, the beignets stand up pretty well. A 6-pack could satisfy 3-4 adults, whereas a churro feeds only 1 and costs more than half the amount.

Other than the cost difference, the comparison to restaurants in New Orleans is spot on. After you finally get your nondescript paper bag of hot, doughy, sugary wonderful-ness, take a stroll down the streets and alleys of NOS and bask in the Southern glow.

Like a hot bowl of jambalaya or a savory Monte Cristo sandwich, the beignet adds the perfect accent to the New Orleans Square theme.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I urge you to brave the sometimes painful lineup and try the Mickey-shaped Beignets. They are one of our favorite things to eat at the Disneyland Resort and, because of the messiness quotient, it usually encourages us to slow down and sit for a moment.

The ambiance of New Orleans Square, along with the Royal Street Bachelors playing all contributes to the enjoyment of this ‘snack break’. Relax under the shade of the awnings, make a mess with the powdered sugar, and dig-in to the classic New Orleans treat with that magical Disney flair.

Have you had the Mickey beignets? Let me know what you think in the comments below and sign up for our free weekly newsletter so you won’t miss future Food Friday posts (or any of our other great content). See ya’ real soon!

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Disney Imagineering Magic – American Flag Over New Orleans Square

Thirty Star American flag over Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.

Thirty Star American flag over Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.
Thirty Star American flag over Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.

“Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America…” – Walt Disney

Since its creation in 1955, Disneyland has become renowned as a particularly American institution. All over the world, for better or worse, people associate the idea of the park’s streets, names, and magical atmosphere as a representation of the basic American dream. Walt Disney believed in that dream himself and you can see the results of his patriotism painted in the themes that create his beloved park.

A perfect example of Walt’s enthusiasm for his country is the many flags in the park. Disneyland has American flags all over the place. Upon entering the park, Old Glory waves to you from high atop the Main Street Train Station and follows you from different locations from Town Square, down the entirety of Main Street, USA, and all the way to the castle hub.

And that’s just the front door to Disneyland! By the time you to got to New Orleans Square, you’ve probably stood under at least fifty flags and few people would take the time to notice another American flag, flying high atop the pergola above Pirates of the Caribbean. You’d probably figure that this is just another flag and move along, but you’d be wrong. This single flag is actually a subtle piece of Disney Imagineering magic and the subject of today’s 4th of July post.

Thirty Star American Flag Over New Orleans Square

Thirty Star American flag over New Orleans Square, Disneyland.
Thirty Star American flag over New Orleans Square, Disneyland.

New Orleans Square (NOS), home to both Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) and the Haunted Mansion, is the last major creative effort at Disneyland to come to fruition while Walt Disney was still alive. Carved out of Frontierland, NOS opened on July 24, 1966, just five months before Walt passed.

Passing through Mr. Disney’s creation on a recent visit to Disneyland, I noticed that the American flag flying above POTC was not like the one we know today. As you can see from the picture above, this one only has thirty stars, five rows with six stars to a row. The flag we all know today is the one pictured below, adopted after the admission of Hawaii to the Union in 1959. You might be asking yourself, “if the thirty star flag wasn’t used in 66′, when New Orleans Square was built, when is it from?”

50 Star American Flag - since 1959
Fifty Star American Flag – in use since 1959

Flag Fact: Did you know that stars are only added to the American flag on the 4th of July following the admission of a state to the Union?

The 30 star version of the American flag was first flown on July 4, 1848, when Wisconsin became a state. It was the symbol of our nation for three years, until July 3, 1851, when California became a state. The previous 29 star flag was for admission of Iowa in 1846 and lasted only 1 year. So, if the flag in question wasn’t in use when New Orleans Square was built, it’s from around 1848, and it sits directly over Pirates of the Caribbean, you’d probably think the flag must connect to the time period of POTC. And you’d be wrong.

Pirates Of The Caribbean Time Period

Treasure Island Book Jacket
Treasure Island Book Jacket

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland was in development for a long time. Many different versions of its story and layout were imagined over the years, and in fact at one point it was going to be a walk-through attraction. However, in all of those many versions, the essence of POTC was heavily influenced by the classic pirate story, Treasure Island.

Written in 1881 by Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island tells the tale of a young man who unknowingly falls-in with a bunch of pirates, has adventures, gets away, and ends up with a bunch of loot at the end. Sound familiar? How about the fictional land of Isla de Tesoro where Pirates of the Caribbean takes place- Spanish for Treasure Island.

Just looking at the book jacket pictured above, gives you a sense of how heavily the design of the POTC characters was influenced by Stevenson’s classic tale. The menacing pirate with cross pistols looks like one of the ‘enforcer’ pirates from the ‘bride auction’ scene. And the fellow brandishing a sword could easily stand in for one of the pirates in the ‘mayor drowning’ section of the ride.

As for time period, both the book and ‘Pirates’ are set in the golden age of piracy, from the 1650’s to the 1730’s, though POTC better reflects the latter part of this time period. That’s before there was an American country, much less a flag, which was approved by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. That rules out our 30 star flag from 1848 having much to do with the ride, or vice versa, so now we have to ask ourselves…

What Was Happening In America When We Had A 30 Star Flag?

Disneyland is dedicated to the hard facts that created America and New Orleans Square, where our flag resides, occupies one corner of it. That lead me to wonder what was going on in America, and in the city of New Orleans in particular, during our target time period of 1848-1851. Below is a short list of events.

1848

  • James K. Polk was president.
  • Gold was found at Sutter’s Mill, California starting the California gold rush.
  • Construction began on the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
  • The Mexican-American War ended.
  • Wisconsin was admitted to the Union.
  • In November, Zachary Taylor was elected president in the first presidential election held in every state on the same day.
  • The Associated Press was founded.
  • John Quincy Adams, 6th president of the United States, died.

1849

  • Elizabeth Blackwell became America’s first female doctor.
  • James K. Polk became the first president to have his photograph taken. He died later that year.
  • On May 3rd, 1849, New Orleans had the worst flood in it’s history until the Katrina flood of 2005.
  • Edgar Allen Poe died
  • The Department of the Interior was established.

1850

  • The Compromise of 1850 was passed.
  • The Scarlet Letter was published.
  • American Express was founded.
  • Los Angeles and San Francisco were incorporated and Kansas City, MO was founded.
  • The Pinkerton National Detective Agency, precursor to the FBI, was founded.
  • Harriet Tubman conducted runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.
  • President Zachary Taylor died.

1851

  • Millard Fillmore was president.
  • The first America’s Cup sailing race was won by yacht ‘America.’
  • The New York Times, Northwestern University, and Western Union were founded.

The City of New Orleans was a wealthy, thriving metropolis around 1850. It was the 6th largest city in America, the largest city in the South, and the only Southern city with a population over 100,000.

Due to its strategic location at the convergence of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans’ bustling ports made it the commercial heart of the Deep South. The war with Mexico was over, opportunity was everywhere, and the strife and horror of the civil war were still over a decade away. This is where I think we find the ideals and dreams that have created America.

Conclusion

In New Orleans Square, we find a country frozen in an early 1850’s bubble, poised in a state of optimism, creativity, freedom, and discovery. It’s beautifully themed back alleys are filled with hopeful people browsing shops with endless treasures from far off lands. Along the clean and well maintained waterfront, you can watch ships pass by, filled with travelers and goods headed to distant adventures and opportunities.

The 30 star American flag is a subtle part of the great puzzle that is New Orleans Square. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, you probably wouldn’t directly notice any difference between this flag from around 1850 and our modern version.

However, you actually do perceive that the flag is different and that subliminal perception unconsciously sinks you deeper into the overall impression that you are in the antebellum South. This subliminal perception is one the greatest tricks Imagineers have up their sleeves to bring us into their stories and make guests truly part of a magical experience.

Have you noticed our flag before? What other Imagineering tricks do you know about? Let me know in the comments below and sign up for our weekly newsletter to keep up-to-date with all our great content. See ya’ real soon!

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New Orleans Square Still Under the Knife – DLR Construction

Construction continues above Cafe Orleans as well, covered in decorative tarps.

Rooftop construction for Club 33 in New Orleans Square, Disneyland.
Rooftop construction along Royal Street for Club 33 in New Orléans Square, Disneyland.

Planning to visit Disneyland anytime soon?

Construction on the new addition to Club 33 has New Orléans Square (NOS) almost completely walled off, with all of her back streets inaccessible. So, for a taste of what’s to come on your next visit, here’s a few pics to prepare you for your trip to the ‘Most Magical Place on Earth.’

Royal Street

A construction worker, standing on the roof above Club 33, New Orleans Square, Disneyland.
A construction worker, standing on the roof above Club 33, New Orléans Square, Disneyland.

Your main entrance to New Orléans Square, Royal Street is home to the exit for Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC), as well as the entrances to both the Blue Bayou and Club 33. All of the back streets beyond POTC are walled off, so that construction of the new entrance to the club, in the Court of Angels, can proceed unhindered.

There’s also lots of rooftop and facade construction going on, though whether that’s for Club 33 or just convenient refurbishment, I don’t know. Plan on Royal Street being very crowded, because it’s essentially a cul-de-sac now.

Esplanade Road

New Orleans Square construction from Tom Sawyer Island.
New Orléans Square construction from Tom Sawyer Island.

Esplanade Road fronts the Rivers of America and basically represents the New Orléans waterfront. While there isn’t any construction on the road itself, the adjoining buildings surrounding Cafe Orléans are under refurbishment.

Other than the walls, Cafe Orléans sports a pretty themed scrim that helps to limit instances of ‘bad show’ caused by the scaffolds behind it. Operations along Esplanade Road, as well as service in Cafe Orléans, should be normal.

Orléans Street

The entrance to back streets of New Orleans Square are completely blocked by construction walls.
The entrance to back streets of New Orléans Square are completely blocked by construction walls.

The middle entrance to the back streets of NOS, Orléans Street is made completely impassable by, you guessed it- construction walls! Shops on either side of the street can still be reached, but you have to look carefully for their doors because they almost blend into the scenery.

Much of the facade on the French Market is hidden behind scrims and scaffolds, but service there remains much the same. The only downside I found with the French Market, is that the little grouping of tables that used to sit opposite the entrance on Orléans Street are hidden behind yet more walls. This leaves you without anyplace to sit without receiving the full effect of musical acts that frequent the area (Royal Street Bachelors, et al).

Front Street

The West side of New Orleans Square, boxed in with construction walls.
The West side of New Orléans Square, boxed in with construction walls.

Front Street normally runs between Court of Angels, along the West side of the French Market to the New Orléans Square Train Station, but as you can see it’s pretty bottled up at the moment. Almost the entire new addition to Club 33 lies above the buildings in this area of NOS and everything is tightly under wraps.

In the back of this corridor of temporary walls, lies the only bathroom between the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Hungry Bear Restaurant (that about 1/10 of a mile), so tons of people jam themselves into this dead-end to find relief. Also, the Disneyland Railroad dumps its passenger load here as well, about every ten minutes, so expect Front Street to be busy.

Thanks for riding along with me on this construction update for New Orléans Square. Stay tuned tomorrow and for the rest of the week for more detailed reports on the rest of the Disneyland Resort.

Have any construction reports or pictures of your own? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to sign up for our free weekly newsletter so you won’t miss future construction update posts (or any of our other great content). See ya’ real soon!

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