Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Making of: New Orleans Square

"Disneyland has always had a Big River and a Mississippi sternwheeler. It made sense to build a new attraction at the bend of the river, and so New Orleans Square came into being - a New Orleans of a century ago when she was the 'Gay Paree' of the American frontier." said Walt at the dedication of his brand new New Orleans Square. Being that I'm from the actual New Orleans I have a special appreciation that my unique city enthralled Walt to add a part of it in his park. The city of New Orleans influenced Walt tremendously and continues to do the same to the company he created today. Continue after the page break for a closer look at the creation of New Orleans Square...

First, I would like to show you a short clip of one of the last times Walt was on film enjoying his park on July 24, 1966 (Walt died later that year). Walt and New Orleans Mayor Victor Schiro officially opened New Orleans Square and it was the first time since opening day in 1955 that a new land had opened. It was also the only area at the park named after a real city where guests continue to enjoyed shopping, dining and music.

New Orleans definitely had a lot to do with Disney's history. For starters, Walt and his wife Lillian loved to go antique shopping and Royal Street here in New Orleans has some of the BEST antique shops in the world. In fact, Walt came up with the idea for Audio-Animatronics from a mechanical bird he purchased here in New Orleans while shopping with Lillian. Also, after flying over the swamp lands in Florida where Walt Disney World is today, Walt touched down to refuel here and found out about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (that's really not an influence but I found it interesting). Former New Orleans Major Victor Schiro announced Walt Disney had been made an honorary citizen of New Orleans and Walt joked the addition, at a cost of $18 million dollars, cost as much as the original Louisiana Purchase. The Disneyland parades were even influenced by New Orleans Mardi Gras floats and its the only "land" in any Disney park to be themed and named after a city.

New Orleans Square is found exclusively at Disneyland, though a similarly themed area can be found within Tokyo Disneyland's Adventureland. Based on 19th-century New Orleans, it was the first new land to be added to Disneyland after the park's opening and covers roughly three acres. The land was opened to the public on July 24, 1966 with New Orleans Mayor Victor H. Schiro participating in the dedication ceremony. A reporter for a New Orleans newspaper wrote that "it's the next best thing to being there." Sadly, this was Walt Disney's last major public appearance at Disneyland before his death in Dec. 1966.

The name "New Orleans Square" is a bit of a misnomer, since the area does not resemble a square so much as an intricate series of "streets" that weave around shops, restaurants like the famous Club 33, and Walt and Roy Disney's apartments were to be above the very first Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. It also includes the only overnight accommodations in the park open to the public, the Disneyland Dream Suite, stays at which are often a prize offered through various promotions.

On opening day, hosts Ronald Reagan and Bob Cummings referred to the New Orleans flavor at the edge of Frontierland as the famous "Firehouse Five" played Dixieland jazz to guest's delite. Walt actually created "Dixieland at Disneyland" that debuted at the Carnation Gardens on October 1, 1960 and featured some big name entertainers including Louis Armstrong. Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) who was born in New Orleans, performed in 1961, 1962 and 1964-1967. In 1968, he recorded an album called "Disney Songs the Satchmo Way" that brought the uniqueness of New Orleans music to Disney songs. Also, Louis Prima who was the voice of King Louie in "Jungle Book" was also born in New Orleans. 

 The list of influences that the city of New Orleans had on Walt and the Disney company could go on and on. New Orleans Square is just another part of the wonderful world Walt created and I'm proud that he chose my city to be apart of his kingdom. I can't wait for the next time I get to walk down it's beautiful streets and courtyards, but until then I'll just have to settle for the real thing!

Now lets have a look at the making of New Orleans Square:

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