Upstairs, Downstairs – A Disneyland Conundrum



Should you happen to find yourself in Anaheim, and visiting Disneyland, you might notice that for the most part, the second story of buildings are usually not open to the public.

Earthquake considerations aside and long before ADA compliance became a thing of concern, when it comes to visiting the second floor, it seems that designs just overlooked the use of the space above the ground floor. For example, the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Fantasyland was not designed to allow guests to take in any views from above the ground. Those sharp Imagineers designed a walk-through attraction that made use of the empty space inside.  Tomorrowland is the one notable exception as it takes advantage of that extra space. Maybe not well, but more than the rest of the Park. And that design dates well after most of the rest of the buildings. In Fantasyland, some attractions may nest one atop the other, but the guests do not really notice.

In a world of forced perspective, where upper floors compact in size, practical design may not allow opening up all that space. Not to mention getting guests up and down. If you think about it, just how does Disney manage to move people up and down? Waterways are one, as in Pirates. Elevators (a.k.a. stretching rooms at the Haunted Mansion) and speed ramps (as once fed the Peoplemover, the Monorail or the Starcade in Tomorrowland, and still funnel guests out at the exit at the of Haunted Mansion) also work. Rely on old fashioned, traditional stairways? Not in today’s world of handicapped accessibility. About the best we can hope for is the sloping ramps that guests can walk up, ride up in ECV’s or be pushed up in wheel chairs.

So given all of that, it is hardly surprising that at best, second story use at the Park has been somewhat limited. Limited to offices and storage. Even some of the most prominent spaces is guest memories have been used in that fashion. When the Carousel of Progress changed over to America Sings in Tomorrowland, that second floor which one housed the much admired model of Progress City (or EPCOT if you prefer) gave way to what else? Offices and storage. Space once set aside for a suite of apartments for the Disney family above New Orleans? Offices and storage. Seeing a pattern here?

And even when that latter space became the Disney Gallery, it always suffered the issue of access. The usual way in and out? Climbing a set of stairs over the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean and through a small doorway in a balcony. Handicapped access? Came via an elevator that was re-purposed as need be. An elevator that was for service use between a kitchen down stairs and a kitchen upstairs. Even when that space was rebuilt into the Disney Dream Suite for the Park’s 50th, the plans included a new elevator to  provide a better entry for the guests who might use it. One less intrusive, off to the side. Away from public viewing, most of the time.

Now one of the most exclusive of spaces inside the berm is the fabled Club 33. As originally envisioned, it was to have been only part of the overall use of the second story above the streets of New Orleans Square, above the Cafe Orleans restaurant. With a kitchen shared with the Disney family apartment, a drop in lounge (now known as the Trophy Room) known as the Pub and the main dining room, it was to be the home of an exclusive club for members only. A place that VIP’s and guests could be wined and dined. Above the usual Park guests, enjoying their hot dogs and Coca Cola.

Remember that the New Orleans Square project allowed use of space that previously had not been enjoyed by the rest of Disneyland. You had space below the street level as well as above. For more offices and storage, as well as kitchens and back stage spaces for cast members. Even a break area and dining area.

But things did not stop there. There was one more space that was to complete the use of the second story. The space above the French Market restaurant. Accessed from a grand stairway. A guest favorite for many great photographs and events over the years. (Yes, the site of many a wedding proposal.) At the end of Orleans Street, just off of Royal Street. The Court of the Angels. Sharp eyes may note a wall plaque that tells of music lessons offered. This was to have been the location of a small jazz club. The kind of place where a trio of musicians might have been playing in the style of many similar small jazz joints once found in New Orleans.

But just as with the space which was to have housed the Disney family apartment, what did it become? Offices and storage. To this day, it performs that function. For a bit longer…

As with many things at Disneyland, change is coming. After the success of the additional space (known as the 1901 Lounge) to the Carthay Circle restaurant in California Adventure for the exclusive use of Club 33 members, plans seemed to have gelled for a long dreamed of the mother ship back at Disneyland. Although formally yet to be announced, it seems that the long dormant plans for the Jazz Club will come to fruition as Club 33 undergoes some major changes. Kitchen expansion into the Trophy Room as well as the relocation the Club’s famed “lift” with a new entrance off of the Court of the Angels and the renovation of the space above the French Market into more dining space and a drop in Jazz Club for members and their guests, seems finally at hand.

Of course, all this will remain out of the public view. While members and guests of Club 33 are wined and dined upstairs, usual Park visitors will continue to enjoy their hot dogs and Coca Cola as they always have.

And some day, the folks who design new and exciting things for Disneyland? They might just overcome some of those issues with second stories, and make use of “air” space in places yet to be imagined. Or maybe funded when that next line of improvements come along. Count me as ready to enjoy some of those moments.


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