The wait is almost over! Disney California Adventure will open its two brand-new lands—Buena Vista Street and Cars Land—this June 15… and we couldn’t be more excited about the fun and frolic they have in store! So color us delighted when we had the opportunity to sit down with a few of the Disney Imagineers responsible for Buena Vista Street, the completely reimagined entrance plaza at Disney California Adventure.
Check out what Coulter Winn and Ray Spencer have to say about the new shops that’ll help usher you into the 1920s Los Angeles of Walt Disney’s early history.
What did you hope to do with Buena Vista Street?
Coulter Winn: We felt that transporting our guests to another place and time, in the traditional Disney storytelling way, was going to give California Adventure a much more enriched environment to start our guests’ day.
Can you give us a rundown of some of the new shops?
CW: The street has a couple of different sides. As you are entering the park, on your right—or what we call the West Block—is much more of a “mom-and-pop” sort of small retail [area] with apartment spaces above it. On the left-hand side, it’s much more… your basic commercial business, and that’s where we have Los Feliz Five and Dime and Elias and Co.; Elias and Co. is our flagship department store, our version of Disneyland’s Emporium store.
Ray Spencer: At the front of the park, we have the gas station, which is called Oswald’s—and that’s your start-of-day items. Behind that, we have Los Feliz Five and Dime, a merchandise store that features everyday consumer products. We have one merchandise location called Atwater Ink and Paint, a gallery for framed art. It refers to the Atwater Village district of Los Angeles where Disney and the animators from the Disney Studios spent a lot of time; it was kind of their daily haunt. Another is Kingswell Camera Shop. Kingswell Avenue was the street where the early Disney Brothers Studio was located before it moved to Hyperion Avenue.
What’s the story behind Elias and Co.?
RS: It’s a department store, and it involves several of the facades on the east side of our street. You’ll see a main facade that resembles a higher-end establishment like Bullocks Wilshire. There are different departments in it—a jewelry shop, children’s apparel, etc.
Do any new shops occupy previously unused Disney California Adventure space?
RS: Under the Monorail bridge, on either side of the street, where it used to be just bridge supports, we’ve now taken those out and put in shops. On the left side as you walk in from the park’s main entrance, that shop is Julius Katz [designed like an old-fashioned watch/radio repair store]. Next to Julius Katz, we have Katz and Sons, and that has higher-end housewares, electronics, and things like that. [These references are] to Julius the Cat, a character that Disney developed a long time ago. But in our story, this is an immigrant who opened a little watch repair [shop], kind of an early-day electronics shop. It has kind of an old-world feel. Then as his sons grew up, they wanted to take the business to a larger scale.
Where did you get inspiration for the stores’ exteriors?
CW: We looked at a variety of locations. The buildings that we referenced have been torn down so we found them through historical photographs. But the team went around to Pasadena, and Old Town Pasadena on Colorado Boulevard, Atwater Village, Silver Lake, downtown Los Angeles, Westwood, and Wilshire Boulevard. We were really looking at historic details that we could use and incorporate into what we have re-created as idealized versions of period architecture.
Any interesting info about the street’s color schemes?
CW: Ray and I were looking at historical photos, and we didn’t find a lot of color ones—but we’d found a video clip that was shot in the early 1940s, an old 16mm movie, and the street that it showed was really too white. When you think about early Los Angeles, there probably wasn’t as much color as we would think there would be. But we created our idealized version of a color scheme—and Katie Olson, who’s our principal colorist, was absolutely central to a lot of studies that were done.
RS: We take what’s grounded in history and then plus it by 10, 15, 20 percent so that things are a little more romanticized.
We’ve got three more installments of our Imagineers Q&A about Buena Vista Street—so come back next week for a delicious design scoop on the street’s restaurants!
By D23′s Courtney Potter