Disney (yes, Disney)


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Aug 16, 2013
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"Disney" gets thrown around as a pejorative in these types of circles. The idea that a piece of architecture is inauthentic or too grandiose, or maybe too cheap and corporate. After seeing WDW with fresh eyes after last being there 20 years ago, I'm now inclined to say that this usage is an insult to Disney. Yes, Disney World - the parks, resorts, and even the outdoor madhou-I mean, shopping mall - is an illusion, a visage of something that doesn't exist. But the illusion their architects and engineers create is simply unparalleled. No detail is overlooked, nothing that might break the suspension of disbelief. Every single potentiality is thought of and planned out. I feel like too much of what today is derided as "too Disney" actually falls far short of Disney in the execution.

We went to Sea World later in the week and it really drove home just how good Disney is from an architecture standpoint. It's horrific urbanism, but the absolute pinnacle of how to create a themed land to immerse people in while still providing all the amenities they expect. I'm not saying Disney as a company is perfect or that there's not something corporate about it (though I personally have no issues with things being "too corporate"), but it deserves credit for what it is.

You’re probably right. I recall when the original Hotel Commonwealth facade was revealed that it was derided as “too Disney.” Reality is, Disney had already taken its stab at French Second Empire decades earlier than did it better.

I was always a bigger fan of their 80s era futuristic contributions ala EPCOT.
Note that architecture firm Robert M Stern Associates has largely been responsible for their “facades” over the years, same firm responsible for some of the major Pre-war Revival sky rises in NYC.
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I’ve always felt that Disney has excelled at being unapologetic about creating a fantasy experience geared to making memories—one that includes exceptional attention to detail in its design (however over the top it may be for “realists”). They found their niche and continue to refine/improve it. Love or hate the Mouse, they found a model that works. The last 10-15 years, the cruise ships really are the best example of this: the Disney legacy is subtly interwoven into damn near every space on the ships.
The resorts are like that, too. Everywhere you look, even though it is often fairly subtle, there are references to Disney characters. You can spend hours just looking for hidden Mickey Mouse images and finding more than you can count.