There are certain things you can count on when you spend a day at Disneyland, like the best attractions, and food in the shape of mouse ears, or groups of adults in matching t-shirts proclaiming their family’s tenth reunion. But now, when you visit Disney California Adventure Park, you can add Art Deco and some serious Old Hollywood Glamour to that list.
Buena Vista Street, as noted on the Disney website, captures “the spirit of optimism and opportunity that Walt Disney discovered in Los Angeles when he stepped off the train in 1923.” We think the twenties and thirties must have been a fascinating, albeit challenging, time to have been alive and to have pursued a career in balmy, smog-free Southern California (what was that like to be able to see the mountains every day?), and certainly Walt personified that Deco spirit of hopefulness, excitement, and dreaming big.
You might find yourself saying, “Hey, that’s Art Deco!” as soon as you arrive at the gates of California Adventure and spot the pale blue and white, Streamline Moderne, Pan Pacific Auditorium-inspired entrance. The Pan Pacific was built in 1935 on West Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, burned down in 1989, and in between hosted everything from a home show to an ice rink to concerts.
There’s more Streamline Deco to your left once you enter the park, in the form of a gas station with cream and red colors, smooth corners, speed lines, and a pylon on top that simply says, “GAS.” It reminds us of the Firestone Garage on La Brea (just south of Wilshire) that has been around since 1937 and was saved from demolition. (Thank you, Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and everyone that was involved in the rescue!)
Just ahead is the Carthay Circle Theatre, which is impossible to miss. As the Depression deepened, movies offered a way of escape, making it easy to forget your troubles for a few hours while immersed in the drama on the screen and the beauty of a luxurious movie house, and the Carthay Circle Theatre was one of the most beautiful and glamorous.
Opened in 1926 on San Vicente Boulevard, this Spanish Revival-style building captured the Deco spirit by hosting many glamorous Hollywood premieres, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 and Fantasia in 1941. It was torn down in 1969.
Moving further into the park, you may decide that it is time for a snack, so you can stop to buy some fresh fruit, water, and Mickey Mouse Freeze-Dried Apples in this Deco-detailed Market! It may well be the most glam place we have ever bought an orange.
Check out the metalwork on the awning, the motif just under the roof, and the lettering and speed lines in the background on the Lockers building. And nice symmetry with the windows and panels there, too!
Ready to do a little shopping? Well, step right up to the Streamline Moderne-style Elias & Co. Department Store, but not before pausing a moment to admire those sleek rounded corners, speed lines, use of metal that is reminiscent of the grille on a car, and palette of what looks like three colors (white, cream, and bronze).
You will also see some Deco touches on the buildings lining each side of the street as you ride the Red Car Trolley, and your trolley host will most likely draw your attention to it as they point out various styles of architecture. Although, after a fun day at California Adventure and the rides and parades and amazing food, you might be closing your eyes and trying to steal a nap during your ride!
Some fun things to note:
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror building, like the Carthay Circle Theatre, is not recognizably Art Deco, but it has always reminded us of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which has that glamorous feel to it. Minus the out of control elevators you will find at California Adventure that we love.
- Get the free Disney Park Mobile Magic App, which will give you information about Disney California Adventure and Disneyland. Once you are there, the app will “unlock” more details, like wait times for attractions and when shows are starting and parades are happening.
- Keep an ear out for Dean Mora and his Orchestra as recorded background music on Buena Vista Street! We have loved hearing their incredible music at the Art Deco Ball on Catalina Island and at Cicada Club in Downtown Los Angeles, so it was a treat to hear them in Anaheim while wearing Mouse Ears.
Disney California Adventure
1313 Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802