When Disney’s California Adventure opened in 2001, it was considered by many diehard Disney fans to be a bit of a dud. While you can certainly point out some huge mistakes that were made on opening day, one particular restaurant I always thought was Disney’s best themed eatery. Sadly, The ABC Soap Opera Bistro never really got the traction that management had hoped for.
As luck may have it, I never took any photos of the restaurant. A thousand thank you’s go to StartedByAMouse.com for the photos in today’s article including the layout seen above. The Soap Opera Bistro was actually divided into seven distinctly different sets all inspired from ABC’s afternoon lineup: “General Hospital,” “One Life to Live,” “All My Children” and “Port Charles.”
Hosts and hostesses were dressed as ABC pages. For those unfamiliar, a page is an intern with a television network that can do anything from giving tours of the studio to handling audience load in for filming. If you’re familiar with “30 Rock,” the character Kenneth played a page for the “Tracy Jordan Show.”
The Soap Opera Bistro menu featured dishes such as “Scheming Spinach Salad,” “Plot Twist Pizza” and “Hunky Rib-Eye Steak Sandwich.” Some items even tipped their had to specific characters on ABC Soaps.
Seen above is the dining room themed to the Chandler Mansion from “All My Children.” Notice how everything from the tables to the chairs all match the decor, which was always Christmas year round.
Now contrast that with the nurse station from “General Hospital.” Notice the lighting, walls, props and even dining room chairs have all changed.
To take the dining experience to another level, improv actors would roam each dining room and create soap opera scenes where guests would get in on the action. Unbeknownst to you, someone at your table might have fathered a character’s child out of wedlock only to find out while eating your salad!
Perhaps you don’t see dining next to a wheelchair, crutches and a gurney while sitting on office chairs to be very “Disney.” I suppose you’re right, but in terms of adding authenticity, you’ll be hard press to find a dining room at a theme park take these extra steps to achieve realism.
Kelly’s Diner was also represented from “General Hospital.” Every detail was recreated to be as accurate as possible to remain faithful to the television representation.
By far the most eccentric dining room was Luke’s Nightclub. While you couldn’t exactly belly up to the bar, it was the functioning location where all alcoholic libations were poured for the Soap Opera Bistro.
Dripping with detail, each wall and chair was hand painted. You even found music and soap opera tributes embedded within each table.
Just outside was the docks of Port Charles.
This dumpster also served as a serving station. The 716 area code refers to the real section of New York where the fictional town of Port Charles resided.
You could literally have dinner in a horse barn recreated lovingly from the “One Life to Live” Buchanan Stables.
Every room had clever nods to the soap opera it was representing.
Such as this trophy in honor of Victoria Lord Reily Burke Reily Buchanan Buchanan Carpenter. A character who has walked down the aisle a fair number of times.
Speaking of weddings, the set for the Lianview Country Club from “One Life to Live” was always prepped for a wedding. Another common theme for soap operas and one that the improv actors could have a lot of fun with.
The ABC Soap Opera Bistro opened with Disney’s California Adventure on February 8, 2001. It closed after being open less than two years on November 3, 2002. As luck would have it, soap operas have slowly faded away from television in favor of talk shows which are much cheaper to produce. However, I still miss the highly detailed sets of the ABC Soap Opera Bistro. Thanks again to StartedByAMouse.com for these photos. Please visit their site to see many more photos of this now legendary eatery.
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