When Disneyland opened in 1955, it was revolutionary in dozens of ways that you probably are well aware of. One of my personal favorites is its ingenious design where various themed lands could live alongside one another and are easily accessible from a central location, or “hub.”
When Disneyland was being designed, long before there were even crowds to control, Walt and Herb Ryman were already concerned with how to effectively move guests around the park. The hub also served as a location where guests could gather to watch parades and fireworks as they traveled down Main Street.
When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, not only did they duplicate the design, they expanded it. Considering how popular Disneyland was getting in the mid 1960’s, it made sense to make Main Street wider and to nearly double the size of the hub to accommodate bigger crowds.
Even though the basic design is the same (only larger), it has withstood the test of time in Florida for over 40 years – until recently. Over the past several years, the area in front of Cinderella Castle has changed from a spot that goes largely unused throughout the day to one that has some form of entertainment nearly every 30 to 45 minutes. During the day, there are Castle stage shows like Dream Along With Mickey, or the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party.
Twice each night, The Main Street Electrical Parade ties up the Magic Kingdom hub for around 45 minutes. In addition, Wishes is a fireworks show designed to be viewed while standing in front of the Castle unlike the older pyrotechnic shows that preceded it. When you factor in the night time Celebrate the Magic projection show happening twice a night, the hub can barely catch a breather from the crowds coming to enjoy the various entertainment from park open to close.
While on an average day, the hub can handle a large amount of guests, during peak times like Christmas, spring break and summer, the hub can become unbearable with enormous crowds in the evening, either camped out waiting for Wishes, crossing from one land to another, or just looking to escape the madness and get back to their hotels. So the call to action was put into place a few years ago, spurred by the arrival of Next Gen/FastPass Plus.
On the downside, a lot of the areas of greenery between the hub and the various lands surrounding it will be minimized and filled in with larger shrubs and trees to help create the visual barrier between the hub and Adventureland, Liberty Square and Tomorrowland, respectively. That little grassy area beyond the railing of the hub and the moat will be pushed back in most cases. This also pushes the sidewalk back and allows for more people to not only be in the hub, but to still travel through the park on extremely crowded days like New Year’s Eve.
As I mentioned before, part of the push for this project was thanks to Disney’s Next Gen project. There will be designated viewing areas for the parades and fireworks as a FastPass Plus option for guests that choose it as an option. Where will it be located? It’s hard to say and to be honest, the space should be flexible in size based on demand. For example, the demand to see Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade will be far greater than the typical day parade, so they can open up a larger space for FastPass Plus if needed.
So what are your thoughts? Do you think some of the empty space between the current Magic Kingdom hub and the various lands is worth being sacrificed for a bigger space to watch parades and fireworks? Or is some of the charm and theming going to be lost in the process? Let me know in the comments section below.