Posts Tagged ‘Liberty Square’

SATURDAY SIX Special Edition: A Theme Park Tribute to America

by on May 26, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX for Memorial Day is a very special one. A Theme Park Tribute to America. It is thanks to our brave members of the military, both past and present, for the great country we live in and the freedom we have to visit some of the world’s greatest theme parks. Today we’re going into the Orlando parks and looking some of the tributes to America and its soldiers.

# 6 – Spirit of America Fife & Drum corps (Epcot)


Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps (photo by Brandon Glover)

Who knows where we would be today without the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War and the Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps perform a patriotic tribute to them in front of the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot. With marching music and military formations, the Fife & Drum corps evoke the spirit of the Continental Army. Whether it’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “God Bless America,” or “Grand Old Flag,” the four man band (plus a flag bearer) will have your heart pounding in pride.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Heritage House Reopens as MyMagic+ Service Center

by on January 15, 2014

As we mentioned previously, Heritage House, the former gift shop for Hall of Presidents, closed back on January 4 with little explanation on its closure. We now know that the former gift shop in Liberty Square has reopened as a new MyMagic+ Service Center.

The location is currently available for guests to stop in and make their FastPass+ reservations and ask Cast Members questions.

As a reminder, Magic Kingdom is now FastPass+ only for both onsite and off-site guests, so these MyMagic+ Service Centers, as well as MyMagic+ kiosks, are where off-site guests currently need to go to make FastPass+ reservations.

The merchandise previously found in the gift shop can now be found in other locations throughout the park.

Also, it appears that additional MyMagic+ Service Centers, as well as stand alone kiosks, are continuously popping up throughout Walt Disney World as the full rollout of MyMagic+ moves forward.

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Urban Planner Walk Through Liberty Square To Frontierland – Part 2

by on June 29, 2009

Hello. This is continuation of my walk through the various lands in the Magic Kingdom. This week we see how Liberty Square and Frontierland share a a lot of things in common but remain distinctly different in feel.

For more of this type of stuff I invite you to visit SamLand’s Disney Adventures.

Liberty Square is a carefully designed, fully immersive, urban environment. The staging of the design elements is meant to slow you down and soak up the atmosphere. The high level of detail is necessary because this land reflects the qualities of places that really exist and would be accessible to many of Walt Disney World’s visitors. The challenge for the design team was to create, as described by the Imagineers, an “enhanced reality” that is “better than real”.

This is something the Imagineers learned from the animators. In animation, successful storytelling requires you to find a way to suspend people’s disbelief so they could accept talking animals, puppets, clocks, beasts, etc. Walt Disney discovered that you had to create what he called the “plausible impossible”. One method was using highly detailed backgrounds. These backgrounds helped your imagination to accept that you have entered a real place. Once you have accepted the story’s time and location you could begin to accept whatever action was taking place in the foreground. This is how animators make the impossible possible.

Imagineers use a similar technique in the design phase for a project known as “eyewash”. Eyewash is used when the Imagineers are pitching a new concept and it is carried through to the finished environment. The designers are taught to take their idea to its extreme then illustrate it in such a way that makes it seem realistic. The details turn an idea that seems impossible into something that even the accountants will want built.

The design details of Liberty Square capture that early American spirit and set the stage for the shops and attractions. The setting is an urban experience with narrow streets that wind around the buildings. The buildings help to frame this space and create an outdoor room that is alive with storefronts, restaurants, and rocking chairs. The river adds that fourth wall which creates the coziest land in the Magic Kingdom.

Liberty Square is organized around a strong central element. In this case, the central element is the public square and the Liberty Tree. There are minimal vistas outside of Liberty Square. Only a glimpse of Frontierland can be seen from within the land. This preview of Frontierland is important because it becomes the second act in the Magic Kingdom’s time travel story.

Like a movie, the designers have used a consistent thematic thread that ties the two lands together. Combined, Liberty Square and Frontierland will take you through from the east coast of Colonial America and end some at the close of the American frontier in the late 1880s.

Liberty Square and Frontierland use typological architectural details that provide us clues for our trip through time and geography. In Liberty Square, our trip begins in New York along the banks of the lower Hudson River in the early 1700s. The Haunted Mansion is based on the gothic architecture of the Harry Packer Mansion built in 1874 in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The brickwork, heavy stone base and cornerstones, are typical of English Tudor buildings. The building is away from the main square and off to the side. Frankly, the Disneyland version seems like a nice suburban house. This one is kind of scary.

And don’t speed past the cemetery at the end. You will miss something special in the upper left hand corner. One of my favorite Disney characters has taken up a permanent home at the Magic Kingdom. At least he is still alive in Disneyland.

The Columbia Harbor House would feel right at home in the port city of Boston in the mid-1700s. It is also the site of a brilliant transition from one land to the next. The upper dining room bridges over the walkway. One side is themed to Fantasyland and the other is all Liberty Square. This effect is used in other places between Adventureland and Frontierland. Keep an eye out for it. You are probably rushing to the restroom when this magic happens.

Leaving the Haunted Mansion, the buildings begin to take on the Georgian style, which was popular in Williamsburg during the late 1700s. In just that short distance we have moved almost 50 years. The Hall of Presidents is modeled after buildings in Philadelphia at the time of the Constitution’s adoption in 1787. This structure is the centerpiece to the land. Everything else supports this structure. The Liberty Tree helps to soften the public square that is frame by the Hall, the shops, the loading dock for the Liberty Belle, and most importantly, the Rivers of America and the island representing the endless western frontier and the end to our first act.

Liberty Square is not merely a reproduction of a colonial village. It is way too clean. But it has an urban complexity that doesn’t really exist elsewhere in the Magic Kingdom. Much like New Orleans Square at Disneyland (which it is modeled after) it uses its design elements, compact design, winding pathways, blend of hardscapes and supporting plant materials to create the sensation of being in another time and place.

Speaking of Disneyland, Liberty Square was first thought of as an offshoot of Main Street USA. On the earliest park souvenir map drawn by Sam McKim, is an area called Liberty Street. In the space where the parade exists in Town Square plus the lonely wooden structure between the Opera House and the stores has long been the entrance to another land. At first it was International Street – the precursor to the World Showcase at Epcot. In 1958 that concept was put back into the draw and flipped to Liberty Street. Another example of how Imagineers never let a good idea really die.

The building that bridges the divide between the two lands is the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon. The western migration had a natural border – the Mississippi River. At the water’s edge was the mighty city of St. Louis. In the 1820s, this type of building would have been typical. It is from here we begin our second act in this historical epic.

Next week we continue along that strip mall we like to call Frontierland.

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Urban Planner Walk Through Liberty Square To Frontierland – Part 1

by on June 21, 2009


Hello. This is continuation of my walk through the various lands in the Magic Kingdom. This week we see how Liberty Square and Frontierland share a a lot of things in common but remain distinctly different in feel.

For more of this type of stuff I invite you to visit SamLand’s Disney Adventures.


There is just no way around it. I can’t talk about what is going on with Liberty Square without talking about Frontierland. Both lands share the same organizing principle, as this series will highlight. Both lands are adjacent to the Rivers of America and use that asset to enhance the story. These land combine to become the Magic Kingdom’s time machine.

This is one of my favorite things about the Magic Kingdom – how Liberty Square and Frontierland work together to project upon the environment the history of the American western migration. Pretty deep, eh? Let’s step into that time machine and see how the designers pulled off this clever bit of urban design.

It might help for you to get into the right frame of mind for this article. If you are like me when you visit the Magic Kingdom, you like to imagine that you are walking onto a three-dimensional movie set that is the stage for your own personal film. Each land is designed to inspire you by contributing the key movie theme that can be the foundation for your experience.

In the Magic Kingdom you have the choice to enter a world of fantasy and childhood delights or go on an exotic foreign adventure. You can blast into a sci-fi future or visit the unreal world of the toons. But this journey will be a time travel story and we are about to take a step back in time.

When planning an urban environment you have to start with something. You need to pay attention to the centers that already exist. By this I mean that special quality that sometimes is hard to name but you know in your heart and head exists. The best urban environments have this quality and a theme park is certainly an urban environment.

For Frontierland and Liberty Square that center was purposefully created and is the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island. This band of green space defines the edges for both lands in subtly different ways. The river also becomes the connection between the different lands and provides the necessary continuity. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We are going to start this journey from the Hub. As you know, adjacent to the Hub is Liberty Square, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Adventureland. Liberty Square, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland feature similar arrival elements consisting of a strong gateway and a feature that is moving off in the distance. That moving feature is the proverbial “wienie” and is meant to draw you into the land.

Frontierland is not adjacent to the Hub like it is at Disneyland and Adventureland doesn’t have the “wienie” feature. Why? It wouldn’t be an adventure if you knew what was beyond the gates, right?

Imagine you are standing next to the Partners statue and facing due west. We are going to walk that direction. You will see how the time machine effect starts even before your feet touch the wooden bridge. In the movies the editor will use a technique called a cross-dissolve to transition from one scene to another. There are physical versions of cross-dissolves throughout the Magic Kingdom and this is how you can spot them.

The designers have used paving materials as one way to create that smooth transition. As you walk from the Hub to Liberty Square, notice how the smooth pavement turns to brick and then wood as you cross over the bridge. This subtle transformation helps to plant the seed that you are entering a different time and place. Going from Main Street USA to Liberty Square means you have to turn back the clock 150 years from small town America during the early 1900s to the east coast at the time of the founding of the nation.

As with everything you are about to see, even this bridge is loaded with meaning. Nothing is there by accident. The bridge was meant to be a copy of the Concord Bridge AKA the Old North Bridge where the Colonials faced off with the British in 1775. The moment when our nation change is the start of our journey through America’s past.

Once through the brick gates the main element is the public square. The Square is framed by the iconic buildings, the boathouse, and the splash of green just off into the distance from Tom Sawyer Island. That public square is the center and focus of the entire land just like how the space would have functioned in Colonial days. The Liberty Tree balances the large Hall of President’s building and softens the space. That tree is one of the largest trees ever transplanted at Walt Disney World.

To embellish and enhance that special place, additional little areas are carved out behind the main buildings. No other land at the Magic Kingdom provides these types of discoverable spaces. These new centers in turn make each other special and that creates an urban landscape that is rewarding, functional, and memorable. It is one of the reasons New Orleans Square in Disneyland is so well loved.

The river is more than just a backdrop that frames one side of the outdoor room known as the public square. Its real magic is how it is used as the thread that moves the back-story along. And that back-story is nothing less than the quintessential time trip from colonial days through the American western migration.

Next week we will cross that bridge and explore what is on the other side.

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