April 30th, 2012 marked the end of an era for Disneyland. Carnation Gardens Plaza was closed to make way for a new Princess Fantasy Faire location. The site of swing dancing, school choirs, bands, and other various performances has gone into Yesterland along with the Skyway, the People Mover, and so much more. It seems this piece of Disney history has hit so many people harder. Was it because they performed there themselves? Was it because they loved to dance there on Saturday night? Is it because another original piece of the park is being torn down to make way for something new? Perhaps it’s all of the above. Over the past few days I’ve read many personal stories about people and their connections to the Plaza Garden area. While I never performed there in choir (we sang at the Disneyland Hotel) or took a spin across the floor, there are a couple memories that stick out in my mind.
A few years ago, my wife and I were fortunate enough to see the original Mousketeers from the Mickey Mouse Club reunite on the Garden stage for their 50th anniversary . What a kick we got out of hearing the Mousketeers tell their stories, sing their songs, dance, and even seeing Cubby play the drums! Perhaps more entertaining were their legions of followers, screaming as if David Cassidy or Davy Jones had just taken the stage. The fact that these performers, so many years later, still held a place in so many people’s hearts was amazing and warming to see. Later that evening, we made our way back to the stage. It was dark and empty, just the backdrop for the show remained. Although the show was over, we managed to snag a few pictures up on stage, pictures that will remind us that we were briefly Mousketeers as well.
The other memory that sticks out in my mind does not involve the performing area at all, just the area surrounding it. Last December, my family and I were at the park and happened to see Cinderella in the Gardens area as we waited to see her, who should walk up but Alice and the Mad Hatter? Turns out they were in the area “conducting interviews” and needed a subject. And something to write on. Cinderella became the subject, and my daughter offered up her autograph book as the interview pad. As they kept interrupting the princess and her guests, Mary Poppins and Bert were taking a “Jolly Holiday” stroll to the same location and joined in the interview and ensuing silliness. There were so few areas in the park that accommodated such a gathering, such a grand time as the Carnation Plaza Gardens, and it will be truly missed.
I, like so many, will miss the Gardens. I’ll miss the entertainment, the space, the unexpected meetings. But Disneyland IS always changing. It doesn’t stay the same from one visit to the next. The classic look and feel may be going away, but swing dancing will return there. Shows will find their way back to the stage. New favorites will emerge. My daughter loves the princesses, and plans for the new Fantasy Faire area look nothing short of beautiful. I can’t help but wonder, many years from now, if the Fantasy Faire gets replaced with something else, will she lament the renovation of a dear friend, as so many of us are doing now?
Perhaps so, but hopefully she’ll be able to look forward to sharing something new with future generations as well.
Farewell, Plaza Gardens, and thanks for the memories.