Disney Owns the Night

Why not? They own everything else

Good luck making one of yourself, though, because the hint of edgy debauch is illusory. Disney's fabled security hasn't loosened up just because you may have. A bartender acquaintance tells me that all "cast members" at Downtown Disney are within easy reach of phones on which merely dialing 0 summons security to smoothly remove anyone who looks a little too lit. Persons who are at all difficult are turned over to the Anaheim police, who maintain a strong presence on the street.

The handout pamphlet for Downtown Disney has a list of thou shalt nots, including littering, loitering and "all other activities prohibited by the Downtown Disney District Code of Conduct. The complete Code of Conduct is available in the Downtown Disney Security Office. The Code of Conduct will be strictly enforced." Reading "Code of Conduct" in every line makes me suspect they're leading up to producing a Steven Seagal movie of that name.

In the fawning local press coverage, Downtown Disney's designers related how they spent two years scouting the great plazas of Madrid, Berlin, London, Paris, Copenhagen, Singapore, Hong Kong, et al., searching for the right feel for their downtown. Oh, the privations they must have endured when all the while, the model for their final product was so close to home: Toontown.

There's scarcely been a new mall built in SoCal that doesn't owe a design debt to the cartoon-based land. You'll find the bright, contrasting paints; the playfully skewed angles; and the overriding sense that, after you've had your little fun, they can just hose away any sign you'd ever been there. All that remains of you is your money.

These modern esplanades have no give and take, none of the random possibility of life. You don't interact. Nothing you do, short of abject vandalism, would leave a mark or make a difference. This is not where a Henry Miller would go to seep up inspiration. The relationship Downtown Disney has to real street life is the same one their jungle boat ride has to a real wilderness.

Already, some locals are referring to the Downtown Disney House of Blues as the Mouse of Blues. It's all right, but it's no Linda's Doll Hut, which struggled to stay open while access was choked off by the Disney-desired freeway "improvements."

It will probably survive. Some years back, I visited the site in New Mexico where we tested the first atomic bomb, and even there, vegetation was springing up anew in the cracks in the fused earth. Disney will probably someday put a park there. In the meantime, life goes on.

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