Based on Walt Disney’s childhood memories, Main Street, U.S.A. is filled with historical references to the turn of the century. But did you know that many details were also inspired by the movies?
At Disneyland Paris, the musical film Hello Dolly! (1969) directed by Gene Kelly was one of the main inspirations when creating Main Street, U.S.A. As a child, Eddie Sotto – the Imagineer in charge of the project – had the opportunity to visit the film set, and he was struck by the elegance and authenticity of what perfectly captured the spirit of the 1890s. When the time came for Sotto to design this “new” Main Street, U.S.A., he decided to create an environment that would allow guests to experience the same emotions.
Hello Dolly! takes place both in New York and the small town of Yonkers. On Main Street, U.S.A., quite a few elements recall different props used in the film such as the large advertising posters, the trolley of Horse-Drawn Streetcars, the staircase leading up to Main Street Station and the entrance of Plaza Gardens Restaurant.
The background music also hints at the film as it includes “Put On Your Sunday Clothes.” This song can also be heard in Wall-E (2008), and it happens to be the little robot’s favorite melody, highlighting the difference between his optimistic vision of times past and the environment surrounding him.
The Music Man (1962) is another film that was instrumental in the creation of Main Street, U.S.A. It tells the story of a man pretending to be a music teacher to con the people of a small town who eventually falls in love with the town’s librarian, Marian. The Storybook Store shares many similarities with Marian’s library as it features the same columns and furniture. And that’s not all! The town’s ice cream parlor was the inspiration for The Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour.
Meredith Willson, the film’s composer, was no stranger to Disney. On June 14, 1959, during the ceremony celebrating the first expansion of Disneyland Resort, Willson was among Walt’s guests of honor and conducted in front of 2,000 guests The Music Man‘s signature song “76 Trombones” played on Central Plaza by… 76 trombones! Nowadays, “Wells Fargo Wagon” – another song from the film – can also be heard throughout the land.
Of course, Walt Disney’s very own films were used to design Main Street, U.S.A. Casey’s Corner is the most obvious example as it is a direct reference to the segment “Casey at the Bat” from Make Mine Music (1946), depicting the last inning of a baseball game in a satirical way.
The theming of the restaurant – well-known for its hotdogs – provides an insight into American culture, as suggested by a quote from historian Jacques Barzun inside the restaurant: “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”
The decoration inside Disney & Co. is reminiscent of traditional fairs like those that can be seen in So Dear to My Heart (1949), which tells the story of a little boy who cares for a rejected sheep rejected, and Pollyanna (1960), in which the main female protagonist brings a sense of optimism to the people of a small town tightly run by her aunt Polly Harrington.
On Main Street, Harrington’s Fine China & Porcelains is a direct reference to her last name. Between 1992 and 2002, number 76 on Town Square was occupied by Dr. Chilton’s Pharmacy, Polly’s love interest. It then became part of Town Square Photography before turning into New Century Notions – Flora’s Unique Boutique in 2014.
The elegance characterizing Pollyanna inspired the Victorian setting of Victoria’s Home-Style Restaurant. Its warm and family-friendly atmosphere recalls Summer Magic (1963), a musical film that tells the story of a struggling family in rural America. The film is also hinted at on Market Street where you can use the messaging services of “Digby’s Messenger Service” – Digby Popham is one of the characters in the film – or Beulah’s boarding house, named after the town where the story is set. The Sherman brothers composed several songs for this production, including “Beautiful Beulah” and “Flitterin”, which are part the background music played throughout the land.
Set in 1916, The Happiest Millionaire (1967) also proved to be a major inspiration. The film tells the story of an eccentric Philadelphia millionaire who finds it hard to accept that his daughter would leave the safety of her family home to get married. Rumpleheimer’s Ice Cream Parlor where Cordy and Angie meet also served as inspiration for The Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour. The Mercer 35 used in the film finds its counterpart on Main Street, U.S.A., similar to the one driven by Georges Hautecourt in The Aristocats (1970). The theme song of the film, “Fortuosity”, can be heard on Main Street, U.S.A.
The colors that were used on Main Street, U.S.A. are unique. They were developed in collaboration with legendary Imagineer John Hench and were inspired, among other things, by the warm color palette used in Lady and the Tramp (1955), also set during the Victorian era.
All those details, and many more, bring about the nostalgic and inviting atmosphere characterizing Main Street, U.S.A as a land where happiness proves to be highly contagious.