Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Aesthetic Profile of Caribbean Plaza

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Caribbean Plaza is thematically one of the most complex areas of the Magic Kingdom, not often commented on (except by me, of course...). This grouping shows two of the most distinctive features of the Plaza evident as you first enter, the tile roofs (how often have you overlooked the little flying bird on all of the ends of the tile roofs?) and the sudden introduction of planters which hold back the jungle with formalized iron boxes and rails. The illusion of a fortress just on the outskirts of a jungle is very strongly felt in the transitory area from the Jungle Cruise to the Plaza, aided in no small measure by the Jungle Cruise just next door.

Caribbean Plaza is basically a labyrinth of earthtone plaster walls, many accented with dark aged stains or tropical-colored accents. Although the vegetation around the plaza has grown in quite a lot in the last thirty-seven years and so the effect of being massive and sunbleached has been greatly diminished, the little tile accents and placemarkers still retain much of their charm. Supposedly these tiles were imported especially for the project.

The plaza uses dark woodtones to contrast the plaster, exposed rafters under the tile roofs and intricate carved woodwork designs on doors and walls. All this dark wood creates interiors as dim and romantic as the exteriors are sunsplashed and dramatic - a fitting prelude to the dark, dim Pirates of the Caribbean anchoring attraction. Few areas of the Magic Kingdom are as receptive to a slowly setting sun or a bright twilight.

I don't think any area of the Magic Kingdom has such an impressive array of paving details, from the odd little lines which run through the streets to the richly detailed cobblestone effects achieved elsewhere. Because much of the Magic Kingdom is finished with plain red concrete paving tiles, the use and variety of paving details here is especially noteworthy. A paving flourish right past the Tiki Room even announces the arrival of the area, and an intricate design below the large signature arch which is the back of the area heralds its departure. In later years Disney would contribute significant attention to the paving treatments in their parks, an effort Caribbean Plaza would predate by nearly 25 years.

Few areas of the Magic Kingdom are as lavishly detailed, as these final few groupings demonstrate. Such an amazing variety of lighting fixtures, with no two almost ever re-used!

If there is a complaint about Caribbean Plaza, it is that it is a little too clearly an afterthought to the Magic Kingdom - it could have benefitted from not only a better location, but a better spread of buildings to allow the small alleys and courtyards it contains, which are its true pleasures, to be better appreciated.

One thing I would like to point out here is that although the aesthetic profile of Caribbean Plaza never changes - unlike Adventureland, which changes at least four times - I had much more to photograph in Caribbean Plaza, which to me suggests a superior treatment. Go back to the Adventureland analysis and you'll notice that there simply isn't as much to the area despite the great diversity of visuals. Caribbean Plaza may have been done sort of on the cheap, but anybody who takes the time to wander through there and on through the queue of Pirates of the Caribbean one balmy summer evening will have little to complain about... it's one of Walt Disney World's most distinctive and gorgeous areas.


Unknown said...

Adventureland and Caribbean Plaza are two of my all-time favorite places in the Magic Kingdom (and Walt Disney World). Outside of New Orleans Square at Disneyland, I can't think of a more cohesive design and "at home" feeling than this corner of the Magic Kingdom.

Any thoughts on the differences in design since it was done after opening and under "guest" pressure to have a Prates ride?

From what I have seen and read about Big Thunder Mesa, it would have been a much larger area with some of the same feel as New Orleans Square (design-wise). At times, it seems like the large area is simply for a pass through of guests to and from Pirates. Maybe an anchor restaurant would help in this situation.

I, for one, am very grateful for your WDWOCD! (Check the DSM-IVr!)

Dylank said...

I so want to do larp in Disney World....and never feel the need more than in the Caribbean Plaza...Pirates and the like I would do...

rickmar said...

Congratulations to your blog! I like how you approach the style and design of WDW. Fantastic work! I also liked your article on the use of fonts and logo-design of the early Walt Disney World years a lot.
Question: You are using a new "home" graphic showing Mickey signing an autograph to a family standing in front of a pre-Space Mountain Magic Kingdom. From where is this detail taken? Would love to see the whole image..

FoxxFur said...

I'll post the whole image one day.... it's a centerfold map of Walt Disney World scanned from a 1974 issue of Walt Disney World Vacationland. I took the magazine apart to scan it! Don't worry, I safely put her back together afterwards.

Thanks for your kind words regarding the blog. My efforts aren't huge but I hope they are inspirational. :) More effort needs to be put into taking apart Disney's brilliant graphic and color designs from those earlier days... not like they're slack these days at all though!

outsidetheberm said...

These aesthetic studies are wonderful. Please keep them coming. Much appreciated!

philphoggs said...

All these pleasing details have made the Plaza one of my favorites. Disneyland may have the bayou and the greatest story line, but by necessity we have the ultimate setting. Aside from this, the ship off in the distance, to the right as you board, continually stirs the imagination deeply.
As you pointed out earlier, noticeable are the fountains which work correctly, and things generally looking well throughout Adventureland.... ignoring the obvious of course :)
Lastly, hope of all hope, the barker parrot now gone from the pirate room at the World of Disney, making a possible return to the Plaza? woohoooHAHAHAHA!

Your blog still and always Rocks.

Shane said...

Just discovered your blog and am blown away by the aesthetic profiles. Fantastic work, and very informative for those of us who are obsessed with park details. Keep these profiles coming!

Snow White Archive said...

In a word..."Wow!" Nice post. The Caribbean plaza feels like home.