Wednesday, April 11, 2012

All the Lights of the Kingdom, Part Two

(Part One)

Last time we looked at how lights and lamps help set the stage for the Magic Kingdom and how both Main Street and the Hub work variations on that, using lamps that help tell the story and create a sense of place. We also saw some suitably exotic examples in Adventureland and how the 1975 Tomorrowland used modern light fixtures to reinforce geometric architecture. Now let's venture on into Fantasyland, Frontierland and Liberty Square!


There is more or less only one consistent rule in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, and that is that Big Lights = Fantasy. This, left, is a light that's buried deep inside the extended queue for Peter Pan's Flight, and is to me the poster child for this "Big = Fantasy!" approach. It's sort of hard to tell, but it's about the size of a small child's upper body. I'm about ten feet away from it when I took this picture.

The rule is upheld elsewhere. But its size aside, most of the Fantasyland lights are quite elaborate compared to those elsewhere in the park. Although the Florida Fantasyland has a much vaguer theme than, say, the 1983 Disneyland version, that later version is still indebted to certain aspects of our Fantasyland here. A general "old Europe" theme pervades, mashing up Renaissance festivals and Old Heidelberg. It is a frothy melange of influences.

More Olde Europe styling, this little lamp has been seen before, in Part One as a light fixture on the Adventureland Bridge. There, dangling from a rope and with stained glass instead of amber pebble glass, it looked faintly exotic. Here, it's been joined by an impressive anchor fixture. I'm pretty sure that this one in particular and a few other Fantasyland fixtures we'll be seeing were thrown together with parts from different lamp kits, adding to the eclectic, slightly naive charm of the lights in this part of the park.

 This does a good job of showing how the "Old Europe" and "Ren Faire" visuals work together, and this is a deliciously Gothic lamp, with its' bird's head supporting a lamp that recalls European cathedrals. I particularly like the three "candles" which are each irregularly elevated inside. The 1971 Fantasyland tents weirdly mash up modern sheet metal, medieval details, and European weapons like spears and lances; here we can see lanterns hung from shield bolted to spears to accent the entrance to Peter Pan's Flight.

This one is part of the Columbia Harbour House on the Fantasyland side; it also does double duty in Caribbean Plaza as a "Spanish" style lamp. Again, its' wall bracket here is beautiful, and although it does double duty to protect the lantern from Florida storms, the dangling chain adds a touch of Old World elegance.

A nearby lantern at Columbia Harbour House with a unique "wreath". Notice how this one also reflects the New England styling of the Harbour House, which straddles - and exits out into - both Fantasyland and Liberty Square. On the Liberty Square side, nearly all fixtures are white incandescent; Fantasyland lamps have a strong preference towards amber lights and dapple glass.

This one at right is representative of the lights seen all around the west side of the Small World show building/facade, although several have gone missing in recent years. They're just beautiful things; the side of the Florida Small World is designed to look like it's the very edge of the courtyard "enclosure" connected to Cinderella Castle that's rambling off out of sight, and I profiled it here as the "Small World Gate". These lamps both manage to recall Cinderella Castle without having to be faithful to its designs, as we will see.

This lamp is part of the castle courtyard between the exit to the castle the Cinderella's Golden Carrousel, which as a stronger medieval French-inflected design to go along with Cindy Castle itself. This one has a nice "flower" motif in the details and curling leaves.

 Now we're starting to work our way towards the castle "campus". These lights manage to look both Gothic and pleasantly deco modern at the same time, yet their crown-like crest and stained glass details absolutely make their relationship to the castle clear. This one is on the backside of the castle; these also grace the walk up to the castle as well as the terraced area behind it overlooking Main Street from Fantasyland.

Absolutely all of Cindy Castle is lit with indirect light; light bulbs hidden in a decorative crest atop the castle's columns cast light up and into the arched ceiling, which reflects down on the main pedestrian passageway. As a result, nearly all of the visible lamps in the castle are purely decorative and cast little to no light at all; just inside the main entryway from Main Street, it can be positively black at night.

 These two lamps to the left and right of the central arch slightly illuminate the way; notice their royal-crown like details on top as well as their handsome geometry.

This is the basic Cindy Castle light, and it's actually another one that seems, to me, impossibly huge; I'm standing three feet off the ground on a planter to take this picture.

I love WED's use of cracked glass and pebble glass in the Magic Kingdom lighting fleet; at night these lanterns cast lovely shadows on the walls. The Magic Kingdom, it must be said, lacks something for texture that you get at Disneyland, due to both a somewhat more geometric design and larger open spaces, the effect can sometimes be flatter. But at night, the light fixtures bring out new shadows, details, textures and patterns. It's a very intricate design.

The large chandelier from the reception area of the castle restaurant. Again we see WED making good use of lights which reinforce Cinderella Castle's arch-heavy design elements. This one really looks medieval, which is only accented by the fact that it hangs off a beamed ceiling, the only one we can see in the entire lobby portion of the castle. It's fun to imagine Robin Hood or King John or some similar middle-European figure having this as a dining hall fixture.

This one is my favorite and I've saved it for last. Although rather shopworn, this happy little light has been overseeing diners at the outdoor patio of Pinocchio Village Haus for four decades. It's another huge one, about a foot and a half across, and it serves absolutely no lighting purpose but seeing it always makes me happy. With it's three lights, amber bulbs, and faux "candle" bases, it reminds me of Christmas lights we put up in our windows back up north. It's simple, a little plain perhaps, but I find it naive and lovable. May she shine on for four more decades.


Frontierland is primarily lit with lamps intended to recall gas, kerosene or oil lamps; this could make for a potentially dull lighting landscape, but WED does pull out some nice variations on the basic cold-blast kerosene lamp to keep things interesting. Although these fixtures seem quite stock and generic at first glance, each facade has its own unique light or lamp, which helps the area feel a little more like a boom town that grew up in fits and starts.

This is the basic Frontierland street light. Although not seen in this photo, the base of these lamps is interesting. It looks as if the current lamp is lashed to an older post emerging from the pavement, as if these newer lamps took the place of older ones, a small suggestion of this place's history.

The basic Fronteirland wall lamps which appear in the stretch of facades from Grizzly Hall down towards the Mile Long Bar / Pecos Bill Cafe area.

The area surrounding the Frontierland Mercantile has these cold-blast kerosene lamps with reflectors around the entrance to the store; one on each side of the door. It adds a little touch of gentility to the store and helps it stand out alongside the rather rough-hewn buildings seen elsewhere in Frontierland. It's interesting to note that this particular facade facing Country Bear Jamboree is probably the most gentrified front in the whole of Frontierland, with its fancy latticed porch and upstairs rooms to let.

Two lamps from the middle section of the Frontierland Mercantile facade, these square lights are very cute and add a touch of charm to this bright and cheerful little store front.

More kerosene lamps from the Shooting Gallery side of the Mercantile facade, this one resembling a rough slate and wood structure. These are probably most interesting thanks to their special design which casts light down as well as up.

Another super size lantern, this time from a decorative staircase near the original entrance to Pecos Bill Cafe. This lantern was once also used in Adventureland, although I think most examples of this have since been removed. I find the sandy color of this example especially pleasing when paired with the earth tones of the Southwest-styled Pecos facade, almost like aged and tarnished silver.

If you've never found this little side staircase, which has been largely obscured by later development and a now-huge tree, it's worth seeking out. Tile lined and appealing, it's very very close to something you might find at Disneyland, and indeed the entire original Pecos Bill complex was, before expansion, probably the most direct link between Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, being a nearly direct reproduction of the old Casa Del Fritos / Casa Mexicana facade, and indeed sponsored by the same food conglomerate (Pepsi Cola / Frito Lay).

Some appropriately stylish "Southwest" lanterns, also near the original Pecos Bill entrance, brings us to the end of Frontierland. This entire complex was originally a much more rustic and simple series of facades, with thatch-draped patio areas and charmingly low, simple architecture. During the 1998 expansion which swallowed up all the original al fresco dining space and dropped in a series of huge rectangular facades and dining halls into what was once a rambling collection of intimate rooms. This small courtyard is one of the few remnants of WED-era design in the entire western half of Frontierland.

Frontierland is not the most inspiring of Magic Kingdom lands when it comes to lamps, but it also doesn't fare too badly, working some interesting variations on limited material.


There is a small area in Liberty Square dividing Frontierland from the rest of the land which is intended to recall St. Louis - "The Gateway to the Frontier" - immediately surrounding the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon. This elaborate light, near an exit to the saloon and right at the border nicely straddles the line between the Frontierland kerosene lamps and the Liberty Square colonial lights, as well as echoing the Adventureland Veranda Breezeway lights seen in Part One. It's quite an elaborate "hero" light, straddling three times and places effortlessly.

These nearby lamps don't work quite as hard, but they're still part of the Liberty Square-Frontierland "transition". The dangling one on the right, in particular, with its chain and strong wooden post, is very evocative of Frontierland's earthen textures and colors.

An appropriately brassy big city lamp outside the Diamond Horseshoe. Although both facilities are the same size and very similar inside, the Diamond Horseshoe takes up much less facade space than its counterpart at Disneyland, the Golden Horseshoe. This means something, but I'm not sure what. And yes, this building is part of Liberty Square, despite what some places - including sometimes Disney - would have you believe.

Two Liberty Square wall lamps, similar but quite distinct. Frontierland's gas lamps all flicker and pulse, but I've always found Liberty Square's use of bright steady incandescent lights to be an interesting choice for an area which could become overloaded with "candlelight". These two little lamps cast a lot of light thanks to their reflectors.

This cute little light is part of the side of the Liberty Tree Tavern, which is disguised to recall colonial homes. Placed next to an artificial "front door", it's welcoming little lantern.

One of the few amber lamps in Liberty Square, this light hangs off the side of Olde World Antiques / the Christmas Shoppe. The use of steady incandescent light in Liberty Square helps create, I think, a sense of peace and tranquility after Main Street's popcorn exuberance, whereas the lights in Adventureland, Frontierland, and around the Haunted Mansion, which are dimmer, fewer in number, and often flickering like flames, help create the impression that these areas are less civilized.

One of Liberty Square's fabulous "corner bracket" lights, this one also gets a through workout over by the Hall of Presidents. These lights are tall, large, and elaborate, natural partners to red brick and white moulding.

A hanging "nautical" light from Mike Fink Keelboats. This building should be explored more in a future post, but suffice to say it manages to look nautical and New England from the pedestrian level, to match the Yankee Trader and Columbia Harbour House, while simultaneously appearing rustically Southern from a distance, to match the Mississippi riverboat and southern ambiance of Tom Sawyer Island. Some of the pure ambition of the multifunctional architecture in Magic Kingdom continues to astonish.

These lamps also used to grace the entrance to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was torn down in 2004.

Two lamps, again from the rustic rear side of the Olde World Antiques complex, these have recently been rebuilt and look fresh and new. I've always admired the fun flower/starburst behind the bulb of the circular lamp, one of the few decorative reflectors in the area. The timbered wood posts and stone walls give this stretch of facades a slightly rustic touch, and these lamps play off that without looking out of place in the area's strongly Philadelphia/Greek Revival overall atmosphere.

Stately, eagle-topped lights hanging in the entrance to the Hall of Presidents.

For the Liberty Square area, WED went to quite extreme lengths on this occasion to ensure the proper atmosphere; the bridge and river is flanked with slate from a quarry near Williamsburg, there are rocks from the Potomac in the hub canal nearby, and WED even raided houses of the period for decorative boot scrapers, door handles and knockers seen on the various facades in the area. I've been told that some lights in the area are actual antiques, but I've always doubted it - a lot of what I've profiled above looks like basic yard / "estate" lamps direct from the catalog. I think these three, however, may be actual antiques. They're visibly much older and fragiler than the rest.

Georgian style sconces inside the Hall of Presidents rotunda nicely match the...

....Georgian style chandelier nearby. These are among my favorite light fixtures in the area, both for their beautiful gilt color and the way they sneakily walk the line between old and modern with their candle-flame light bulbs.

The Hall of Presidents rotunda overall combines ancient and modern in interesting ways, throwing Georgian fixtures, hand-carved plaster paneling, and brightly-lit modern domes and recessed lights into a mix that is effective and not visually contradictory. It is miles better than the American Adventure's similar rotunda and galleries, which sometimes reminds us of what Martha Stewart's idea of Colonial America would look like.

These hanging lamps wouldn't look out of place outside the Disneyland Haunted Mansion. They're from the facade of the Liberty Tree Tavern, which at times strongly recalls that attraction's emblematic front. They speak of hospitality, warmth, and cheer, and are amongst the biggest and brightest fixtures in the Square.

Two gorgeous specimens from the side of the Tavern, which to me match the Hall of Presidents lamps and may also be antiques. These have also recently been rebuilt.

 Two beautiful examples from the dim lobby of Liberty Tree Tavern, amongst the most evocative spaces in any theme park. Compare the simple austerity of these pressed tin and simple copper lamps to those very elaborate ones seen in the Hall of Presidents - 50 feet away - to truly appreciate how much effort WED put into making every facade and room in the Magic Kingdom feel unique. These also use frosted taper bulbs instead of clear ones, which give off a much warmer, homier glow.

Sconces and smaller chandeliers inside the Tavern in context.

Now, I've spent a lot of time discussing these lamps and lights, it's time for some larger context. Theme parks are not made in splendid isolation, and unless Emile Kuri was a much busier boy than I think he was, not every light and lamp in the Magic Kingdom was some sort of brilliant executive decision. A good deal of the choices were carried over from Disneyland. A good deal of these lamps were off-the-shelf models, raided from other facilities, or Hollywood's quite elaborate movie warehouses. Indeed, the rich variety of lamps in the Magic Kingdom is as much a tribute to the film industry than any one person or place.

But all of the decisions are careful. Even when the decision is somewhat arbitrary, in the way that a lot of the exterior Liberty Square lamps are basically interchangeable, we see a careful consideration on the part of somebody of the lamp, the architecture it's on, the space it occupies, and how the whole thing will go together. They aren't just simple choices, they're the right choices.

That's the amazing things about these parks, that we can drill down to the level of, say, a doorknob and see how all the doorknobs of the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland suit their area. It's the reason why these two parks in particular cast such a long shadow over popular culture - a shadow that Disney is now, more than ever, racing to stay ahead of.