Disneyland Park has Sleeping Beauty Castle. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life. And soon the Disney California Adventure theme park will feature a new icon: a towering replica of Hollywood’s famous Carthay Circle Theatre, where Walt Disney first premiered “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937. Adding authenticity to the 1920s/1930s makeover of the park’s entrance, soon to be known as Buena Vista Street, the Carthay Circle Theatre will not only command attention on the outside, but also invite guests inside for comfortable dining experiences.
At the 2011 D23 Expo, Walt Disney Imagineers Coulter Wynn, Ray Spencer, and Lisa Girolami gave fans “A Good Look at Buena Vista Street,” during a presentation bearing that name. Buena Vista Street will be Disney California Adventure’s version of Main Street USA, with facades and stores themed around classic Hollywood and Los Angeles-area buildings as Walt may have seen when he first arrived to California decades ago.
After walking through the park’s new Pan-Pacific Auditorium-inspired turnstiles, underneath the Hyperion Bridge, and down the newly-redecorated street, guests will find themselves in front of Disney’s recreation of the Carthay Circle Theatre, home to a new high-end restaurant and lounge, being developed by the chef of the award-winning Napa Rose restaurant at Disney’s nearby Grand Californian Hotel.
Video: Watch as Imagineers take D23 Expo attendees on a virtual visit to the Carthay Circle Theatre, elaborating about details along the way
As mentioned by Imagineers at the presentation in the video above, two-story Carthay Circle Theatre will offer a fine dining experience and comfortable lounge. In addition, a terrace will offer what they deemed as some of the park’s best parade viewing spots, with the new parade route running directly past the new location around the new hub. Disneyland’s fireworks will also be able to be seen from this vantage point, allowing Disney California Adventure guests to take in a little extra entertainment.
The new red car trolleys will make a stop just across from the Carthay Circle Theatre at the Pump House, allowing easy access to the centralized area from other parts of the park. Other red car stops will be the entrance turnstiles, in front of the Animation building on Hollywood Boulevard, and on Sunset Boulevard by the Tower of Terror.
Unlike Sleeping Beauty Castle, which is visible all the way down Main Street USA, Imagineers specifically designed Buena Vista Street with at the end, placing the circular hub and Carthay Circle Theatre slightly offset from center, offering a more “natural” and less “theme park” feel to the area. The map below, shown during the D23 Expo presentation, shows the park’s entrance at the top, Carthay Circle Theatre in yellow at the bottom, and the trolley route in red, not quite in line with each other – on purpose.
Visitors reaching the end of Buena Vista Street will find themselves in a circular park style environment, with plenty of foliage providing shade and benches to relax on near a striking, but not oversized fountain, with the large Carthay Circle Theatre sitting to one side as the largest building in the area.
But the unnamed restaurant and lounge may not be all that’s in store for the roomy interior of the Carthay Circle Theatre. For months, rumors have circulated surrounding a version of Disneyland’s famed Club 33 for Disney California Adventure, dubbed the Carthay Circle Club. The exclusive Club 33, hidden within Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, has a waiting list so long that Disney has stopped taking names for memberships. Due to its extreme popularity, the idea of a second similar club for Disney California Adventure may not be far from reality.
During the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts presentation at the 2011 D23 Expo, chairman Tom Staggs alongside Disneyland Resort president George Kalogridis casually mentioned they are working on “some means of expanding our Club  offering.” The pseudo-announcement came as part of a string of vague hints and teases of experiences currently in development for the Disneyland Resort:
It’s not clear if Staggs was hinting at the rumored Carthay Circle Club or if Disney has found a way to actually expand Club 33 and make it more accessible. It seems that information will be revealed in 2012. But given the size of the Carthay Circle Theatre, it’s certainly a possibility that there will be room for a new members-only club.
Later in the “Good Look at Buena Vista Street” presentation, the trio of Imagineers also unveiled an important piece of the Disney California Adventure refurbishment puzzle that will reside nearby the Carthay Circle Theatre. With the theme of Walt Disney’s journey to California in the 1920s driving the redesign of the park’s entrance area, Imagineers have created a new Partners-style statue featuring Walt and Mickey, as they would have looked having just stepped off a train to Los Angeles. The new statue will be called “Storytellers”.
Video: Imagineers reveal new Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse “Storytellers” statue for Disney California Adventure
The statue, featuring Walt in a fedora and casual clothes instead of a suit, will sit on the ground, rather than up on a pedestal as the Partners statue exists at Disneyland. The goal is to bring visitors to the park eye-to-eye with Walt, experiencing California in the way that he did, on the same level – quite literally.
Between the makeover of soon-to-be Buena Vista Street and the historic importance of the Carthay Circle Theatre, replicated in the park, guests visiting Disney California Adventure in 2012 when the project is completed will find themselves immersed in a world that helped to inspire all that became the Walt Disney Company and its decades of treasured and timeless works.