With the grand reopening of the “new” Disney California Adventure theme park, Disneyland Resort has transformed the park’s former kitschy “Beach Boys”-laden, postcard-themed entrance into a warm, comfortable, inviting, and lively environment known as Buena Vista Street. Throughout the 1920s-infused area and continuing around the new Carthay Circle, Disney has not only decorated the park streets with history-inspired details but also added new entertainment throughout.
“What we wanted to do was go along this theme of optimism and opportunity and dreams that is what Buena Vista Street is all about,” said Alan Bruun, creative director of entertainment for Disneyland Resort. “It is a street of dreams. It is where we all come to make our dreams come true and it’s where our guests started their day to make their dreams come true as well. So we have a natural connection all the way along. All of our entertainment along Buena Vista Street is designed, as people try to make their dreams come true.”
With high-energy live musical acts connecting with familiar and new characters meeting and greeting with guests, Buena Vista Street is the park’s newest hot spot for live performances.
Five and Dime
Five and Dime is a talented quintet of jazz performers (“Five”) plus one vocalist (“Dime”) who roll out several times daily onto Buena Vista Street from Hollywood Land and park in Carthay Circle to perform a variety of familiar standards and dance-worthy numbers. Bruun describes the group as moving to Hollywood after “having sold everything, bought this jalopy, [and] driven down from Chicago to make it big in the movie business.”
Featuring the sounds of a saxophone, trumpet, guitar, drums, upright bass, and one powerful voice, this group commands attention across Buena Vista Street, drawing visitors to circle around and enjoy their 15-minute show, with some guests even pulled into the show to join the group for a tune or two. And Goofy, sporting a bright green zoot suit, also joins in the toe-tapping fun.
Of all the new live entertainment added to Disney California Adventure, Five and Dime fits the 1920s theme the best, offering the feeling and vibe of the early 1900s.
The official debut performance of Five and Dime took place on the morning of June 14, 2012 during a special press preview of Buena Vista Street and the rest of the “new” Disney California Adventure theme park. That performance, including some entirely amusing facial expressions from one of the guests who somewhat unwillingly became involved, can be seen below.
Video: Five and Dime official debut at Disney California Adventure
Red Car News Boys
A complete contrast to the musical stylings of Five and Dime, when the Red Car News Boys arrive to Carthay Circle via (what else?) one of the park’s new Red Car Trolleys. But when this “Newsies”-inspired show comes into view, it’s synthesizers and backbeats that form the basis for the Broadway-style performance that features a cast of singers exclaiming “California, here we come!”
Bruun calls the Red Car News Boys “this great plucky group of kids each one of which has their own dream and their own desire. You know, ‘What can I be in the future?'” And ultimately the show presents a “prequel” to Mickey Mouse, the Disney icon. “Mickey Mouse, fresh off the bus” is how Bruun describes him. “Not the Mickey Mouse that we’ve come to know. Not the Mickey Mouse who’s a star. But the Mickey Mouse who, like Walt, has just hit town and hasn’t had his big break yet.”
Though the show’s music itself may not perfectly blend with the mostly believable 1920s place-making of Buena Vista Street, the story told by the show closely mirrors that of Walt Disney’s own, with the news boys singing tales of arriving to the west coast with little more than “a suitcase and a dream.” And in the end, stepping off that trolley last is none other than Mickey Mouse, with suitcase in-hand, ready to make it big in Hollywood, much as Walt did when he arrived there in 1923.
The Red Car News Boys made their official debut immediately following that of Five and Dime, on June 14, 2012, captured in the video and photos below.
Video: Red Car News Boys official debut at Disney California Adventure
Characters and Citizens of Buena Vista Street
The Five and Dime and Red Car News Boys appearances by Mickey and Goofy are closely integrated with their meet-and-greets around the Carthay Circle area, often joined by Pluto, Chip, and Dale as well as “streemosphere” characters placed throughout the area. It was a conscious decision of Disney’s to turn Buena Vista Street into an lively environment that never rests.
Bruun emphasized in creating the new entertainment for Disney California Adventure, they strived to “take all of the entertainment that we do on Buena Vista Street and interconnect it. Trying to really get that sense of bustle and that sense of life so you never feel like, ‘Oh here comes the entertainment. Oh there it goes.’ But here’s the News Boys, into the News Boys walks the messenger who’s on the street the rest of the day, delivering messages and interacting with guests, giving Mickey the telegram that his big break is coming. Goofy coming from meeting and greeting with guests over here, hearing the music, and going and dancing the Charleston with Five and Dime.”
It’s a constant back-and-forth exchange between street performances, meet-and-greets, and casual encounters with the park’s “citizens” that separates this new area from the traditional “3 o’clock parade” schedule that Disney’s parks have held for years.
In Carthay Circle, Mickey and Goofy trade off with other characters, casually appearing for photos, autographs, and just to say hi.
Up and down Buena Vista Street, a policeman and bicycle-riding messenger patrol the area, going about their own daily business until approached by guests. The policeman will occasionally begin to write an unusual ticket for something as silly as being too happy while the messenger alerts guests to the availability of the latest edition of the Buena Vista Bugle newspaper, a real (free!) collectible available to take home. It’s a noteworthy shift in the way entertainment is laid out around the park, not requiring guests to wait in line lines to meet a single character, but rather encountering them on-the-fly while naturally walking around.
Grand Opening Party
The 1920s theme of Buena Vista Street came to a culmination in a lavish street party thrown to celebrate the grand reopening of Disney California Adventure. On the evening of June 14, 2012, a swing band set up in front of the “world premiere” of the Carthay Circle Theatre / Restaurant, inviting guests to hit the dance floor, populated with period-perfect performers.
Video: 1920s-style grand opening party for Buena Vista Street and Carthay Circle Theatre
Naturally, Goofy and Pluto couldn’t resist joining in the fun while invited guests socialized, ate, drank, and relived a night celebrating the simple era lost to time, an era that Walt Disney stepped into when he arrived to California decades ago.
Though this particular party was one-night-only in celebration of Disney’s Imagineering achievements, the feeling created by Buena Vista Street, the Red Car Trolleys, the News Boys, Five and Dime, and the Carthay Circle Theatre / Restaurant now immersive visitors into the return of this area of hope and dreams on a daily basis. And Disney fans now find themselves flowing between acts, meeting Mickey one moment, then watching him dance the next, just a few feet away, before themselves dancing alongside Goofy to the tune of a hopeful jazz band, while the local citizens watch and chat. It’s an interconnected series of events that creates a whole themed environment that’s more than a series of clever storefronts and signs, but one with personality and life – and a far cry from the surf tunes formerly filling the air at Disney California Adventure.
(With photos by Jeremiah Daws and Ricky Brigante.)
More photos of Five and Dime:
More photos of the Red Car News Boys: