Many critics have already written on the merits of Disneyland as an artistic and social endeavor. Many argue that Disneyland’s design is revisionist, or somehow disingenuous because it is largely based on architecture that already exists in movies. The overwhelming feeling in the park is too saccharine. These arguments, however, do not consider the amount of work and artistry that goes into bringing Disneyland to life, nor do they consider the uniqueness of some of the architecture found in the park. Every aspect of the park is cultivated purposely to exude a certain reaction from its visitors. Entire teams of creative people are employed to build, design, and maintain those reactions.
In line with the theories of urbanists, like Kevin Lynch’s theory on paths, edges, and landmarks, the design of Disneyland is manipulated to create comfort and familiarity in certain areas, or uncertainty and adventure in others. As architect Charles Moore stated, “In an uncharitable sea of suburbia, Disney has created a whole public world, full of sequential occurrences, of big and little drama, of hierarchies of importance and excitement, with opportunities to respond at the speed of rocketing bobsleds or of horse-drawn street cars. No raw edges spoil the picture at Disneyland; everything is as immaculate as in the musical-comedy villages that Hollywood has provided for our viewing pleasure for the last three generations.”
As a result, there is an instant level of comfort, familiarity, and joy in most visitors. These reactions are something, as Charles Montgomery points out in his book, Happy City, that everyone in the architecture/planning/design field should be striving for. The architecture and design of Disneyland garners feelings in its visitors that are scarcely found in other urban environments.
There is a symbiotic relationship where Disneyland does not exist without Orange County, and Orange County does not exist without Disneyland. There are few examples of architecture in the world, let alone Orange County, that are as instantly recognizable as Disneyland. Metrics on social media sites reveal that Disneyland is consistently one of the most photographed places on the planet. From an outsider perspective, and to a certain degree of truth, culturally and economically, Disneyland, Anaheim, and Orange County are all one in the same. That is reason enough for it to be included in our guide. (2021)