Monday, March 5, 2007


Mictorian: The Disneyfication of Victorian architecture.

Walt Disney grew up in small town America. Missouri to be exact. His formative years were during the end of the Victorian Era around 1900. This was a time when the world, and America in particular was shaking off it's Old World ways... moving toward a modern society that knew no limits, had no bounds and excepted no excuses.

Walt's image of what America could be and possibly already was came to be in this time. When he built Disneyland he put this view on display for all to see as they entered the park: Mainstreet U.S.A. was the first representation of what Disney Geeks tend to call "Mictorian". It's perhaps the signature style one thinks of in association with the Disney name. There are many architectual styles that influenced Disney through his life... from the Victorian childhood(1900's), to Arts and Crafts in California(1920's) through the Art Deco designs popular when he ran the Burbank studios(1930's). But the Victorian style is the image we picture most when we think of Disney.

Long after Walt's body has gone, his presence remains within this "stylized" version of American architecture. Besides the Mainstreets that welcome you into each Disneyland type park there are countless buildings designed with this in mind. The most known of course, are the hotels of Walt Disney World.

Built on what was originally supposed to be Walt Disney World's Asian Resort Hotel, the Grand Floridian was one of the early, and great decisions that Michael Eisner would make. Designed in the style of an early turn of the centure sea side Victorian retreat, the Grand Floridian has become the flagship hotel of WDW. For all intensive purposes, it is the Disneyland hotel of the Resort even though it doesn't go by the "Walt Disney World Hotel", it might as well. It exudes everything we talk about when one refers to a building as "Mictorian". Opened in 1988, it was modeled after the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. It is one of three Resort hotels(the others being the Contemporary and the Polynesian) that reside along the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon and in every term of Disney architecture the word "Grand" is certainly appropriate when refering to it.

The Beach Club Villas are another for of "Mictorian" architecture that evokes more of a New England form of Victorian styling. These Villas are part of the complex that is shared by the Beach Club and the Yacht Club, opened in 1990, both of which share this New England atmosphere. Opening in 2001, the Villas were an extention of the Disney Vacation Club and offered guest that wished to stay at the Beach or Yacht Club a much more private and home filled experience. The Victorian atmospher is clearly one of it's draws and guest that love the "Mictorian" architecture of the Grand Floridian, but wish for a more laid back setting will enjoy this Hotel.

Opening in 1996, The Boardwalk Inn was a Resort Hotel built in the "Mictorian" style of an East Coast "Coney Island" themed Victorian getaway. The kind, visitors to Atlantic City would have encountered had they put on their Sunday Best and went walking a midway filled with the smells of popcorn and candy. Situated near Epcot and the Disney-MGM Studios, This Hotel offers water ferrys across the lagoon to the theme parks. As with all the other "Mictorian" themed hotels, one is teleported back to a simpler time and as everything Disney, it's viewed through the prism of nostalgia, not reality.

Opened in 1991, this resort(formerly Disney's Vacation Club Resort) has the largest rooms of any of the seven deluxe WDW Resorts. The turn of the century look of this Resort was definately modeled after early East Coast resorts and features what we like to call Floridian "Mictorian" stylings... This place, with it's pastel colors and laid back decor resembles something your grandfather would have visited for a weeks rest from the rigors of modern life. Like the rigor of cranking that new Ford Model T so you could get there. All these Resorts offer the timeless experience that Disney is famous for. But these hotels aren't the only ones to sport this stylize Victorian look. The Grand Floridian may be the flagship of WDW, but the flagship Disneyland Hotels at all the other resorts pay homage to "Mictorian" design as well. The Disneyland Hotel in Paris is a light, fanciful recreation of that period and it's set up in front of the park puts it on display for all to see. The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is a hybrid between the Grand Floridian and the Boardwalk Resort with both paying respect to the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. Tokyo Disneyland's Disneyland Hotel will open in less than a year with a very extravagant "Mictorian" style that is rich in the theming OLC is known for. As with the Paris version, this one will be in front of the park. The only Disneyland Hotel to not have a Victorian... uhm... I mean "Mictorian" design is the original one in Anaheim. In about three years, if the construction still starts in January, the original DLH will have it's own radically different style to match the Disneyland park.

The designs for several other things feature "Mictorian" themed creations as well. The new Urban Entertainment Centers that WDI has been designing for Tokyo have this type of theming. Several proposals for other venues in Asia are also in the works. And what about those hotels Jay Rasulo has talked about building off Disney properties... in locations like New York, Chicago and possibly the northwest or Hawaii? Could those have the famous Disney stylized architecture? Well, the ones that see the light of day will have their share of "Mictorian" features.

As with all of Disney's plans, the goal is to sell you on the dream. Not of what was, but what could've been or could still be... that's the purpose of "Mictorian" themes. To take you into Walt's land... or world if you will. And for the brief time you're there make you part of the magic. Not simply a spectator watching it, but living it... believing it.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

All this "Mic" talks reminds me of Grey's Anatomy! (Did I just anounce to the world that I watch that show?)

Great post. I agree with your ideas. I urge you to read "Designing Disney's Theme Parks:The Architecture of Reassurance" by Marling.

The hotels you mention, like the pavilions at Epcot, are what Disney specializes in. Taking a large architectural or cultural theme and distilling it into an essence. Almost like blurring the edges.

The Grand Floridian is an amazing example of Victorian architecture. I would push further and say that the Disney Vacation Club (now called Old Key West) is a loving look at the actual homes in Key West.

I think the Mictorian label is a little to over-generalized for some of the hotels, but it is a good tag for the "Disney-fication" of architectural motifs and themes.

Thanks for a great post!