Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Quick Thoughts on Club 33's Expansion

Club 33 remains one of the most mysterious places in Disneyland, due to its exclusive members-only admission policy.  Most people familiar with Disneyland have at least heard of it, although they may not know exactly where or what it is.  Built specifically by Walt in New Orleans Square as a place to entertain sponsors and high-profile guests in a classy setting, this functioning restaurant admits guests only by paid admission or reservation by a paying member.  The Club includes many pieces of art and decor picked out by the Disney family or used in films, and has two dining areas: the main dining room and the Trophy Room meant for larger parties.

Rumors have been circling lately about a future renovation and expansion to Club 33 and how it will impact the rest of New Orleans Square.  The expansion includes the Club's own kitchen, which will be extremely beneficial but will also no doubt expand its seating areas as well.  However, I am more interested in how the renovation will affect the reputation Club 33 has built for itself.  As the price to become a member is incredibly steep and there is a lengthy waiting list to get in, there is no question as to why this is taking place.  It will no doubt reduce the waiting list and the more reservations that can be made, the more money it can generate in shorter amounts of time.  

But membership is a key example of a privileged experience at Disneyland.  Just as the average guest cannot afford a full makeover for their child at Bibbity-Bobbity-Boutique, the average guest cannot afford to procure a Club 33 membership.  And this also adds to the mystique, as less people are able to experience a meal there, less people have the chance to share all the details with their friends.  It should be noted that the prevalence of the online communities have reduced the mystique somewhat as photos of the dining rooms and the decor are easy to find simply by Googling Club 33.  But it has always been the exclusiveness that has lead to the draw toward it.

As Disney has officially made the announcement of their decision to expand, outrage has broken out between the two parties involved here: those who are members and those who aren't.  

Those who are members have already paid their dues - they have waited the wait and paid the cash and have the right to feel they have earned the exclusive experience.  Now that it is possible that it may be a simpler (or at least shorter) process to get in, they may feel jaded and frustrated.  They may also be resentful of losing certain elements of the Club they have come to know and love, such as the hidden entrance that is reportedly moving to the Court of Angels area, and a historic tie to Walt, the Trophy Room.  With more and more accepted members getting in on the secret, current members may feel that the experience has been "cheapened," so to speak, to gain more profit by the company.

Those who are not members still feel the mystique that surrounds the Club and in the back of their mind are probably hoping that maybe one day they will somehow be lucky enough to get to experience it, whether through a tour of Disneyland or through someone else who is a member.  But with the changes coming to the Club these people also feel a tie to Walt that is being reduced with the overhaul.  The Trophy Room, especially, is something most people wanted to see someday and now that it will be gone, many have lost the motivation to go as yet another Walt Disney original disappears.  The non-members also experience the disappointment of the seeming "cheapening" of the prestigious image as the floodgates open to waiting paying members.  If the prior level of exclusivity is not there then the draw disappears as well. 

I am interested to see the forthcoming reactions of those in the Disney community when it comes to this subject.  These are my socially-focussed thoughts on the reactions I am currently seeing (and experiencing myself) and wonder how it will all play out once the expansion is completed.  Will the mystique and intrigue still be there as long as the ticket to get into the club is so highly priced? Or will the changes tied to such a sensitive subject as Walt Disney and a larger member base lead to a drop in interest? 

Click here to read more about the announcement.

1 comment:

  1. It makes me a *little* sad that old Club 33 is being changed; but I have never been there (was invited once and was unable to go). Part of me thinks, "Big deal, it's just a restaurant". And after all, Walt Disney never personally got to walk around in it, it was completed 5 months after his death. I know what you mean though... the place has acquired a sort of legendary status over the decades.

    The changes will not affect me at all, except that I am not crazy about the encroachment on the Court of Angels, which was often a peaceful oasis in the close confines of New Orleans Square. The fact that it will be appropriated by the Imagineers for a privileged few DOES bug me.