The Court of Angels Is Important To Disneyland
Those who follow the Disneyland rumor mill are no doubt aware of the reports that on September 28, 2013, the Court of Angels (Court des Anges) in New Orleans Square is slated to close as part of an expansion of Club 33. Per these rumors, the Court of Angels will become the new entrance to an expanded Club 33, and although it’s as of yet unclear whether the courtyard itself will be retained, informed speculation suggests that it is logistically impossible to keep the courtyard as-is and add the necessary accessible entrance to this location.
While I feel that it’s very unlikely that the Court of Angels will return in any recognizable form once Club 33 completes its expansion, I want to reiterate and stress that at this point, its closure is just rumor. I don’t want to be rumor-mongering over something that is potentially false rumor, but I feel that the overarching topic here is one that’s worth discussing regardless. If it returns, I will be beyond happy, and reminded that many of those who work for Disneyland also cherish the parks. If the Court of Angels disappears, it will really come as no surprise. Disney has shown that it views the area as expendable, transforming it into an ornament shop each of the last several Christmases, and using it for Pirates League last Halloween.
Some in the Disney community have suggested a campaign to “Save the Court of Angels,” with petitions and that sort of thing. That’s not the purpose of this article, and I don’t believe any such campaigns have a remote chance of success at this late stage. Unlike sentimental attractions even casual guests have cherished memories of, the Court of Angels is something that likely goes unnoticed by large swaths of the general public. Therein lies the problem. On paper, the Court of Angels is expendable because it serves no quantifiable function and average guests won’t even know what they’re missing.
There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the Court of Angels for most guests. It doesn’t house an attraction. It has no strong ties to Walt Disney history. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that some of you reading–even those who have visited Disneyland before–have never even heard of the Court of Angels.
The Court of Angels is “just” a tucked away serene and quiet spot. It’s just the most beautiful corner of the most beautiful land in Disneyland. It just embodies everything most of us love about the Disney theme parks: gorgeous details and beauty for no particular reason, save for that incredibly important reason that those aforementioned qualities are exactly what set Disney theme parks apart from other parks. For many guests, these “Disney Details” and themed environments are what gives Disney theme parks their allure. We come back time and time again, and spend countless hours wandering places like World Showcase or Cars Land not because of anything on a park map, but because of the ambiance of simply being there.
The significance of these details isn’t lost on those working for Disney, either. I have countless Disney coffee table books featuring art and analysis from Walt Disney Imagineering that illustrate exactly how important those details are to the overall guest experience. The Disney Parks Blog even has a recurring piece called “All in the Details,” showing off the heavily-detailed quality of the parks. And they’re right to tout these details, as they are important. While the Disney parks might be just as popular with average guests so long as they didn’t get rid of the castle, Dumbo spinner, or Mickey Mouse meet & greet, many within the Company know that appealing to the lowest common denominator by making business decisions only on the basis of the ‘average guest’ is a slippery slope with long term consequences.
While I have little doubt that many individuals working for the parks understand the importance of these details, in the grand scheme of operations, actions speak louder than words. In terms of actions, in recent years it has become clear that some of these details are not as important as is stated. A corner with some pretty flowers or a water fixture but no defined function is actually dead space. As fans, we always hear that the “Accountaneers” are to blame for this–the folks who pore over spreadsheets and study reports on retail profitability per square foot.
Honestly, I don’t know if the supposedly “evil” Accountaneers are to blame, nor do I care. I think it’s fairly undeniable that various elements of the parks that could best be described as beauty for the sake of beauty have proportionately decreased over the years, while the proportionate square footage of dining and retail has increased over the years. Regardless of the cause for such a shift, to me, the decrease of one and increase in another says everything that needs to be said.
The point of this article thus is not to start a campaign to save the Court of Angels that is likely predestined for failure. Instead, it’s to remind one another, and maybe those who make the decisions or those who view the parks as figures on a spreadsheet, that things like the Court of Angels are incredibly important to the Disney theme park experience. It’s the little moments we treasure just as much as a ride on Space Mountain, and it’s the little details that become indelible parts of our memories from visits to the parks over the years. These little things might seem superfluous on paper, especially when the alternative is expanding a private club that can generate $35,000+ on each new member it’s able to accommodate, but they are what help define our days in the parks, and what keep us coming back.
Monetization and profitability are critical elements of the theme park business, but there also is a long term price to be paid for maximizing short term profits at the expense of the guest experience. There are only so many supposedly superfluous ‘fatty’ experiences that can be cut before you get to the bone. It might be too late for the Court of Angels, but here’s hoping other details and quiet corners aren’t similarly lost in the same manner. In the face of potential new retail and dining, the details shouldn’t always be viewed as “the fat.”
As for the Court of Angels, now seems like a good time to look back and share those memories we all have formed there over the years. Our memories of it are pretty simple–it’s a place we visit to slow down during the day, usually to just sit on the steps and look around. At night, it has been one of our key points of mischief. Like vagrant loiterers, I can’t count the number of times I’ve felt the slow tap of a security guard’s foot as he waits for me to finish “just one more” 30 second exposure of the Court of Angels. My favorite memory of it, oddly, is not when it was serene at all, but on the first Disneyland 24-hour day at about 3 am when the place was littered with napping guests. It felt like the aftermath of a war, and was bizarre at the time. Now I laugh at the memory, thinking about just how dedicated many of those fans were to spending 24 hours in Disneyland.
We intend to see the Court of Angels once more before September 28, 2013 (as you can tell, I need some more shots that are of the details, and aren’t fisheye! ;)). Here’s hoping that’s not our last memory of the place!
If you have formed memories from the Court of Angels, I encourage you to share them in the comments. Even if not, share whether these little “Disney Details” are important to you.
“We come back time and time again, and spend countless hours wandering places like World Showcase or Cars Land not because of anything on a park map, but because of the ambiance of simply being there.”
Couldn’t have said it better.
This article is amazing in how it echoes things about Disneyland that I’ve always had a “feeling” about, but didn’t know how to articulate. I have loved the Court of Angels for many years, but not until today did I know it had a name. In the middle of a busy day of visiting all the attractions in the park, I found myself alone in the Court one time, trying to slow down for a moment and just soak up the ambience. I love New Orleans Square in general and it just seemed like this Court embodied an aspect of the park experience that not everyone cares about – the experience of feeling like you could actually live in this enchanted place. To slow down, cool off and just take a moment to look around you. One of the prime things I love about Disneyland is being able to imagine myself back in time, living among these beautiful buildings. The fact that I never saw anyone in the Court made this temporary illusion much easier to generate and sustain. I am sad that the predictions this article mentioned did in fact come true, that the Court is no longer available to the public.
I assume i’ve been here before but i don’t know. From looking at it and the map, it looks like what you have to pass through to get to the bathrooms? I think I spent a long time standing here waiting to meet Jack and Sally? I have a few memories of walking down the path and not being sure if i was allowed to continue. It looked open but no one was there so I wasn’t sure. I wish i knew for sure and also had a chance to take some pictures now that it’s closed.
Hi! I LOVE your photos of one of my (old) favorite spots in Disneyland. Can you tell me a little bit about how you took these? I’m always trying to learn more, especially Disneyland, photography! Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures and thoughts on the Courtyard of Angels!
Thanks! Check out our Guide to Disney Photography post for more tips and other photography info!
What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have discovered It absolutely useful and it has aided
me out loads. I am hoping to give a contribution & assist other customers like its helped me.
This past summer, not even knowing what this courtyard was (and upon franticly searching for a bathroom) my family came upon this beautiful little spot and I was compelled to take a picture of my son on the stairs. I am sad to hear it is now closed!
Almost as far back as I can remember, every single Disneyland trip included at least one group picture in the Court of Angels. My husband I would would grab a cup of coffee and a special treat and just go hang out there — away from the crowds and the hustle and bustle. Sometimes it felt like we were in our own little world. I’m really disgusted that the folks at Disney care more about money than the guest’s experience. Now we’ll have to find a new hideaway to sip our late afternoon coffee in. Sigh…
Sad to say…it is now closed. Sad face!
Glad we got to see it one last time.
In a 1957 movie Band of Angels starring Clark Cable and Yvonne Decarlo, Clark has such a courtyard as Court of Angels in his New Orleans home, including entrance gate and stairway. It made me think that maybe Disney Legend Harper Goff had seen the movie or worked on it. Band of Angels to Court of Angels, what a similarity in name and architectural design.
Very interesting. I’ve never heard this (nor have I seen the film), but it would be a cool influence, if true (and it wouldn’t surprise me if it is true).
I’ve heard from many Annual Pass Holders that it was just closed down on September 29th.
Tom, your article exactly mirrors my feelings about this closure. We took photos with the family here in my last trip (2011), but we haven’t been able to get to the park since. I am very sad too that my kids will not be able to take any more family photos here.
It hasn’t closed yet. We were there for what was originally going to be the last night, but apparently it was pushed back. It’s definitely in the plans for the expanded Club 33, so it’s only a matter of time at this point.
First off I enjoy your site and I think you are a talented photographer.
Secondly, I was unaware that the Court of Angels was planned for closure until I saw this article and read it in mid-September. I was immediately saddened to hear this news as it is one of my favorite places in the park.
Consequently, I wrote the Guest Relations Department expressing my sadness at its closure as well as my thoughts on this part of New Orleans Square. With my letter I also sent a print out of all the comments on this page regarding the courtyard.
Today, the resort sent me a letter saying, “We apologize for any disappointment as a result of the rumors mentioned in your letter…However, at this time, we do not have plans to make an announcement regarding changes to New Orleans Square.”
Just thought I would let you know, and thank you for your time and efforts.
Just kidding…sorry to say it closed this morning.
Here is a photo from dlandlive.com (you have to scroll down to about the middle of the page).
I do not agree with the sentiment that it’s too late for a petition. In fact, if I can’t find a petition today I will make one myself.
As promised. Somebody please take this and run with it!
My boyfriend, now fiance, just proposed to me this past Saturday in this court. It is so sweet and tucked away and I loved it. A cast member saw us and came and took pictures for us then told us that we were “lucky” because in a month, the court is going away 🙁 I was so sad because I was looking forward to coming back and visiting it with him.
Court of Angels have been one of our favorite spots in Disneyland. My family save money all year to go to Disneyland once a year, and it is a very special trip that our children look forward to. We have been taking pictures at the Court of Angels every time we go to Disneyland. We were planning to do so to remember the trips and the family’s history for many years to come. It was my husband’s dream as a little boy. He did not have a father while he was growing up. It was his dream to have a family one day and to be a father he always wanted. As a little boy visiting the Court of Angels, he had the dream, and thought about taking family pictres with his future family. He was making the dreams come true. He is a loving father, and a wonderful husband. Visiting the Court of Angeles with his family meant a lot to him. I have nothing against the members. But it is very sad to see the Court of Angels go. It was a special place for us.
Thank you for your article regarding the court of angels. Whenever I visit Disneyland I have to eat at Blue Bayou. While I wait to be seated I sit by the Club 33 entrance and covet an invitation to eat there. I watch people go in and hope that they will view my desperate face and have pity on me. It NEVER happens. After a satisfying meal at Blue Bayou, I LOVE to wonder around the court of angels. It is a beautiful quiet place. I have climbed the stairs to try and get a peak behind the scene. It is quiet and always decorated for the season. The pictures of the Christmas garland going up the stairs reminded of my first Christmas visit. The court is amazing at mardi gras.
I don’t hold a grudge against anyone that is a member of Club 33. If you can afford it, more power to you. But this area should not be commercialized. It is frustrating enough that those of us that cannot afford an exclusive membership now have to concede more to those that can. These kind decisions really bother me due to the hypocrisy involved. Disneyland mangers and executives claim allegiance to Walt’s core beliefs, but those beliefs are not manifest in decisions like this.
Remember, Disneyland executives and manager, Walt’s words, “Disneyland is [our] land…it is a source of joy and inspiration to ALL the world.” Not just those that can afford a membership.
Its official. :((
I saw that last night. So, so sad. 🙁
OMG Disney! Please do not touch Court of Angels! This is a special photo area for my family. It is the one place in the park where we can wheel our aging mom to get her away from the crowds throughout the day.
This is one of my FAV spots in my favorite land. We LOVE New Orleans Square and esp the court of angels. It is always so peaceful and a beautiful spot to take a break and esp a photo. I don’t even think I would mind so much it leaving IF it was for a shop or attraction that ALL could enjoy but Club 33 is SO ultra exclusive that it seems very sad to me to take something away to everyone for so few to enjoy. I will deeply miss this if it goes!
Anyone can and everyone should leave a respectful comment about this closure at this official Disneyland site.
It may not help but it surely won’t hurt…