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Disneyland Article
How Disneyland Stayed Dry For Almost 65 Years

Oga's Cantina
ID:
TMS-4671
Source:
SFGate
Author:
Ali Wunderman
Dateline:
August 15, 2020
Posted:
August 20, 2020
Status:
Current
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In 2019 Disneyland made headline news around the world with one simple change: For the first time in the Southern California park’s 64-year history, it would serve alcoholic beverages to the general public.

Disneyland’s prohibition was part of the original design, a mandate by none other than its creator, Walt Disney. A year following the park’s opening, Walt made his case for going alcohol-free in an interview with The Saturday Evening Post, saying, “No liquor, no beer, nothing. Because that brings in a rowdy element. That brings people that we don't want and I feel they don't need it.” He firmly believed alcohol was not necessary for families to have a good time at his park. However, Walt took similar issue with gum, ice cream and cotton candy and their capacity for getting things sticky, though the latter two items are currently available for purchase in the park, and guests are free to bring gum in with them.

In fact, alcohol made its way into Disneyland only two years following the park’s inception, with the full blessing of Walt himself, though he passed away before this came to fruition. Club 33, a private lounge for VIPs, opened alongside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in New Orleans Square and has served beer, wine and liquor to its elite group of members since then. Walt’s concession to allow the club to serve alcohol was due to the anticipated difficulty of selling such memberships at an annual cost of tens of thousands of dollars without offering adult beverages. It also helped that 99.99% of Disneyland’s visitors would not have access to consuming them. Functionally speaking, Disneyland remained a dry town.

Meanwhile over in Florida, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom came onto the scene in 1971 under the supervision of Roy Disney, who adhered to his brother’s vision for a dry park. There was no Club 33 or any kind of corollary at the Florida park, making it genuinely alcohol-free. This remained the case until EPCOT Center opened in 1982, showcasing the nations of the world and their respective boozy beverages.

The dominos continued to fall, with creative liberties taken to justify the decision to sell alcohol at the Disney theme parks springing up everywhere. In 2001, right across the plaza from Disneyland, Disney California Adventure was born. And like EPCOT, they served alcohol straight out of the gate, the thinking behind this choice seemingly along similar lines: The park celebrates California in its entirety, so ignoring Napa Valley and the wine region would be a notable omission.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was the next to give in to the allure of alcohol sales, when in 2012 they expanded to include FantasyLand and its "Beauty and the Beast"-themed restaurant. Only four years later, beer and wine made its way into Adventureland and beyond, quickly becoming a staple of menus in every restaurant with table service in the Magic Kingdom.

Finally, and perhaps inevitably, Walt Disney’s original park, Anaheim’s own Disneyland, joined the other parks in selling booze in 2019 with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, under the leadership of then-CEO Bob Iger. When interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter in 2018 about departing from Walt’s clearly stated desire to not have alcohol in the park, Iger laughed, saying, “I think Walt had a nip or two in his apartment at night.” He conceded that tradition is important, but “this just seemed like one of those traditions that if we changed it the empire wasn’t gonna crumble.”

It’s unclear exactly how Disneyland maintained Walt’s desires for 64 years while the other parks succumbed to serving alcohol. Bob Iger headed The Walt Disney Company from 2005 onward, and didn’t alter the alcohol policy until the last few years of his post, so it’s not as if he came onto the scene with this change in mind. Considering the money-making potential of alcohol sales, and the park’s propensity for making money, it’s possible an advocate of Walt’s within the company kept his dream intact. But Disney is understandably tight-lipped about their decision-making processes: lifting the veil would disturb the sensation of magic.

While it’s safe to assume that the decision to sell alcohol is at least partly financially motivated, the narrative of a cantina selling booze also makes sense in the same way as EPCOT’s use of alcohol to celebrate cultures worldwide, and California Adventure’s sale of wine (among other libations) to be more Californian. Oga’s Cantina represents one of the most iconic scenes in Star Wars, the Mos Eisley Cantina, upon which Oga’s is presumably based. This outer space dive bar is where viewers of "A New Hope" first meet Han Solo and Chewbacca, where lightsabers and Jedi mind tricks dazzle on screen, and where the cantina band plays their ear worm of a theme song. And for now, Oga’s Cantina is the only place in the park where alcohol can be purchased or consumed (besides Club 33). Cocktails like the Fuzzy Tauntaun and the Dagobah Slug Slinger may not leave Galaxy’s Edge.

According to a Disneyland spokesperson, there are not currently plans to introduce similar drinks programs to other areas of the park. “We are always evaluating the guest experience and dreaming up ways to make it even more magical,” they told SFGATE; however, they “have nothing on that front at this time.”

Of course, with Disneyland’s famous skill at keeping their decisions clandestine, only time will tell whether those plans might change. With Dole Whip getting the rum treatment right outside the park at the Disneyland Hotel, the possibilities for other classic Disneyland experiences to be enhanced by booze are endless.
 
Attractions Referenced

Pirates Of The Caribbean

 
Restaurants Referenced

Club 33

Oga's Cantina

 
Lands Referenced

New Orleans Square

Star Wars Galaxys Edge

 
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