Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park is one of my favorite places in the World. As my daughter noted on our very first visit, the magic there is just so real. Entering those gates is like stepping into a completely different universe. The outside world vanishes upon entry into Walt’s realm of imagination, adventure, and possibility. Step with me please. For a cyber moment, “leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”
Welcome to Main Street, U.S.A.! It has a familiar charm, don’t you think? It’s simultaneously a place you know well and a place you’ve never been, yet it feels like home. “It’s a trip back to a time and place we all ‘remember,’ though few of us—especially today—have actually ever been there” (Imagineering Field Guide to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Disney Editions, 2009). Main Street, U.S.A., transitions Guests into the magic by plunging them into this sort of surreal, been-there-but-not-really sensation, and allows them to suspend their disbelief. It’s the perfect preparation for what awaits at the hub and beyond.
The design of Main Street, U.S.A., stemmed from Walt Disney’s warm memories of his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri. To him, Marceline was the quintessential American town at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and the advent of electricity. His memories were likely a bit idealized as compared to what the town was actually like, and it is this very heightened reality that Imagineers brought to Main Street to tug at our heartstrings and emotionally attach us to the place right from the start.
As an outpouring of his own patriotism, Walt Disney wanted Main Street to showcase the American spirit, to be “a place where people are friendly, hard work is rewarded, and everybody shares a dream for a better life” (Imagineering Field Guide). With the period setting around the turn of the 20th century, we get a sense of limitless potential just on the horizon. Electric bulbs replace gas lamps, mass-fabricated pre-cut architectural details adorn buildings, and fanciful metalworking illustrates optimism. We also see varied modes of transportation—both horse-drawn and horseless—juxtaposed along Main Street, further hinting at the time period and advancement of technology.
Some wonderful design techniques enhance the emotional experience along Main Street, U.S.A. For Guests entering the Park, the long path stretching forward into the expansive, open hub with the opulent Cinderella Castle beckoning in the distance builds excitement and anticipation. Along the way, Guests encounter characters—chatting with Mickey Mouse at the Town Square Theater, visiting with the Mayor, or enjoying the Dapper Dans’ barbershop quartet serenade; glimpse store goodies through windows set lower than would be period-correct so that children can see inside; sample confections; and pose for pictures as they proceed onward toward lands of “yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”
As I stated above, Main Street, U.S.A., is set in small-town America around the turn of the 20th century during the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was not a war era as its name might suggest, but rather a period of time in human history when machines first came into use to produce items that had previously been made by hand. Things like textiles and building supplies could now be mass-produced and transported to customers far away, thanks to these new machines and the improved modes of transportation to get the goods from one place to another.
Free Homeschool Lessons has a wonderful unit study on both the early beginnings of the Industrial Revolution that took place in Great Britain and the later portion of the era as it pertained to America, examining how machines ignited rapid progress in technology and opened a global marketplace. Utilize the resources offered, from history and biography lessons to geographical studies, math lessons, and more to help your kids gain a more complete understanding of this period in history.
SCHOOL SUBJECT: History, Geography, Literature, Composition, Math
SKILL LEVEL: Elementary, Middle Grades
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