pp. 36-37 p. 38

Downtown Disney West Side is a masterful study in blending distinctive tenants into a unified entertainment district. Ralph Kline takes a look at how lighting plays an integral role.

What do a pineapple-shaped building, a restaurant with Mississippi-bayou architecture, a record store with an outdoor elevated stage, a 110,000-ft2 movie theater, a boldly colored, mosaic-tiled restaurant, and a circus tent-inspired structure have in common? Not much, it would seem. That's precisely why Downtown Disney West Side is a fascinating case study of how to successfully marry distinctly different tenants into one cohesive entertainment district.

With more than 500,000 ft2 of building space and a 9500 ft2 of open area, the 66-acre West Side, which opened in September 1997, is the largest sector of Downtown Disney. Located on the east-central portion of Walt Disney World Resort, Downtown Disney is an exciting metropolis of restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, and merchandise showplaces. The Downtown Disney West Side lineup features AMC 24 Theaters; Bongos Cuban Café; Cirque du Soleil (an avantgarde circus like no other); DisneyQuest (an indoor theme park); the House of Blues; a Virgin Megastore; and the Wolfgang Puck Café. Each venue conveys its own distinct theme—from the Cuban cuisine, Latin rhythms, and tropical feel of Bongos Cuban Café to the slick, state-of-the-art environment of Virgin Megastore.

"Walt Disney Imagineering is an expert at melding different brands, philosophies, and designs into one cohesive product, and West Side certainly exemplifies this," said Ralph Ireland, project manager of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI).