Three cheers for the Disney-created Celebration, Florida! Unveiled in 1994, this $2.5 billion project nestled on 4,900 acres a mere five miles south of Walt Disney World may just be corporate branding’s finest hour. These folks live in Disney Town! Celebration represents Walt Disney’s dream of harnessing the power of his “imagineers” to fashion a futuristic city where crime, pollution and deviance are replaced by community, cleanliness and uniformity. This Disney fantasy sets the tone for the architect movement known as new urbanism–a sterile reality that, contrary to our bleary nostalgia, never really existed in the American landscape and can now only be captured through artificial means.
TOWN MOTTO: “A Place Where Memories of a Lifetime Are Made!”
CELEBRATION FUN FACT: It snows every year in the center of town the day after Thanksgiving. The snow is foam blown from a huge foam machine. The residents say that they love the fact that they get the snow without the winter chill and having to shovel. They also have a machine to simulate leaves falling.
LEVEL OF CREEPINESS: 10. Be afraid; be very afraid!
A trip to Celebration is like the Truman Show come to life. Read with me how Celebration’s describes itself:
“Celebration is a place where memories of a lifetime are made, it’s more than a home; it’s a community rich with old-fashioned appeal and an eye on the future. Homes are a blend of traditional southeastern exteriors with welcoming front porches and interiors that enhance today’s lifestyles.”
Think of the Magic Kingdom but without rides, where every day is filled with potluck dinners–or better yet, Main Street U.S.A. come to life on a suburban scale, where one might joyfully expect a jubilant fireworks display at dusk. Personally, I’m disappointed Disney didn’t go with the direction of Tomorrowland, where every inhabitant would be entitled to their very own robot maid–not to mention jet-pack landing pad.
Read with me again:
“Imagine how great it would have been . . . to live 50 years ago with all the neat gear you have today. Morning coffee on your front porch. An afternoon stroll to Market Street. Family evenings in the neighborhood park.”
“I live in a community with rules, by choice, because I like rules that ensure I won’t have a neighbor who will drive me crazy with his lifestyle.” [Sue Holland, writing about Celebration for MousePlanet.com]
Disney’s Celebration citizens have many rules and conditions that dictate how their homes and yards must look in order to maintain the appearance of the “perfect suburb,” specifying what people can and cannot do on their own damn property. You won’t find Stinky McNasty, cars up on concrete blocks, or any other forms of personal expression, in these neighborhoods—it would be clearly against the rules!
Celebration is connected directly to the Walt Disney World via World Drive, allowing residents direct access to the Magic Kingdom! Entering the community, and the realm of the surreal, I pass Celebration High School (Home of the Storm!), looking Disney-movie picture-perfect; like the high school you’d find in such family classics as Flubber or The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (starring a young Kurt Russell).
A drive through the place feels as artificial as the back lot of Universal Studios. The houses are constructed in that turn-of-the-century Southern gothic style, drawing on the sensibilities of such turn-of-the-century places as Savannah Georgia and Nantucket Massachusetts, but yet, looks like they were built last week for a movie filming in the area.
The fabricated small town charm feels forced, where citizens milling about look cast in their role. There is no bad people or “weirdoes” here, no crime, no bad weather, probably no swearing, everyone has money, the homes all feel the same, people chat over picket fences, and your neighbors are cut from an identical cookie-cutter mold. Celebration feels like a new car with that new car smell even though this place has been here for over a decade; Celebration is so artificially sugar-sweet, it almost gives me a toothache!