The Perfect Town
The town of Celebration was first loosely imagined by Walt Disney himself, though the current town differs wildly from Disney’s original idea. Whereas Disney pictured a “perfect” futuristic city where technology blended seamlessly with real life and all possible needs were taken care of, an idea that served as the basis for the Epcot theme park in Disney Land, Michael Eisner (the CEO of Disney at the time it was built) instead visualised Celebration as a quintessentially classic American town, a nostalgic holdover from a purportedly (see Bonus Facts below) better time in history.
While Celebration didn’t exactly conform to Walt’s original plans for a futuristic city housed beneath a cool dome, it was conceived with his idea of creating a perfect, utopian society firmly in mind, looking with a giant set of rose-coloured glasses to the past instead.
Built just a few miles away from the Magic Kingdom on land that was originally used to dump alligators, Celebration was designed from the ground up to be “perfect” and the company spared no expense, spending some $2.5 billion making sure that everything fell in line with their vision. Disney hired some of the world’s foremost architectural minds to design each building in the town, inviting renowned architects like Robert Venturi and César Pelli to design buildings even as humble as banks and post offices. In addition to this, Disney also hired urban planning experts and graphic designers to oversee where these buildings went and how they were decorated. For instance, the graphic design firm was tasked with creating signage that could be displayed around the town that didn’t convey a sense of branding. Disney was so impressed with this work that they went on to hire the same company to design such trivial things for the town as manhole covers and the arrows you see on signs telling you which way to walk around the town’s park.
On that note, perhaps the most jarring thing about Celebration was that for many years there was no branding of any kind, anywhere in the town. Celebration had no billboards, no franchises and no advertising. Ironically, this is something Disney, one of the biggest mega-brands on Earth, used to sell the idea of the town to potential residents when it first opened in the mid-1990s.
When it opened, demand for properties in the development were high, so much so that Disney had to hold a drawing which required a deposit of a thousand dollars just to see who could speak to their salespeople first when homes first started being auctioned off in 1995.
Over the next few years, prices slowly dropped in Celebration and today they’re roughly in line with the average house prices in the region. As for how many people live there, according to the most recent available census from 2010, the town is currently home to 7,247 residents. However, Celebration’s official website lists this figure as being closer to 9,000. In terms of demographics, the town is made up of about 90% white residents (compared to about 58% in surrounding areas) with almost no single people living in the town, which may have something to do with the “Declaration of Covenants”.
The Declaration of Covenants is an amazingly detailed 166 page document prospective residents of Celebration have to sign agreeing to adhere to a number of rules when they move in. These rules include things like how you can park your car in your drive way; how big your bushes are allowed to be; what kind of compost you’re allowed to use; how much bark must be around certain plants at all times; a rule preventing more than two people from sleeping in the same bedroom; and a rule stipulating that a pet can be removed from the community without the homeowner’s permission if it’s deemed to be a “nuisance”, among an amazing number of other restrictions that would make even the strictest of HOA’s elsewhere blush. Of course, as Eisner said when Disney opened the town, “The first principle of Celebration is that no one is actually required to live here.”
As you might imagine from all this, many residents and visitors have said the town feels very Truman Show-esque and that it’s so well designed that it comes off as looking artificial.
Speaking of artificial, the lengths Disney went to when designing Celebration to make it look like the “perfect” town is nothing short of astounding. Plastic trees housing speakers that blast muzak from the 1940s and 1950s are found across the town. In winter, fake snow, nicknamed “snoap”, is dropped regularly. Dead leaves are imported each autumn to make the town look more picturesque. There were even rumors in the 1990s that Disney hired actors to walk around the town just to make it look more inviting to prospective buyers. Disney also attempted to get people to regularly hold get-togethers on their porches, with such events as “lights and lemonade” nights, but these sorts of efforts were mostly failures. As one resident noted, “Society’s not like that. People wanted to sit indoors and watch TV instead.”
In 2003, Disney auctioned off much of the developed parts of the town to a private buyer, partially eliminating its stranglehold; by 2004, the majority of the town was no longer owned by the Disney corporation. This was much to the chagrin of many living in the town who feared this rose-colored time capsule of a town would turn into a suburb like any other without Disney at the helm. This is something that hasn’t yet happened even a decade later, partially thanks to the Declaration of Covenants that is still in place and that the residents themselves fight any such change tooth and nail.
- A Brief History of the “Happiest Place on Earth”
- 10 Interesting Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Walt Disney
- How the “I’m Going to Disneyland” Saying Got Started
- Sleeping Beauty is Based on a Story Where a Married King Finds a Girl Asleep and Can’t Wake Her, So Rapes Her Instead
- In the Original Story, Pinocchio killed Jiminy Cricket, Got His Feet Burnt Off, and was Hanged and Left for Dead
- While we humans often like to look at the past with amazingly thick rose-coloured glasses (whether it’s our own lives or recent human history), by most metrics, the world for humans has never been better. For instance, while an era like 1950s America is often propped up as a simple time where life was just about as perfect as can be (think Leave It To Beaver), it was also a time when a woman’s place was in the kitchen; a black person’s (among others) place was in the back of the bus; imminent threat of global nuclear war was just part of day to day life; getting your brains (literally) scrambled was the pinnacle of medical science including earning the originator of the procedure, António Egas Moniz, a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; infant death rates were 750% higher, while the average life span, partially because of this child mortality rate along with the state of medical science among other things, was around 45; the CIA was busy conducting experiments on the effects of biological and chemical agents on American citizens without their knowledge; various forms of eugenics, including forced sterilization of undesirables, was still a thing in numerous countries (including the United States) ; the Great Chinese Famine was just getting started killing some 20-43 million people; Robin Hood was being purged from school text books because he was declared a communist (just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the Second Red Scare and McCarthyism); and deaths due to wars, while drastically declining from the decade before, were still absurdly high relative to today… While certainly every era has its problems and positive elements, on the whole you’d be hard pressed to make the case that this quintessentially “perfect” time for America was even in the same league as today in terms of quality of life for most citizens of this particular rock floating around in space. Nevertheless, we humans almost universally love to think of the past as better than the present, even if all evidence is to the contrary, for a variety of fascinating reasons which we’ll discuss in an upcoming article.
- According to a documentary called The Bubble: Murder, Sex and Disney, Celebration has a remarkably active swingers scene. On that note, although it has been host to a few violent deaths, Celebration is regarded as one of the safest towns in America, boasting an incredibly low, almost negligible crime rate. Make love, not war?
- On the flipside, residents of Celebration have revealed that divorce as a result of frustration and boredom in the town is commonplace to the point that British expats of the community (of which there are a surprisingly high number) coined the term “Celebration separation” to describe the phenomenon.
- Disney Is Selling a Town It Built to Reflect the Past
- At Celebration, Some Reasons to Celebrate
- Celebration: Community Profile
- Celebration, Florida: The Utopian Town That America Just Couldn’t Trust
- Murder and suicide in Celebration, the perfect town built by Disney
- Celebration, Florida
- Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design
- Celebration, U.S.A. Living in Disney’s Brave New Town
- Walt Disney’s Vision of an EPCOT
- Celebration Community Charter
- How the Disney dream died in Celebration
- “The Bubble”:Murder. Sex. Disney. A Documentary About Celebration, FL
- Celebration Image Source
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