What You Can't See at Disneyland - Transparency Week

By Mark Falanga

Photo courtesy of Eric Gelinas.

When you go to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, you can see plenty of world famous attractions that have been entertaining people for generations. There’s the classic Mad Hatter’s Tea Party ride featuring the spinning teacups, the Matterhorn Bobsled roller coaster, which was the first steel tubular roller coaster in the world, and the fun Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which now features Captain Jack Sparrow from the popular film series.

As you exit the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, you’ll pass an attraction that is overlooked by most because it’s intentionally designed to appear inconspicuous. The attraction in question is a simple blue door with the number “33” on it. What’s so special about that? Well, behind it, lies one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, Disney’s Club 33.

The club also makes its mark as the only place in the park where you can obtain an alcoholic beverage. The club is still officially listed as a secret part of the park, although in recent years, even the Disneyland website acknowledges its existence.

The name has two theories of origin. The first one is the simplest, that the name comes from the physical address of where it’s located, 33 New Orleans Square. The second theory states that its name comes from the number of sponsors who supported the park from 1966-67.

The club was an idea of the man himself, Walt Disney, as he was visiting the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He was on a mission to seek new corporate sponsors for Disneyland. He noticed that most of the big sponsors such as Chevron and AT&T (who were also original members of Club 33), had private VIP lounges.

Once he returned, Disney immediately began to lay the framework for Club 33. Along with his wife Lillian, Disney traveled to New Orleans to meet with Emile Kuri, who designed the sets for the movies Mary Poppins and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, to hand pick the decorations. After a year of construction, the club opened on June 15, 1967, sadly, six months after Walt Disney’s death.

Now, let’s take the grand tour (via available information on the internet). To enter the club, there’s a buzzer you need to press on the blue door to state your name and reservation. Once inside the blue door, you enter an ornate lobby and are offered a choice on how to up to the dining area. You could choose the stairs, or a glass elevator, which is a reproduction of one which Disney himself admired on a trip to Paris.

From there, you’ll enter the lounge alley, which is a waiting area before you enter the dining area. You’ll notice an antique harpsichord that decorates this room. In an interview with Bloomberg, the club’s manager, Michael Bracco, said the instrument was once played by Elton John during his visit to the club.

Once your table is ready, you’ll be taken to one of two dining rooms. The first is the main dining hall, which resembles a 19th century dining room. The walls are decorated with original paintings by Disney artists. The other room is called the trophy room and is filled with various artifacts from Disney’s life. A little known fact is that this room was designed to have a full animatronics show with a various birds that would actually talk with guests based on their conversations through hidden microphones in the chandeliers. The plan was eventually scrapped, but the microphone screens are still intact.

Once in the dining room, your menu is presented, which features the finest foods available. But alas, to eat this well certainly does not come cheap. The most expensive appetizer is a trio of artisan caviar which will set you back $50. As for the entrees, the most expensive dish is a filet of pan roasted chateaubriand which costs a whopping $53.

Once your meal is served and bill paid, you exit the club right at the entrance for the Blue Bayou restaurant, as curious onlookers try to peek inside.

Before you try to make reservations at Club 33 for your next Disneyland vacation, keep in mind that this club is strictly members only. You need to either be a member or be with a member to eat and drink here.

If you’d like to become a member, e-mail Disney at club33interest@disneyland.com and be prepared to wait…about seven to 10 years! According to a report by KABC in Los Angeles, in May of 2012, the club opened its wait list for the first time in more than a decade. If you’re lucky enough to get a call from them, you’ll have to immediately pay the $25,000 initiation fee, followed by $10,000 monthly membership fee. A corporate membership is the same per month, but the initiation fee is $40,000.

So unless you know a member or have thousands of dollars to spare, you might never see one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. Until that happens, you’ll just have to wish upon a star.