It may just seem like the perfect example of advertising or a kitschy way to grab passing by guests, but there is a perfectly good reason why the camera shop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, known as The Darkroom, resembles a vintage 35mm camera. In fact, this building isn’t even one of a kind!
|Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-123456]|
Los Angeles, California is home to the original Darkroom. The shop, which is located at 5370 Wilshire Boulevard, was built under the direction of Marcus P. Miller in the 1930s at the height of the California Crazy movement. California Crazy was a style of architecture that sought to present a visually compelling reason to visit a shop or roadside attraction. Generally these buildings would be larger than life representation of what was being sold within, a giant ice cream cone for an ice cream stand or an oversized camera for a camera shop. However, there were sometimes that a building was just built to look cool, a la the Bulldog Cafe from The Rocketeer (based itself on the eatery that resided on West Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles). In the case of The Darkroom, the real life inspiration behind the architecture is an Argus 35mm camera.
The most notable difference between The Darkroom’s original and Disney’s Hollywood Studios versions is the inclusion of the brand name Kodak over the door in the park version. Although I am curious as to how long the name will stay once the sponsorship has ended. There are other differences worth paying attention to with this storefront. For starters, the building that houses The Darkroom at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not the same found in the work of Miller, but is in fact a different commercial edifice that resides on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles and was the handiwork of architect J.R. Horn. Lastly, and this is a more modern development, The Darkroom in California has lost its art deco signage that has been recreated in the shop found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While the building itself is considered a historical landmark, the sign was not included in the 1989 listing of the monument and was removed by a later inhabitant.
So the next time you are passing by The Darkroom, on your way to a date with The Twilight Zone or to play with some of your favorite toys in Andy’s room, stop and take note. Yes, Disney is trying to remind you to make sure you have memory cards, batteries or, should I dare even mention it, film, and if not that they have the perfect place for you to stop in and pick up your supplies. However, Disney is also utilizing a landmark to pay respect to the bygone days when architecture decided to let loose and have a little fun!