Sunday, February 17, 2008

From the Mailroom - Catalina Eddie's and the Sunset Market Ranch

Our virtual Mailroom here at 2719 Hyperion recently received this inquiry from a reader:

In (then) MGM / (now) Hollywood Studios there is a building directly outside of Rock N Rollercoaster grouped with all of the counter services. It is called Catalina Eddies (I belive they serve pizza or something). Is this in reference to Eddie Valiant (of Roger Rabbit) always making a point of returning to Catalina with Delores? I have asked many of people but can never seem to get an answer. I'm pretty sure that is the origin of this counter service but I simply just need some vindication and figured that you could get me some answers. Thanks and keep up the good work. I really love the site.

Ian

Thanks for writing, Ian. Your question gives me the opportunity to briefly showcase an area of Disney's Hollywood Studios that is often overlooked in regard to its architectural inspiration and historical references.

Catalina Eddie's is part of the Sunset Market Ranch that is located along the left side of Sunset Boulevard as you approach the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The area consists of counter service food venues that, in addition to Catalina Eddie's, includes Rosie's All American Cafe, Anaheim Produce, Hollywood Scoops and the Toluca Legs Turkey Company.

The Sunset Market Ranch was inspired by the original Farmers Market located at the intersection of 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles. During the summer of 1934, a group of farmers set up an informal market at that location. The idea for the market originated with two individuals, Roger Dahlhjelm, a businessman, and Fred Beck, an advertising copywriter. The two asked the owners of the former Gilmore dairy farm at 3rd and Fairfax if local farmers could park trucks on the land as a means of selling their fresh produce. A complex of stalls and buildings quickly grew out of the formerly vacant area. The market's now iconic clock tower was built in 1941 and remains a part of the complex to this day. The buzz-phrase "Meet me at 3rd and Fairfax" has become ingrained in southern California popular culture. One interesting notation on the Market's web site states:

"When Walt Disney was preparing his early designs for a place called Disneyland, he did some of his work while dining on one of the Farmers Market patios. Elements of the Market’s unique design - it is said - are incorporated into his original drawings."

The Sunset Market Ranch at Disney's Hollywood Studios is distinctly themed to World War II-era southern California. Anaheim Produce alludes to a pre-Disneyland time frame when Anaheim consisted mostly of farmland, primarily orange groves. Rosie's All American Cafe pays homage to the iconic character of Rosie the Riveter, who symbolically represented the country's women who became the nation's blue collar workforce during the war years. A Victory Garden can be found adjacent to Rosie's Cafe.

Which brings us back to Catalina Eddie's. Was the name of this restaurant inspired by the characters from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Seeing that there is no documentation that can be found that validates this theory, I would have to say that in the end it appears that the name Catalina Eddie's is simply an interesting coincidence. But to be sure, I put the question to Disney historian and Imagineering expert Jeff Kurtti, author of numerous books about Disney theme parks, including Since the World Began: Walt Disney World The First 25 Years and the upcoming Walt Disney's Legends of Imagineering and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park.

Jeff responded, agreeing that there likely was not a Catalina Eddie's-Who Framed Roger Rabbit connection. He explains:

I think the reference to Catalina is self-evident: a nostalgic, romantic island, closely linked geographically and culturally with old Los Angeles. The idea of a "beach shack" probably relates most closely to the culture that began to evolve in the early 20th century around the lifestyle of beach living and surfing. It grew even stronger after the war, when returning GIs brought back the ideas and paraphernalia of the South Pacific islands.

Catalina Eddie's is no doubt an evocation of the California "beach bum," of which Wikipedia says, "The members of this subculture are typically ocean and beach-going people who enjoy spending spare time sitting or relaxing on a beach. As such, the life of a beach bum is usually one of leisure. This holds true if the particular beach bum is a local, a retiree, a vacationer, or just someone who enjoys life by the ocean."

It appears Ian, that I can't give you the vindication you were seeking. But while there may be no direct Disney connection to Catalina Eddie's, its design and execution still reflect the Imagineers' passion for detail and authenticity to the theme they are presenting.

3 comments:

Zach said...

I will have to look for the Victory Garden on my next visit, what a wonderful detail!

Anonymous said...

Love the site! I'm surprised that you missed this though...

A "Catalina Eddy" is a weather condition that occurs in Southern California. Here's a description from the San Francisico State University Meterology site:

The Catalina eddy, named for the Catalina Islands off the coast of Los Angeles, is an occasional phenomenon of coastal southern California south of Point Conception. It sometimes forms when the wind across the region in the lower atmosphere blows from the north or northeast.
As air crosses the east-to-west oriented mountain ranges north of Santa Barbara (just east of Point Conception) and descends to the ocean, the pressure on the air increases, causing it to warm dramatically. As an indirect consequence of this warming, a region of relatively low pressure (compared to surrounding areas at the same altitude) develops in the lower atmosphere, south or southwest of the east-to-west oriented coastline. This warm, cloud-free region of relatively low pressure offshore draws cool marine air up the coast from the south. The marine air--which is often full of fog or low stratus clouds visible from space--then spirals around the low pressure center, creating the eddy.

Cheers
Middlebrow

Jeff Pepper said...

Hi Middlebrow--

Check the subsequent post on 2/19 where Werner Weiss provided similar background on the "eddy."

Being a native of Pittsburgh transplanted to North Carolina, California weather conditions are a little out of my frame of reference . . .