Originally, the Emporium was going to be a two-story building with a large shopping area downstairs and a suite of rooms for Walt Disney’s family upstairs. Other projects kept getting in the way of completing the second story, and after Walt Disney passed away the upstairs apartments were abandoned and the second story’s floor removed to increase the Emporium’s air circulation. Several of the rooms had been nearly completed by this point, and portions of them were left intact during the remodeling. They can be seen overhead by Emporium visitors, each decorated as a different scene from typical turn-of-the-century America.
One of the most striking scenes — the dental or “Sweeney Todd” scene — depicts a nicely dressed dentist in his “modern” office approaching a fear-stricken youth with some kind of medieval-torture-device-looking dental implement. This was not an uncommon sight back in those days because pain killers and anesthesia were rare and dentists who wanted to numb their patients generally had to resort to bludgeoning.
At one time Disneyland guests could actually reserve this area for real dental appointments, but the practice was discontinued because the ladder used to reach the “dentist office” was not ADA compliant, and the dentist — although using authentic techniques and operating with historical accuracy — was found to be working under an assumed name with a forged medical degree and a propensity for giggling at the sight of blood.
An interesting bit of trivia: the scenes in the Emporium generate no revenue and are significantly expensive to keep in repair. The maintenance cost came to be known in the industry as “overhead” because the scenes were, in fact, “over everyone’s head.” In addition, although the items in the scenes are not new, they are all for sale. When a guest purchases one of them, a cast member must climb a latter, retrieve the item, and hand it down to another cast member on the sales floor. This is why used items given to someone are often called “hand me downs.”
Coming up next: Autograph book