There is no doubt that Disney California Adventure park has come a long way since it first opened in 2001 (Fun Fact: It was originally called Disney’s California Adventure Park; renamed on May 28, 2010) as Disneyland’s ugly step sister. Many said that Walt would have never built a park like this, which lacks extensive theming, many attractions, great food, or anything to truly set it apart from your neighborhood theme park. In fact, this lack of extraordinary “Disney magic” consistently showed in the parks attendance. The parks attendance has always been far from Disneyland’s; Disneyland got over half the attendance numbers that California Adventure got in 2010 (Check out the 2010 theme park attendance report).
The house of mouse knew they had to do something drastic, ultimately leading to an announcement regarding a five-year 1 billion+ renovation that would transform this park into something unique and exciting. The park will close on June 14, 2012 and Cars Land and Buena Vista Street will open on June 15, 2012.
Video: An overview of the expansion
Here’s the timeline the park experienced over the past five years:
June 2008 – Toy Story Midway Mania! opens
September 2010 – Maliboomer closes and is subsequently removed.
June 2011 – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure opens.
July 2011 – Goofy’s Sky School opens, replacing the former Mulholland Madness.
July 2011 – Pan-Pacific Auditorium gate entrance opens as a near-duplicate of the entrance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
February 2012 – Disney announces that the park will be divided into eight themed “lands” to include Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, Paradise Pier, Condor Flats, “a bug’s land”, Pacific Wharf, Hollywood Land, and Grizzly Peak Recreation Area
June 2012 – The highlights of the expansion (in my opinion) are finally completed and opened to the public: Cars Land (which includes three new attractions: Radiator Springs Racers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, and Lugi’s Flying Tires), Buena Vista Street (which includes the new Carthay Circle Theater and the Red Car Trolley)
Video: Buena Vista Street
Video: Testing new Cars Land rides
What would I have done differently when “reimagining” Disney California Adventure?
As previously mentioned, Disney Parks has invested over 1 billion dollars in this expansion so you would think that they would want to give 110% (as Lou Ferrigno said in the most recent season of Celebrity Apprentice!) and make this expansion perfect in each and every way. But of course there are some things I would have done a little differently…such as making a replica of that ugly entrance to Disney Hollywood Studios theme park in Florida. It’s dated, plain, unoriginal and unappealing for that matter, almost making me not even want to enter the park.
I recently interviewed and asked this question to two of the top experts in the theme park industry, Robert Niles and Ricky Brigante, to see if they agreed with me. Sure enough, without telling them my take on the expansion, they agreed with me. Ricky said:
“Of all the changes, I’m not thrilled with the Pan Pacific-themed entrance. It looks great, definitely better than the previous turnstile area, but it’s nearly identical to that of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I would have preferred a unique entrance for the park. That’s probably the biggest part that I would have done differently. I’m sure there’s another classic Hollywood icon out there that could have acted as the inspiration to that area.”
-Ricky Brigante, InsideTheMagic.net
I completely agree with him, it was an unoriginal concept that fails to differentiate the park from its East coast counterpart. If you haven’t already, be sure to take a look at my interview with Ricky Brigante.
When I interview Robert Niles he said:
“Get it done two years earlier? Theme park fans in Southern California are voting with their money and their feet, and their message is clear – they want more Disney. Even when the expansion opens in June, Disney will still need more capacity at the Resort. If there was room, they could build and fill a third park, easily. As it is, they should be working on new expansions at both Disneyland and California Adventure, even beyond Cars Land. Disney simply can’t build fast enough to meet demand here.”
-Robert Niles, ThemeParkInsider.com
I agree with him too, it should not take five years to add a few changes to a theme park that needs help immediately. People hate construction, it can cause them to delay their trip or get annoyed that many of the rides are closed or under construction. Three years would have been an easily obtainable goal but it’s too late now! It doesn’t look like they plan on adding any additional parks over the next decade or two, they seem pretty content to me but I think they could definitely use some more Disney parks. Image how well a huge Disney theme park would do in Las Vegas. Or even an indoor Disney theme park in New York City. Be sure to check out my complete interview with Robert Niles.
What would you have done differently when “reimagining” Disney California Adventure Park? How do you think an indoor Disney theme park would do in New York City? As always, please feel free to comment!