Disney’s California Adventure

The Re-Imagining of Disney’s California Adventure

Disney’s California Adventure has always been a fun park, with a good number of cool rides and attractions. Tower of Terror, California Screamin’ and Soarin’ Over California are very memorable and draw repeat visitors. Overall, however, the park had not created as much of an emotional attachment with guests, as does Disneyland, its beloved big brother across the plaza.

The introduction of Pixar characters like Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the gang from the movie Cars has been a good start. In fact, the bigwigs at Disney apparently have been doing a lot of thinking about how to get guests to love DCA and want to return (with their credit cards) time and again.

The answer is that Disney’s California Adventure has been in the process of being expanded and dramatically remodeled to evoke visions of Disney’s California Adventure—that is, Walt Disney’s adventure that started when he came to California in the 1920s. On another page we tell you how to visit the places where (right-brained) Walt and (left-brained) brother Roy settled to create animated features in Tinseltown. That work is pretty well complete.

California Adventure entranceBy recreating the feel of that bygone era, and by highlighting important early events in Uncle Walt’s life, DCA will be more complementary with Disneyland. It now includes some more recent but consistent themes as well, such as an attraction centered around The Little Mermaidmovie.

With a billion dollars burning a hole in their pockets, the Imagineers spared no expense. Midway Mania opened in 2008 as the first step in the extravaganza, emphasizing on the Pixar gang of characters. The work was recently completed and the new park opened to the public on June 15, 2012. A lot has happened. The sun image in the center of the Ferris wheel has been being replaced by the face of Mickey as he looked in the many old cartoons.

There is a new building near the entrance that resembles a famous local theatre and will interactively tell the Walt Disney Story. Also near the entrance will be a 1920s California-themed shopping plaza. The Golden Gate Bridge has gone away, as being too contemporary.

Paradise Pier, the area alongside the big water feature, has been remodeled to more closely resemble a 1920s boardwalk; perhaps a bit like Coney Island in its prime. The big Orange Stinger swing set is now the Silly Symphony Swings (did you ever have the chance to see any of the Silly Symphonies cartoons?), where you’ll feel like you are swinging out over the bay.

Then there’s the Little Mermaid dark ride, which does not exactly fit into the ‘20s theme but sounds like a pretty exciting attraction for smaller kids. Disney has added 12 acres onto the park to create Radiator Springs from Cars.  Interestingly, they call this Cars Land. It will reflect Route 66 America in the depression era and offers three attractions.

Among many other features, we’re particularly intrigued by the major nighttime water and light show called The World of Color (anybody remember Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV show on NBC years ago?). It opened in 2011, and is a cross between the Fantasmic water/light/pyrotechnics show in Disneyland and the fountains at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

But you can’t just walk up and catch the show. They give out reservations that disappear by the afternoon; if this show is important to you, check it out as soon as you get inside DCA; there are a couple of restaurants that have a view of the show–so you could plan to eat dinner and watch the show.

Some of the best rides are being preserved and the ParkHopper pass lets you into both parks. It does seem that these upgrades will inject some great new energy to the park and will bring to life the early years of Walt’s California Adventure.

One thing to remember if you plan to visit the Disneyland Resort is that with both parks being very popular, the crowds are likely to be intense in the summer months. The initial media buzz around the Disney’s California Adventure park has been very positive, as have guest reviews.

It seems that was a billion bucks well spent. We’ll report more as time permits, but there are plenty of Disney specialty sites providing extensive coverage.