Disney California Adventure
Disney California Adventure Park, commonly referred to as Disney California Adventure, California Adventure, or DCA, is a theme park located in Anaheim, California. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks and Resorts division. The 72-acre (29 ha) park is themed after the history and culture of California. The park opened in 2001 as Disney's California Adventure Park, and it is the second of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort complex, after Disneyland Park.
The concept of a theme park dedicated to California arose from a meeting of Disney executives in 1995, following the cancellation of the WestCOT project. Construction of the park began in 1998, and was completed by early 2001. Disney initially projected high attendance rates at the new park, however a series of preview openings held in January 2001 led to negative reviews, and after the park officially opened to the public on February 8, 2001, the company's attendance projections were never met. Disney spent the next several years incrementally adding new rides, shows, and attractions, and implementing other promotions aimed at boosting attendance. In 2007, Disney announced a major expansion of the park as well as a major overhaul of a significant portion of the park. Construction lasted for five years and was completed in stages, culminating with the opening of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land in June 2012.
According to the Themed Entertainment Association, the park hosted approximately 9.4 million guests in 2015, making it the 11th-most visited theme park in the world that year.
In front of the Sun Icon of the former Sunshine Plaza,
To all who believe in the power of dreams, welcome. Disney's California Adventure opens its golden gates to you. Here we pay tribute to the dreamers of the past: the native people, explorers, immigrants, aviators, entrepreneurs and entertainers who built the Golden State. And we salute a new generation of dreamers who are creating the wonders of tomorrow, from the silver screen to the computer screen, from the fertile farmlands to the far reaches of space. Disney's California Adventure celebrates the richness and the diversity of California... its land, its people, its spirit and, above all, the dreams that it continues to inspire.
On the plaque of the flagpole in Buena Vista Plaza on Buena Vista Street,
To all who come to this place of dreams, welcome. Disney California Adventure celebrates the spirit of optimism and the promise of endless opportunities, ignited by the imagination of daring dreamers such as Walt Disney and those like him who forever changed- and were forever changed by- The Golden State. This unique place embraces the richness and diversity of California... Its land, its people, its stories and, above all, the dreamers it continues to inspire.
The present-day site of Disney California Adventure was acquired by Walt Disney in the 1950s, and functioned as the parking lot of Disneyland for over 40 years. After succeeding with the multi-park business model at Walt Disney World in Florida, the Disney company decided to turn Walt Disney's original theme park into a multi-park resort complex as well. In 1991, Disney announced plans to build WestCOT, a west coast version of what was then known as EPCOT Center, on the site of Disneyland's parking lot. The high price tag of the proposed park as well as the company's financial and public relations problems with the newly opened Euro Disneyland (now Disneyland Paris) led Disney to cancel WestCOT in 1995.
In the summer of 1995, Michael Eisner, Disney's CEO at the time, gathered company executives in Aspen, Colorado to think of another idea for a second theme park in California. From those meetings, Disney decided it would instead build a park themed to the history and culture of the state of California. They wanted to make California into a theme park, hoping to create "precise reproductions of California landmarks, charming streets, and gorgeous landscaping that simulates the state's forests and farmlands" and celebrate the California dream. It was intended to appeal to adults while Disneyland was intended to appeal to children. Construction of the park began in 1998; the park's construction was accompanied by Downtown Disney and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, in addition to renovations of the Disneyland Hotel and Disneyland Pacific Hotel.
The park was expected to draw large crowds when it opened on February 8, 2001. On January 14, a Los Angeles Times article titled "The most Jam-Packed Theme Park on Earth?" stated, "Senior Disney officials acknowledge that there will be days when California Adventure will have to turn patrons away, particularly in the first weeks after the park opens, during spring break and again in the summer." However, the actual attendance that year was substantially less than expected. This is suggested to have happened as a result of poor reviews from early visitors, the lack of focus in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, the lack of attractions for children, a large number of off-the-shelf attractions, a high number of stores and restaurants relative to the number of attractions, and having a redundant theme, given that the park is located in California. The park also lacks a perimeter berm to separate it from surrounding neighborhoods. The berm in Disneyland Park uses trees and earthen mounds to establish a physical barrier around the park so that structures external to the park cannot be seen, thereby fully immersing guests in the park setting. At Disney California Adventure Park, nearby hotels, power lines, radio towers, and the Anaheim Convention Center are all visible, which reduces the sense of immersion. Furthermore, Disney had originally planned the park to be aimed at adults, rather than children, which became the basis of significant criticism.
The park opened to only 5 million visitors in 2001 while its sister park Disneyland saw 12.3 million visitors during the same time frame. Low attendance caused Disney to lower ticket prices for California Adventure, slashing as much as $10 off of the park's ticket prices. In its first year, the park only averaged 5,000 to 9,000 visitors on weekdays and 10,000 to 15,000 on the weekends, despite having a capacity of 33,000. Visitor surveys reported that only 20% of visitors to the park in its first year were satisfied with their experience. By October 2001, both Wolfgang Puck and Robert Mondavi had closed their high-profile restaurants in the park, citing low crowds, though Mondavi remained as a sponsor.
Two of the park's major criticisms in its first year were the lack of attractions appealing to children and the lack of a nighttime show or parade to keep visitors from leaving at nightfall. Within the first year of operation, Disney's Electrical Parade and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It! were brought to the park, and several of its original rides and attractions were closed, including Superstar Limo and Disney's Steps in Time. During the 2001 holiday season Disney's LuminAria was presented on Paradise Bay. In October 2002 the Flik's Fun Fair area opened, which added attractions for children, and in May 2004 The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened as another E ticket. The park regularly featured seasonal promotions such as concert series, food festivals, and promotions for other Walt Disney Company franchises including the X Games and ABC soap operas. Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! opened in the former Superstar Limo building in January 2006.
By 2007, Disney had realized that the park was not working and that something major needed to be done. Bob Iger said of the park, "Any time you do something mediocre with your brand, that's a withdrawal. California Adventure was a brand withdrawal." Iger briefly considered combining California Adventure and Disneyland Park into one large park, but the price would have cost as much as completely remodeling California Adventure. On October 17, 2007, The Walt Disney Company announced a multi-year, $1.1 billion redesign and expansion plan for Disney's California Adventure Park (against its initial $600 million price to build). Each district was reimagined to transform the park from a veritable spoof of modern California culture to a romanticized, idealized version of the state, exploring specific time periods and historic settings. The project began in December 2007 and was completed in stages. Toy Story Midway Mania! opened on Paradise Pier in June 2008, in space formerly occupied by a store and restaurants. World of Color, a nighttime water and lights show on Paradise Bay, opened in June 2010. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure opened on the site formerly occupied by the Golden Dreams theater in June 2011.
The most drastic changes to the park included a complete overhaul of the main entrance, Sunshine Plaza, and Paradise Pier, as well as an expansion into the last of the parking area originally designated as future growth space for the park. The main entrance and Sunshine Plaza were turned from a "giant postcard" spoof of California into Buena Vista Street, a representation of Los Angeles as it appeared when Walt Disney moved there in the 1920s. The "CALIFORNIA" sign in front was removed and donated to Cal Expo in Sacramento. Paradise Pier was turned from a contemporary representation of California boardwalks into a representation of Victorian seaside amusement parks of the 1920s, and some of the area's off-the-shelf rides were either removed outright (Maliboomer) or re-themed to have more of a focus on Disney characters (Mickey's Fun Wheel, Goofy's Sky School, Silly Symphony Swings). Cars Land, an area that simulates Radiator Springs from Disney·Pixar's Cars film franchise, was added to the southeast portion of the park, and features three rides, including the E ticket Radiator Springs Racers. Construction was completed in 2012 and the park was then re-dedicated on June 14, 2012. The park received a modified name, Disney California Adventure, and a new logo, first put into use on June 11, 2010 and promoted in a commercial promoting World of Color a few days prior.
The redesign and expansion of the park saw attendance rates increase dramatically. In 2012, Disney California Adventure reached a record high for the park of over 7 million visitors (a 23% increase from the year before), a number Disney had hoped the park would do in its first year. The day of the park's re-dedication saw the park draw a record number of 43,000 visitors in one day. The night before the re-dedication, over 500 people camped outside of the park in order to be the first admitted in. Two days later, the park hit a new record of 45,000 visitors. Speaking on the attendance increase at Disney California Adventure, Jay Rasulo, Disney's chief financial officer, said "We had a very uneven distribution where most people spent most of their time at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure was empty. Now, half of the folks go to one, half of the folks go to the other. It's almost a dream come true."
Disney California Adventure is divided into seven themed areas called "districts".
Buena Vista Street is the first "themed district" inside the main entrance of California Adventure Park, taking its name from the Burbank street on which the Walt Disney Studios are located. Guests enter through the main entrance gate, which resembles the landmark Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Buena Vista Street includes an immersive recreation of early 1920s Los Angeles when Walt Disney first arrived with Mission and Art Deco facades housing shops and restaurants. A recreation of Carthay Circle Theater, which showcased the world premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 sits at the end of the street, serving as the visual anchor for the district. A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, titled Storytellers, is located near the Carthay Circle. The 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) narrow gauge Red Car Trolley travels from the entry, up Buena Vista Street toward the Carthay Circle, then down Hollywood Boulevard towards the Tower of Terror. Buena Vista Street was opened to the public on June 15, 2012.
Paradise Pier spans 15 acres (61,000 m2) and is the largest themed "land" in the Disneyland Resort. Paradise Pier is themed as an idealized version of popular coastal boardwalks, such as the Santa Monica Pier and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The Paradise Garden Grille and the Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta are two restaurants in the district that are connected by an outdoor, shaded seating area built around a gazebo in which bands play daily. The district's attractions, such as California Screamin' (a launched steel roller coaster built to appear as a classic wooden coaster) resemble the timeless amusement park rides found at many boardwalks. Toy Story Midway Mania! is an interactive 3D attraction inspired by classic midway games. Mickey's Fun Wheel is a 160-foot (49 m) tall Ferris wheel overlooking Paradise Bay, a large body of water that dominates the Paradise Pier area. A hydrotechnic show, World of Color is performed nightly on the waters of Paradise Bay (using fountains, projection, and flame effects) and showcases a series of vignettes from numerous Disney and Pixar films. It also features Goofy's Sky School, a typical Wild Mouse roller coaster based on the 1940 animated Disney Short Goofy's Glider. The area also includes The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, a dark ride based on the animated film and King Triton's Carousel of the Sea, a merry-go-round surrounded by fan fountains that features sea creatures (sea lions, sea horses, dolphins, and whales) in place of traditional horses.
Grizzly Peak is themed around California's wilderness and national parks with particular references to Yosemite and Redwood national parks. Its main attraction is Grizzly River Run, a Gold Rush-esque river rapids ride around the summit of Grizzly Peak. Nearby is the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail; a playground area that includes elements from Disney's Brother Bear and Disney·Pixar's Up. A special entrance exclusive to guests of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel is located in this area.
Grizzly Peak Airfield is themed to an airfield in California's High Sierras in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The featured attraction is Soarin' Around the World, a ride that simulates a hang glider tour of locations, landscapes, and landmarks across six continents of the world. The district also contains the Smokejumpers Grill counter service restaurant, a shop, and a decorative fire lookout tower.
Pacific Wharf is based on Monterey's Cannery Row area, especially as depicted in John Steinbeck's novels, and also resembles San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. It includes the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, Pacific Wharf Cafe, The Lucky Fortune Cookery Chinese restaurant, Wine Country Trattoria restaurant, Mendocino Wine Bar, Sonoma Terrace, a Karl Strauss beer truck, and a margarita stand. The district also features the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, and the Boudin Bakery's Bakery Tour, touring the sourdough bread-making process, featuring a video of Rosie O'Donnell and Colin Mochrie explaining the history of the bread. The area is home to the Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar, which opened in October 2008.
Hollywood Land, is an area inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s. It includes attractions based on film, television, theater and a subsection called Hollywood Studios which is designed to appear as an active studio back-lot. A variation of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction from Disney's Hollywood Studios opened in 2004 and will be closing in 2017 to be replaced with Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! The Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! attraction is also featured in the district, based on the characters from Disney·Pixar's Monsters, Inc.. The 2000-seat Hyperion Theater located in the center of Hollywood Land currently presents Frozen – Live at the Hyperion. Disney Junior: Live on Stage opened on March 25, 2011, and currently features Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates.
The restroom facilities in the district are designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright's Storer House, located in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles. The stamped concrete structure is typical of Wright's pioneering design.
A Bug's Land is seen from the point of view of Flik, the inventor ant from the Disney·Pixar film A Bug's Life, where oversized human items are scattered throughout. It features Flik's Fun Fair (a collection of themed, family and child-friendly attractions such as Flik's Flyers, Francis' Ladybug Boogie, Tuck & Roll's Drive 'em Buggies, Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, and Dot's Puddle Park) and It's Tough to Be a Bug!, a 3D film based on A Bug's Life. It opened as the park's first expansion in 2002 to expand the park's family-friendly attractions.
Cars Land spans 12 acres (49,000 m2) and contains three attractions. The largest attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, is a dark ride that utilizes the technology of Epcot's Test Track. Based on Pixar's Cars films, the ride begins with a scenic drive through the mountains then enters the show building where the vehicle finds its way into the town of radiator springs and gets a race briefing from Lightning McQueen and ends with an outdoor side-by-side dueling race to the Comfy Caverns Motor Court. With a budget at an estimated US$200 million, it is the most expensive theme park ride ever built.
The other attractions at Cars Land are family attractions with smaller height requirements: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree opened with Cars Land in 2012. Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters opened on March 7, 2016 and replaced Luigi's Flying Tires.
Cars Land is designed as a life-size model and near exact replica of Radiator Springs and several dining and shopping venues. The district serves as a connection between Pacific Wharf and Hollywood Land, eliminating the dead end at the foot of the Tower of Terror attraction. Construction began in July 2009 and opened to the public on June 15, 2012.
Many Disney characters are found throughout the park, greeting visitors and posing for photos. Some have specific areas where they are scheduled to appear, but can be found wandering as well.
World of Color is a nighttime show, designed by Walt Disney Creative Entertainment. It has more than 1200 fountains and includes lasers, lights, and fire with high-definition projections on mist screens similar to the ones used in Fantasmic! at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.
Mad T Party was an interactive nighttime dance party inspired by Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland film and was located in the Hollywood Land district. It was considered a similar experience to Glow Fest, which was staged in the same area in summer 2010, and ElecTRONica, a similar event themed to Disney's Tron franchise that ended on April 15, 2012. Mad T Party featured lights, music, projections, and merchandise kiosk stands, a lounge and an interactive game area. The event started on June 15, 2012. Its last night of performance was March 30, 2016.
Pixar Play Parade is a parade featuring floats and characters based on the Disney·Pixar films Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life, Toy Story and Cars. The parade originally had an additional section featuring characters from Ratatouille but was removed. On warm days, the floats shoot out jets of water into the crowd of spectators. The music used in the parade is derived from Hong Kong Disneyland's Mickey's WaterWorks Parade, sharing the same tunes. Due to the massive construction in the park, the parade was on hiatus since January 2011 and returned in June 2012.
The Red Car News Boys musical group is found at Carthay Circle. They appear via Red Car Trolley and inform guests about local news happenings in-song. A Hollywood newcomer, Mickey Mouse, arrives and is motivated by the newsgroup to pursue his dream of seeking a career in Los Angeles. The performance is partly inspired by the 1992 film, Newsies.
The Five & Dime swing band consists of five male musicians and one female singer. They perform in the cross-hairs of Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land.