JUNE 15, 2012: DISNEY CALIFORNIA
ADVENTURE – Anaheim, CA
After a long 5 years of multiple parts of Disney California
Adventure being being a myriad of construction walls, the long anticipated re-launch
of the Disneyland Resort’s “second gate” is here! It is the culmination of the park’s 5-year,
$1.8 billion dollar “re-do”, which today sees the public Grand Opening of both CARSLAND and the all-new entrance land,
BUENA VISTA STREET.
Originally opened February 8, 2001, Disney’s California Adventure (as it was then known), was hoped to be a huge success at transforming Disneyland into a multi-day destination “Resort” as Walt Disney World is. With more than a $1 billion investment to transform the old Disneyland parking lot into the new theme park, as well as build the Downtown Disney District and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, the company was excited about the prospects that the second gate would offer. Unfortunately the projections did not bear out as company management had hoped, but the park did produce one of the most original and sought after attractions in a long time – Soaring Over California (which as a result produced a copy on the east coast and opened as Soarin’ at Epcot on May 5, 2005). In order to boost attendance and turn what was quickly viewed as a marginal, half-day park into a more full-fledged stand-alone park, additions and modifications were quickly put on the agenda: incorporating more Disney characters and entertainment, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Turtle Talk with Crush, a bug’s land (the first new land added offering 4 new attractions designed specifically for young children: Heimlich’s Chew Chew, Flik’s Flyers, Francis’ Lady Bug Boogie and Tuck and Rolls Drive ‘em Bugggies ), Monsters Inc: Mike & Sully to the Rescue and the Aladdin musical stage show all came between 2002 and 2005. In addition the Block Party Bash, filled with Pixar characters debuted in 2005 and the Main Street Electrical Parade – re-christened Disney’s Electrical Parade was added in as nighttime entertainment in 2006. After the Block Party Bash was moved to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida in 2009, the all-new Pixar Play Parade replaced it. In 2008 construction began on a number of new attractions to the Paradise Pier area, and in 2009 construction on Carsland began.
New and re-themed attractions for
Paradise Pier included Toy Story Midway Mania (originally conceived and designed for the Paradise Pier area of the park, and shortly after construction began in 2007 it was decided to be added in to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida as well. Ultimately the Florida version opened just days prior to the California version as there was less construction needed in Florida than California, since the California version goes underneath the California Screamin' roller coaster (which was mildly re-themed for the redo) and the Florida version is housed completely inside a pre-existing soundstage structure at that park); Mickey’s Fun
Wheel (formerly the Sun Wheel), Silly Symphony Swings (replaced the
original Orange Stinger), Goofy’s Sky School (formerly Mulholland Madness), the beautiful
nighttime water and laser spectacular World
of Color, on Paradise Bay, and The
Little Mermaid: Arial’s Undersea Adventures. New shops and restaurants were also added to
the mix, as well as various daytime entertainment offerings.
BUENA VISTA STREET, the
all-new park entrance land, transports park guests to Los Angeles and Hollywood
of the 1920’s, when Walt Disney first moved to California from the Midwest. It is completely new, offering a wide array
of shops and dining locations – including the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Café, which is the home of the very
first Starbucks inside any Disney theme park ever. (Starbucks will be opening locations in all
other domestic Disney parks in the near future). It was a massive undertaking for the theme
park to completely shut-down and redo its’ entrance area – and the first time
in Disney theme park history that the company ever made the decision to do so,
but it was such a good decision. The
theming, landscaping and surroundings are simply gorgeous, and well-worth the
wait and inconvenience caused to the guests throughout the construction
process. With the addition of the Red Car Trolley, and numerous walk-about
themed characters and musical acts, Buena Vista Street is now a charming
complement to Main Street, U.S.A. across the esplanade in the original Disney
theme park – Disneyland, and continues the story, if you will. Whereas Main Street, U.S.A. represents the
small-town charm of Walt’s boyhood home in Missouri, Buena Vista Street
represents the optimism of the young man and his dreams as he and his brother
Roy embarked on cranking out Mickey Mouse cartoons and turning the Disney Brothers
Studio into the entertainment behemoth we all know and love today.
At the end of Buena Vista Street, you’ll find the Carthay
Circle Theatre, a full-scale recreation of the West Los Angeles theatre that
was the site of the World Premiere of Walt Disney’s 1937 classic, Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs – the first full-length animated motion picture. This Carthay Circle Theatre doesn’t show
films, but is an exquisite table-service restaurant, filled with tributes to
the film and the original structure. Upstairs there is an additional dining
location, open only to the membership of the newly expanded Club 33, Disneyland’s
private, members-only club conceived of by Walt himself as a way to entertain
various VIP’s and their guests over in New Orleans Square, on the second level
of that land. The Club has a waiting
list several years long, with hundreds of people still waiting to be asked to
join, but with the inclusion of the Carthay Circle’s lounge as part of the
Club, several hundred new members were added to the Club’s roster.
all-new 12 acre land recreating the Route 66 town of Radiator Springs from the
Disney-Pixar CARS films is the home of 3 exciting new attractions, plus a
myriad of shops and restaurants based on locations and characters from the
- Flo’s V8 Café is themed
- dining location open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is one of the largest restaurants in the entire Disneyland Resort, full of beautiful and intricate details that help to tell the story of Radiator Springs.
- Cozy Cone Motel is a series of quick-service counter locations, selling things such as ice cream, popcorn, churros, beverages, including beer, and other snack items. Limited table seating is available in the courtyard.
- Fillmore’s Taste In is a fruit and juice stand.
- Sarge’s Surplus Shop is filled with all kinds of clothing and toys. Several unique Carsland inspired items can be found here.
- Ramone’s House of Body Art is full of adult clothing and car accessories, many of which are uniquely themed to the land and not available anywhere else.
- Lizzie’s Curios Shop was designed to be an eclectic shop filled with unique and fun trinkets and finds just as people would have found when stopping along the famed Route 66 during their cross country treks, but sadly that fun concept was discarded by management, and so this shop just sells standard Disney souvenirs available in practically every other location throughout both of the parks and Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort. It is the official Pin Trading location for the land, and the Vinylmation center as well.
- Luigi’s Flying Tires is a tire-inspired attraction that allows guests to hover above the air table as they move around the floor turning and bumping into each other. It is a 21st century updated version of the “Flying Saucers” attraction that once lived in Tomorrowland at Disneyland in the mid-1960’s. The imagineers worked hard to bring this attraction to Carsland, but from all initial testing and reports, it’s a very slow loading, low capacity attraction. Waits will be long for just a couple of moments of air time.
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is the sleeper hit of the land! It is a fun musical spinner attraction where guests sit in the “tow” portion of the vehicle, behind Mater and enjoy several moments of spinning fun! With 8 regular musical tracks playing as they spin, and lots of funny interjections from Mater along the way, guests are sure to enjoy this experience.
- Radiator Springs Racers is by far the “star” attraction of the land. This attraction takes guests on a thrilling journey through 6 acres of this new land! Both indoors and outdoors, guests will find all sorts of stunning views of the new land as they interact with numerous characters from the films, and ultimately race another ride vehicle to the finish line! The theming is rock solid, the indoors sets are expansive and very well done, and the desert inspired landscaping is lush and very appropriate. The concept behind the attraction was based on the original Test Track at Epcot, but goes way beyond that in design, theme, technology and execution. The attraction itself offers Fastpass and Standby lines, as well as a Single Rider line.
Disney California Adventure certainly has been transformed since what premiered back in February 2001. It has been a long and interesting process to watch – but in the end, I believe that the park, and the Disneyland Resort is much better for it. Personally I was very disappointed in the original park – with its' "hip & edgy" vibe, and very lackluster, non-Disney feel but I have and have been thrilled with each new addition. Just as Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios) was a half-day park when it first opened in 1989, that park and now this park have both grown and expanded into full-day adventures. I used to take my son there as a “daddy-son” afternoon for an hour or two when the park first opened. Our family has been many times through the years since we moved from Southern California to the Midwest. We can’t wait to get back and experience it all together once more – now that the re-do has been completed. After so long – and so many additions - the park has finally come into its’ own, and can finally be called a full-day, stand-along adventure, as the other parks in the Disney pantheon are.
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