Disney spending $1.1 billion on California Adventure

Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007 9:18 AM | Contributed by PatManForce

Since its 2001 debut, the Walt Disney Co. theme park Disney's California Adventure has floundered in the shadow of its legendary neighbor, Disneyland. To fix it, Disney is now planning a $1.1 billion overhaul -- the most extensive makeover the company has ever given to a theme park.

Read more from The Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 9:48 AM
So the question of the hour is, can California Adventure be salvaged?

My impression is that constructing that park as a second gate was a huge mistake. What Disneyland really needs is serious expansion, something which is mostly impossible at the moment as the park is landlocked, surrounded, and developed in such a way that all the ends are cut off. Last year I visited that complex on one of their busiest days of the season. Disneyland was absolutely jammed full of people, and California Adventure was nearly empty, and most of the people who were there were either on presale 2-park tickets like we were, or they were upset that they couldn't get into Disneyland.

It seems that someone forgot that the problem is that Disneyland can't handle the crowd that it draws, and focused instead on the revenue potential of a second gate. So they ended up building a second gate that can't stand on its own (certainly not for the full price of a Disneyland ticket!) that doesn't draw. Then they built it not based on the successful (but unique) Disneyland style of park design, but rather the modern Duell-style, where you have to do a lot more walking and the park ends up with a lot more dead space.

Wouldn't it have been a neat idea to re-route the Disneyland Railroad to encircle both parks, knocking down the berm at the entrance end of Main St., so that Main St. would have the California sun thing at one end and the castle at the other, with the park entrance in the middle? The problem with that is that then the plaza between the parks gets chopped in half, and there are probably technical reasons for not putting that *under* the middle of the park...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:01 AM
Very interesting article indeed. I went to DCA for the first time in April and actually loved it. The theming was awesome and lots of their rides were really cool - especially Monster's Inc. I did think it lacked a lot of the "Disney" references, but I guess that's partially why I liked it. That's why I love Animal Kingdom so much too. I don't need to see Disney characters every single day of my Disney trip. As long as the quality is there, I'm cool.

I'd be really upset if they messed with the original Disneyland though and combined it with DCA across the courtyard. There's nothing wrong with a two-gate resort as long as both gates are equally appealing to people. That will spread people out like they originally planned.

I'm glad I got to experience the almost original DCA though before the change. Now I'll have something to compare it to when the "new" park is done.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:06 AM
Jeff's avatar I know there's an obvious difference in attendance between the two parks there, but do you think anyone really buys single-park tickets? I only ask because in the Orlando model, I doubt many people do, and there's a certain higher perceived value that you can get into more than one park at a time on the same ticket.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:10 AM
I was going to say the same thing. A single day-single park ticket is $66. A two-day park hopper ticket is $132 (currently on sale for $122). So, if you're spending two days there, and only spend a half day at DCA, you're still getting a bargain. I don't really think gate prices at Disney can be compared to parks like Six Flags or Cedar Fair because they don't have two gates right next to each other like that.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:44 AM
The Mole's avatar Jeff, Disney pushed the 2-for-one deals so much you can buy a one day ticket and still get into DCA another day, giving it inflated attendance, and also giving it the reputation of being a throw away park.

This isn't just about some new entryway here, we're talking serious re-tooling of this park, from Paradise Pier to Hollywood Studios.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:51 AM
I was actually very impressed with DCA. I loved Disneyland as well, but I went to DCA twice and Disneyland just once.

Is the $100 million figure correct for Tower of Terror?! How many people from California don't make it to Orlando for Disney World? I'm curious because in the midwest I almost never heard of somebody going to Disneyland instead of WDW. I don't understand how Disney could spend $100 million on a copy of a ride in Florida. Is it that they prefer people to go to Orlando if they have the choice because the prices are more substantial?

I'm assuming that figure is WAY off. That being said, is this going to be very similar to Disneyland? Is it really a good idea to have a similar mainstreet just across a small midway from the original main street? While I agree DCA did not have the same "magic" and whimsy of its counterparts, I don't want to pay a premium ticket price for a similar experience. Indiana Jones and Dinosaur are fantastic rides, but now another one? I hope they can bring a new element to the ride instead of just switching up the theming.

Finally, was Cars really that successful? I thought it was a snooze. Is it just me? I'm leary of an entire themed area devoted to the movie. I don't think the Pixar movies have the same magical disney feeling as the classics, but it could just be that I can't appreciate the new Pixar movies where I stand. I'm glad they've decided to make a serious investment and I just hope that it develops into a true Disney gem, but maintains its standing as a different experience from all the rest. They should try to pull it off like DisneySea.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 11:42 AM
California Adventure has a few rides that are really good the rest of the park stinks. I've been there three times in the last 2 years and it really isn't very good. They should have made it into a Movie studio Backlot type deal rather then focusing on the "california" theme. I really don't think anybody cares and besides the buisiest part of the entire park is the hollywood section the rest of the park is empty all the time. I know california has alot of studio backlot stuff but they could have made it disney studios aiken to Walts first original drawlings. now that would have kicked some ass.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:28 PM
Little Mermaid, Cars, and Midway Mania better be some high caliber attractions. 99% of the reason DCA had the bad rep was because of lack of attractions. It basically was a strip mall with a handful of things to do. Now they are doing a 1 billion makeover and coming from that is 3 rides? Cars better be their POTC in terms of popularity, and it's timed to the sequel. People basically wanted those "wow" DL style themed immersive rides. I doubt many people pick Main Street as their #1 reason to visit DL so I'm hoping they look at how to put more attractions as things move ahead, and less mall, into the park.

I've read elsewhere where they are cloning over Mickey's Philharmagic from WDW and adding a nightime lagoon show. Will essentially 5 new things to see, rolled out over the 5 years, be enough to turn the tide for DCA? At one point, they thought TOT and Bug's Lands carnival tot rides were going to be enough as well.

If they junk Maliboomer, they should send it over to DL as a T-Land attraction, and theme it to space travel.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:39 PM
Disney spending $1.1 billion on a single project is always an exciting thing. It's really hard to grasp the whole idea by that one article, but hopefully some concept art shows up some time.

I've never visited Disney's parks in California, but I always wanted to. With all the bad press that DCA gets. It will be interesting to see what this project will do to that park.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 1:46 PM
The new plans for California Adventure still sound incredibly forced and "heady".
On one side you have a park which is perceived to be a vision of one single man, with a magic castle as its centerpiece. On the other you will have a corporate fun-fair in disguise in search of ots destination, which will feature a replica of a long forgotten cinema. Wow, if this isnĀ“t high conept to draw in the crowds...

As for one-day Disneyland visitors: There are more than you think! For many tourists outside of any realm of interest in Theme-Parks, Disneyland is a synomym for America/L.A. They will visit DL as they see the Hollywood sign, the Chinese Theatre/Hollywood Blvd, and maybe the Griffith Observatory. Those guests would never think about staying two days in a theme-park! If one park can get away with outrageous one-day ticket prices, its DL.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 2:29 PM
janfrederick's avatar I really wish that the plans had included an expansion of the monorail. That park could really use some sort of mass transit. I'm sure the streetcar thing will be cool, if you can manage to get on it with the huge crowds the new and improved park will draw. ;)

Sarcasm aside, I'm hoping for the best. The details that are emerging on the Midway Mania attraction are looking cool.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:27 PM
Jeff has hit the nail on the head. While the attendence difference is HUGE, I'veheard that almost no one pays to get into the place. It's all park hopping and annual passholders.

I think it's great they are doing this....and, that they are spending more than the park cost to originally build. Remember, the approx. 1.5 billion spent on the place included the Grand Californian Hotel and Downtown Disney. Actual original price for the park was around $700 mil.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:30 PM
This guy is still in denial, after all the damage he did to the resort in the late 90s:

"Mr. Pressler, who left Disney in 2002, says the park suffered from comparisons to its successful neighbor, but he denies the budget was ever a problem. "What we missed the mark on was not having enough for young kids compared to the Magic Kingdom," he says."

Sure, with the exception of a few kiddie rides the place was perfect! ;)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:30 PM
DCA stinks of Eisner. It's obvious corners were cut in order to get the cost of the park down. But I don't think it's a horrible place. It's unreasonable to expect the park to be as good as Disneyland since that park got a four decades + head start on DCA. Besides, there are some good attractions, like Soarin' and Grizzly River Run. Tower of Terror is a masterpiece and will always be a masterpiece- it's probably the best Disney attraction that Walt never touched.

Didn't the park cost about $1 billion? Even adjusted for inflation, sinking $1.1 billion into an existing amusement park is big news. Going by what I heard, the park is going to look a lot better when all is said and done and will feature many new things that will surely make it somewhat comparable to Disneyland.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:48 PM
Rob...like I said above, actual park costs were around $700mil. Rest was hotel and Downtown Disney
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:39 PM
Gomez, the artwork for many of the things have been released already (in the 2006 annual report mostly) and some of the new stuff is on the HUB (the online site for Disney cast members) and the artwork all looks top notch. Just google it and you should find most of it.

Peabody that quote is great - Pressler was clueless the entire time he was at Disney. Funny how he refers to Disneyland as the Magic Kingdom, you would think him of all people being as high up as he was would know that the name Magic Kingdom refers to the Florida park and only the Florida park (as told to cast members in Traditions). Just goes to show how clueless he really was.

Personally, I'm excited to see this. I was always a big fan of the park as it was yet always felt the park had so much potential. If this Carland attraction is even half as good as the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride at DisneySeas then I think it will help the park big time.

Unlike Disney World where some people may just go to Epcot and not Magic Kingdom I don't think anything could ever be done where people would go to DCA over DL. Maybe they will have to adjust the prices of the hopper but I doubt anyone will ever plan to just go to DCA.

I'm just hoping this is just the start of a trend of Disney sinking money back into the parks. I know I'm not the only one who thinks the Magic Kingdom could use some money.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:54 PM
Mamoosh's avatar Is the $100 million figure correct for Tower of Terror?!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007 7:29 PM
^^Magic Kingdom, in particular, Tomorrowland, needs a lot of money thrown into it. When I went on Space Mountain last year it really needed a lot of work like they redid the one in Disneyland. The queue is very, very dated and the ride itself hurts on some of the turns.

The things I really enjoyed at Magic Kingdom is Main Street USA (never fails to get you in the "Disney" mind-frame), Splash Mountain (best flume ride around), and Pirates of the Caribbean (this doesn't need an explanation).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 9:53 PM
That 1.1 billion is not just for what has been announced now and Toy Story Mania and the lagoon show are not part of that spending. They were already budgeted before the makeover was approved. There will be other things announced. Disney will space out the announcements to keep the story out there to help with their fight in Anaheim over the possible housing in the resort district. This is really just what they have nailed down so far. There will be more changes to come.

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