Sunday, March 18, 2001 6:53 PM
rip Report: Disney's California Adventure (DCA)
March 13, 2001
"Is it time for our next Soarin' ride yet?"
Welcome to Day 4 of Eric and Dave's California Trip. Today's park will be the all new Disney's Caifrnia Adventures. The park opened about a month ago, so let's see what Disney's newest creation has to offer.
Having already been appropriately ticketed the day before, we chose to arrive at DCA around 8:30, and this time we ignored the "Theme Park Parking LEFT" sign at the corner of Disneyland and Ball and headed straight for the garage. A much more direct route. Our tram dropped us off in front of the Worlds Largest Disney Store, and soon we had secured a locker. Hush! The lockers to the left of the DCA entry plaza are CHEAPER than those on the Disneyland side. ($4 vs. $3 for an all day rental) plus the DCA lockers are a newer version of SmartCarte and offer such conveniences as credit card and coin acceptance, and the ability to make change, that the older model didn't offer. Plus you get to choose if you want a high locker, low locker or somehwere in the middle. It's a much more flexible system.
But enough about lockers, lets get into the park, shall we. Using the tickets we purchased yesterday (remember we bought 2 1 day tickets) we were quickly admitted, and provided with park guides. Time to notice the park music is every california or beach theme song you have ever heard, in about a zillion different variations. If I hear California Dreamin' one more time I'm gonna blow up. But soon we are under the golden gate bridge, and the front gate souvenir stores, to notice the retail outlers that look like a train to the bekoning glow of the giant sun icon. A bit closer inspection of the fountain under the sun icon reveled the pattern occilated in a sort of pseudo surfing wave pattern. Unusual and cool to watch. We looked around and noted the roads off of the main square to be roped off and an anouncement playing about the park opening at 9. We decded to get as close to Soarin' as we could per much advice that has been written here. Imagine our surprise when at 8:40 not only could we walk all the way back to Soarin, but get in its line as well. By 8:50 we were in the inside 'pre-show' area. the Fastpass machines hadn't been turned on yet, so we just entered the attraction in the normal queue, and waited a minimal wait, which was lengthened by the fact the only had 1 theatre open for the soft opening. We spot the first group of Fastpassers admitted, but shrug as we are admitted soon following. A bit later we were in the Right Section, Row 1.
Soarin', how do I begin to describe this masterpiece. How about take an Omnimax theater, now position the dome so that it takes up the whole front wall. Place your guest in rows of chairs in a loading area, (complete with runway lights on the floor), and buckle them in. Adults get a mere lap bet, children add a crotch strap. Them at the begining of the ride lower the lid on the row of seats, pick said row of seats up off the floor, and advance them towards the Omnimax Dome, then once they hit the dome, have the rows go straight up, so that everyone has an unobstructed view, and instead of sitting in horizontal rows, like when you loaded now you have stadium seating with vertical rows. Cue Projector start for Omnimax presentation. Now add to itthe very so slight motion base capability of the seats, not much, but remember this is supposed to simulate hang-gliding so slight subtle movements are all that is needed. Now, add fans to put wind in your face, then to cap it off add misters that spritz appropriate scents into the room, so that the room smells like what you are looking at on the screen, the temperature matches, and you've got some pretty amazing total imersion simulation. Eagle eyes might notice the hidden mickey on the golf ball in the PGA Open scene. A masterfully produced attraction ending, not to surprisingly Soarin Over Disneyland, with the Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks as the finale. A good ride, and an effective pre-ride safety film, it always seemed to get laughs when they were talking about loose articles and showed an adult male rider wearing a pair of Mickey Ears. Wow I want one of these at a Theme Park nearest me!!!! We exited and immediately headed to the Fastpass machines, much to our surpise it was only 9:15, and the Soarin Fastpass machines spit up tickets saying we could rde at 11:15. Wow. 2 hour wait already. While in line for Soarin we got into a nice conversation with the family in front of us, and learned that if you book your trip through the Disney Travel Agency, they give you a package of Special FastPasses as a bonus gift. These Fastpasses allow you true Front of the Line privilege. Any Fastpass ride you want, any time you want. Another step in Disney treating their Hotel guests as First Class, and their Day Guests as Coach travelers. I won't even get started on how Day Guests can not buy Park Hopper tickets at DL/DCA but Resort Guests can. And the two parks just BEG to be hopped sitting right accross a walkway from one another. Unlike in Florida, where park hopping is a major undertaking, involving busses, boats and monorails.
Okay, rant off.
We snagged the Soarin Fastpasses and headed to the Hollywood Backlot section. Hello? Is this part of the park open? It felt errie walking down empty midways shooting video and only seeing a couple cast members to boot. Soon we made our way arround to Superstar Limo, where the greeter assured us that our limo was waiting for us, just go on inisde. Waiting it was, they were merely cycling empty limos through this dark ride,
Superstar Limo is NOT a bad dark ride, its just not a good dark ride. But they have a solid ridesystem that they can convert to another dark ride offering in the near future. The 6 seat limo's offer video monitors as well as the live action. The story is that you are the biggest star on the way to your movie premiere, and the ride isa crazy ridethrough Hollywood. I think this rides biggest problem is the riders. I think that we have come to expect more out of a theme park dark ride than this little number offers. I mean recently we have had Indiana Jones, Spiderman, Cartoon Spin, Buzz Lightyear, all dark rides that have some gimmick or novelty beyond the run of the mill dark ride. Unfortunately Superstar Limo is merely that, a run of the mill darkrride. Had this rie ocme out about 5 years ago, we may have been praising it, but now, its dated technology, and not a compelling story. Though I remind you that when taken in the perspective of an ordinary dark ride it isn't half bad.
Next up, MuppetVision 3D. This show offered Fastpass, but why, there was no wait to go see it. And in we went, noting a queue area much more creative than its counterpart in Florida, and on top of on oridinary looking arch in the hallway "You must be shorter than this to enter. OUCH!" Said arch is clearly above all but an NBA backetball players head. Once inside, it came as no surpise when we were treated to the same Muppetvision 3D that has been running in Florida for eons. I mean its a nice show and all, and I find it to be very cute, and forthose of us who greq up with the Mupper Show a nostalgic reminder of our childhood. Unlike normal Disney show policy, instead of "Move all the way to the end of the row, leaving no empty seats", today the crowd was so light "When the automatic doors open, go on in and take any seat you like" Imagine my surpise when it was bolted to the floor. (Insert rimshot for bad joke here)
We then looked at the Animation building but having no interest in Disney Animation, we skipped it fornow, and heded over to the Golden State section, and after taking a look in the Bountiful Farm (Land pavilion wannabe), we noted the entrance to the Bugs Life Theater. To drum up interest, everybodys favortie blue bug from A Bug's Life was on the main midway bekoning visitors to this out of the way show venue. Again an utterly useless Fastpass station was present but we slid right on in the theater using the Standby line. the preshow cave had humorous parodys of the posters for many top movies on the wall, and in short order we were admitted to It's Tough to Be a Bug. This copy of the popular Animal Kingdom attraction is a hit. Its a wonderful 4D movie where they ratchet up the 4D by butting 'stingers' in your seat so you feel like you just got stug, and other effects sure to make you squirm. A very well done show.
We exited Bug's Life and its not even 10 yet? We trounced on to the Pacific Wharf and find the Bakery Tour to be having problems but they were still passing out free samples. We snagged a sample of sourdough bread and headed towards Paradise Pier. Upon entering Paradie Pier we spotted Avalon Cove (a Wolfgang Puck) restaurant and expressed interest in eating there, then headed for the pier. Got onto the boardwalk and saw.
GASP! SCREAMIN DOWN MECHANICAL! GIVE ME OXYGEN!!!!!!
Our faces looking longer than the sad faced clown we parked ourselves on a park bench surveying the scene. A few minutes later we hear the coaster power up, a few more minutes and yes trains are being cycled.
CANCEL THAT OXYGEN ORDER!
We moseyed around to the loading area, and positioned ourselves in front of the Standby entrance awaiting the magic word. It soon came. Yes, I knew all along they were just testing it. (Yeah, right) Soon we were being loaded into a Screamin train. Wow. Intamin is the MASTER.
After a slow dispatch from a dual loading station (that means two lading stations, both with flush loading mounted next to each other
allowing two trains to be loaded at once, similar to the arangement on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. After a slow dispatch from the station you are brought around nice and slow to a lagoon in the middle of Paradise Pier. It is here that the on train audio starts, and the first laucnh, at high speed occurs, taking you straight up a tall hill. The unusual scream tunnels work for some reason, and after a fw dips you are up lift two, which even though it is LIM powered, is taken at a nice slow climb to perfectly simulate a normal lift hill. Soe more dips and turns, then a trnasition that is smooth but just looks wrong. The dip leading into the vertical loop is shorter than the loop itself, sure the train has enough speed, but it just looks wrong. After the loop the train acts like a wooden coaster, doing dips and turns, and in the front cars, even some honest to goodness airtime. Wow, this may be one of those coasters to place in the nearly perfect category. And in Kennywood Racer fashion, often you unload at the opposite station thatn you loaded at.
California Screamin - Coaster # 175
We took an immediate reride on Screamin (Standy queue like 10 minutes), then checked in on our Soarin Fastpass, on the way making luncheon reservations at Avalon Cove.
Soarin ride two, and yed we get to verify they do have two screens for this performance, unfortunately our eagerness to help the cast member fill "I need 2 more" got us sent to Left section, Row 3, in the corner. Had we just acted stupid we would have gotten Center, Row 1. No good deed goes unpunished. Another mindblowing Soarin Ride, another trip to the Soarin Fastpass machine, whats this 3:30, you've got to be joking me, that's almost 4 hours away!!!!!
We then went to Avalon Cove and had a delightfully wonderful seafood dinner, Wolfgang Puck style. Where else can you ride a rollercoaster and eat at a Wolfgang Puck restaruant in the same place. Chilled Oysters on half shell, clam chowder, swordfish. Not your typical theme park dinner. You don't need to know how much that cost, but we considered it to be well worth it, and a fantastic meal we'll never forget.
After a long liseurely lunch at Avalon Cove eating out on a dining patio in the middle of the Paradise Pier lagoon, we exited the restaurant, and headed to the Golden Zephyr. What's this I don't like the looks of two ride ops and a rope greeting us at the entrance. "Sorry, the Golden Zephyr can not operate in this wind, please try back later" "This wind" was barely a breeze, if this is the true cause of the downtime on this replica of the classic Traver Rocket Ride, we maybe some insight into why we no longer see these at parks. soif ture, I see this ride having a lot of problems. Oh well, we scooted on down the midway and looked at the Jumpin Jellyfish, a highly themed junior parachute drop ride. We declined it. Looking further past some cute souvinner stands we saw Mulholland Madness. We knew it was closed for awhile, but do they have to torture us by sending empty cars around on it all day. "Please I'll sign a waiver, I'll ride at my own risk, just let me on" Oh well at least I got some video.
Cruisng right along, we'll ignore that Mcdonalds they have placed there, but we'll cheer at the fact that folks are plunking down $4.50 for a Big Mac Combo meal WITH NO BEVERAGE, thats $2.25 more! (for the small).
On around our tour past the pizza outlet, to the Orange Stinger.
Orange Stinger is a themed Wave Swinger in a big half peeled orange, the chairs have minimal theming to them, but their is a bee buzzing noise that sounds during the ride. Also of note the Wheelchair Access Elevator is themed to look like a beehive. Upon reachning the ride and looking at the ride safety sign I verified a rumour. The Orange Stinger has a 200lb. weight limit.
OR DOES IT????
Eric and I walked up to the safety sign, read it aloud (in earshot of a greeter) and faked emotions of shock, disbelief and disapointment.
Eric: "You really can't weigh over 200 to go on this?"
Me: "I guess we won't be riding this ride!"
It was at this point that the greeter told us to NOT WORRY about the weight limit and go on up and ride. The only requirement is that we be accomodated by the chair provided. So we marched on up the stairs and one cycle later, boarded the ride. I can report that we survived our Orange Stinger with no visible damage to the ride or our persons. 200lb limit huh I'm 260 and not even a moan in the chains.
So why even post the limit?
- Is it a discouragement to older riders, trying to save seats for the kids?
- Is there really a weight limit, and the Disney sense of making the guest (us) happy overide the safety rule?
- Had the cable snapped would DIsney have just come back and said "We posted signs that you shoulnd't ride"
Whatver it really does open a Pandora's Box about ride safety, and how much stock Disney puts in Ride Safety. I mean if I am being informed that the weight limit posted here isn't for real, does that mean I can go over to the Golden Zephyr and stand up in my rocket? Maybe that rule isn't for real either. (for those impresionable children reading this group: Please remain seated on amusement rides, unless direected to ride otherwise)
Ok, ride safety sermon over, back to Fun in the Sun for Everyone.
Paradise Pier, a recreation of a Boardwalk amusement park, and here Disney truly tries to have you forget you are at DCA, instead you are at Paradise Pier Amusement Park. Even the post ride announcement say "Thanks for riding and enjoy the rest of your day at Paradise Pier"
Next up on our circle tour: Maliboomer, a triple S&S Space Shot. with the odd Cone of Silenve cars. Super efficient operation turned this into a near walk on experience, and a pleasent one with cute Hi-Striker theming and some true airtime. A fun ride, wrth a few rides. On one ride I failed to remove my glasses before lowered the Cone of Silence and then learned I could not reach them. I can report my glasses survived their Space Shot experience. Further around on this tour, and we reached the Sun Wheel, and a substantial wait. We passed on the Sun Wheel for now. We took a look at the games midway and thought back to how Disney would react if he saw that games midway. Mind you the games were done real well. Another stop to film the Carousel, where I can report for those interested in the issue of seatbelts on Carousels, the offical Disney Carousel Seatbelt Policy is: Riders whose feet do not reach the stirrups, must wear the seatbelt. Parents are welcome to stand but must not ride on either the iner or outer edge of the machine. All animals jump.
Then some more Screamin rides, then we wanted to film POV of Screamin but how to get the first seat in an assigned seating operation. We are happy to report that there IS a front seat queue but you must request it when the grouper asks your party size. We got into row 1, noted the queue gates, and proceeded to succesfully film Screamin. No concerns from the ride ops when we boarded the train videocameras in hand, lens caps off, etc. In fact I may have found one reason for LIKING OTSR"s (I see Rideman pulling out his smelling salts) OTSR's do help you by giving you an immoblle camera mount to wrap your arms around.
Okay ride filmed, down to midway to watch, YES Good footage in the can! And look ts time for our next Soarin Ride. But first to snag a Fastpass for Grizzly River Run, then over to Soarin. We rode Soarin (Center, Row 3) no special seating requests hnored. (Though the cast member was very friendly and polite almost apologetic about it) One last mindblowing ride on Soarin.
We exited and realized we had GR fastpasses so we were out of commision, so we had some dessert at the Taste Pilots Grill, headed to locker to ditch videocameras. (They are NOT goin on the rapids ride, sorry) Then we took a look at the Grizzly Park, and the Redwood Chalenge Trail, a uniquely themed kids play area.challenge course. Some pretty daring stunts for a Disney attraction. Rockclimbing with no safety gear (but a nicely soft padded base) and they never get that high, a Tazan like swing, and other more traditional stunts. We also caught the Eureka parade, a parade that just looked more tacky and gaudy than anything, but it was an interesting time diversion.
Then we head to GRR. Now it was nice and hot out when we got those Fastpasses, and suddenly a coold brreze sets in as we go to ride. Where's the fairnes in that? GRR, aside from the big drop, is barely more than on oridnary rapids ride. It just seemed too short, and didn't really have that much going for it. Water damage was miimal to medium (enough to necessiatate getting dry shirts from locker) But I just don't see this as a star attraction.
By this time Soarin Fastpass was selling tickets for 8:30 "We won't even be AT this park at 8:30" We changed to night clothes, and headed back to Paradise Pier, see Golden Zephyr operating to have it close down fownd right as we reach it. Grrr. Go have some moe Maliboomer, some mroe Screamin, the decide to get in line for the Sun Wheel. So its 45 minutes wait. Oh well. We wait and are loading into a swinging car on the Sun Wheel. I thought the swing motion to be just a bit better than Deno's Wonder Wheel. But a pretty tame ride, sutiable for the whole family. But as the Sun Wheel turned the Golden Zephyr flew again. As soon as we were unloaded we dahsed for the Zephyr and secured a ride at last. The Zephyr isn't a thrill ride, instead it is a historic replica of a ride once found at every park, and now virtually extinct. It was with this respect for the historical value of the ride that we rode and enjoyed a glimpse of amusement history.
Then some last Maliboomer rides, thenover to Screamin and as we mde our way through the queue we heard this announcement "May I have your attention" Will everybody in line kindly turn around and face backwards in line, now slowly walk out the way you came in" Screamin was going down mechancial. But it took a long time for them to get folks to budge, many stood there in disbelief causing a traffic jam of those trying to follow orders and exit, those blocking the path, and those last few who got in before the line was cut off.
Oh well, we'll just cruise by the souvenir outlets and get some DCA souvinirs then call it a night. Thank goodness we are amusement ride freaks or we would have been done by 2pm. .
(For those who are enjoying my TR's you got one more coming: Knott's Berry Farm)