Disney's California Adventure getting better

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

LA Times columnist Matt Lait finds improvements at the often criticized California Adventure in his trip report.

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Well, as has been the case with other amusement parks, the criticisms of California Adventure have largely been from the Enthusiast community. One group more critical than coaster enthusiasts is Disney enthusiasts...and there are WAY more of them so they are louder.

It didn't surprise me that California Adventure opened with relatively few attractions and it doesn's surprise me that they are adding and making the park better.

I really enjoy Disney-MGM in Florida but the same criticisms could have been made for that park back in 1989. It was half the size (or less) than it is today.

I'm glad a it's improving. Although the Disney fans can be "loud" I could see where they were coming from in their criticism. At the same time DCA opened, the second park opened in Tokyo which was literally a dream park, with many "e-ticket" attractions and Disney magic out the ying-yang. And that park was originally planned for CA! (after "Westcot" bit the dust)

I hope that TOT helps the park a lot....and I REALLY hope the SBNO replace Superstar Limo with a quality ride.

You can't compare DisneySea with DCA. The Walt Disney Company didn't pay for DisneySea; the Oriental Land Company did.

Animal Kingdom had far less when it opened than it does today, as did Disney-MGM and Disneyland for that matter. You don't build Rome in a day. If the critics were right in anything it is that the biggest flaw in California Adventure was in not letting the public know it was going to grow over time...and perhaps in having the same ticket price as Disneyland.

But, MGM opened with the same price as the other WDW parks.

I know you can't compare it like that, I'm jsut saying that's a good part of the jealousy/feelings from the Disney fans. They saw the kind of park they wanted over there compared to what they got over here. Even though it is two different companies, it gave a lot of fuel to the DCA haters.*** This post was edited by Peabody 4/23/2004 1:46:48 PM ***
Mamoosh's avatar
Why are you such a Disney-hater, P? ;)
I'm no Disney hater....but you won't hear me complaining if the Oriental Land Company bought out the American theme park division....like Eisner would ever let that happen! :)
Wahoo said it the best, and the simplest.........Rome wasn't built in a day. Disneyland had fewer attratctions when it opened that DCA had, but the greed of people today is unbelieveble! Those of you who own a house, does it have all the bells and whistles that you want on it from day 1?? I doubt it. EVERYTHING is always improving, not just here, but at all theme and amusement parks.

Can't anyone just be happy and enjoy what's offered and wait for more to come long instead of whining so damn much?? lol

Maybe you should compare it to IOA, and the number of attractions it had when it opened.
Interesting point. While it is in some ways unfair to compare different projects... that's an example of what can be done with lots of creative room and an ample budget. The Imagineers have compained that they had to work with their hands tied for DCA.
Mamoosh's avatar
Disney-hater! ;)
DCA's issues run much deeper than what's on the surface. Those in the Entertainment Design industry know this. Bob Rogers from BRC Imagination Arts, a visionary in the field of entertainment design, shared his insights on DCA's problems at a workshop I went to yesterday.

Unfortunately, it was material he had just written about, so I don't feel it would be ethical for me to share it here. Sorry!

The last and only time I went to DCA was when it first opened in 2001. I thought it was a top 10 park then, so I'm ecstatic to see what its like now. I think some people have been overly critical of the park. You should know ahead of time what a park has before you pay the price to enter the gates.


For some reason, I think there was another motive behind the approval and development of DCA. All other Disney parks are aimed at taking the visitor into a fabricated fantasy world. I just see DCA as a "too far down to Earth" concept. It just doesn't seem like an idea that would hit it off. Does anyone else know what I'm talking about?
Another part of the problem, or so I've heard, is that Disneyland is a park highly dependant on return visits from residents of So. Cal and is not quite the destination park that the WDW resort is. So.... one could surmise that a park about California would not be too appealing to the residents of California. Of course, DCA was also supposed to make Disneyland more of a resort.

From what I have seen, quite a few of the core attractions were very good. California Screamin, Grizzly River Run, Soarin over California, and peppered in there were good attractions brought in from Florida: the 4D movies, animation tour. The Tower of Terror should help immensely because that ride single handedly makes Disney Studios worth visiting (although I like a lot of other elements of the park as well).

Islands of Adventure is an interesting contrast. It opened up with a lot of fanfare as a theme park and certainly the collection of MAJOR rides they have there is awesome but they have not added a significant ride since the park opened. I doubt very few will deny that what is there is still an awesome theme park but resting on your laurels can only work for so long.

Disney ENTHUSIASTS seem to miss the boat a lot when it comes to the parks. They bemoan the loss of classic attractions yet Walt himself probably knew when to cut the lifeline on aging attractions and attempt to renew. I thought it was funny when they complained about the new Dinoland addition at Animal Kingdom. They complained about it being cheesy looking. Well, that was the whole point of those old roadside attractions.

What impressed me so much about Disney parks, especially Disneyland, when I've visited is how they transport you to another world. At Disneyland especially, there's a huge loud bustling city right outside yet you never hear it or see it. I've not been to DCA but it doesn't seem to have that berm that DL does. Traffic patterns at the park don't seem to be well set up. They had trouble with their fireworks show because there wasn't much room to stand around and watch it and the smoke just blew right back into people's faces. When they open new shows at the Hyperion, lines clog the walkways because it wasn't well planned. It seems like a rush job that capitalized more on the Disney name than anything else. And yes, AK was priced the same as the rest of the WDW parks but then again, I doubt most people pay full price just to visit on individual park, rather, they buy a park hopper pass that allows you into the rest of the parks on the same day. So once you do everything there is to do at AK, you can just leave and visit MGM, Epcot or MK. DCA only allows park hopping if you're staying at a Disney hotel, no? I know Disney would add to it, I doubt anyone really questioned that. Problem is, is TOT enough to draw people for repeat visits to that park...and no, not annual passes since they don't spend the amount of money at the park that casual tourists do. Plus, is Universal gonna out wow them with The Mummy?
Danimales, the only thing that should concern us, as regular paying guests of the park (general public if you will, but apparently we're not GP) is what is on the surface. I personally see nothing wrong with it. It might seem a little scarce for what you pay, but it's already filling itself out qutie nicely.

I personally loved the "down to earth" feel of DCA. The park was well enough executed to make me feel almost passionate about California - a state in a country I don't live in. It's not the rides like California Screamin' or Grizzly River Run - the ones that actually attract the guests - that make this park what it is, it's the other things like Golden State (excellent film) that really make DCA a great park.

With Islands of Adventure. It only got 700,000 more guests through the gates than Disney's California Adventure last year. That park cost what, $2 billion, compared to DCA's $1.5 - doesn't seem like they're getting much more bang for their buck. Considering it's also in Orlando - which is much much more of a tourist draw than Anaheim - I wouldn't be going around claiming IOA to be a critical success. My personal opinions of that park are that it's badly designed - paths are far too narrow, too many dead ends, too many bottlenecks, too much walking (they need a park transport system) and some of the rides and attractions are a bit lackluster or cheap. The rides are great, no argument about that, but I think the park has a few too many problems hardcoded into itself for it to move onto anything more than what it currently is.

Park Hoppers can be purchased at the gate - you don't need to be at a hotel or anything to get them. $119 for a three-day pass I think, which is quite good value. There's more than three days entertainment at Disneyland Resort between the two parks.*** This post was edited by auscoasterman 4/24/2004 12:01:15 AM ***

Well, I wouldn't argue that Animal Kingdom had "far less" than it did today. Kali River Rapids (and the Jungle Trek walkthrough in Asia) was delayed so it opened a few months later but the only read additions beyond that were Triceratops Spin and Primeval Whirl. Then you have to subtract the park's deletions in that time (the two Discovery Boat rides and the dinosaur exhibit). Attendance has never grown year-to-year at Animal Kingdom and that's probably a major reason why.

Islands of Adventure opened as a more complete park. Attendance has been pretty much flat -- which is a relative bonus stacked against Animal Kingdom. It's a testament to IOA opening so complete that it has only had to add a pair of kiddie rides -- and even subtracted the skipper boats (and put some like Triceratops Encounter in seasonal mode) and still didn't miss out at the turnstile.

DCA is doing it right. Bringing in Main Street Electrical Parade immediately won it over the nostalgic enthusiasts AND gave them a reason to stay in the park until nightfall. Flik's Fair may be a thinly-themed (by Disney's standards) kiddie ride section but it's a draw to young families. Tower of Terror? Great call.

Obviously it's two different mentalities at play here. Universal knows it doesn't have the built-in enthusiast traffic so it has had to win over parkgoers from the get-go. Disney can afford to lure the early adopters with an incomplete park and then add accordingly, but very slowly.

auscoasterman said:

It only got 700,000 more guests through the gates than Disney's California Adventure last yearIt only got 700,000 more guests through the gates than Disney's California Adventure last year

Considering IOA didn't give away half its attendance last year (like DCA did), the difference becomes that much greater.

I wouldn't be going around claiming IOA to be a critical success. My personal opinions of that park are that it's badly designed - paths are far too narrow, too many dead ends[...]

Eh? Dead ends? In a circular park? Please elaborate on that. Also, too much walking? It's one of the smallest [major[ parks I can think of. I can walk around the entire park in about eleven minutes, if that. It would take me that long to get from the main gate to Gemini at CP almost!

Jeff's avatar
Agreed. You can get anywhere in IOA quickly, and the design of the park really keeps people moving.

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