Disney's World of Color show critical part of California Adventure's rebirth

Posted Thursday, June 10, 2010 11:36 AM | Contributed by Jeff

On Thursday, Disney will unveil World of Color, an elaborate water show that is estimated to have cost about $75 million. It is part of a $1 billion overhaul at the struggling park that Disney built nearly a decade ago in what used to be Disneyland’s main parking lot. Constructed in a three-acre lagoon, the 26-minute show combines music, lighting, fire, lasers and 1,200 programmable jets of water to bring classic Disney characters to life.

Read more from The New York Times.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 2:52 PM

Well, the show is pretty specatcular but it in and of itself is not going to turn the park around. It is the first step to be sure. I suspect they are going to be in pretty good shape once they open the Carsland attractions in addition to Mermaid. I'm pretty sure a Cars sequel is in the works and those are two attractions that are doing to drive families (no pun intended) in to the DCA gates.

Note to Cedar Fair: roller coasters were not mentioned in the story...but the emphasis on FAMILY attractions sure was there.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010 8:43 PM

Who says the park isn't in good shape now?

Disney made a prediction before the park opened that it would attract 7.5 million. They've never released the actual attendance figures, but an industry group estimates in their research that the park attracts roughly 5-6 million per year. Yes, shy of Disney's prediction, but I suspect their prediction was overly ambitious to appease the shareholders.

Calling Disney's California Adventure a failure is laughable, since it basically suggests that the rest of the theme park operators in the world are also operating failing theme parks. Since the day California Adventure debuted its done nothing but improve business at the Anaheim resort.

I look at the recent improvements from a glass half-full perspective. I think Disney in recent years, since the 50th anniversary, has really seen the potential of the Anaheim resort. The expansion and improvements to California Adventure are not to fix a problem, but are being done to really maximize the potential of this property.

I live minutes from the parks and in the past two years they're both busier than ever. So much so, that I won't go on many days. There is no such thing as a slow day in California Adventure any more.

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Friday, June 11, 2010 4:08 AM

The problem with the 5-6 Million visitors a year is that a good 80% of those admissions(if not more) came from the parkhopper tickets. Nobody really paid the full price ticket to just visit California Adventure. In that regard the park was a huge failure

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Friday, June 11, 2010 6:01 AM

Since California Adventure opened the multi-day, park hopper tickets were always priced based on the one-day, one-park price, so the park hopping privilege was free for multi-day visitors.

The only adjustments they made after the fact was the addition of a one-day, park hopper ticket, which they charge a premium for and they eliminated the one-park annual pass, giving park hopping privileges to all passholders.

Yes, the one-day park hopper is not priced at the equivalent of two - one-day, one-park tickets – but – as far as I'm aware it's the second highest priced one-day ticket in the US.

Also, I should mention the increase in annual pass prices, which have gone up significantly in recent years to reach levels comparable to what Disney charges in Florida (passes that all include park hopping). In other words, we're now paying the premium for park hopping in the current pass prices.

Finally, Disney was also able to improve their position on their off-season "Southern California" promotions. Instead of discounting a one-day ticket as they previously did, they now command the equivalent of a full price one-day, one-park ticket, but give you a second day for free.

That second day is valuable to Disney since they're getting you on property twice in a specified period and essentially doubling their parking and food & beverage revenue and increasing the chances to sell you merchandise. Also, like gift certificates how many of those second days go unused?

So before you'd visit one day at a discount and now they get you to come twice, but you pay full price for one of those days.

Another gain is the fact that they've increased the length of stay for vacationing tourists. The increase did not meet their predictions, but they still increased the average length of stay by a day.

Furthermore, ticket pricing in general, has increased at a faster rate than would have been possible with only one park.

So again– California Adventure's a huge failure? I don't think so.

Last edited by egieszl, Friday, June 11, 2010 6:18 AM
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Friday, June 11, 2010 6:38 AM

I wouldn't necessarily call California Adventure a failure...now. It definitely was a flop when it made its debut, but so was Disneyland when it opened its gates in 1955. It took years and years before Disneyland became the park it is today. Fully mature.

California Adventure is going through the same process. The park turns a decade old in 2011 and is coming out of its growing pains and with this $1.1 billion overhaul, is beginning to see the fruits of maturity.

The biggest issue guests have with California Adventure is that it is priced exactly the same as her sister park next-door, the original Disneyland park, while offering considerably less in terms of attractions, shows, and overall entertainment options. To visitors, they don't see the value there, which is why the Park-Hopper ticket option plays such a huge part in California Adventure's turnstile numbers.

Once 2012 rolls around and the remodel is complete --- with Cars Land, the retrofitted main gate, Red Car Trolleys, new main street, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure...I can definitely see California Adventure having enough pull to draw guests in without the aid of her older sister next-door.

World of Color is definitely a catalyst of metamorphosis for this park, and the early raving reviews ultimately point to it as a big success for Disney down the road.

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Friday, June 11, 2010 8:17 AM

California Adventure opened in 2001. Most of the comments about the park were critical right off the bat. Do they pull in visitors? Sure they do. But, to the level of success Disney wanted? No.

And, there is no better sign that Disney recognizes the park didn't live up to expectations than a only 9 years later they are making significant changes and improvements. This expansion is going to cost nearly as much as it cost to build the park to begin with.

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Friday, June 11, 2010 12:59 PM

Alexatucla said:
The problem with the 5-6 Million visitors a year is that a good 80% of those admissions(if not more) came from the parkhopper tickets. Nobody really paid the full price ticket to just visit California Adventure. In that regard the park was a huge failure

What? By that measure, Disney World is an epic failure. That doesn't even make sense. If a customer spends more money on a ticket, whether it's for one day or a week, Disney wins.

I think some people are splitting hairs here, but that it didn't meet expectations hardly equates to failure. I'd love to do anything that six million customers a year.

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Friday, June 11, 2010 8:53 PM

not splitting hairs, and the definition of "failure" depends on which side of the investment you're on, and whether it was your $600M that built the park.

However, it is generally considered by TDA that California Adventure is far from what was expected. It continually fails to generate revenue or attendance numbers remotely close to the original budget. Now, because they trimmed half of the original construction budget, the ROE is probably ok. However, when you consider that you have only one shot in life to build a park across the street from Disneyland, it's not the home run (or even double) that it should have been.

We can argue about how many years it took Disneyland to mature, etc.

However, it's a now a given that DCA was a loser.

The first year it opened the Annual passholders were blocked from DCA. The assumption was that it would be so crowded, that they couldn't have the locals overrunning the place. That lasted about a few months, when they realized that locals were not going to pay full price to get in. That has now degenerated into yearly 2fer specials, that essentially give away a second day.

Again, we can all rationalize that the 2nd day costs nothing, generates incremental revenue, etc. Which it does. However, when your original investment model was predicated on having a second park, pumping through much higher numbers of ACTUAL FULL GATE PAYING guests, you can see how, in the end, it WAS a failure. Let me rephrase it, when did you ever see buy one day, get 2nd park free at Disney WORLD. (I'm not talking 8th day almost free with a magic-your-way ticket), I mean truly "Buy one day at MK and get Studios free"?

The addition of $1B in attractions and modifications (as part of Phase ONE!) are all the evidence you need that the park is, if not a failure, certainly something that couldn't be left as is.

As for the six million or so a year attendance? The park is empty until 2:00, when the passholders flock to the park, hit DCA for quick spins on Soaring, Screamin, Tower, all with 10-20 minute waits, and wait 30 min for Toy Story, then leave the park when it closes at 6:00, to go to Disneyland until 10 (or later) for fireworks, etc.

It's simply an "overflow" park for local passholders, and those who are there on a 2fer ticket. Typical mid day non peak attendance of full ticket paying guests is somewhere between 5,000-10,000, while Disneyland does between 25-45K. (numbers are estimates based on employee's comments).

Last edited by CreditWh0re, Friday, June 11, 2010 9:14 PM
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Saturday, June 12, 2010 5:34 AM

"I'd love to do anything that six million customers a year"

Not if most of the six million customers only spent a hour or so there to get on some rides and move on to the mainpark

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Saturday, June 12, 2010 6:56 PM

Yeah, that's what you keep saying, and I don't buy it.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010 9:57 PM

The problem California Adventure has is that the park never lived up to the high standard of Disney. 9 years after its debut, it still lives on as the least interesting park the company has ever opened. I agree with Jeff, in that the park can't be defined as a failure, but instead it just doesn't meet the expectations of Disney. The changes being made are to make the park more memorable and bring it up to par with Disneyland and the rest of Disney theme parks.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010 4:19 AM

Does not meet expectations, failure e.t.c. that is really like comparing apple to oranges. There is a reason Disney spents a billion $ to upgrade the park just a couple of years after opening it.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010 9:18 PM

^ Yes and that reason is called "Phase II", something that has been planned since the beginning. California Adventure is anything but a failure. While cutbacks forced the park to open with less than intended, it has still been a very succesful park. But no park can remain stagnet for more than a few years, not even Disneyland across the way. So this "upgrade" was enevitable, regardless.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010 12:14 PM

@johnKnotts;: Phase II has not been planned since the beginning. The park also has not been "stagnant". Tower of Terror was the original planned Phase II attraction. The poorly planned and quickly implemented bugs land was another stopgap, as was the Aladdin show (replacing Steps in Time)., then Millionaire, then Monster's Inc,

An additional $1B (after an initial $600M) is not phase II, it's the result of the best minds at WDI and TDA debating whether to a) re-do, b) mothball, c) re-purpose. You don't pry $1B out of the Disney coffers unless there is a compelling NEED. There was at least one serious proposal to close the park, and one to repurpose the pier area into an evening only, Downtown Disney extension, and/or Hotel Guests (corporate buyout) entertainment area.

I'm not familiar with the particulars of each plan, but John Lassetter is credited with pushing this investment plan through the Disney organization.

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