Disney California Adventure
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|Location||Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California, United States|
|Theme||Show business and California|
|Owner||Disney Parks, Experiences and Products|
(The Walt Disney Company)
|Operated by||Disneyland Resort|
|Opened||February 8, 2001|
|Previous names||Disney's California Adventure Park (2001–2010)|
Disney California Adventure Park, commonly referred to as Disney California Adventure, California Adventure, or DCA, is a theme park that is located in Anaheim, California. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division. The 72-acre (29 ha) park is themed after the history and culture of California, which celebrates the fun and adventure of the state through the use of various Disney, Pixar and Marvel Studios properties. The park opened on February 8, 2001 as Disney's California Adventure Park or Disney's California Adventure, and it is the second of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort complex, after Disneyland Park.
The concept of a theme park dedicated to California arose from a meeting of Disney executives in 1995, following the cancellation of WestCOT, a planned West Coast version of Walt Disney World's utopian EPCOT Center. Construction of the park began in June 1998 and was completed by early 2001. Disney initially projected high attendance rates at the new park; however, a series of preview openings held in January 2001 led to negative reviews, and after the park officially opened to the public on February 8, 2001, the company's attendance projections were never met. Disney spent the next several years incrementally adding new rides, shows, and attractions, and implementing other promotions aimed at boosting attendance. In 2007, Disney announced a major expansion of the park as well as a major overhaul of a significant portion of the park. Construction lasted for five years and was completed in stages, culminating with the opening of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land in June 2012.
Concept and creation
The present-day site of Disney California Adventure was acquired by Walt Disney in the 1950s and functioned as the parking lot of Disneyland for over 40 years. After succeeding with the multi-park business model at Walt Disney World in Florida, the Disney company decided to turn Walt Disney's original theme park into a multi-park resort complex as well. However, Disneyland was boxed-in because of the growth of Anaheim around the park; and while the Walt Disney World property is made out of a 30,000 acres, the Disneyland site was about 400. This consisted of the park itself, the 100-acre parking lot, and the newly acquired Disneyland Hotel and vacation property from the Wrather Corporation. In 1991, Disney announced plans to build WestCOT, a west coast version of what was then known as EPCOT Center, on the site of Disneyland's parking lot. The high price tag of the proposed park, as well as the company's financial and public relations problems with the newly opened Euro Disneyland (now Disneyland Paris), led Disney to cancel WestCOT in 1995.
In the summer of 1995, Michael Eisner, Disney's CEO at the time, gathered company executives in Aspen, Colorado, to think of another idea for a second theme park in California. From those meetings, Disney decided it would instead build a park themed to the history and culture of the state of California. Disney's executives aimed to make California a theme park, so as to keep guests at the resort instead of going off-site. This would also not require buying any new land, with most of the park residing on the 100-acre Disneyland parking lot. Then Disneyland president Paul Pressler relied on merchandising and retail staff instead of Imagineers to design the park. As an adult-oriented park-like Epcot, dining, and shopping was the design focus. Construction of the park began on January 22, 1998. On Main Street, U.S.A., a Disney's California Adventure Preview Center opened in October 1998. The park's construction was accompanied by Downtown Disney and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, in addition to renovations of the Disneyland Hotel and Disneyland Pacific Hotel.
Opening and initial criticism
On January 14, a Los Angeles Times article titled "The most Jam-Packed Theme Park on Earth?" stated, "Senior Disney officials acknowledge that there will be days when California Adventure will have to turn patrons away, particularly in the first weeks after the park opens, during spring break and again in the summer." However, the attendance that year was substantially less than expected. This is suggested to have happened as a result of negative reviews from early visitors, including the lack of focus in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, the lack of attractions for children, a large number of off-the-shelf attractions, a high number of stores and restaurants relative to the number of attractions, and having a theme that was considered to be redundant, given that the park is located in California. The park also lacks a perimeter berm to separate it from surrounding neighborhoods. The berm in Disneyland Park uses trees and earthen mounds to establish a physical barrier around the park so that structures external to the park cannot be seen, with the aim of more fully immersing guests in the park setting. At Disney California Adventure Park, nearby hotels, power lines, radio towers, and the Anaheim Convention Center are all visible, reducing the sense of immersion. Furthermore, Disney had originally planned the park to be aimed at adults, rather than children, which became the basis of significant criticism.
The park opened to 5 million visitors in 2001 while its sister park Disneyland saw 12.3 million visitors during the same time frame. Low attendance caused Disney to lower ticket prices for California Adventure, slashing as much as $10 off the park's ticket prices. In its first year, the park averaged 5,000 to 9,000 visitors on weekdays and 10,000 to 15,000 on the weekends, despite having a capacity of 33,000. Visitor surveys reported that 20% of visitors to the park in its first year were satisfied with their experience. By October 2001, both Wolfgang Puck and Robert Mondavi had closed their high-profile restaurants in the park, citing low crowds, though Mondavi remained as a sponsor.
In the 2019 documentary series The Imagineering Story, then-Walt Disney Imagineering creative executive Kevin Rafferty described how he and fellow Imagineers felt about the original design of California Adventure:
Much to our chagrin, it didn't adhere to our fundamental design principles of theme park design. There were all these visual cues that were kind of contradictory. There were great big California letters. There was a stylized Golden Gate Bridge that was kind of foreshortened and was kind of fake and suggested that this wasn't a real place, and the supergraphics on the toy store. And the first statement that you saw when you walked into the gate with the sharp sun. And you know, frankly, you could have seen that at a shopping mall in Newport Beach. It's like 'why is it here?'
Early changes and expansions
Two major criticisms of the park in its first year were the lack of attractions appealing to children and the lack of a nighttime show or parade to keep visitors from leaving at nightfall. Within the first year of operation, Disney's Electrical Parade and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It! were brought to the park, and several of its original rides and attractions were closed, including Superstar Limo and the stage show Disney's Steps in Time. During the 2001 holiday season, Disney's LuminAria was presented on Paradise Bay. In October 2002, the Flik's Fun Fair area opened, which added attractions for children and in May 2004, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened as another E ticket. The park regularly featured seasonal promotions such as concert series, food festivals, and promotions for other Walt Disney Company franchises including the X Games and ABC soap operas. Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! opened in the former Superstar Limo building in January 2006.
Major redesign and expansion
Robert A. Iger, June 15, 2012, On the plaque of the flagpole in Buena Vista Plaza on Buena Vista Street
By 2007, Disney began making plans for major updates to the park. CEO Bob Iger said, "Any time you do something mediocre with your brand, that's withdrawal. California Adventure was a brand withdrawal." Iger briefly considered combining California Adventure and Disneyland Park into one large park, but the price would have cost as much as completely remodeling California Adventure. On October 17, 2007, The Walt Disney Company announced a multi-year, $1.1 billion redesign and expansion plan for Disney's California Adventure Park (against its initial $600 million cost to build). Each district was reimagined to transform the park from a spoof of modern California culture to a romanticized, idealized version of the state, exploring specific time periods and historic settings. The project began in December 2007 and was completed in stages. Toy Story Midway Mania! opened on Paradise Pier in June 2008, in space formerly occupied by a store and restaurants. World of Color, nighttime water and lights show on Paradise Bay, opened in June 2010. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure opened on the site formerly occupied by the Golden Dreams theater in June 2011.
The most drastic changes to the park included a complete overhaul of the main entrance, Sunshine Plaza, and Paradise Pier, as well as an expansion into the last of the parking area originally designated as future growth space for the park. The main entrance and Sunshine Plaza were turned from a "giant postcard" spoof of California into Buena Vista Street, a representation of Los Angeles as it appeared when Walt Disney moved there in the 1920s. The "CALIFORNIA" sign in front was removed and donated to Cal Expo in Sacramento. Paradise Pier was turned from a contemporary representation of California boardwalks into a representation of Victorian seaside amusement parks of the 1920s, and some of the area's off-the-shelf rides were either removed outright (Maliboomer) or re-themed to have more of a focus on Disney characters (Mickey's Fun Wheel, Goofy's Sky School, Silly Symphony Swings). Cars Land, an area that simulates Radiator Springs from Disney·Pixar's Cars film franchise, was added to the southeast portion of the park and features three rides, including the E ticket Radiator Springs Racers. Construction was completed in 2012 and the park was then re-dedicated on June 15, 2012. The park received a modified name, Disney California Adventure, and a new logo first put into use in June 2010.
The redesign and expansion of the park saw attendance rates increase dramatically. In 2012, Disney California Adventure reached a record high for the park of over 7 million visitors (a 23% increase from the year before), a number Disney had hoped the park would attain in its first year. The day of the park's rededication saw the park draw a record number of 43,000 visitors in one day. The night before the rededication, over 500 people camped outside of the park in order to be the first admitted in. Two days later, the park hit a new record of 45,000 visitors. Speaking on the attendance increase at Disney California Adventure, Jay Rasulo, Disney's chief financial officer, said: "We had a very uneven distribution where most people spent most of their time at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure was empty. Now, half of the folks go to one, half of the folks go to the other. It's almost a dream come true."
COVID-19 Pandemic Closures, Partial, and Full Reopening
Disney California Adventure, along with Disneyland, was closed indefinitely starting on March 14, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The park was scheduled to reopen alongside Disneyland on July 17, but due to rising cases in California, both parks are remaining closed until further notice. In October 2020, it was announced that Buena Vista Street would open as an expansion of the Downtown Disney District. This land would allow for additional shops and dining options for visitors to the Disneyland Resort, while the parks remain closed under State guidelines. In February 2021, Disney California Adventure announced there would be a limited-capacity ticketed event called “A Touch of Disney”, which would offer Disney fans to shop at stores and enjoy eateries around the park from March 18 through April 19, 2021. On March 5, 2021, it was announced by the California Department of Public Health that Disney California Adventure was allowed to reopen with capacity restrictions beginning April 1, 2021. Disney CEO Bob Chapek then announced the following week that the company is planning on officially reopening the park in late April 2021. On March 17, 2021, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products announced that both Disney California Adventure and Disneyland would officially reopen on April 30, 2021 with limited capacity and social distancing/mask guidelines in effect.
Disney California Adventure is divided into eight themed lands.
Buena Vista Street
The first area seen upon entering the park. It represents Los Angeles in the 1920s, when Walt Disney first arrived there. Similar to Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland Park, it has shops, restaurants, and a system of transportation. It also has a central hub to other areas at the end of it. This hub has entrances to Hollywood Land, Grizzly Peak, and Pacific Wharf. Guests can ride from Buena Vista Street to the end of Hollywood Land on the Red Car Trolley. Its station is located near the main entrance of the flagpole. Some restaurants along the street include Mortimer's Market, Trolley Treats, and Clarabelle's Hand Scooped Ice Cream. Shops include Oswald's, Big Top Toys, and Elias & Company.
Pixar Pier is themed after the films from Pixar Animation Studios, and is divided into four districts, Incredibles Park, Toy Story Boardwalk, Pixar Promenade, and Inside Out Headquarters. The area includes the Pixar Pal-A-Round, Incredicoaster, Jessie's Critter Carousel, Games of Pixar Pier, and the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind. Pixar Pier is also one of the areas to watch the World of Color water show. To the side of it is Paradise Gardens Park but the main entrance is a bridge connecting to Pacific Wharf.
Paradise Gardens Park
Paradise Gardens Park is the largest area of the park. It is located at the center of the park and has direct entrances to Pixar Pier, Pacific Wharf, and Grizzly Peak. It is a prominent place to watch the World of Color water show. Attractions include Goofy's Sky School, Silly Symphony Swings, Jumpin' Jellyfish, Golden Zephyr, and Ariel's Undersea Adventure.
Located between Pixar Pier and the upcoming Avengers Campus, Pacific Wharf is themed to resemble the old waterfront of Monterey, California as a tribute to its fishing industry. The Bakery Tour and the Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar are the only attractions in Pacific Wharf. The area is primarily an outdoor food court that currently consists of the following restaurants:
- Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill
- Lucky Fortune Cookery Chinese Wok
- Mendocino Terrace
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop
- Pacific Wharf Café Boudin Bakery
- Pacific Wharf Distribution Co.
- Rita's Baja Blenders
- Sonoma Terrace
- Wine Country Trattoria
Grizzly Peak is themed around California's wilderness and national parks, with particular references to Yosemite and Redwood national parks. Its main attraction is Grizzly River Run, a Gold Rush-esque river rapids ride around the summit of Grizzly Peak. Nearby is the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail; a playground area that includes elements from Disney's Brother Bear and Disney·Pixar's Up. An entrance exclusively accessible to guests of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is located in this area.
Grizzly Peak Airfield (formally known as Condor Flats) is a sub-land within the Grizzly Peak area of California Adventure Park. It is themed to an airfield in California's High Sierras in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The featured attraction is Soarin' Around the World, a ride that simulates a hang glider tour of locations, landscapes, and landmarks across six continents of the world. The district also contains the Smokejumpers Grill counter service restaurant, a shop, and a decorative fire lookout tower.
Hollywood Land is inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s. It includes attractions based on film, television, theater and a subsection called Hollywood Studios, which is designed to appear as an active studio backlot. Found within that subsection is the 3D film Mickey's PhilharMagic and the Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! attraction, a dark ride based on the characters from Disney·Pixar's Monsters, Inc. The 2000-seat Hyperion Theater located in the center of Hollywood Land presents Frozen – Live at the Hyperion.
Disney Junior – Live on Stage! opened on March 25, 2011, and has featured stage productions such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Its final day of performance was April 9, 2017. It was replaced by Disney Junior Dance Party, which opened on May 26, 2017, and most recently features Mickey and the Roadster Racers, Doc McStuffins, Vampirina, and The Lion Guard.
The restroom facilities in the district are designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright's Storer House, located in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles. The stamped concrete structure is typical of Wright's pioneering design.
Avengers Campus is inspired by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, featuring attractions based on characters originating from Marvel Comics and appearing in MCU media. The area is anchored around an Avengers campus located on the former restricted grounds of a Stark Industries and Strategic Scientific Reserve complex. Attractions and restaurants include Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!, Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, the Ancient Sanctum, and the Pym Test Kitchen. The area opened on June 4, 2021 on the former site of A Bug's Land, after its June 2020 opening was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cars Land spans 12 acres (49,000 m2) and contains three attractions. The largest attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, is a dark ride that utilizes the technology of Epcot's Test Track. Based on Pixar's Cars films, the ride begins with a scenic drive through the mountains, then enters a show building, where the vehicle finds its way into the town of Radiator Springs and gets a race briefing from Doc Hudson; the ride ends with an outdoor, side-by-side dueling race to the Comfy Caverns Motor Court. With a budget of an estimated US$200 million, it is the most expensive theme park ride ever built.
The other attractions at Cars Land are family attractions with smaller height requirements: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree opened with Cars Land in 2012. Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters opened on March 7, 2016, and replaced Luigi's Flying Tires.
Cars Land is designed as a life-size model and near-exact replica of the town of Radiator Springs from the Cars films. The land includes several dining and shopping venues. The district serves as a connection between Pacific Wharf, Hollywood Land, and A Bug's Land. Construction began in July 2009 and opened to the public on June 15, 2012.
In September 2017, Cars Land received Halloween decorations during Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort. Two Cars Land attractions, Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters and Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, became Luigi's Honkin' Haul-O-Ween and Mater's Graveyard JamBOOree.
A Bug's Land
A Bug's Land (stylized "a bug's land") was seen from the point of view of Flik, the inventor ant from the Disney·Pixar film A Bug's Life, where oversized human items were scattered throughout. It featured Flik's Fun Fair (a collection of themed, family and child-friendly attractions such as Flik's Flyers, Francis' Ladybug Boogie, Tuck & Roll's Drive 'em Buggies, Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, and Dot's Puddle Park). It opened as the park's first expansion in 2002 to expand the park's family-friendly attractions. The land was built around the existing attraction It's Tough to Be a Bug!, a 3D film based on A Bug's Life, which opened with the park in 2001.
Unlike Disneyland Park (with the exception of Club 33 in New Orleans Square and Oga's Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge), Disney California Adventure serves beer, wine and cocktails throughout its restaurants, stands and food kiosks. The park also hosts the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, an annual event featuring a number of themed kiosks, each featuring food and beverages from a particular aspect of California cuisine.
- At the Hyperion Theater, guests can see Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, an hour-long musical version of the film of the same name. The show uses projections and special effects to create the fictional kingdom of Arendelle with Anna, Elsa, Olaf and Kristoff. Frozen – Live at the Hyperion at the Hyperion Theater opened to the public on May 27, 2016.
- Disney Junior Dance Party! is an opportunity for the younger guests to see Disney Junior characters, such as Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins and Timon.
- Five and Dime is a traveling street show featuring the musical talents of Dime and her five bandmates. They can be seen driving through Hollywood Land in their 1920s-style car.
- Red Car Newsboys is Disney California Adventure's lively street show featuring singing, dancing newsboys, and a surprise character visit.
- World of Color is nighttime water and light spectacular which transforms Paradise Bay into a water canvas. The 22-minute water show features scenes from popular Disney and Pixar films and can be used with the Made with Magic ears and accessories. During the holiday season, a holiday version of the show is offered.
- Paint the Night Parade came to Disney California Adventure after being in Disneyland.
- Anna and Elsa's Royal Welcome is one of the more popular character meet-and-greets in the park. The two sisters of Frozen, plus Olaf, and occasionally Kristoff, meet guests daily at Disney Animation.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) characters Captain America, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther currently meet guests daily in Avengers Campus. Additionally, Thor, Loki, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Doctor Strange occasionally meet guests in Avengers Campus, either at designated meet locations or as roaming encounters. Groot (Marvel Cinematic Universe) also meets guests daily in front of the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! attraction and sometimes joins Star-Lord and Gamora during the Guardians of the Galaxy - Awesome Dance-Off! daily street show performances.
- Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Sulley, Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and other Pixar characters meet guests at various locations within Pixar Pier.
- The Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, inaugurated in 2006, suspended in 2011 and revived in 2016 after a five-year hiatus, is an annual festival celebrating the cuisine, wine, and beer of California, taking place during spring. It ended abruptly after two weeks in 2020 and was canceled for 2021, both as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Disney Festival of Holidays is a festival inspired by cultural traditions, taking place in winter. The event returned for its second year during the 2017 holiday season, and added new entertainment and dining options. The event did not take place for the 2020 winter season due to the closure of the park as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Lunar New Year Festival (originally begun as the Happy Lunar New Year Celebration at Disneyland) is a festival first held at Disney California Adventure in 2013. The festival celebrates the Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean cultures and includes Asian-inspired foods and a processional, taking place in January and/or February. The event is on hiatus for 2021 due to the closure of the park as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similar Disney parks
California Adventure rides
- List of Disney California Adventure attractions
- List of former Disney California Adventure attractions
- Rail transport in Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
- List of amusement parks
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