Disney's California Adventure

From Academic Kids

Disney's California Adventure is a Disney theme park in Anaheim, California, adjacent to Disneyland and part of the larger Disneyland Resort. It opened on February 8, 2001.

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The new park has a California theme. Just inside the entrance, the Disneyland Monorail passes over a miniature Golden Gate Bridge; various areas of the park were designed to recreate different California landmarks. The overall intention was to create a more adult-themed park than Disneyland, including faster, scarier rides; shows designed more for an adult audience; and a large number of restaurants. Unlike the Disneyland park, alcohol is served in California Adventure.

Disney's original plan was to build WestCOT, a west coast iteration of EPCOT, upon land which was formerly Disneyland's parking lot. Disney's California Adventure was built on that land instead. Parking is now available in a space-saving multi-level parking structure a short distance away. The new parking structure is one of the largest in the world, but is still seemingly inadequate to cope with peak-season crowds.


Park Layout

Paradise Pier

Paradise Pier is the part of the park that looks most impressive from a distance, thanks to its large and colorful rides. Divided out into two areas, the first a California boardwalk themed based off popular costal boardwalks like the Santa Monica Pier or the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, with a very large ferris wheel (the Sun Wheel), a large rollercoaster California Screamin’), a big shot style attraction (Maliboomer), and the Orange Stinger (a classic swing spinner attraction within a themed shell that resembles an orange). The second themed area of Paradise Pier is the Route 66 area, a desert road area that starts with Paradise Pier's crashed fireboat the S.S. rustworthy. Notable attractions are the Jumpin' Jellyfish, Golden Zephyr, and Mulholland Madness.

Golden State

This "land" allows for guests to experience the Golden State of California as it is in real-life. It is further divided into three sub-lands (Condor Flats, Redwood Creek, and the Pacific Wharf).

Condor Flats

The aviation-themed area, Condor Flats features the flight simulator Soarin’ over California simulated hang-glider ride. It is also a popular favorite for visitors.

Grizzly Peak Recreational Area

A wilderness/forested area, Grizzly Peak Recreational Area features Grizzly River Run a fast-paced river rapids ride around Grizzly Peak, similar to other river rapids rides found in other local parks such as Knott's and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Grizzly River Run (a whitewater rapids style ride), which The Travel Channel claims is currently the fastest, largest, and tallest rapid ride in the world. The attraction currently holds the record for the highest drop in the world for this type of attraction, nearly 30 feet. Nearby is the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail a interactive playground area and amphitheater featuring characters from Disney's Brother Bear as well as a special entrance to Disney's Grand Californian Hotel.

Pacific Warf

Pacific Wharf, based on Monterey's Cannery Row area, especially as depicted in John Steinbeck's novels (but also resembling San Francisco's Fishermen's Wharf). Pacific Wharf contains a couple of restaurants, along with a beer truck and Margarita stand, plus a Mission tortilla factory (which features peep-shows on how tortillas were once made, and working corn and flower tortilla machines), and a Boudin sourdough bakery (which has nearly the entire bakery visible behind glass), with Rosie O'Donnell and Colin Mochrie as video tour guides.

Hollywood Pictures Backlot

There is also a Hollywood Pictures Backlot area styled to appear as Hollywood streets and movie studios, with Hollywood-themed attractions. A copy of the Tower of Terror attraction from Walt Disney World's Disney-MGM Studios opened in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot in 2004.

A Bug's Land

Featuring Flik's Fun Fair and the Bountiful Valley Farm, based on the Disney-Pixar film A Bug's Life, opened in 2003, and offers kid-friendly rides sorely lacking from DCA's initial roster.

Initial lack of success

Disney opened the park with high hopes, but the opening day's crowds were far below predictions. Although anticipation had been high prior to the park's opening, bad word-of-mouth from early visitors on preview days and from the local media discouraged visitors.

In 2003, Disney's California Adventure saw a 13% increase in attendance and was the only amusement park in America to see a double-digit gain. In 2004, the park had a 6% increase with 5.6 million visitors. Partial credit for the increase may go to the new Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction in Hollywood Pictures Backlot. While these numbers are encouraging, Disney's own internal tracking reveals that the amount of return customers is still far below that of it's sister parks.


A large number of people, including quite prominently Internet columnist Al Lutz, have criticised the park in general as well as specific aspects of it.


One complaint is that the theme is not a powerful one, and furthermore not one that interests Californians - after all, they live in the real state of California, and a park about California in California is not interesting to them. Since Californians account for a very large proportion of visitors to Disneyland (60%, according to research) this is a major drawback.

The park, however, was not meant to replicate the real California (it's a stylized rendition of it) nor was it designed with the local guest in mind. The idea to expand Disneyland into a resort was to bring in more out of state tourists and/or to have them stay an extra day in Anaheim. It was to be a living showcase of California past and present, for tourists who have come to the Golden State.

Allied to this is the criticism that the park is "not Disney enough." Rather than capitalise on the success of Disneyland itself and Disney's successful products, very little of the park (especially at opening time) had much to do with Disney themes. Similar criticisms were said about Epcot, Disney's second Florida park, when it opened in 1982.

The imagineers who designed Disney's California Adventure had a limited theme to work with. This quickly used up all ideas. The history of Calfornia is set in stone. Design creativity was limited at risk of being historically inaccurate. Compare this to Disneyland's design, where imagineers were allowed to create practically anything they could imagine. Children and the child in adults prefer the fantastic in a Disney theme park, over historic realism. The original WestCOT idea would have been a broader theme, allowing for more imagineer creativity.

When Walt Disney built Disneyland, he didn't want a carnival atmosphere, such as the carnival atmosphere at Paradise Pier. Walt's purpose for Disneyland was a park where the parents and kids could ride together, to spend time with each other, thereby bringing families together. Disney's California Adventure's rides with height limits don't allow children to ride, while the kiddie rides don't allow parents to ride.

Emphasis on shops and food, not on attractions

Disney's California Adventure is also rather light on rides and attractions in general, and a number of the rides that have been created are limited in their capacity (chiefly Soarin' over California). Disney management insisted that the park be built to a budget 20% under what the firm would have previously considered adequate, and it is the view of detractors that the savings have come largely out of the 'non profit making' parts of the park -- the attractions, in other words. In their view, Disney spent much more time and effort on the shops and restaurants than they did on the attractions, though the latter is most peoples' main reason to come.

On the other hand, Disney's California Adventure does have as many or more attractions than other Disney theme parks around the country such as Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios in Florida (both are several years older than Disneyland's second gate). It was the inevitable comparison to its neighbor, the 60-attractions filled Disneyland, that makes California Adventure's offerings seem minuscule since it offers only about half as many attractions.


The admission price was highly criticized upon launch. Disney boldly charged separate admission for Disney's California Adventure, at a rate equal to the Disneyland entry fee. To many guests, the price (then $43) was better spent on the larger, more attraction-loaded, and proven formula just across the entry plaza -- the original Disneyland. California Adventure seemed to offer less value for money than the original park.

Disney also announced that its guests who held Annual Passports for the Disneyland park would not get entry to its new park. A Two-Park Passport would be available, but at a much higher rate. In fact, Disney suspended sales of all its annual passes just before the opening, and did not restart sales for three months. It was widely rumored that Disney were planning to either scrap the popular Annual Passport program altogether, or to withdraw single-park passes and force everyone to buy more expensive two-park passes.

With the unpopularity of Disney's California Adventure obvious soon after launch, none of this took place. The price differential between single park and two-park passes eroded, and eventually Disney merged the two, at the lower price, effectively giving entry to California Adventure to annual pass holders for no additional charge.

In addition, the price for entrance has been drastically reduced, especially for California residents in special promotions, plus offering two "free" days to visitors from around the world planning to buy at least a three-day ticket.


Unlike the original Disneyland, the only mode of transportation around the new park is on foot. There are no buses, trains, monorails, or vehicles of any kind available to the public. (The Disneyland Monorail passes over California Adventure, but does not stop there.) The park itself is actually quite smaller than Disneyland, and covering it by foot is no difficulty.

Guests staying at the Disney's Grand Californian Hotel have their own exclusive entrance to the park. A special entrance has been closed that used to be available to the guests that stay at the Paradise Pier Hotel.


A large number of the original attractions have been found by many to be disappointing. This included most of the attractions and restaurants in the Hollywood Backlot area. Many folks have been turned off by the Paradise Pier area, as it seems to belong more in a Six Flags park than a Disney park, with its carnival games and all the stucco in the area. Although fun, the attractions at Paradise Pier have been criticized as lackluster and generic. (In a number of cases, the Paradise Pier attractions are quite literally generic: "Mulholland Madness" is in fact an off-the-shelf Wild Mouse roller coaster with minimal themeing, and a number of the others are equally standard. At the same time, though, given that Paradise Pier is themed as a sort of sanitized, nostalgic version of an old-style seaside amusement park, the generic nature of some of the rides is itself part of the area's themeing.

One of the original Hollywood Backlot attractions was "SuperStar Limo," which was the only dark ride in the entire park. Its plot revolved around the guest being a celebrity who had just arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, and who is taken for a wild ride through Hollywood by an obnoxious limousine driver. The humor was based on inside jokes ("Madame Leota" from the Haunted Mansion makes a cameo appearance) and obsessed fans and paparazzi, and much of it very likely went over the heads of many guests. The attraction was criticized for crude sets and characters, and was quite probably the very first attraction in the park to close. It was open for less than a year, and as of 2005, a new Monsters, Inc. attraction is being constructed in its place.

The Hyperion Theatre, also in the Hollywood Backlot area, initially opened with a show called "Steps in Time." Contrary to the implications of its title, it was neither based on Mary Poppins, nor any sort of Disney retrospective; it was generally regarded as a "Waste of Time", and quickly closed, to be replaced first with an abbreviated version of the "Blast" stage show, and then by the current Aladdin show.

Nothing for small children

The park as first built had few attractions geared towards younger children, surprising those used to Disneyland's child-centric attitude. Currently, all of the attractions built for small children can be found in the a bug's land (intentionally uncapitalized) area. While on one hand this makes life easier for tired parents or grandparents who don't want to have to walk very far between attractions that their kids can ride, it's very inconvenient for parents who wish to experience more than just one tiny area of the park.

Changes since opening

Since opening, a large number of changes have been made to the park. A large proportion of the attractions and restaurants in the Hollywood Backlot area have been closed, and some re-opened with less-California, more-Disney themes. Most of the farm area at the center has been rethemed upon the Fall 2002 opening of a nearby area for young children themed around Pixar's A Bug's Life movie (distributed and marketed by Disney.)

To celebrate the growing popularity of stage shows in California, the park added Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular to the glamorous Hyperion Theatre in its Hollywood area. The show has become a favorite for many, with a script and even original lyrics that are high above the standard theme park fare. The effects are also impressive; children love to see Aladdin and the princess take flight right over their heads on the flying carpet. This type of show was such a success that a Snow White musical on the same scope was commissioned for Disneyland, is is in performance now.

A number of restaurants operated by outside firms have closed or been taken over by Disney as their sponsors pulled out. One example is Avalon Cove on Paradise Pier, which was once operated by Wolfgang Puck; after he declined to renew his contract, Disney converted it into Ariel's Grotto, a family restaurant where kids can dine with characters.

In an attempt to drum up business, Disney has relaunched the well-known Main Street Electrical Parade, formerly at Disneyland, as Disney's Electrical Parade in California Adventure. This did not find favor among many Disney fans, who had been promised that the parade had been retired permanently (and who had purchased expensive commemorative items based on its permanent retirement, which were replicas of the parade's twinkling lights). However, guests generally welcomed the return of this thirty-year-old "California Classic," and still line up to see it.

The recently opened Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction
The recently opened Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction

On May 5, 2004, Disney's California Adventure opened the Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror attraction in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of the park. This attraction is similar to the ride of the same name in Disney-MGM Studios in Florida. This is a thrill ride, based on the premise of an elevator car falling free when the cable breaks. On its first weekend, it pushed Disney's California Adventure attendance to its one of its highest point since the park preview days.

As part of the Happiest Homecoming on Earth, Disney's California Adventure sent a copy of Soarin' Over California to Epcot in Florida, dropping the Over California from the title. Also coming as part of the celebration is the brand new Monsters, Inc. dark ride called Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sully to the Rescue, which is based on the tried and true Disneyland dark ride style. And in exchange for Soarin' at Epcot, DCA will get Turtle Talk With Crush, an interactive 3-D movie with live voice feedback, where Crush the turtle, from Finding Nemo, answers your questions.

Still, Disney's California Adventure has yet to match the popularity of the other American Disney theme parks. This could be partly blamed on California Adventure's lack of promotion in the east coast. California Adventure has been rarely advertised on television since it's opening, taking a backseat to Walt Disney World (which is advertised the most), and Disneyland (which isn't advertised as much, but still advertised more so than California Adventure). The theme park has also yet to become a piece of American pop culture like Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The low attendance was mocked on an episode of The Simpsons in 2003, a sign of the public's apparent apathy towards California Adventure.

Still, Disney's California Adventure has only been around for 4 years, so there is still the possibility that the park will become as successful, and apart of pop culture like its sister parks in the future.

External links

Parks and resorts of The Walt Disney Company:
Disneyland Resort: Disneyland | Disney's California Adventure | Downtown Disney
Walt Disney World Resort: Magic Kingdom | Epcot | Disney-MGM Studios
Disney's Animal Kingdom | Downtown Disney
Tokyo Disney Resort: Tokyo Disneyland | Tokyo DisneySea | Ikspiari
Disneyland Resort Paris: Disneyland | Walt Disney Studios | Disney Village
Golf Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort (Coming Soon): Disneyland | Disneytown
Disney Cruise Line: Disney Wonder | Disney Magic | Castaway Cay

Template:Noteworthy Amusement Parksfr:Disney's California Adventure


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