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December 3, 2012

Visit Disneyland - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


I recently spent five days at the Disneyland Resort in California. It had been four years since my last visit and I needed to check out all the new additions to Disney California Adventure. While there, I started to think about all of my Walt Disney World readers who have never vacationed at this wonderful resort and decided to devote an entire article to convincing you to visit.


Disneyland Main Entrance


I know that many of you visit WDW every two to three years. I know others of you make a yearly trip to Orlando. And there is still another group of you that visits multiple times a year. You all love the magic and the wonderful experiences that can be found at the flagship of Disney resorts. Yet many of you have never visited the Disneyland Resort - and I simply don't understand why not.

I believe that many of you read my articles because I provide you with a Disney "fix" to hold you over until your next visit. But others of you enjoy my blogs for the details and trivia that I share about WDW. You thrive on the history of the parks and hotels. But in many ways, WDW pales in comparison when contrasted with the history and details that can be found at Disneyland. After all, this is where it all started. This is the park that Walt built. And even if Disneyland has changed dramatically since his death in 1966, Walt's mark on the park can still be seen if you know where to look.

If you're a regular reader, you know that I often start my articles about WDW with a look back at Disneyland. That's because there wouldn't be a WDW today if there wasn't first a Disneyland. Walt stated that it all started with a mouse, but the other 10 Disney theme parks around the world (soon to be 11 others) all started with this magnificent park in Anaheim.

The only reason I don't do in-depth articles about Disneyland is that I don't live nearby and can't do the in-person research and picture taking necessary to write a comprehensive piece. But believe me, if I lived nearby or could visit more regularly, I'd be covering this fantastic spot in much greater detail than I do today.

After my visit to Disneyland four years ago, I wrote an article comparing the Magic Kingdom to Disneyland. Not the resorts, just the two parks. In my humble opinion, Disneyland wins hands down. If you'd like to take a look at this blog, click here. Mind you, a few things have changed since I wrote this piece, but not significantly enough to change my opinion. Disneyland is the better park!

Although Disneyland is physically smaller than the Magic Kingdom, it has significantly more attractions. I took a look at the most current guide maps for both parks. Not counting character Meet-&-Greets (which both parks have), Disneyland has 48 attractions to the Magic Kingdom's 31. You can see everything offered at the Magic Kingdom in one day. It takes a day and a half (or two) to experience everything at Disneyland.

Another thing fun for you WDW visitors is attraction comparisons. (See my previous article.) It's wonderful to watch "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" and realize that this was the humble beginnings of "Hall of Presidents." Although the same attraction, "it's a small world" is very different both inside and out at the two parks. And not only is "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" located in a completely different section of Frontierland, they run mirror image to one another. Personally, I revel in these differences and think many of you would too.


Hall of Presidents


Disneyland also offers a number of attractions not found at the Magic Kingdom. Wouldn't you love to experience the "Matterhorn Bobsleds," "Storybook Land Canal Boats," and the "Sailing Ship Columbia?"


Matterhorn Bobsleds

Storybook Land Canal Boats

Sailing Ship Columbia


And how about reliving some of your old favorites like the "Submarine Voyage" (updated to include Nemo and Friends), "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," and the "Davey Crockett Explorer Canoes?"


Submarine Voyage

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Davey Crockett Explorer Canoes


You've heard the old adage, "Good things come in small packages." Well that's Disneyland. It definitely has fewer acres than the Magic Kingdom. Walt often spoke of the "blessing of size" when talking about WDW. But bigger isn't always better. Being a smaller park, the Imagineers have had to be more innovative in order to fit everything in. And this gives the park intimacy. I often tell people that (metaphorically) Disneyland wraps its arms around you and hugs you. The Magic Kingdom just says "welcome."

Of course, not only is Disneyland smaller than the Magic Kingdom, the entire Disneyland Resort is smaller than Walt Disney World. But this works to your advantage. The Disneyland Resort's second park, Disney California Adventure, is literally across a plaza from Disneyland. Park hopping is a breeze. There is no need to take a monorail, bus, boat, or car to go from one park to another. Just a short jaunt and you're there.


Plaza


I like the "new" Disney California Adventure - a lot! The $1.1 billion invested to refurbish this park has paid off in spades. It is now worthy to be called a "Disney" park. However, I'm not going to go into detail about DCA in this week's article. There is so much I want to talk about in regards to this rejuvenated park that I'm going to devote an entire article to it next week. Disney California Adventure is worth your attention.

Something to keep in mind about the Disneyland Resort, it caters to a local audience whereas WDW caters primarily to out-of-state visitors. Because of this, the hours of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are more erratic. They might open at 7am, 8am, 9am, or 10am on any given day. In addition, during the school year, Monday through Thursday is significantly slower than Friday through Sunday.

The Disneyland Resort's version of Downtown Disney can be found at the doorsteps of the two theme parks.


Downtown Disney


I like Disneyland's version of this shopping and eating mecca better than WDW's for several reasons. First, it was built all at once rather than in three segments (Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and Westside). This gives the area continuity that the Florida version lacks. Everything seems to flow better.

Another thing I like about Disneyland's Downtown Disney is the larger selection of non-Disney stores and merchandise. With a few exceptions, all Disney souvenirs are contained in one store, World of Disney. The rest of the arcade is filled with all sorts of interesting shops offering a wide array of tantalizing goodies.


Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney


Besides some of your favorite Disney World restaurants like Rainforest Café and Earl of Sandwich, Downtown Disney Disneyland offers a number of restaurants not found at its Florida cousin. Some of these include, Catal Restaurant, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria, Goofy's Kitchen, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, and Tortilla Jo's.

At night, a number of musical groups line the thoroughfare, offering live entertainment to those passing by. This is something else missing at the Florida Downtown Disney.

That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow as I'll be discussing the three Disney Anaheim hotels and I'll continue my efforts to get you to visit the Disneyland Resort.


December 4, 2012

Visit Disneyland - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Welcome to Part Two of my "Visit Disneyland" blog. Yesterday I briefly discussed Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Today I'm going to cover the three Disney hotels located in Anaheim.

When people are planning a trip to WDW they often ask me where to stay. My answer is always the same. Stay at a Disney hotel if at all possible. I don't care if it's a deluxe, moderate, or budget resort. Just stay on property. That way you will be surrounded by the magic 24/7 and be eligible for Disney perks - like Extra Magic Hours. My advice is the same for the Disneyland Resort - if you can afford it. You see, all three hotels here fall into the deluxe category with prices to match. Let's first discuss Disney's Grand Californian, the flagship hotel of the three (and the most expensive).


Disney's Grand Californian

Disney's Grand Californian


If you like the Wilderness Lodge at WDW, you will like the Grand Californian at the Disneyland Resort. Designed in the early 20th century Arts and Crafts style of architecture, this hotel showcases the elements of nature with hand-crafted stone and woodwork that blend with rustic charm and elegant design. The lobby is especially majestic and welcoming.


Grand Californian Lobby


This hotel opened in 2001 as part of a major expansion to the Disneyland Resort that also included Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney. The Grand Californian has 1,019 rooms of which 48 are Disney Vacation Club 2-bedroom units that can be split into 1-bedroom and studio accommodations. The Grand Californian also has its own private entrance into Disney California Adventure and is literally part of the Downtown Disney complex with many rooms overlooking this shopping district.


DCA Private Entrance

Grand Californian Downtown Disney


People often ask me to name my favorite WDW restaurant. I always answer Flying Fish and Citricos. Well in my opinion, Napa Rose at the Grand Californian has both of these beat. Besides providing top-notch service and excellent cuisine, Napa Rose offers an unsurpassed selection of wine. The chef, Andrew Sutten, was hired away from the Auberge du Soleil resort in Napa Valley to create an all new experience at this restaurant's inception and he continues to work his magic to this day. Over the years, Napa Rose has won numerous awards. For example, in the 2008 Zagat Los Angeles/Southern California Restaurants Guide, Napa Rose scored 27 points in food and service and 26 for decor (both out of a possible 30) giving it the highest score in the region

The décor of Napa Rose continues the Craftsman style of architecture and offers a beautiful dining room and an exhibition kitchen-view counter. One wall of the restaurant features floor to ceiling windows that overlook Grizzly Peak at Disney California Adventure. I can't recommend this restaurant enough for those of you who truly enjoy an elegant evening.

The Grand Californian is the one Disneyland Resort hotel that is truly comparable to the hotels found at WDW. It has a definite theme inside and out that captures the imagination. This is a first class establishment.


Napa Rose


Let's next take a look at the Disneyland Hotel. Located at the west end of Downtown Disney, this hotel features three high-rise towers. Originally built, owned, and operated by the Wrather Corporation, this resort is now under the Disney umbrella (since 1988) and has received a number of makeovers over the decades. During the last three years, the hotel underwent another refurbishment and today it offers sophisticated accommodations with Disney whimsy thrown in where ever possible.


Disneyland Hotel

Disneyland Hotel

Disneyland Hotel


Part of the playfulness of this resort can be found at the newly constructed pool. The water slides have been cleverly designed to pass through replicas of the original Disneyland monorails while a facsimile of the original Disneyland sign towers overhead.


Disneyland Hotel Swimming Pool


More whimsy can be found at Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar. As the name implies, this watering hole is themed after the Jungle Cruise and the Tiki Room - and is a lot of fun.


Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar


The concoctions presented here are good for a few laughs. Take a look at some of the offerings listed on the drink menu.

Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum: Welcome to our tropical hideaway, you lucky people you! If you have one of these starting right away you may be ordering two.

Mosquito Mojito: Trading of the ingredients of this refreshing antidote for malaria didn't cost Sam an arm and a leg. But it did cost him a mint.

Hippopotomai-Tai: Dare to enter this hippo pool with.. Bang! Bang! Two shots of rum! Don't worry this drink is only dangerous when you start to wiggle your ears!

Although Imagineer Joe Rohde was not responsible for the design of Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar, he has been immortalized here in the form of an African mask. In addition, Disney World's Little Orange Bird can be seen perched on an overhead shelf.


Joe Rohde

Little Orange Bird


For you beef lovers, the Disneyland Hotel also offers a first class restaurant. Steakhouse 55 is an outstanding eatery that ranks high on the Zagat scale. In 2012 it received a score of 25 for food, 24 for décor, and 26 for service (out of a possible 30).


Steakhouse 55

Steakhouse 55


The last hotel I'm going to discuss is Paradise Pier. This hostelry is the least expensive of the three and located the furthest from Downtown Disney and the theme parks. But that doesn't mean it's not worthy of your consideration.


Paradise Pier Hotel

Paradise Pier Hotel


This 15-story hotel was built by a Japanese concern and opened in 1984. It was originally named Emerald of Anaheim. (The hotel has a 13th floor as the Japanese aren't superstitious about such things.) The name was later changed to the Pan Pacific Hotel in 1989. In December 1995, Disney purchased the hotel and changed its name to Disneyland Pacific Hotel. In 2001, the hotel was renamed again to Paradise Pier to coincide with the Paradise Pier section of their new park, Disney California Adventure. The exterior of the hotel was also altered to give it a "Coney Island" appearance to help it blend in with the section of the park it overlooked.


Paradise Pier Hotel


Of the three Disney hotels, this one has the least "Disney" feel about it. The Imagineers have tried to infuse magic into this resort, but it really can't compare to the Disneyland Hotel or Disney's Grand Californian. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider staying here.


Goofy in the Lobby


Although the walk to the theme parks and Downtown Disney is a little further, it offers the most reasonable prices along with Extra Magic Hours, a real perk when visiting Disney California Adventure and Cars Land these days. In addition, the rooms on the east side of the building offer spectacular views of DCA. Note, these next two pictures were taken before DCA was remodeled but it will give you an idea of what's in store for you here.


DCA from Paradise Pier

DCA from Paradise Pier


I have not begun to cover all of the amenities offered at the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, or Paradise Pier. Each resort would require an entire blog. However, all of these hotels offer great service and first class accommodations. The beds are comfortable, the pillows are big, soft, and many (unlike WDW), the towels are large and fluffy, and the toilet paper is quality.

All three hotels have swimming pools, shops, and multiple eateries. In addition, they all offer character meals so your children can have some one-on-one time with their favorite Disney friends.

Another good thing about these three hotels is that they're Stacy-free. When watching the Disney Resort channel on your hotel room TV, there is no annoying Stacy counting down the "must see" attractions. Instead, you get a simple voiceover by a pleasant sounding gentleman, calmly explaining all there is to do and see at the Disneyland Resort. This alone should make you want to book a trip to Anaheim.

For those of you who can't afford a Disney hotel, there are around a hundred hotels and motels in the Disney area available in all price ranges. Most offer frequent bus service to and from the parks. In fact, in order to accommodate all of these other resorts, Disney has built a special loading and unloading area for taxis and buses. Many of these non-Disney resorts are within walking distance of the parks.


Drop-off Area


On my most recent trip to the Disneyland Resort, I did not rent a car. Instead, I used the Disneyland Express bus service that runs between the Los Angeles International Airport and the Disney area. This service is operated by Grey Line, not Disney (so there is a reasonable charge for the service). However, the Disney resorts are given priority as their guests are dropped off here first and picked up last to minimize your time in the bus. I have to say, I was extremely happy with the service and would definitely use it again.


Okay. I know what you're thinking. You're saying to yourself, "Jack, you've convinced us that the Disneyland Resort is worth a visit, but you say that it only takes three days to see the parks. So what are we supposed to do with the rest of our week?"

Southern California is one of the key tourist destinations in the country. It has enough man-made and natural attractions to keep you busy for months. Alamo Car Rental is located at Downtown Disney and day trips abound. Here is just a sampling of things to see and do within an hour or so drive from the park:

Knott's Berry Farm
Universal Studios Hollywood
Legoland
Nixon Library
Long Beach Harbor - for Catalina Island
Queen Mary
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
Hollywood Sightseeing Tours
Newport Beach - for whale watching
La Brea Tar Pits
Griffith Planetarium/Observatory
Venice Beach
Huntington Library
J. Paul Getty Museum
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Olvera Street
Aquarium of the Pacific
Raging Waters

If you're willing to drive an hour and a half or two hours, here are few more sights worth your time:

Ronald Reagan Library
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Safari Park
Sea World
Six Flags Magic Mountain

Visit the Disneyland Resort. If you love Disney history and details, you will be glad you took my advice and took the plunge. I'm not saying you should abandon WDW. After all, the Florida resort is a tough act to follow. But in my opinion, the Disneyland Resort is a wonderful encore.

Once you've got your feet wet with a second Disney resort, maybe I'll be able to convince you to visit Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland. The more Disney parks you visit, the more details you'll discover and you'll see a bigger picture emerge.

Check back next week when I'll discuss the history of Disney California Adventure. And the week after that I'll be comparing the "old" DCA to the "new."


December 10, 2012

The History of Disney California Adventure

Jack Spence Masthead


Last week I wrote a piece trying to persuade those of you who have never visited the Disneyland Resort to give it a try rather than continually visiting Walt Disney World year after year. In that piece, I pretty much omitted discussing Disney California Adventure (DCA) as there is so much new in this park that I wanted to devote several articles to it. So here we go with a story of a Disney park that went from failure to success.

Before we get started, I want to share a small fact that can cause confusion. The park's name was changed from Disney's (possessive) California Adventure to Disney (non-possessive) California Adventure as part of the park's transformation. For simplicity sake, I'm going to use the new, non-possessive name for continuity throughout this article whether or not the time frame calls for it.

As I so often do, I must lay a little ground work before I discuss DCA.

I have often said that Michael Eisner was the best thing to happen to the Disney Company during his first ten years of service. When he and Frank Wells came on board as CEO and CFO, the company was foundering and on the verge of being chopped up and sold in pieces due to hostile takeover attempts. Eisner and Wells saved the company. This dynamic duo functioned much like Walt and Roy. Eisner was the creative genius and Wells the financial guru.


Michael Eisner & Frank Wells


One of their early endeavors was to plan and build Euro Disneyland (now Disneyland Paris). This would be an ambitious project that would include a theme park, a shopping district, six hotels, and a campground. No expense was spared when designing and building this resort. All Eisner and Wells had to do to justify spending so much money was to look at the success of Tokyo Disneyland to realize Europe was another success story waiting to happen - or so they thought.

Each aspect of the project would be innovative -- especially the theme park. At Disneyland Paris the Imagineers were able to blend the charm of Disneyland California with the size of the Magic Kingdom to create a fantastic park like nothing seen before. Intricate details and fascinating elements were crammed into every nook and corner. The finished project was magnificent beyond compare. In my opinion, Disneyland Paris ranks second only after Tokyo DisneySea as the most beautiful of the Disney parks.


Disneyland Paris


Unfortunately, when Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, Europe was in the midst of a recession. In addition, there really wasn't a need for six hotels with only one theme park. Paris was merely a 30 minute train ride away and many visitors made the City of Lights their base camp and commuted to and from the park. Even though the theme park was well attended, the hotels were losing money. At one point, the loss was $1 million a day. However, with time and an infusion of cash from outside sources, Disneyland Paris was eventually turned around - but it took years.

Eisner learned his lesson well and from that point on, he became much more frugal with the company's purse strings. To further complicate and cloud Eisner's thinking, his partner Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter crash in1994 while returning from a ski vacation. No longer did Eisner have his friend and confidant to guide him through financial waters. This new, frugal attitude would play a significant role when it came time to build Disney California Adventure.

It's interesting to note, when Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005, the Disney Company only built two hotels. Disneyland Paris had taught them well.

Stepping back in time even further, we find ourselves at Disneyland California in 1954. Walt knew there needed to be some sort of lodging near his new park. Remember, at that time, most of Anaheim was covered in orange trees and there were very few options for overnight guests. But since all of Walt's capital was tied up in his park, he did not have the means to undertake the building of a motel/hotel. So he turned to his friend Jack Wrather to build a motor lodge next to Disneyland. With this deal, Wrather also owned the rights to the name "Disneyland Hotel."


Disneyland Hotel


When Eisner came to power, he realized that the Disney Company needed control of anything that carried the name Disney. So in 1984 he started negotiations to buy the Disneyland Hotel. It took five years, but eventually in 1989, a deal was struck. The Disney Company would buy all of the Wrather organization. This included the Queen Mary and Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, both located in Long Beach Harbor.


Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose


Shortly after the acquisition, Disney announced that they wanted to build a second theme park in Southern California. Two possible locations were mentioned. The first would be next to the newly acquired Queen Mary and would feature a park to be called DisneySea. The second proposed park would rise in Disneyland's parking lot and would feature a park to be called WestCOT.

This announcement pitted the cities of Long Beach and Anaheim against one another. Disney played them both to see which would offer the company the most lucrative deals and the most perks. I don't know if Disney ever really seriously considered Long Beach, but eventually Anaheim won out.

Once the dust settled, Disney quietly sold the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose. However, the plans for DisneySea did not go to waste. This park was eventually built adjacent to Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.


DisneySea


WestCOT was to be a West Coast version of Epcot that would even contain its own adaptation of Spaceship Earth. It was also to be the first Disney park to contain hotels within its boundaries. However, a number of obstacles for building this park proved insurmountable. Chiefly among these were local resident complaints and money. At an estimated budget of $3 billion, the price tag was unrealistic in lieu of the Disneyland Paris debacle. Another idea was needed.


WestCOT

WestCOT


To come up with a new concept, Eisner held a three-day executive retreat in Aspen, Colorado. After much discussion, he and his team settled on California Adventure, a park that would showcase the Golden State. It was estimated that the park could be built for a mere $650 million, a bargain compared to the $3 billion price tag for WestCOT.

Although the idea for a hotel within the borders of DCA never materialized, this idea was realized at Tokyo DisneySea with the MiraCosta Resort. Some will argue that the Grand Californian lies within DCA, but this is not true. It sits adjacent to the park, not within it. The MiraCosta is literally within the boundaries of Tokyo DisneySea.


MiraCosta


One of the first things Disney needed to do in order to build DCA was ready the parking lot for construction. But before they could do that, they needed to come up with somewhere else for guests to park. To that end, they built a multi-story parking garage at the north end of their property at the corner of West Street and Ball Road. The "Mickey and Friends" parking structure can hold over 10,000 vehicles.


Mickey and Friends Parking Structure


The next order of business was to relocate the high-voltage electrical towers that marched across the existing parking lot. These towers didn't present a problem when all you wanted to do was park cars beneath them, but you certainly couldn't build a theme park under them - both aesthetically and legally. Disney paid Southern California Edison a small fortune to reposition these towers to jog around DCA and the adjoining land across West Street where the Disneyland Hotel and the Paradise Pier Hotel are located.

This next picture was taken from the Disneyland Main Street Train Station looking south toward the parking lot. The old electrical towers are clearly visible. The second picture was taken from the cab of the monorail after the towers and the asphalt had been removed from the area. The Disneyland Hotel can be seen in the dead center of the picture.


High Voltage Towers

DCA Under Construction


The idea of a park that showcased California was not received well by the critics. Many argued, "Why build a park about California, in California, when you have the real thing at your doorstep." And from there the criticism only got worse.

When actual construction of the park began in 1997, word spread among the Disney websites of the day that Eisner and the Imagineers were buying "off-the-shelf" attractions from other companies. Then once the rides were delivered to DCA, they would be spruced up with a few Disney flourishes.

Disney's marketing team touted DCA as a magnificent park that would complement Disneyland. They predicted that guests would be turned away in the months immediately after opening and during spring break as the park would reach capacity early in the day.

Disney California Adventure officially opened on February 8, 2001. But the mind-blowing crowds did not materialize. Both the media and the early guests panned the park. They complained about the redundant "California" theme, no rides for young children, the lack of "E" ticket attractions, and the lack of a "Disney" ambiance. Although not something they could admit to the public, the Disney executives quickly came to realized that the deep budget cuts imposed on DCA had affected the park.

The average guest was smarter than Disney realized. People could easily see the difference between the magnificent Disneyland next door and the lackluster Disney California Adventure - which brought further complaints. Guests questioned why they should have to pay the same admission price for DCA as they did for Disneyland. However, to cut the admission price for DCA would be admitting that the park was a lesser attraction. This was a step the marketing team did not want to take. Something needed to be done to fix DCA. But unfortunately, much of these early fixes were simply Band-Aids placed on hemorrhaging wounds.

The first fix Disney implemented was "a bug's land" and area aimed at small children. Once again, Disney bought off-the-shelf rides and themed them with characters from the Disney/Pixar film "A Bugs Life." Although the rides filled the needs of very young children, they were not comparable to the dark rides found in Fantasyland. Guests were not impressed.


A Bugs Land

A Bug's Land


Soon after "a bug's land," Disney added the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" attraction that was already playing at Disney's Hollywood Studios. They converted the abysmal "Superstar Limo" attraction into "Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!." The show at the Hyperion Theater was revamped and improved. And in 2004 they finally added the first truly "Disney" E-ticket attraction, "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror." But overall, none of this had a significant effect on the park.

On March 13, 2005, Disney announced that Bob Iger would succeed Michael Eisner as CEO. Much would change with this new leadership.

On October 17, 2007, Iger announced a multi-year $1.1 billion expansion for DCA. The plan included modifications to the park's entrance, Paradise Pier, Golden State, and Hollywood Pictures Backlot. In addition, Sunshine Plaza would be transformed into Buena Vista Street and a whole new area, Cars Land, would be added to the park.

With the work complete, Disney California Adventure was rededicated on June 15, 2012. This rededication was Disney's way of acknowledging that they had goofed in the beginning and were ready to start anew.


DCA Dedication Plaque


A huge press event was held for the rededication and both guests and media personnel could see the difference. The massive crowds that never materialized at the park's original opening finally showed up this past summer. For the first time in history, DCA occasionally hosted more people than Disneyland on given days. The Disney Company had gone back to its core values and it showed. DCA was no longer an outcast stepchild, it was a full member of the Disney family.

Next week I will discuss Disney California Adventure in detail and show you some before and after photographs. I think you'll be amazed at the changes.


December 17, 2012

Disney California Adventure Part One of Six

Jack Spence Masthead


Last week I discussed the history of Disney California Adventure (DCA). I told you how this park came into existence and was panned by the critics and the general public. I also recounted how CEO Bob Iger committed $1.1 billion to the park and transformed it from an embarrassment to a success story. Today I will discuss the actual park, land by land, and show you side-by-side photographs of how this park was turned around. Let's start with the entrance.

As I mentioned last week, DCA was built on a tight budget. This was evident from the moment you approached the park. The only thing of interest in this area was the name CALIFORNIA spelled out in giant letters.


CALIFORNIA spelled out in giant letters


Flanking both sides of the turnstiles were two mosaic murals. One side represented Northern California and the other Southern California - a fact lost on most guests. In the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge could be seen.


DCA Entrance


The letters, mosaics, and bridge were arranged in such a way that if viewed from a distance, they would resemble a giant postcard advertising California. This fact was also lost on just about everyone.

In reality, the mosaics were very beautiful. But from a distance, their intricacy was lost and they simply looked like two-dimensional cutouts. Once guests got close enough to really see them, they had other, more important things on their minds - like getting to the rides. Thus, most people never really took the time to enjoy these pieces of art.


DCA Mosaics

DCA Mosaics

DCA Mosaics


The turnstiles were also unimpressive. Simple iron gates beneath a minimal structure greeted guest. It was uninspiring at best.


DCA Turnstiles


These less than stellar landmarks set the tone for your visit. There was nothing to really "wow" you before entering the gates. All entertainers know, you need to "grab" and impress the audience immediately if you want them to like the act.

To remedy the situation, the Imagineers revamped the entire entrance to DCA. Nothing of the old was kept. Now guests are greeted with a replica of the entrance to the old Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. This is the same design that greets guests at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.


Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles

New DCA Entrance

New DCA Entrance

DHS Entrance


Although almost all sections of DCA received some sort of upgrade or addition, the bulk of the money was spent building Cars Land and transforming Sunshine Plaza into Buena Vista Street. Let's start with Sunshine Plaza.

Sunshine Plaza was Disney California Adventure's version of Main Street. This was the first "land" guests encountered when entering the park. The two landmarks here were the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sun Icon.


Golden Gate Bridge

Sun Icon


The monorail that once cut across the Disneyland parking lot would now be passing along the north end of DCA. As relocating the monorail track would be prohibitively expensive, it was decided to build a bridge across Sunshine Plaza. And since the Golden Gate Bridge is often used as the symbol for California, this was the obvious choice for the monorail overpass.


Golden Gate Bridge and Monorail


Personally, I liked the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought it was fun and clever. However, it did not fit with the future theming of this area and had to be removed.

At the far end of Sunshine Plaza was the Sun Icon. This was supposed to be the "weenie" that drew guests into the park in the same way that Sleeping Beauty Castle draws guests down Main Street. Unfortunately, the Sun Icon did not promote the oohs and aahs that the Imagineers had hoped for. In fact, it was the butt of many jokes. Some liked to call it the Golden Hubcap. However, the Sun Icon did have one redeeming quality, a wave machine at its base. Using a computer to regulate the water, the motion was ever changing and displayed a number of different wave patterns. Sadly, most people missed this feature.


Sun Icon and Waterfall


I always had trouble with the Sun Icon being the park's weenie. I realize that the Imagineers were trying to convey that California has a wonderful climate and there is always "fun in the sun" to be had here. But California is the Golden State. Florida is the Sunshine State.

Along the main thoroughfare of Sunshine Plaza were a number of shops selling the typical Disney souvenirs and goods. Here, the "postcard" theme was continued as you were surrounded by larger-than-life postcards and other huge props. But once again, the designs look two-dimensional and cheap. The whole postcard idea was lost on most guests. The only shop exterior that exhibited any class was the Candy Store.


Sunshine Plaza

Sunshine Plaza

Sunshine Plaza


The one area of Sunshine Plaza that I felt was truly imaginative was a replica of the California Zephyr.


California Zephyr

California Zephyr


The California Zephyr was the name given to a passenger train route that ran between Chicago, Illinois and Oakland, California. The California Zephyr began service in 1949 and was operated jointly by three railroad companies. In its heyday, it was one of the most celebrated train rides in the United States.

At DCA, this famous train played host to two restaurants and a shop. Inside the engine and the sleek passenger cars were Baker's Field Bakery (a play on the California community of Bakersfield), Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream (a play on the city of Burbank), and Engine-Ears Toys. The number on the engine is 804-A. This was the designation of the final westbound train from Chicago that arrived in Oakland on March 20, 1970.


California Zephyr


Since Sunshine Plaza failed to inspire guests, it was one of the areas of DCA that would receive a complete makeover. In the spirit of Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland and Hollywood Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Sunshine Plaza would be transformed to resemble a real street. In this case, a street Walt might have encountered when he arrived in Hollywood in 1923. As the Golden Gate Bridge and the California Zephyr came into service in 1937 and 1949 respectively, they both would need to be removed. The new land/street would be called Buena Vista Street. This name comes from the address of the Disney Studios in Burbank, 500 S. Buena Vista Street.

All of the buildings in Sunshine Plaza were either radically redesigned or razed completely. In their place, a beautiful new community grew. And like its sister streets at other Disney parks, it is convincing and filled with details. Everywhere you turn you make a new discovery. Buena Vista Street also pays homage to Walt Disney with multiple references to this great man. No other Disney park begins to honor Walt with so much style, grace, and elegance as can be seen on Buena Vista Street.

Let's begin our journey down Buena Vista Street with a look at the flagpole. Here you'll find the Dedication-Rededication plaque. The fact that Disney felt it necessary to rededicate this park shows they believe this is a beginning of brighter days for Disney California Adventure.


Buena Vista Street

Dedication Plaque


Near the flag pole the Disney folks have buried a time capsule to be opened in 25 years (June 15, 2037).


Time Capsule


The first structure we'll take a look at is Oswald's, the local service station. As I'm sure you know, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was an early character of Walt's - a character he lost all rights to when he was legally outmaneuvered in 1928.


Oswald's

Oswald's


Next door is the Chamber of Commerce. This edifice houses Guest Relations in the same way City Hall does on Main Street at Disneyland.


Chamber of Commerce.jpg


On the corner we have the Los Feliz Five & Dime. The name "Los Feliz" refers to a neighborhood located in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. Portions of Buena Vista Street were modeled after this neighborhood as this was the location of Walt's original animation studio before moving to the nearby Silver Lake community and eventually to Burbank. This shop and all the others along Buena Vista Street sell the usual collection of Disney souvenirs, home goods, and clothing.


Los Feliz Five & Dime

Los Feliz Five & Dime


As mentioned earlier, the Golden Gate Bridge did not fit with the new theme of Buena Vista Street. Still, some sort of crossover was needed for the monorail. The Imagineers chose to model their second viaduct after the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Remember, one of Disney's early studios was located at 2719 Hyperion Avenue.


Monorail Overpass

Glendale-Hyperion Bridge


The second half of the block, beyond the bridge, is filled with a marvelous department store called Elias & Company. As you know, Walt's father was named Elias.


Elias & Company

Elias & Company


The interior of Elias & Company is stunningly beautiful. It looks like the inside of an elegant department store of a bygone era. Unfortunately, of the 2,500+ pictures I took at the Disneyland Resort, this is the only picture I captured inside this wonderful store.


Elias & Company


Moving back to the beginning of Buena Vista Street, I'll now walk you up the west side of this thoroughfare.

The first building we encounter is the Sepulveda Building. This structure houses restrooms and lockers. Sepulveda Boulevard is a major street in the Los Angeles area and runs 43 miles from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach.


Sepulveda Building


One of the new attractions added to DCA is the Red Car Trolley. Modeled after a transportation system that once boasted over 1,000 miles of track in Southern California, this scaled down version runs from Buena Vista Street to the Tower of Terror. About five years ago, I wrote an article explaining the Red Car's history and how its presence can be seen at Disney's Hollywood Studios. To read it, click here.

This next picture is of the Buena Vista Street Trolley Station. The following is of the trolley running along this same roadway.


Buena Vista Street Trolley Station

Buena Vista Street Trolley


There are two Red Car Trolleys. They both leave their respective station (Buena Vista Street and Tower of Terror) at the same time. They pass one another along Hollywood Boulevard in the same manner as the horse-drawn trolleys pass on Main Street. A third, intermediate station can be found on Carthay Circle. The trolleys actually receive some of their power from the overhead electrical lines.

The next picture shows the trolley's "passing" tracks on Hollywood Boulevard. The second photo is of the Tower of Terror Station.


Trolley Tracks

ToT Trolley Station


Inside the Red Car are a number of "period" advertisements promoting other DCA attractions. Here are just a few of the amusing signs.


Red Car Advertisements

Red Car Advertisements

Red Car Advertisements


The Red Car also plays host to entertainment throughout the day. The Newsies and Mickey Mouse often ride the trolley to Carthay Circle and then put on a show for those in the area.


Red Car Entertainment

Red Car Entertainment

Red Car Entertainment


Behind the Buena Vista Street Red Car Station is Mortimer's Market. This spot sells fresh fruit and other healthy snack options. As you know, Mortimer was the name Walt wanted to give his newly created mouse but his wife Lillian convinced him that Mickey was a better choice.


Mortimer's Market.


Before checking out the next building, I want to point out a small detail found in the gutters. The drains are authentic to the era. If you look closely, they read "DUMP NO WASTE - DRAINS TO WATERWAYS." In the 1920's there were no water treatment plants. All street drains flowed to the Los Angeles River then out to the Pacific Ocean.


Street Drains

Street Drains


In many communities, it was permissible to extend a basement or loading area underneath the sidewalk, even though this was city property. Thick pieces of glass would then be imbedded into the overhead concrete to act as a skylight for the room below. These skylights can be found in several sections of Buena Vista Street.


Sidewalk Skylight


As we continue down the west side of the street we come to Julius Katz & Sons. Julius was an animated cat that interacted with a real girl in Disney's "Alice Comedies" of the early 1920's. Thus, we get the name Julius Katz.


Julius Katz & Sons

Julius Katz & Sons


The next structure is the Atwater Building. The name "Atwater" comes from Atwater Village, a district of Los Angeles and a section of town that Walt and his animators often frequented.


Atwater Building


The Atwater Building pays homage to Walt's animators and his wife Lillian. On the first floor we find an art supply store with window signage that says, "Atwater Ink & Paint." Lillian was an ink-and-paint artist when she first met Walt.


Atwater Ink & Paint

Walt & Lillian


Another sign on the first floor lists the "nine old men." These were Walt's core animators who worked on such classics as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Pinocchio," and "Fantasia." A sign on the second floor of the building says "Learn to Draw - Upstairs."


Nine Old Men

Nine Old Men

Atwater Building


The next two buildings house Trolley Candy Treats. As the name implies, this is the spot to satisfy your sweet tooth.


Trolley Candy Treats

Trolley Candy Treats


The last building I'm going to mention along Buena Vista Street is the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe. This name refers to Walt's classic, "Three Little Pigs." The Three Little Pigs was released on May 27, 1933 and won the Academy Award the following year for Best Short Subject - Cartoons. The Three Little Pigs is still considered to be the most successful animated short ever made.


Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe

Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe

The Three Little Pigs


The south end of Buena Vista Street terminates at Carthay Circle. In the center of this roundabout is a beautiful art deco fountain.


Carthay Circle Fountain


Across from the fountain is a statue of Walt and Mickey named "Storytellers." The statue represents Walt as he may have appeared in 1923 when he first arrived in California, ready to make his mark on the world. Unlike the Partners statue at Disneyland which is placed high upon a pedestal, Storytellers was placed at ground level, giving him the persona of an average Joe, ready to work hard to achieve his dreams. In addition, the Partners statue is larger than life. Storytellers is scaled correctly to make Walt more "human." Both Walt and Mickey have suitcases, indicating that they've have traveled a long distance to reach the land of opportunity.


Storytellers

Walt's Suitcase


Storytellers is flanked on both sides by the following plaques.


Storytellers Plaque

Storytellers Plaque


The gem of the new Buena Vista Street is the Carthay Circle Theater which replaces the Sun Icon as the street's new weenie. This building is modeled after the original Hollywood theater located at 6316 San Vicente Boulevard. This movie palace was the spot where "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" premiered on December 21, 1937.


Carthay Circle Theater


On the first floor of DCA's Carthay Circle Theater is a beautiful cocktail lounge. Elegance radiates from every corner of this salon of yesteryear. The bartenders here have created some unique concoctions to wet your whistle. But if you want to be authentic to the period, you might want to try some of the following drinks that were all the rage in the 1920's: Old Fashioned, Mary Pickford, Sidecar, Bee's Knees, and French 75.


Carthay Circle Lounge

Carthay Circle Lounge

Carthay Circle Lounge


The first floor is also the spot to check-in for your lunch or dinner reservations for the Carthay Circle Restaurant located on the second floor. The décor of this dining establishment reflects the refinement and romance of Hollywood's Golden Age. With the right imagination, you can feel like a glamorous movie star or a high-powered film producer. This location is stunning beyond words.


Carthay Circle Restaurant

Carthay Circle Restaurant


For you trivia buffs, take a look at the ceiling. Located within an elaborate dome are paintings reminiscent of Snow White background cels. Although the heroine herself cannot be seen, the lovely world in which she lived has been meticulously recreated.


Snow White Ceiling


Seating is available in the main dining room, two open-air terraces, and the Premiere Room, a private dining room that can accommodate parties of up to twelve people. Guests ordering an entrée along with either an appetizer or dessert receive a ticket that allows them access to a priority location for that night's performance of "World of Color."

This completes my look at the old Sunshine Plaza and the new Buena Vista Street. In my opinion, the Imagineers outdid themselves. Buena Vista Street is beautifully executed and stunning to behold. Just "being" on this roadway is a pleasure. I can't say enough good about this transformation. Applause, applause.


This ends Part One of this series. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



December 18, 2012

Disney California Adventure Part Two of Six

Jack Spence Masthead


Yesterday I discussed how Sunshine Plaza was converted into Buena Vista Street. I talked about how this uninspiring area was transformed into a remarkable thoroughfare full of details and references to Walt. Today I'm going to be discussing another land at Disney California Adventure (DCA).

When DCA first opened, the "tinsel town" section of the park was called "Hollywood Pictures Backlot." As part of DCA's recent makeover, this area was renamed "Hollywood Land."

Hollywood Land is themed to represent a studio backlot (in the same manner as Streets of America does at Disney's Hollywood Studios). However, many of the buildings at Hollywood Land are more than just facades and house real shops, shows, and eateries. Hollywood Land was inspired by the 1930's Golden Age of Hollywood.

Until this most recent refurbishment, the entrance to Hollywood Land was marked by a massive gateway reminiscent of those found at a number of real studios in and around the Los Angeles area. Flanking the overhead sign were two intricately carved elephants that paid tribute to the spectacular epics of yesteryear. With the rededication of DCA, the sign and elephants were removed, leaving only the massive supporting pedestals.


Hollywood Backlot Pictures Entrance

Elephant

Hollywood Blvd


Other than the entrance, very little in Hollywood Land was changed for the park's makeover. But changes have taken place over the years. One of the first casualties of DCA was the ABC Soap Opera Bistro. This full service restaurant paid homage to four ABC soap operas, "Port Charles," "All My Children," "One Life to Live," and "General Hospital." The restaurant was partitioned into many small rooms, each authentically designed after actual sets seen on the shows. The servers all dressed in appropriate costumes such as doctor, nurse, police officer, and socialite. They interacted with one another and with the guests. While eating, you might play witness to two nurses fighting over a boyfriend. Or a doctor might approach your table and ask for your advice about someone's upcoming operation. All of this was done in melodramatic style, in the spirit of an afternoon soap opera. It was a lot of fun for everyone and a unique idea.


ABC Soap Opera Bistro


But alas, this restaurant didn't last two years. Part of DCA's problem was that it had too many eateries for a park its size. The bean-counters wanted money-generating establishments rather than quality rides and attractions which actually generate park attendance. The ABC Soap Opera Bistro couldn't compete with so many other options and closed for good on November 3, 2002.

In an effort to add kid-friendly attractions, "Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage!" took over this spot on April 11, 2003. This show was subsequently changed to "Disney Junior - Live on Stage." For the most part, this is the exact same presentation as seen at Disney's Hollywood Studios and features characters (puppets) from "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," "Little Einsteins," and more.


Disney Junior - Live on Stage

Disney Junior - Live on Stage


Before we look at more attractions in Hollywood Land, I'd like to show you some pictures of the 1930's style architecture that was reproduced here. Most of these structures were based on real buildings found in the Los Angeles area.


Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd


There is one building along Hollywood Boulevard that does not fit in authentically with the other structures. It's far too whimsical for the era. Yet it somehow blends in seamlessly and you don't even notice its out of place architecture. This is the Animation Building.


Animation Building

Animation Building


When guests enter the Animation Building, they find themselves in Courtyard Gallery. This large room is filled with overhead screens that feature ever changing projections of Disney animated scenes. From here, guests can select from four attractions: Sorcerer's Workshop, Toy Story Zoetrope, Animation Academy, and Turtle Talk with Crush.


Courtyard Gallery

Courtyard Gallery


Sorcerer's Workshop is similar in concept to the area guest encounter after experiencing "The Magic of Disney Animation" at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In Ursula's Grotto you can add your voice to an animated scene. In Beast's Library you sit down with one of the enchanted books and Lumiere will ask you a series of questions in an effort to determine what Disney character you're most like. However, the DCA version of this attraction is far more immersive than its Florida cousin adding greatly to the magic.


Sorcerer's Workshop

Sorcerer's Workshop


Toy Story Zoetrope is an amazing 3 dimensional apparatus that graphically displays animation. When not rotating, guests see a series of stationary characters from the Disney/Pixar movie Toy Story. As the device begins to spin, these characters become a giant blur. But once the strobe light is activated, the figures come to life and animated movement fills the scene.


Zoetrope

Zoetrope

Zoetrope


Animation Academy is also similar to its Florida cousin. Here, guests sit with an animator and are instructed, step by step, how to draw Mickey, Minnie, and a host of other Disney characters. Each session is approximately 15 minutes in length and you can take your drawings home with you.


Animation Academy


Turtle Talk with Crush is also the same attraction as can be found at Epcot. Here, guests get real-time one-on-one interaction with everyone's favorite dude.


Turtle Talk with Crush


Anchoring the east end of Hollywood Boulevard is the Hyperion Theater. This imposing façade was modeled after the Los Angeles Theatre found on 615 S. Broadway in the historic Broadway District in Downtown L.A. The actual theater at DCA is located behind the sky backdrop and can hold 2,000 guests.


Hyperion Theater

Los Angeles Theatre


Currently showing in the Hyperion Theater is "Disney's Aladdin: A musical Spectacular." This stage version of the hit Disney movie "Aladdin" is grand and glamorous with impressive scenery, a convincing cast, incredible dance numbers and a wonderful score. In addition, a new song "To Be Free" was composed by Alan Menken especially for this production. This presentation runs 45 minutes, 15 minutes longer than most Disney theme park shows.


Disney's Aladdin: A musical Spectacular

Disney's Aladdin: A musical Spectacular

Disney's Aladdin: A musical Spectacular

Disney's Aladdin: A musical Spectacular

Disney's Aladdin: A musical Spectacular

Disney's Aladdin: A musical Spectacular


When DCA first opened, a performance entitled "Disney's Steps in Time" was presented at the Hyperion Theater. This show was so negatively received that Disney immediately requested a reworking of the script. This didn't help and the show closed just eight months later. This was another example of Disney executives being out of touch with what their theme park going audiences wanted.

Meanwhile, across the country at Epcot, a show entitled "The Power of Blast" was exciting audiences at the American Gardens Theater. So the Entertainment Department moved the show to DCA to replace the ailing "Steps in Time." Although the show was well received, it still lacked the Disney element that guests expected. However, it did give the Entertainment Department time to develop the Aladdin show. "The Power of the Blast closed September 2, 2002.

There is one section of DCA that still needs a makeover - desperately. Behind the north side of Hollywood Boulevard is a mishmash of buildings and girders. Here you'll find two attractions, a food stand, and a theater. None of them flow together and there is no real theme to the area. It's just a hodgepodge. I suspect it wasn't redone during this most recent refurbishment because $1.1 billion was all Disney could afford for the time being. Let's hope it's on their to-do list for a later date.

One of the rides here has an interesting history. When DCA was being designed, the Imagineers wanted to come up with an attraction that would make the guests feel like they were a movie star. To give them this persona, they would ride through a simulation of Hollywood, all the while being pursued by the paparazzi. Planning for this attraction was well under way when Princess Diana was killed in this same scenario. Realizing their attraction would be in bad taste after the accident, the Imagineers immediately went to work on a new idea that could incorporate much of what had already been planned. "Superstar Limo" is what they turned out.


Superstar Limo


Superstar Limo took guests through a cartoon version of L.A. in purple "stretch limos." Along the way they encountered Hollywood landmarks and AudioAnimatronics ABC celebrities (Eisner insisted on synergy so the stars had to be connected to Disney in some manner). Some of these were Tim Allen, Drew Carey, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, and Regis Philbin. However, these weren't your typical AA figures. They were oversized caricatures that looked very cartoonish. The figures scared many small children and bored everyone else. Superstar Limo has the distinction of being the first DCA attraction to be permanently closed, less than one year after it opened. "Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!" replaced Superstar Limo and officially opened on January 23, 2006.


Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue


Our journey with Mike and Sulley begins in the queue where we find ourselves in the Monstropolis Transit Authority. Along the way we encounter televisions advertising a number of Monstropolis products.


Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue

Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue


Eventually we board a taxi for a trip into Monstropolis. Each of the taxi's three seats has its own television monitor that plays a tourism video. However, this video is soon interrupted to inform us that a human child is on the loose in Monstropolis.


Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue


Throughout the ride we encounter many of the characters from the movie. A number of scenes feature Mike and Sulley trying to rescue Boo from Randle. Of course, the ride terminates with a happy ending. Just before exiting our taxi, Roz has some insights to share with the car's inhabitants.


Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue

Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue

Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue

Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue

Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue

Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue


I like the Monsters Inc. attraction. In fact, it's one of my favorite dark rides. It's imaginative, fun, and enjoyable for all ages. It's also over four minutes in length, a decent duration for a dark ride.

Next to the Monsters Inc. attraction is a large soundstage. This now vacant building once housed the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It" attraction. One of the major criticisms of DCA when it first opened was a lack of anything to do. This attraction was hastily constructed to fill this need. The game only lasted until 2004 when it was closed permanently.


Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It


Another area in which the Disney bean-counters cheaped out when building DCA was to reuse attractions presented in other parks. One of these was "Muppet*Vision 3D." Although an enjoyable experience, savvy fans knew it was much cheaper to reproduce a movie theater with a few special effects than to build an actual ride. It wouldn't have been so bad to include the Muppet*Vision 3D at DCA if Disney hadn't decided to also include "It's Tough to be a Bug," another 3D film in a different section of the park.


Muppet*Vision 3D


This backwater section of Hollywood Land also housed a counter-service eatery when the park first opened called "Hollywood & Dine." However, its out-of-the-way location and proximity to Superstar Limo left the restaurant deserted. It closed before the park reached its first anniversary.


Hollywood & Dine


The last point of interest in this mishmashed section of Hollywood Land is the Hollywood Backlot Stage. This is another example of Disney cutting the budget so drastically during construction that they produced an unwelcoming venue. This stage is utilitarian at best.


Backlot Stage


In an effort to disguise this section of Hollywood Land until something can be done to improve it, Disney currently features special, seasonal events in this area. Temporary stages and props are constructed to create a festive atmosphere with high energy shows.


Seasonal Entertainment

Seasonal Entertainment

The last attraction to be discussed in Hollywood Land is "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror."


Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror


Still desperate to turnaround guest dissatisfaction with DCA, the Imagineers continued to look for quick fixes. But this time they knew they needed to build something more compelling than "Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It." So the Imagineers looked to Florida to see what could be copied and brought to Anaheim. It didn't take too much thought to realize that the highly successful Tower of Terror would be a natural in the Hollywood section of the California park. However, there wasn't as much land at DCA as there was at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In addition, the bean-counters wanted to spend less building the second tower. To accomplish this, the attraction would need to be redesigned significantly.

Tower of Terror opened at DCA on May 5, 2004. It is 183 feet tall, making it shorter than the Florida tower which is 199 feet in height. However, the California version extends 40 feet underground. Unofficial sources put the construction cost at $90M, $50M less than its cousin in Florida. Although still a great ride, many feel the DCA version is lacking due to the absence of the Fifth Dimension room.

In February 2010, I wrote an article about all four Tower of Terror attractions around the world. To read it, click here.

That's it for Part Two of my Disney California Adventure article. Check back next week for Part Three.



December 24, 2012

Disney California Adventure Part Three of Six

Jack Spence Masthead


Last week I began a detailed article about Disney California Adventure (DCA). In it, I discussed the changes that have occurred to Sunshine Plaza and Hollywood Pictures Backlot and their transformation into Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land respectively. Today I'm going to continue my tour of DCA and further this story of how this park went from disappointing to impressive.

One of the lands found at DCA in 2001 was call Golden State. Within Golden State were six districts: Bountiful Valley Farm, Pacific Wharf, Golden Vine Winery, The Bay Area, Grizzly Peak Recreation Area, and Condor Flats. Let's first take a look at Bountiful Valley Farm.

California is an agricultural giant in the United States. California is the world's fifth largest supplier of food, cotton and other agricultural commodities. The state boasts more than 400 different crops -- everything from world-renowned wines to specialty items such as almonds and raisins. Since DCA was designed to promote California, it was only natural that the Imagineers wanted to cover this topic in an area to be called Bountiful Valley Farm.

The anchor for Bountiful Valley Farm was the attraction "It's Tough to be a Bug." This show would be an exact copy of its cousin at Disney's Animal Kingdom. However, there would be no towering Tree of Life to draw guests to this second DCA 3D movie. Instead, a giant building, reminiscent of a Hollywood soundstage, would house the show. Guests would enter the attraction by descending into an earthen pit. Although a realistic entrance if you want to visit a bug's domain, it wasn't particularly inviting.


It's Tough to be a Bug

It's Tough to be a Bug


Surrounding "It's Tough to be a Bug" were a number of agricultural exhibits. Guests would wander around actual crops and look at farm equipment. In addition, a few "A Bug's Life" statues could be found in the area.


Bountiful Valley Farm

Bountiful Valley Farm

Bountiful Valley Farm

Bountiful Valley Farm

Bountiful Valley Farm

Bountiful Valley Farm


There were also several free-standing food facilities and souvenir shops scattered around the area. These were all designed with an agricultural theme.


Bountiful Valley Farm

Bountiful Valley Farm


These exhibits were hardly worthy of Disney. How many people really want to see a tractor or watch plants grow? Guests would wander the Bountiful Valley Farm section of the park and ask themselves, "Did I really pay $78 (2001 prices) to see this? I can experience the same thing at my local county fair for significantly less money."

With the exception of "It's Tough to be a Bug," Bountiful Valley Farm was a major yawn. However, I'm not through with my story about this "farming" section of DCA. Check back next week to see what eventually happens here.

One of the initial complaints Disney received about DCA was the total lack of activities for small children. Realizing the guests were right, the Imagineers hastily threw together "a bug's land" and located it next to the "It's Tough to be a Bug" attraction. Once again, Disney bought off-the-shelf carnival rides and spruced them up with a few Disney flairs.

The backstory for "a bug's land" goes something like this. Flik and his pals lived in a grassy area of the old Disneyland parking lot. When construction began on DCA, Flik decided to build a fair for the other bugs living in the area. A few years later, work began on the Tower of Terror and Flik's little park was discovered by the Imagineers. So Disney and Flik made a deal and opened up "it's a bug's land" to DCA guests. Evidence of this story can be seen on one of the signs in this area.


Flik's Fun Fair


Today, guests can enter "a bug's land" from three entrances. One entry is near the Tower of Terror. However, there is nothing noteworthy about it.

The second entrance comes from the direction of Cars Land. Along Route 66 are two billboards advertising this wondrous fair.


Route 66 Billboard

Route 66 Billboard


As you near this entrance, many of our familiar friends line the gate, welcoming us to Flik's fair.


Flik's Friends

Flik's Friends

Flik's Friends

Flik's Friends


The main entrance into "a bug's land" branches off of the primary walkway that radiates off of Buena Vista Street. Here guests walk beneath a large, overhead sign announcing their arrival to this miniature world of Flik's.


A Bug's Land Main Entrance


As you venture further into this land, you encounter a box of "Cowboy Crunchies." This is a reference to Sheriff Woody as seen in the Disney/Pixar film "Toy Story 2. As you walk through the cereal box, you discover that the owner of this carton of "Cowboy Crunchies" is the winner of a fabulous trip to "Flik's Fun Fair." You also see a number of cut-outs of the Bug's Life gang.


Cowboy Crunchies

Cowboy Crunchies

Cowboy Crunchies

Cowboy Crunchies


Once in "a bug's land" proper, you realize you're now the size of an insect. The concept is the same here as the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure" at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Everything towers above you. The plants are giant, the water faucet is enormous, and the overhead Christmas lights are huge.


Giant Plants

Giant Water Faucet

Giant Christmas Lights


The first attraction we'll look at is Flik's Flyers. When building this attraction, Flik used what was readily available. He had no fancy materials. The seating compartments are constructed out of old food containers like a Chinese take-out carton and a box of Casey Jr. Cookies. The overhead balloons that supply the lift needed for flight are constructed out of stitched together leaves. Twigs attach the balloons to the boxes.


Flik's Flyers

Flik's Flyers


"Heimlich's Chew Chew Train" stars our favorite German caterpillar. On this ride, Heimlich takes us through an oversized garden that has both natural and man-made food items strewn about. Along the way, Heimlich narrates our journey and scents of the various food stuffs can be detected as you pass by. At the ride's end, Heimlich bids guests farewell and reminds them to eat their fruits and vegetables.


Heimlich's Chew Chew Train

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train


Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, although cute, is intended for very young children. Kids ages 7 and above will find it pretty lame.

The sign for "Francis' Ladybug Boogie" appears on the song label of an old 45rpm record. Notice the spindle adapter in the middle so it can be played on a standard 33rpm record player.


45rmp Record


This attraction is similar in concept to the Tea Cups in Fantasyland. A wheel in the middle of each ladybug causes Francis and his pals to spin while navigating a figure-eight. All the while, jitterbug music can be heard in the background.


Francis' Ladybug Boogie


The last attraction in "a bug's land" is "Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies." This attraction is nothing more than an old-fashioned bumper car ride - and probably the most fun kids over five and adults can have in this area. Everyone smiles devilishly when aiming their Hungarian pill bug toward another pill bug.


Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies

Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies


Besides the four attractions, "a bug's land" has a lot of cute details if you take the time to look. For example, a Popsicle stick bench, firefly lamps, and cute bugs.


Popsicle Stick Bench

Firefly Lamps

Cute Bugs


When "a bug's land" was first constructed, I was not happy. I felt Disney's upper management was continuing their cheap ways and adding more, less-than-Disney quality attractions to an already suffering park. But my opinion has softened greatly since my last visit. Now that this area is surrounded by quality, rather than inferior attractions, I can accept "a bug's land" as a cute playground for young children. And adults can enjoy the bumper cars without their kids.



Today, "Pacific Wharf" is considered a land in its own right. But this wasn't always so. In the beginning, Pacific Wharf was one of the six districts of Golden State.


Pacific Wharf


Pacific Wharf is based on Monterey's Cannery Row. Here, a number of weathered warehouses and factories line a Pacific pier. The effect is quite convincing and the atmosphere intoxicating.


Pacific Wharf

Pacific Wharf

Pacific Wharf

Pacific Wharf


This area was designed to be a collection of counter service restaurants. As the Spanish, Mexican, and Pacific Rim countries all played a major role in California's history, some of these cuisines are offered here.

For south-of-the-border flavors, Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill serves up tacos, burritos, and tamales. For Asian delights, check out Lucky Fortune Cookery.


Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill

Lucky Fortune Cookery


But for me, the best option is the Pacific Wharf Café. Operated by San Francisco's Boudin Bakery, this spot offers a number of soups and salads served in a sourdough bowl.


Pacific Wharf Café

Pacific Wharf Café


There are several seating options in this food court, all outside. But I prefer the area that sits next to the water. This area was designed to represent a coastal tidal basin and the water actually rises and falls as if the tides are coming in and going out. I think the atmosphere is wonderful here and it's a great spot to lose yourself in fantasy.


Pacific Wharf Seating


One of the best memories of my most recent trip to DCA revolves around the Pacific Wharf Café and this seating area. The sun had just set, the temperature was dropping, and there was a slight mist in the air. Since my stomach had begun to grumble, I decided to get a bowl of New England chowder served in a sourdough bowl. Once I received my food, I selected a table with an umbrella to shield me from the mist and began to eat. The chowder was hot, creamy, and delicious and the sourdough bread was chewy and tangy. The atmosphere was superb and the weather was perfect for the occasion. With very little imagination, I was transported in my mind to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The moment was magical and I savored every mouthful and moment.

For those of you who like sourdough bread, Boudin Bakery of San Francisco makes some of the best. They also offer a kitchen tour of their DCA bakery. Using overhead television monitors, Rosie O'Donnell and Colin Mochrie walk guests through the bread-making process. Behind glass walls we see how the dough is mixed, proofed, formed into loaves, and eventually baked.


Bakery Tour

Bakery Tour


I think the bakery tour is worth the few minutes of the time it takes to witness the bread-making process. It's educational and presented in a light-hearted manner. However, in the early years of DCA, this simple tour was a good example of the entertainment Disney was promoting as a first-rate attraction. The park had so little to offer they were touting everything as a "must see." In the days of ticket books at Disneyland, the bakery tour wouldn't even garner an "A" ticket. It would have been a free attraction because it was so blatantly advertising a product.

Another example of a mediocre attraction could be found directly across from the bakery tour. Here, Mission presented a tour of the tortilla making process. Once again, it was interesting, but not something you would really consider as a full-fledged attraction. And not something that would compel you to return to DCA again and again.


Mission Tour

Mission Tour


Ghirardelli recently took over this spot. The offerings here are very similar to those of Downtown Disney at WDW.


Ghirardelli



The third section of Golden State we'll be talking about today is Golden Vine Winery. As the name implies, this area of the park pays homage to California's vast wine industry. One of its main features here was an elegant restaurant named "The Vineyard Room" hosted by Robert Mondavi Wineries. But just like Soap Opera Bistro located over at Hollywood Pictures Backlot, this eatery was sparsely attended. There were just too many other dining options to choose from. Mondavi pulled out of the project within the first year of operation. Today, this section of the park is considered part of Pacific Wharf and still honors California's wine industry.

On the east slopes of Grizzly Peak, a small vineyard can be found. Each year these vines are pruned, tied, fertilized, and harvested.


Vineyard


Next to the vineyard is a large, stone building. This structure is fashioned after many of the wine barrel rooms found in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. In the early years of DCA, this building housed an exhibit about wine making, including a seven minute film on the subject. Today this edifice houses "Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar."


Barrel Room

Blue Sky Cellar

Blue Sky Cellar


Blue Sky Cellar currently presents a look at the new Cars Land. Sketches, concept art, models, and maquettes are on display. In addition, a wonderful film titled "Time Travel Mater" is shown. This six minute cartoon takes us back in time and recounts how Stanley and Lizzie first met and how the town of Radiator Springs came into being. This is a great featurette and worth your time.


Blue Sky Cellar

Blue Sky Cellar

Blue Sky Cellar

Blue Sky Cellar


Next door to Blue Sky Cellar is "Mendocino Terrace," a counter service restaurant where you can order wine and snacks. Sitting adjacent is "Wine Country Trattoria." This full service restaurant offers Mediterranean and Californian choices while surrounding the diner in a Tuscan villa ambiance.


Mendocino Terrance

Wine Country Trattoria


That's it for Part Three of my detailed look at Disney California Adventure. Check back tomorrow for Part Four.



December 25, 2012

Disney California Adventure Part Four of Six

Jack Spence Masthead


In yesterday's article I told you how the original Golden State section of Disney California Adventure had six districts. These were Bountiful Valley Farm, Pacific Wharf, Golden Vine Winery, The Bay Area, Grizzly Peak Recreation Area, and Condor Flats. Today I will be discussing The Bay Area, Grizzly Peak Recreation Area, and Condor Flats.

In reality, The Bay Area only had one small street and one attraction. The street featured a row of Victorian buildings, typical of what you might find in a San Francisco neighborhood. Today, these "homes" and "businesses" house restrooms and a shop called Embarcadero.


Bay Area Street

Bay Area Street

Bay Area Street


The one attraction in the Bay Area was called "Golden Dreams." This was one of the park's few original "Disney" attractions.


Golden Dreams


Guests entered Golden Dreams beneath a replica of the Palace of Fine Arts. The original structure was a leftover from the Panama Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915 and is a landmark in this city even today. The theater's exterior featured a beautiful mural that displayed a number of the people you would encounter in the 22 minute film seen inside.


Palace of Fine Arts

Golden Dream Mural


Golden Dreams chronicled California from its earliest discovery to the present day. But rather than present a boring history lesson, the movie focused on the people who made California their home - past and present. It presented their hardships and triumphs, their disappointments and their successes, their dreams and their accomplishments. It was a moving film that was well scripted, well acted, and well directed. Most everyone who saw the movie liked it. Unfortunately, most people only saw it once. Golden Dreams wasn't the type of movie that needed to be seen again and again. So those who made subsequent trips to DCA, usually skipped this attraction in favor of more exciting fare. Golden Dreams gave its last public performance on September 7, 2008.

After closing, the entire theater was demolished; however, the replica of the Palace of Fine Arts was kept. In the theater's place grew a new structure to house "The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Undersea Adventure." This attraction officially opened on June 3, 2011.


Little Mermaid Entrance

Little Mermaid Building

Triton


The attraction's building was modeled after early 20th century aquariums. Inside, guests ride in clam shells for a six minute journey under the sea and relive Ariel's adventures.


Little Mermaid Attraction

Little Mermaid Attraction

Little Mermaid Attraction

Little Mermaid Attraction

The new "Little Mermaid -- Ariel's Undersea Adventure" at the Magic Kingdom in Florida is almost an exact copy of the attraction at DCA with one exception. At DCA, an additional character can be found under the sea, the Incredible Mr. Limpet. It seems that Mr. Limpet made a very small cameo appearance in "The Little Mermaid" movie and he has been included in the DCA attraction if you know where to look.


Mr. Limpet


Today, the Little Mermaid attraction is considered part of the Paradise Pier section of the park and the row of San Francisco buildings are part of Grizzly Peak.



Grizzly Peak Recreation Area was designed to showcase the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountain Range that runs along California's east border. At DCA, two attractions paid tribute to this area. The first is Grizzly River Run (Grr).

Guests approach Grizzly River Run on a "mountain" road that might be found in Yosemite or Sequoia National Parks. River rock bridges, log benches, old-time lanterns, and an abundance of pine trees fill the area. It's easy to forget you're at DCA and not really in the great outdoors.


Mountain Road


Along the road you discover "Rushin' River Outfitters." This is the place to purchase the necessary gear for any of the outdoor activities offered in the area. For those of you who don't get the joke, there is a stream in Northern California called Russian River.


Rushin' River Outfitters


Grizzly River Run is located directly next door to the shop. The entrance is marked by a large, wooden grizzly bear.


Grizzly River Run


Grizzly River Run was another off-the-shelf ride. However, in this case, the Imagineers did a magnificent job of giving this attraction some Disney magic. The rockwork, flumes, buildings, and landscaping all combine to create a wonderful atmosphere. It's all very realistic. I also think this adventure is superior to Kali River Rapids found at Disney's Animal Kingdom. At seven minutes in length, Grizzly River Run is two minutes longer than its Florida cousin. It also has several waterfall down ramps rather than just one. This adds additional excitement to the ride.


Grizzly River Run

Grizzly River Run

Grizzly River Run

Grizzly River Run


For those of you not familiar with the California State Flag, the grizzly bear is the prominent feature on this standard. Thus, the Imagineers decided to make the grizzly bear DCA's park icon.


California State Flag

Grizzly Peak


Near Grizzly River Run is the "Redwood Creek Challenge Trail." This is a wonderful area for kids and tweens.


Redwood Creek Challenge Trail


Upon entering Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, kids are given an activity map.


Activity Map

Activity Map


On the activity map are six challenges. Some of these challenges are easy, some a little more difficult. Examples of these are puzzle solving, rock climbing, and tracking. As each task is completed, kids scratch off one of the silver circles on the map and receive a "badge." When all six challenges have been completed, the explorer reports to Ahwahnee Camp Circle to become a Senior Wilderness Explorer.

Even if someone doesn't wish to take the challenge, Redwood Creek offers a number of physical and entertaining activities to stimulate a child and help him or her burn off some energy. This is not your typical Disney playground. It is extremely well themed and diverse in its offerings.


Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail


The Grizzly Peak section of the park is located directly next door to the Grand Californian as the theming of the hotel blends naturally with this area. This is also where guests staying at the Grand Californian enter DCA through their own, private entrance.


Grand Californian



Today, Condor Flats is a land in its own right, but in the early years of DCA, it was one of the districts of Golden State. This area is designed to resemble an airfield and pays tribute to the test pilots and engineers of the 1940s through the1960s. It also highlights the role California played in the burgeoning aeronautics field.


Condor Flats


The backstory for Condor Flats goes something like this.

Condor Flats can be found in the high deserts of California, away from most of the state's civilization. This area was the hub of jet testing and rocket research in the early years of aeronautics. As time marched on, much of this industry was relocated to the Los Angeles area and Condor Flats was forgotten. However, some of the old-timers remained and continued to call Condor Flights home.

Seeing the historical relevance of this area, one of the early test pilots decided to share its significance with the public and created the "Condor Flats Scenic Air Tours." His company would offer sightseeing flights over Condor Flats and the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. A billboard advertising his company and his sightseeing plane can be seen nearby.


Billboard

Airplane


As the millennium approached, a new and younger group of aviation enthusiasts arrived at Condor Flats. Witnessing the success of the scenic air tours being offered, they decided to go one step further. These youthful flyers would create a theater that allowed 87 people at a time to be lifted skyward for a simulated flight over the entire state of California, thus, "Soarin' Over California" was born.


Soarin' Over California


"Soarin' Over California" is the only attraction in Condor Flats. This was the one and only runaway hit at DCA when it opened. And in the early years, guests would run to this attraction at opening. Even today, it still garners long lines during most of the day.

Soarin' Over California is housed in a building reminiscent of an airplane hangar. In the indoor queue, guests pass by photographs of aircraft that played a part in California aviation history. The musical pieces played in this area are from many of Hollywood's epic war and flight themed movies.


Soarin' Over California Queue

Soarin' Over California Queue


As I'm sure you all know, Soarin' Over California takes guests on a simulated hang-gliding trip above the Golden State. Along the way, our eyes are treated to visual delights, our ears are given a melodic score by movie composer Jerry Goldsmith, and our noses detect the scents of oranges, evergreen trees, and ocean breezes.


Soarin' Over California


Soarin' Over California was such a hit at DCA that it was duplicated at Epcot's Land Pavilion, replacing "Food Rocks." However, the name was changed to simply "Soarin'" to downplay the California aspect of the attraction. Soarin' opened on May 5, 2005.


Soarin' at Epcot


Next to Soarin' Over California is "Taste Pilot's Grill." This is your typical counter service restaurant that serves burgers, ribs, chicken sandwiches, and the like. This eatery underwent one interesting change during the recent park remodeling. A large plane, bursting from the hanger, was removed. I don't know why it was removed, but I'm sad to see it go.


Taste Pilot's Grill

Taste Pilot's Grill


Across from Taste Pilot's Grill are restrooms and a gift shop.


Restrooms and Gift Shop


On hot days, a giant test jet engine cools guests with a blast of mist.


Test Engine


On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. To commemorate this milestone, the number 47 is hidden in various places around Condor Flats. In addition, the clock on the Fly 'N Buy Souvenir Shop is stopped at the exact time the sound barrier was broken.

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That's it for Part Four. Check back next week when I'll be wrapping up this series with information about Cars Land and Paradise Pier.



December 31, 2012

Disney California Adventure Part Five of Six

Jack Spence Masthead


Last week, I discussed Bountiful Valley Farm, one of the districts of Golden State. I described to you how this area contained exhibits of agricultural crops and farm equipment. I mentioned the smattering of lackluster structures that sold souvenirs and food stuffs. And I told you how utterly boring this all was. Fortunately, Disney came to their senses and realized that the public wanted to do more than watch plants grow when visiting Disney California Adventure (DCA).

As you know, Bob Iger authorized $1.1 billion to refurbish DCA. The lion's share of this money was spent on Cars Land, an entire section of the park devoted to the Disney/Pixar movie "Cars." Although much of Cars Land would rise on previously undeveloped land, Bountiful Valley Farm was also plowed under to make way for this new adventure. Thank goodness.

Cars Land recreates Radiator Springs, the forgotten town along Route 66. Here, the Imagineers went to great lengths to capture every detail and nuance of this friendly community. Guests visiting here actually feel as if they've left reality and have been transported to Ornament Valley with Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, and Sally.


Radiator Springs


I realize that much has already been written about Cars Land. I'm a late comer to this subject. But I still thought you might enjoy a detailed description of all of the businesses and characters of Radiator Springs.

The main roadway in this area is Route 66. Motorists are first greeted by a large billboard, welcoming them to Cars Land.


Billboard


Near the billboard is the typical sign which announces the town's name and displays the crests of the various fraternal organizations. Here we learn that the population of Radiator Springs is 12 and the elevation is 160 feet. Represented here are the Knights of Combustion, the Loyal Order of Lugnuts, the Association of Cogs in the Machine, and the Downtown Radiator Springs Association.


Business Sign


The first business we come to is owned by Fillmore. Fillmore is a VW van and the stereotypical hippie and flower child. His license plate is "51237" which represents the birthdate of the late George Carlin (May 12, 1937), who provided Fillmore's voice.


Fillmore


Fillmore owns an organic fuel station which is housed beneath a colorful camping tent. Now that more motorists are visiting Radiator Springs, Fillmore also sells fruit, bottled drinks, and chips. His business is known as Fillmore's Taste-In.


Fillmore's Taste-In

Fillmore's Taste-In

Fillmore's Taste-In

Fillmore's Taste-In


Next door to Fillmore's we find the Quonset hut of Sarge. Sarge is a Willys MB U.S. Army Jeep and a veteran of World War II. His license plate, "41WW2" signifies the year he entered the army.


Sarge


Sarge runs an Army surplus store named "Sarge's Surplus Hut." Inside guests can find a large selection of Cars related toys. The small tires seen hanging outside the shop are actually hats.


Sarge's Surplus Hut

Sarge's Surplus Hut

Sarge's Surplus Hut


Across the street from Fillmore and Sarge is Tow Mater Towing & Salvage. Inspired by a 1951 International Harvester tow truck, Mater is the first of the Radiator Springs' townspeople to take a liking to Lightning McQueen


Tow Mater


Mater runs Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. This attraction features a number of tractors pulling farm equipment that is suitable for human riders. The tractors navigate a double figure-eight and as they do, the farm equipment and their inhabitants are whipped from side to side. All the while, Mater can be heard singing a different song for each ride rotation. Some of these songs include:

Junkyard Jamboree
Big Bull Dozer
Tow Mater (The One You Want To Call)
Mater's Square Dance
Let's Go Driving


Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree


Here we have a picture of me riding on Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and my less than respectable niece, Shayne. LOL


Jack and Shayne


I am not a fan of the Tea Cups in Fantasyland. The spinning makes me nauseous. But I'm okay with Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. The whipping motion gives a decent thrill, but isn't consistent enough to throw my stomach out of whack. I think almost all ages would enjoy this attraction. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree has a minimum height requirement of 32 inches.

Nearby we find Mater's Petting Zoo. This spot offers some great photo opportunities.


Petting Zoo

Petting Zoo


Next to the petting farm is the Carburetor County Tractor Feed and Farm Truck Association Hall. This building is for the residents of Radiator Springs only and guests are not allowed in. This was an existing building left over from the Bountiful Valley Farm era.


Carburetor County Tractor Feed and Farm Truck Association Hall


Sally is a 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera and owns the newly-refurbished Cozy Cone Motel.


Sally


The Cozy Cone Motel was intended to resemble the Wigwam Motel chain, a motor lodge where each cottage was designed to look like a tipi. At Sally's, each of the rooms, or this case, concession stands, resembles a giant highway safety cone. Each cone offers a different snack. These are Churros, Ice Cream Cones, Chili Cone Queso, Cone-Coctions, and Popcone. Nearby tables have orange cone umbrellas.


Cozy Cone Motel

Cozy Cone Motel

Cozy Cone Motel

Cozy Cone Motel

Cozy Cone Motel


The Cozy Cone Motel also plays host to a number of Radiator Springs' residents that are more than happy to pose for photographs.


Cozy Cone Motel


Lizzie is a 1923 Ford Model T coupe (license plate, "MT23". She is the town's oldest resident and the owner of Radiator Springs Curios.


Lizzie


Radiator Springs Curios sits on the corner and offers a selection of Radiator Springs souvenirs and automobile paraphernalia. Everything from snow globes, mugs, clothing, and Route 66 signs can be found here. You might even come across some genuine Radiator Springs postcards for sale.


Radiator Springs Curios

Radiator Springs Curios

Radiator Springs Curios

Radiator Springs Curios

Postcards


Across the street from Radiator Springs Curios we find Flo. Flo was inspired by three early- to mid-1950s show cars: the 1951 Buick XP-300, the 1956/57 Chrysler Dart, and the 1951 Le Sabre. Her license plate reads "SHOGRL".


Flo


Flo runs Flo's V8 Café. This place of business is based on the Midpoint Café in Adrian, Texas which bills itself as geographically halfway between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Midpoint Café sold gas, souvenirs, antiques, food, and was famous for its pies.

Flo's V8 Café offers traditional breakfasts in the morning and serves rotisserie meats, home-style sides, and house-made pies for lunch and dinner. This is a counter service establishment.


Flo's V8 Café

Flo's V8 Café

Flo's V8 Café

Flo's V8 Café


When visiting Flo's, take the time to read some of the song titles on the jukebox selector. Here is just a sampling.

U-Turn Back on Me
Get It In Gear
No Passing Zone
Don't Make Me Break Down
Whole Lot Of Breakin' Goin' On


Jukebox


Outdoor seating at Flo's V8 Café is available near the entrance, next to the gas pumps.


Outdoor seating at Flo's V8 Café


Indoor seating can be found in the adjacent Ornament Valley Mechanical Clinic. This is also the spot where you can see Doc's three Piston Cups.


Ornament Valley Mechanical Clinic

Ornament Valley Mechanical Clinic

Ornament Valley Mechanical Clinic

Ornament Valley Mechanical Clinic


After retiring from racing, Doc became Radiator Springs' judge and mechanic. His license plate reads "51HHMD". This represents his model year and racing track number, that his automobile type is a Hudson Hornet, and the fact that he's a medical doctor.


Doc


Across the street from Flo's V8 Café we find Ramone, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala Lowrider and his tag reads "LOWNSLO". Ramone is usually depicted as purple with a yellow and orange flame job, but if you pay attention, you'll notice he changes colors numerous times throughout the movie.


Ramone


Ramone owns and runs Ramone's House of Body Art. At DCA, his shop sells more Cars Land souvenirs.


Ramone's House of Body Art


The other residents of note in Radiator Springs are Luigi and Guido. Luigi is a 1959 Fiat 500 with a tag that reads 445-108. This is the latitude and longitude for the main Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy. Guido is an early 1950s Isetta forklift.


Luigi

Guido


Luigi owns Casa Della Tires. His "Leaning Tower of Tires" was once world famous and is a mini-landmark for Radiator Springs.


Casa Della Tires

Leaning Tower of Tires


Luigi has come up with a way to supplement his income when the tire business is slow. On the backside of his shop he's created an ingenious apparatus that allows customers to float on a cushion of air while riding in one of his oversized tires. He calls his invention, "Luigi's Flying Tires." To reach this attraction, guests enter through the tire shop. Inside they see the various brands of tires Luigi sells, racing posters, and his office.


Casa Della Tires

Casa Della Tires

Casa Della Tires


As the queue continues outside, guests encounter tire topiary, tire planters, tire fence ornaments, and instructions on how to operate the tires once onboard.


Topiary Tires

Tire Planters

Tire Fence

Instructions


One to three people can fit into each tire. Once the adventure begins, a cushion of air is pumped from the surface below, causing the tires to float a few inches off the ground. To propel them, guests simply lean in a direction and the tire takes off. In the third picture, you can see my niece Shayne and me trying to go left.


Luigi's Flying Tires

Luigi's Flying Tires

Luigi's Flying Tires


Although incredibly fun to watch from the sidelines, Luigi's Flying Tires has met with mixed reviews from its riders. Many find the tires difficult to maneuver and spend their entire ride sitting in one place. Others find the playing field too congested and difficult to gain any speed as open space is limited.

Having heard these complaints before I rode Luigi's Flying Tires, I did not let my expectations get away from me. Shayne and I had a good time riding, but we weren't blown away by this attraction either. With the right attitude, Luigi's Flying Tires is good for a laugh or two.

Before reaching the courthouse, there are four other businesses along the main drag of Radiator Springs. None of these house anything open to the public. These are The Oil Pan, Lube O Rama, Sparky's Spark Plugs, and Mr. Curb Feeler.


The Oil Pan and Lube O Rama

DCA4-061.jpg


A combination courthouse, fire station, and police headquarters is located at the foot of Radiator Springs' main drag. Here we find a statue of Stanley, Lizzie's late husband and the founder of Radiator Springs. As you can see in the following pictures, the town is decorated for Christmas with a hubcap-adorned tree and Stanley wearing a Santa cap and carrying a toy sack.


Stanley

Stanley

Stanley


Stanley is a Stanley Steamer, a vehicle that was powered by steam rather than an internal combustion engine. To see Stanley as a young (and alive) car, visit Blue Sky Cellar over in the Pacific Wharf section of the park and watch "Time Travel Mater." This short cartoon explains how Stanley founded Radiator Springs and met Lizzie.

Radiator Springs is transformed into a wonderland at night when all of the neon comes to life. If you've visited this section of DCA during the day, make sure to return after sunset for a completely new experience.


Radiator Springs at Night

Radiator Springs at Night

Radiator Springs at Night

Radiator Springs at Night


A number of Radiator Springs' residents make appearances during the day. You never know when one of your favorites might appear.


Lightning McQueen

Tow Mater

Red

Blue Car


The highlight of the new Cars Land is Radiator Springs Racers. This attraction is a mega hit with guests and long lines ensue immediately after DCA opens. One to two hour lines are common for this attraction. In addition, the line for a FastPass can be 30 minutes long in the early morning and all of them have been distributed within an hour or so.

The queue for Radiator Springs Racers begins near the Courthouse. A sign points the way.


Sign Pointing the Way

Guests then pass beneath an archway directing Stand-by Riders, FastPass Riders, and Single Riders to their respective line. I strongly recommend the Single Rider line if you don't mind touring Ornament Valley alone. However, this line can also be 30 minutes long on busy days.


Beginning of the Queue

Beginning of the Queue


Shortly after queuing up, you pass beneath an old iron truss bridge and a wooden trestle.


Iron Bridge

Trestle


Next we come to Stanley's Oasis, a place where natural spring water bubbles up from the ground.


Stanley's Oasis

Stanley's Oasis


The queue then meanders through several old, automobile related buildings. These include Stanley's Cap-n-Tap, an old service garage, and the Amazing Oil Bottle Room. As the line can be quite long, Disney has stationed several cast members along the route selling snacks and drinks.


Old Buildings

Old Buildings

Old Buildings


Outside the various buildings we see a number of cacti as Radiator Springs is located in an arid desert.


Cactus

Cactus


Eventually we reach the loading area which is located inside the Comfy Caverns Motor Court. Each car seats six passengers, three in the front and three in the back.


Loading Area

Loading Area


Our journey begins at a leisurely pace as we take in the sights of Ornament Valley. As the elevation changes, cacti gives way to pine trees. Higher still, we drive through a natural tunnel. Emerging on the other side we're provided with an awesome view of a bridge far off in the distance and a waterfall cascading behind it.


Ornament Valley

Ornament Valley

Ornament Valley

Ornament Valley


As we continue our sightseeing tour, we enter a tunnel where we find ourselves on the outskirts of Radiator Springs. We almost have a head-on collision with Mac and run Van and Minny off the road.


Ornament Valley

Mater


After we narrowly miss hitting a train, we encounter the Sheriff who tells us to slow down.


Train Crossing

Sheriff


Next we meet Mater who convinces us to join him in some good spirited tractor tipping.


Mater and Tractor Tipping

Mater and Tractor Tipping

Mater and Tractor Tipping


Of course Frank, the combine harvester bull, isn't too happy about this and comes after us with a vengeance.


Frank


We skedaddle on our way through the countryside and eventually wind up in Radiator Springs. Here we encounter Fillmore and Sarge parked at Flo's. Further down the road we find Lizzie idling in front of Radiator Springs Curio and Red watering some plants.


Fillmore and Sarge

Lizzie idling in front of Radiator Springs Curio

Red


Next we meet Sally and Lightning McQueen. They will direct our car to either Luigi's Casa Della Tires or Ramone's House of Body Art. At Luigi's, we are given a brand new set of whitewalls. At Ramone's our car receives one of his special paint jobs.


Sally and Lightning

Luigi's Casa Della Tires

Luigi's Casa Della Tires

Luigi's Casa Della Tires

Ramone's House of Body Art

Ramone's House of Body Art

Ramone's House of Body Art


In the next room we meet Doc who gives us a pep talk for the race that's about to ensue.


Doc


As we pull up next to another car, Guido and Luigi cheer us on and begin the countdown. At zero, wheels squeal and we take off.


Guido and Luigi


Our race takes us on a high speed spin around banked turns, up and down hills, over bridges, along mountainous terrain, and dashing beneath a tunnel or two. At the end of the race, one car is pronounced the winner and the other congratulated for a job well done.


The Race is On

The Race is On

The Race is On

The Race is On

The Race is On

The Race is On


There are also a number of great photo opportunities around the roadway where your friends and family can capture you as you speed by. Here's a shot of me enjoying my adventure.


Jack


After the race, the cars enter Tail Light Caverns and Lightning and Mater welcome us back home.


Tail Light Caverns

Lightning and Mater


I am often asked what my favorite Disney attraction is. I'm always evasive with this question and answer with, "The best I can do is name my favorite attraction in each park." But after riding Radiator Springs Racers, I just might have to put this attraction at the top of my list. It has everything going for it - a great story, great AudioAnimatronics, great scenery, a leisurely and inspirational ride, and then a high speed race along a wonderful course. I rarely will wait in a line that's over an hour long. Radiator Springs Racers would be an exception - but thank goodness for FastPass and Single Rider Lines.

Radiator Springs Racers also offers some fantastic scenery that is perfect for amateur and professional photographers.


Photo Opportunities

Photo Opportunities

Photo Opportunities

Photo Opportunities

Photo Opportunities


This completes my article about Radiator Springs. Trust me when I say, I've only scratched the surface of all there is to see and enjoy here. There are details piled onto details at every turn. It was truly a delight visiting this area and I look forward to my next visit to California so I can experience it all over again.

Check back tomorrow for my final installment about Disney California Adventure. Paradise Pier will be the topic.



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About December 2012

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in December 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2012 is the previous archive.

January 2013 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.