The first project to fall at his hands was Westcot. In January of 1995 Disney announced the cancellation of the project citing cost concerns. They still desired a second gate, just something “less ambitious” and with more “profit potential” that could be built in phases. Still, they said, the new project might include some aspects of the Wescot proposal, and possibly some elements from the Disney’s America project as well as a water park. Back into the mix was the shopping district – retail being Pressler’s bread and butter. Disney was back to the drawing board.
Whatever they did at that drawing board, they should have stayed there. When Disney unveiled its really-for-real plans for a second gate in 1996, the term “crushing disappointment” found entirely new dimensions of meaning. Disney’s California Adventure was what they came up with, with an estimated completion date of 2001. Aiming at an older crowd ostensibly too mature for the frivolity of Disneyland, DCA reeked of “hip and edgy” and was designed to be built at the lowest cost possible. No corner went uncut; no accountant’s pencil went unsharpened. Ideas of “theme” and “design” and “fun” that had been honed to an art by WDI in its 50-year history were thrown out the window when Pressler’s crew came to town. Spurred by Eisner’s newfound enthusiasm for cut-rate construction, the expansion was on.
The tourist economy had rebounded and Disneyland was raking in cash on the heels of its very successful 40th anniversary promotion. Ironically, the cornerstone of that success was the debut of the new Indiana Jones attraction – a massively expensive and highly themed ride the likes of which would never be considered for any of Eisner’s “less ambitious” new parks. Still, expansion mania was back and there, amidst the plans, was land earmarked for “future expansion” in a strawberry field that Disney still didn’t own.
At long last, this changed. As DCA slouched inexorably towards its debut like a leprous sloth, the Fujishige family finally agreed to sell 52.5 of their 56 acre farm to Disney in 1998. Combined with the land it had previously purchased adjacent to the farm, Disney finally had more than 80 acres that it needed to build a third park. So what would they build?
Throughout the decade, Disney had considered several concepts for a third gate. Jack Lindquist, former Disneyland president, told the Orange County Register that these included an iteration of the Disney-MGM Studios in Florida (another Eisner pet project, it had also been intended to be cloned for Paris and Tokyo), as well as design based on the DisneySea concept that had been reconfigured for the smaller urban site. As many Disney-MGM attractions had already been incorporated into Disneyland and the designs for California Adventure, the DisneySea park seemed most likely. Other possible projects, such as water parks or more hotels, seemed to be less profitable uses of the land and Wall Street expected to see it used for a proper theme park. Still, the construction of a third park depended on the success of the second, so groundbreaking was still at least a decade away. Time passed…
As the Disney resorts continued to flourish, an unhealthy mindset began to permeate Disney management. People loved Disney, they knew. More and more they began to believe that people would continue to flock to Disney parks no matter what was in the actual park itself. The infamous phrase “if it’s good enough for Six Flags”, allegedly uttered by Pressler himself, indicated the mindset of the era. Disney was no longer leading, they were coasting. And they thought their fans would eat it up. Buoyed by the ecstasy of cost-cutting, and with dollar signs sparkling in their eyes, Disney became convinced that California Adventure was going to be a hit. A big hit. Hotel occupancy and turnstile clicks would soar, and soon Disneyland would be a bona fide resort destination just like its little brother in Florida. And this mindset is how, months before California Adventure was to debut, Disney opened thirdthemepark.com in the fall of 2000.