While the big changes coming to Disneyland remain unannounced and in the far future, its companion park California Adventure is in the midst of the greatest single overhaul ever of a Disney park. A number of unprecedented changes necessitated by the park’s disastrous initial design are underway, leading to the most “pardon our pixie dust” walls I’ve seen at one time since EPCOT circa 1999. So on our recent trip to Anaheim I was eager to see just what had changed since last year, and what alterations were currently underway.
Perhaps the most noticeable change will be just inside the park’s turnstiles. In a truly unprecedented move, Disney will for the first time completely tear down and rebuild the entrance to one of their parks. The rather sparse area surrounded by the large tile “postcard” mural will be replaced by Buena Vista Street, themed to California of the 1920s. Work has barely begun in this area, as they had just started to demolish a section of the mural right before our visit.
Passing under the soon-to-disappear ersatz Golden Gate, one enters Sunshine Plaza – the closest the park gets to a “hub”. Aside from some unfortunate store facades, the only other occupant of this area is the “Hubcap” – a stylized sun that was meant to be the park’s central icon. The sad thing is that while it might be a fairly neat piece of sculpture, it just doesn’t warrant a placement that necessitates comparisons to Cinderella Castle or Spaceship Earth. Perhaps it should relocate to Walt Disney World’s Grand Canyon Concourse? Anyway, the hubcap is on its way out, meaning that guests don’t have long to take in this impressive vista:
You can see the sun sculpture is now behind a pixie dust fence, and the stage for the upcoming “ElecTRONica” show now occupies the park’s central area. After the remodel is complete, this area will become a replica of Los Angeles’s long-lost Carthay Circle Theatre.
So say goodbye to the Hubcap…
Meanwhile, the Sunshine Plaza prepares for ElecTRONica, which debuts October 8th.
Meanwhile, turning to the left, we see the soon to be renamed Hollywood Pictures Backlot – which will get its own bizarre ElecTRONica overlay.
Aside from the (hopefully) brief weirdness of ElecTRONica, the Hollywood Pictures Backlot will eventually lose its “backlot” status as it’s rethemed to the real Hollywood of the 1930s and 40s. And, hopefully, its entrance will become a little more… inviting?
The rethemeing also – hopefully – means that there will be less of this:
Key to this rehabilitation is the addition of a Red Car Trolley that will travel from the park’s entrance through Hollywood to the Tower of Terror. This will bring a nice sense of motion and activity to the area, as well as providing the park’s first transportation system.
Designed by Imagineer George McGinnis, based on a similar concept originally developed for Sunset Boulevard at the Disney-MGM Studios in Florida, the Red Cars will provide a much-missed Disney touch to the park’s sparse offerings.
There’s quite a bit of remodeling being done at the end of the road; the path to the Hyperion Theater and Tower of Terror is blocked. Eventually the Hyperion will receive an actual facade instead of the fake streetscape it’s cloaked in today.
Note the line on the “Coming Soon” sign about additional lines and service connecting locally at the Hollywood Tower Hotel – perhaps additional transportation is being planned for Carsland or, hopefully, the Pacific Wharf area and Paradise Pier? That would be a nice surprise.
As an image in the park’s “Blue Sky Cellar” preview center shows, the Trolleys have also been considered as the site of a live show reminiscent of Newsies. Now, I don’t love ragging on individual pieces of art, because heaven knows who might come across this page and I don’t want to rip on any Imagineer’s art when I can’t draw worth a darn myself. But… seriously. This has to be one of the most bizarre and terrifying renderings ever created by Imagineering:
I mean… what?!
Absolutely terrifying. The very essence of WTF?
On a happier note, one of the park’s biggest eyesores will soon be headed for the scrapyard. The Maliboomer, one of California Adventure’s most Six Flags-y attractions, has closed for its long-hoped-for demolition. The blight of the Maliboomer can easily be seen from the outside of the park:
Inside the park, one can easily see that the attraction is being dismantled.
Meanwhile, a bunch of unfortunate shops and eateries will soon be replaced by Paradise Gardens and its two new restaurants. The Mulholland Madness wild mouse coaster will get a few years reprieve with a minor facelift that will turn it into “Goofy’s Sky School”.
Then, there’s The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Located on the former site of Golden Dreams, the new show building is well underway.
Showing the problems inherent in California Adventure, this 19th century Danish fairy tale will exit through a replica of San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. Because, you know, California.
Inside the Blue Sky Cellar is a diagram of the attraction, which will be cloned in Florida’s Magic Kingdom. If you’ve been wondering what awaits you in the Fantasyland expansion, this is it:
There’s even a model!
Meanwhile, the final addition of the California Adventure remodel’s Phase I is Carsland, which will arrive in 2012. Already, loads of massive rockwork is under construction to re-create the film’s setting (not California, by the way). It’ll be interesting to see how well the rock walls mesh with sightlines from the rest of the park:
The former Bountiful Valley Farm has finally given up the ghost to make way for a different kind of ‘Mater.
And there are lots – lots – of signs promoting the upcoming expansion.
So that’s what’s up at California Adventure. Can this little park be saved? And what of phase two? Can California Adventure succeed without the draw of Superstar Limo? Only time will tell…