As readers of this blog surely know, when Disney California Adventure Park opened almost 12 years ago as a second gate to Disneyland it wasn’t the hit that Disney or its fans hoped it would be. In fact, it was written off by many as a ridiculous concept done on the cheap. For the record, I’ve always enjoyed the park, but I understand what people were saying, it needed more everything: rides, shows, food, theming, and above all else, it needed more magic. It needed more Disney.
Hello, and welcome to DCA 2.0.
Like a lot of Californians, the park has had some major work done, and this past week was the big reveal. For starters, no longer are guests greeted by not much when they walk into DCA, but rather Disney’s take on Los Angeles circa 1920s — just like it was when Walt first arrived.
The Red Car Trolley runs down Buena Vista Street, around the fountain in front of the beautiful Carthay Circle Theatre, and into Hollywood Land. Anyone can ride it, but some seem destined to spend a lot more time on it than others. Meet the Red Car News Boys (and girls):
(My video of this performance was really bad due to some technical glitch, so thank to YouTube user purpletink007 for capturing it!)
They aren’t the only new musical group in town. Over in Condor Flats you can spend time with Minnie’s Fly Girls:
And for those of you that like a bit of goth/rock in your Wonderland, check out the Mad T Party festivities (replaced elecTRONica):
There’s also this dance party thing that we sort of stumbled upon without really expecting it. I’m not sure what Disney has planned for this space, it seemed rather thrown together and I didn’t see anything about it in my media kit (to be fair, there was a lot of info so I may have just missed it). If it is going to become a permanent fixture it needs some heavy theming, but the kids had fun:
The popular water show World of Color also had an upgrade. In addition to featuring footage from Pixar’s newest hit Brave, there is now an opportunity for audience participation.
Guests may purchase a special set of Mickey Mouse ears that light up, and when they are standing in the proximity of the show the ears will sync to sensors and change color as part of the performance. That’s right, you are the World of Color, except relatively drier.
(The video is a bit off in spots, but it is short and gives you the idea.)
The Pixar parade is back and as of last week it did not include Brave, but I’m sure that can’t be far off. However, it did include this:
Cars Land is exactly what you hoped it would be. Actual “you” may vary.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree takes guests into the stomping (and spinning) home of everyone’s favorite tow truck, Tow Mater (as performed by Larry the Cable Guy). The classic whip ride is a lot more fun than I anticipated. I was, to the delight of my 6-year-old son, sliding all over the place. Other people chose to hold on. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is good fun for riders of all ages.
Luigi’s Flying Tires puts a new spin on a classic Disneyland ride, Flying Saucers, where the guests actually steer the vehicles with their bodies. The steering isn’t exactly easy to the get the hang of, and it may require a few rides. I’ve stood in line for worse reasons.
Radiator Springs Racers is an E-ticket and then some. It is the perfect blend of Disney imagineering and Pixar storytelling, and it is going to have a long line for decades. Note: The Fastpass distribution for Radiator Springs Racers is not located near the ride, or even in Cars Land. It is situated between the Carthay Circle Theatre and the entrance to Bug’s Land. It’s actually an odd place, but I can only assume it is an attempt to keep crowds from bottle-necking along the Mother Road.
Racers places guests in one of the car inhabitants of Radiator Springs and starts as a beautiful drive not unlike the one shared by Lightning McQueen and Sally in the original Cars film. Then it becomes a dark ride that cruises right down a neon-lit main street before turning into a full-blown thrill ride in which one team of racers faces off against another. The attention to details, theme, and overall experience is exactly what Disney does so well, and they are at their best in Radiator Springs.
Also, dill pickle popcorn. Believe it.
Overall, the Grand Reopening of Disney California Adventure Park is a very big step in the right direction. I think that DCA could still use a few more attractions and some help in other aspects of the park, but if Buena Vista Street (fun fact: there is a store named for Oswald!) and Cars Land are any indication, the park is destined for great things.
My family and I were guests of Disney for the Grand Reopening Media Event. All opinions are my own.
Photos and videos by Whit Honea unless otherwise noted.