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Hopeful thoughts about California Adventure Re-envisioning

If you’ve read this blog, or my writings at, for any length of time then you know that I have been critical of the weak effort Disney put forth to build a second gate to compliment the original theme park, and the only Disney park Walt every set foot in, Disneyland. A series of poor decisions made with the bottom line seemingly in solely in mind, instead of also considering story and audience, resulted in a theme park with a laundry list of problems.

Here are just a few of them: bad sight lines leaving the outside world exposed to guests inside the park, a poor balance of dining and food compared to attraction capacity, uninspiring show buildings lightly themed to fit in, off the shelve rides even more lightly themed, re-creating a seaside amusement boardwalk (exactly the sort of thing Walt Disney wanted to avoid when building Disneyland) and worst of all (in my opinion), a theme park build without a cohesive theme.

Building a park themed to the state of California in California was the original sin. Disney executives believed tourists would visit this park where they could see all of California in one day instead of actually visiting the real world. That never happened. They also thought Chinese tourists skipping over Disneyland for Las Vegas would be attracted by their idea. But once word got out how cheaply the second gate was built, no one bothered. There was no nostalgia factor, no reason to see the golden gate bridge when the real thing was a few hours away, nothing the couldn’t get better literally steps away at Disneyland.

The second gate as it was originally built was so bad that I have refused to refer to it by it’s full name. It didn’t deserve to have the name of Disney in front of it. It took a few years, but Disney finally figured out why the response to California Adventure was so tepid and invested a huge sum (anywhere from $1.0 billion to $1.6 billion depending on whom you listen to) to address it.

Although it has yet to be officially unveiled to the public, I believe that Disney has actually gotten it right with this re-envisioning. They’ve kept the name (well they dropped the apostrophe for some reason) of the park, but changed the theme to a much more nostalgic “California as Walt Disney would have experienced it in the 1920’s and 30’s when he and Roy were building the company”. It’s hard to fit into a few words (for instance the theme of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is ‘Nature’) but it’s the right idea. They’ve added a ‘main street’, two main streets if you count Radiator Aprings in Cars Land, added a spectacular E-Ticket, and fixed many of the problems with the light themeing elsewhere in the park. There are still a few glaring errors (what does The Little Mermaid have to do with Walt’s early days in California?) and they still refuse to erase the terrible seaside boardwalk amusement park, but they have at least upgraded it to a more detailed Victorian-era representation.

On June 15th, change is finally gonna come and everyone will get to see California Adventure finally deserves to have the Disney name in front of it. Are you looking forward to seeing the changes?