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I should have seen it coming. I've should have known better... that you can't objectively discuss Disney's California Adventure (DCA) without its passionate supporters and virulent detractors going into a tizzy. So, I shouldn't have been surprised at the flood of responses to “California Reamin',” my attempt to trace the history behind DCA's most controversial design decisions. Sure enough, I received several dozen embalm screaming, “How could I compare DCA to Epcot or Disneyland! Sacrilege!”


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Of course, they were absolutely correct....

Except that wasn't what the article was supposed to be about. I never intended to compare the quality of attractions or the scale of the park or the experience itself. My point was to show that the folks who created DCA didn't throw out the Imagineering play book and start from scratch. That there was precedence in decisions such as:

  • targeting a park primarily for adults,
  • borrowing attractions from established parks,
  • having a relatively small number of attractions on Opening Day,
  • adding the biggest E-ticket attractions later,
  • having corporate exhibits disguised as attractions, etc.

Some people call these good ideas, some bad. You can hear both sides debated equally well — depending on if you listen to a picky passholder, an infrequent tourist, a soulless stockholder, or a theme park historian. Or on if you Ask Al™ or a Disney Company CPA.

Here's a sampling of those who took me to task because they thought I was defending DCA...

Brian carped:

Longtime fan, but I have to respectfully disagree with your DCA article. Yes, Disneyland opened with carnival rides, but those are gone today. They should have never been placed in DCA to begin with. The E-tickets are boring. Soarin' is a snooze after the first ride. And I still have yet to understand what A Bug's Land, Playhouse Disney, Aladdin, the Muppets, and countless other attractions have to do with “California.” At least with Epcot, it opened with very original animatronic attractions like Horizons and World of Motion. I loved those attractions as a kid. Not to mention the still impressive Spaceship Earth.

Although the MGM Studios opened with such few attractions, they were at least very unique and actually themed to the theme of the park! If DCA had even one Great Movie Ride, or something worth a second ride, I would give it some credit. To me, it's nothing more than a Disney Strip Mall. A major disappointment from top to bottom. The only way to save this park is to change the theme and get on with some real creative designing.

David O. groaned:

Sorry, Dave. I love reading your articles, but man are you way off with your DCA comparison to Epcot. How you can even compare Epcot's 16 attractions on opening day vs. DCA is beyond me. When Epcot opened in '82, more than 20 years ago, it was a forward-looking theme park with some of the most extensive and complex animatronic attractions ever created by Disney Imagineers. Even at 16 attractions, they were real attractions. So much so it would take a family two days to take Epcot all in.

Not only did you have these enormous animatronic-based dark rides which lasted for a significant amount of time a la Spaceship Earth, Journey into Imagination, World of Motion, Universe of Energy, and the Mexican boat ride, but you also had beautifully shot movies and tons of entertainment all over World Showcase. Let's not forget all the different types of food.

Yes, I know there were no E-ticket attractions that the public clamors for today. But at the time theme parks were still growing around the country and hadn't reached the saturation point we find ourselves at today which requires those kind of attractions due to a public accustomed to the latest thrill ride. But even then kids were entertained at Epcot. My two brothers and I were kids at the time and loved every minute of it and we still recall our first trip to Epcot and how blown away we all were by the experience. Everything from the cutting edge architecture, the rides, the food, the entertainment were a truly incredible and mind blowing experience.

Your comparison to Disney-MGM seems more appropriate. But even then, the park still took the whole day and was still superior to Universal Studios. At the time the star of the park was the backstage tour which lasted almost two hours and was quite extensive compared to today. Yes, the park was weak, and at least by the park's second anniversary several things had been added.

Even Animal Kingdom (AK) had improved significantly and grown considerably by its second anniversary. If anything DCA seems even more of a halfhearted park than AK and MGM when they first opened. Starting with MGM, it appears that Disney put less and less work into their new parks, rushing to open them on time.

I for one hope this trend does not continue and ends with DCA. Luckily it appears there are no new Disney theme parks opening in the US in the near future. Hopefully, they will spend more time expanding AK and DCA.

I disagree about Disney-MGM circa '89 (with six rides you could only spend a whole day there if you spent three hours eating and five hours standing in line), but as far as Epcot I couldn't agree more; Epcot is my second Happiest Place on Earth.

Arson fired:

Good show. That list hit the nail on the figurative head. However, there are a few things you aren't telling us. Like how Epcot opened with all new rides and attractions. So did MGM Studios. Animal Kingdom had a few shows from other parks, but the rides were all new.

Now, compare that with DCA. Two theater attractions were taken from Florida. And not changed in the process. Also, the Paradise Pier rides, with the exception of the coaster, were just flat rides. Flat rides like that may have worked 48+ years ago, but not today.

The Disneyland Resort as a whole has more annual passholders than WDW, and the least leg room to spare. One would have thought that Eisner and Co. would have focus-grouped the **** out of the park concept.

Finally, the shell-shock that occurs when you go from Disneyland to DCA is a huge factor in the park's anti-success. Disneyland is well themed, and, well, DCA isn't. Disneyland was the park that built a Main Street, took you into the future, and put you back in the west.

DCA took you, er, down the street, up the block, and a few miles east. The designers didn't try to push the limit, and ended up with painted murals. People go to Disneyland to escape reality, but DCA emulates it.

At the end of the day, though, I think back to the other Disney parks, and how they all started life a little shortsighted. We can only hope the future will look kindly on DCA.

Keith took aim:

David, I've always enjoyed your writing and your often very insightful views (both in Mouse Tales and your MousePlanet columns).

I was especially shocked and dismayed then by your most recent column, “California Reamin'.” I found it to be grossly beneath your usual standards, and — in all honesty — I have to say that it reads like a hack job, perhaps rushed to print to fill the increasing vacant space in MousePlanet. I don't mean to be insulting here — but I call 'em as I see 'em — and while I've sung your praises in the past, I must also point out this article's glaring, even grievous shortcomings.

First, it's not clear what your intent of the piece is. It's ostensibly to point out that there is a history behind many of the decisions that led to the failures in DCA. But it seems to go beyond that, to justify the myriad of shortcomings of the park. In fact, many of your comments mirror those of the “Disney apologists” who populate many online forums. These loyalists are so intent upon shielding their blind faith in Disney from an increasingly disturbing reality, that they often draw and aggressively back the most absurd conclusions.

I'm especially disturbed by the frequent — and often baseless — comparisons of DCA and Epcot.

1. “Aiming the park at an older demographic to expand the resort's target audience beyond families.” While that is true on the surface, there's a more important dynamic at work here. The fact that Epcot appealed more to an older audience was more a function of its theme and mission than of its desire to target an economically lucrative demographic (as with DCA).

What's more, while many attractions at Epcot were geared toward an older audience, there were none — prior to Maelstrom and Test Track — that excluded any member of the family with height or age restrictions. Some, such as Journey Into Imagination and Universe of Energy (kids loved the dinosaurs, though they may not have cared for the remainder of the ride) appealed to all age groups — the ideal for a Disney park.

2. “The last thing you want is a park 'built out' on Opening Day, so there's no room or money available for expansion.” That sounds like a Disney accountant talking, not a guest! The guest wants a full day of activities and fun for their admission dollar — especially when the price is the same as a “built out” park. They want their expectations to be met or exceeded, they want to be “wowed.” In short, they want a Disney experience. Prior to the Eisner-era parks, Disney delivered all that and more. Epcot, with 16 attractions, may not compare well with Disneyland's numbers, until you consider that the vast majority of those attractions are E-tickets, and that none (again, prior to Maelstrom and Test Track) were less than 15 minutes in length. Compare this to not only the dearth of attractions in DCA, but also their extremely short spans and their C- and D-ticket value.

3. Epcot did indeed rely too much on movie-based attractions — but you again fail to point out that the ratio of E-tickets to lesser attractions is still remarkably high, in fact the highest of any Disney park. Epcot also used film in some very innovative ways (in Universe of Energy, Horizons, and American Adventure).

4. There are a disproportionate number of restaurants and shops in World Showcase, but at least Showcase provides plenty of atmosphere (and at least a few great attractions). Like many people, I thoroughly enjoy just taking a stroll through Showcase. Could the same be true of DCA's shopping districts? I think that part of the reason that Epcot's higher-end restaurants worked, where DCA's failed, is that they made Epcot (and World Showcase) enough of a draw to lure in the diners.

5. “How many white knucklers did Epcot open with?” Excuse for a moment, while I scream. Thrill rides can be fun, and I love them myself, but they shouldn't be the foundation for a Disney theme park. Guests go to Disney parks for the kind of immersive experience that they can't find elsewhere. Epcot provided that — in spades. It was quite easily the most imaginative, immersive, and thoroughly entertaining park since the original Magic Kingdoms.

6. “Yes, and so did Disneyland when it opened in 1955 — dark rides, a carousel, a spinner... The headline attractions at Epcot (Test Track) and Disney-MGM (Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster) came later, as well.” Clearly, both ride technology and guest expectations were much different in 1955 than they are now. This comparison is patently absurd. Disneyland of 1955 was groundbreaking, and I think history easily shows that it more than managed to “wow” the majority of its guests. Can either be said of DCA? As to the “headliner” attractions, nearly every attraction in Future World was a “headliner”!

7. “It started with Walt. In Disneyland. In 1955. Out of time and money and staring at an attraction-less Tomorrowland.” You said it yourself — “out of time and money” — neither of which were the case with DCA. By all accounts, Walt was heartbroken at not being able to fill the park as he wanted on opening day, and he made an effort to resolve that as soon as he could. The Disney Company of today — which can spend billions on ventures of arguably limited value (Fox Family, Go.Com) — is hardly the cash-strapped company of 1955, doing the best it can.

8. I don't think it's unreasonable, and in fact is expected, for a Magic Kingdom park to carry many of the same “signature attractions.” I think that argument is harder to make for what is supposed to be a truly new and unique park. (You'll note that there wasn't a single “retread” in Epcot).

9. “In the beginning, Disney-MGM wasn't meant to occupy visitors for 12 hours.” The fact that guests “swarmed” guest relations speaks for itself.

10. “The designers of Epcot, I imagine, must have had their hands tied even tighter.” Are you suggesting that “California” is even remotely as expansive a theme as the entire future of our race? Or that a visit to a single state could begin to compare to a trip around the world (and a look a the future, in the same park!)? As to the proposed makeover of FutureWorld, my impression is that it's as misguided as all of the other failed attempts to “update” Future World. A lot of Future World's appeal has been lost to the erosion of its theme and cohesion with halfhearted attraction replacements. Further erosion of that theme and mission are neither laudable nor practical.

A similar tirade arrived from JJ J.:

Love your work, but man, you couldn't have missed the target much further than you did here. I'm going to go point by point, but overall you fall into the same quagmire as the suits responsible for the mess in the parking lot: you're combating customer perception with facts, and those two don't usually have much in common. If a customer doesn't like something, good luck arguing that he should like it by throwing statistics at him.

1. Epcot also not targeted at children.

I don't disagree with you entirely here. However, the difference is that in Epcot, kids could do everything. Whether everything was specifically aimed at them is another story. However, there was nothing they couldn't do until, I think, Test Track. Check out the height requirements on the list of DCA rides, rides that do appeal to kids. The problem is exactly what Walt tried to avoid: suddenly you're playing the game where you have to keep your bases covered. “We have this new coaster, but oh, no one under the age of 7 or 8 can ride, so now we need something for them to balance it out.” It flies in the face of Walt's original dream: to have a place for adults and kids to enjoy things together, not have their own separate things.

2. Epcot, MGM and AK opened with fewer attractions.

This is a recurring theme in your article and it's so bogus I was waiting for you to be making some kind of tongue-in-cheek point. You're basically comparing things like World of Motion, Universe of Energy, The American Adventure, and the Great Movie Ride to Superstar Limo! The problem is the number of quality attractions. A DCA with two or three really strong attractions (let's say two or three Soarin' Over Californias) would draw in substantially more people. There simply aren't enough must-see attractions. The Great Movie Ride and the Animal Kingdom safari are enough to draw in visitors who will most likely already have a multi-park pass.

The fact is that the numbers don't count here, because you are arguing with perception, not facts. Customers feel like there are fewer attractions, because what attractions there are don't impress. Customer impression is all that matters, in the end. Universal Studios-Hollywood has precious few attractions, but they are strong attractions.

3. Epcot had a higher percentage of movie-based attractions.

This one suffers from the same fallacy as the last one. DCA's best attractions, its E-tickets, are movie based! The movies at Epcot, even opening day, were either clearly “crowd-soakers” to keep people busy on hot afternoons or part of bigger, more elaborate attractions like Universe of Energy.

4. Epcot had even more shops and restaurants per attraction.

This is a misleading question. Another case of customer perception. If the attractions were strong, no one would care how many shops or restaurants there are. Also, it's so apparent that this is where the money went, it becomes insulting to guests. “Oh, they can build this huge, amazingly themed shop, but they expect me to ride Superstar Limo?”

5. Epcot, MGM and AK opened with fewer E-tickets.

You're really stretching here. Epcot, for its era, opened with some very state-of-the-art, amazing attractions, some of which are still drawing in the crowds daily. Don't tell me that you, of all people, are falling into the 'if you don't scream while you ride it, it must not be good' mindset? This is Disney, not Six Flags. Besides, you're also missing the point that Disney clearly did not build DCA with the idea of “adding mega-attractions later.” The Tower of Terror is a perfect example of this; one look at its placement and how it is [juts up] into the skyline of the park shows they didn't even have the first new mega-attraction in mind when they designed DCA.

6. Disneyland also opened with off-the-shelf carnival rides.

You're using Disneyland in 1955, the prototype for this whole concept of theme park, as an example of what DCA has done now? So... we've learned nothing in almost 50 years? Then you go on to say that Test Track is the “headline attraction” at Epcot? Disney hasn't relied on off-the-shelf carnival rides since 1955, and that was what made them Disney. The gripe here is the severe difference in quality between the immersive experiences at other Disney parks and the crappy, Six Flags Lite stuff we have at DCA.

7. Disneyland also opened with sponsored ads poorly disguised as attractions.

This hearkens back to one of my original points: no one would care, if there were quality attractions to be experienced. We'd all happily queue up for a free tortilla if we'd just left a series of experiences comparable to Tokyo DisneySea or even today's Epcot with its plundered Future World.

8. Most of the attractions at Magic Kingdom were copies.

While the “if there were good attractions” argument applies here as well, the problem is that DCA isn't a copy of another park. If we had gotten Westcot with several attractions ported over from Epcot, it would have been a hit. A mix of old and new is fine. What we got just screams “we didn't want to spend any money on new things, here's a bunch of old stuff, give us the $45.” A compilation of attractions from other parks mixed in with mostly lackluster, movie-based attractions and a bunch of carnival rides does not a Disney park make. It just magnifies those retread attractions — and causes this complaint.

9. MGM also opened as a half-day park priced the same as the full-day parks.

Total apples and oranges. WDW is all about the multi-day pass and locals really aren't an issue. Disneyland is all about locals, but Pressler and Eisner had this glorious idea of changing that dynamic. Well, sorry, it didn't happen. Now we have a park that people will not ever pay full price to get in more than once. Since it wasn't designed for regulars or locals in mind, it's even having a hard time drawing in annual passholders without a special event.

10. Imagineers were equally constrained in designing attractions for the original Epcot.

At this point, I have to shake my head. Epcot's theme was constrictive? You must be joking, right? Virtually any subject could have been addressed in Future World, as long as it somehow looked at its history and its future. Any culture or country could be shown in World Showcase. How many hundreds of nations with deep, rich culture exist on the planet? Yet you're saying that a single state is a broader theme? Any “theme” that requires designers and guests to go through “awkward contortions to pretend new offerings have anything to do with (the theme)” isn't a sound theme! It also hasn't been a problem in any of Disney's other parks.

I hope I don't come off as too harsh, here, I do greatly enjoy the site and your other work. I was just caught flatfooted by your reasoning here.

JJ, you're talking, as you say, “perceptions.” I was reporting “facts.” I wasn't saying I agreed with the decisions made. Just showing that they had all been made before, on projects typically beloved by DCA haters.

As for your particular arguments, I agree with most of them. Although you and Keith did misunderstand me on one point: I didn't mean that Epcot's overall themes (countries and the future) were limiting, just that the Imagineers were more limited in creating attractions for Epcot of the 1980s. They were not permitted to produce attractions without a sponsor. They had to then work with that sponsor to tell a “forward looking history” of its field.

On second thought, a more accurate precursor for DCA's theme may have been the recent trend of Disney seeming more concerned with copying competitors' established successes than inventing new ones of their own. Pleasure Island was targeted at Church Street Station's audience, Typhoon Lagoon at Wet 'n' Wild's, Disney-MGM at Universal Studios', Animal Kingdom at Busch Gardens'.

DCA's Hollywood district seems lifted from Universal, its rustic middle from Knott's, and its carnival-oriented Paradise Pier from Magic Mountain.

Tim wrote:

Great info as always. Here's my response to a few of the DCA notes:

Re: Disneyland opening with off-the-shelf carnival rides:

As I understand it, that's only partly true. The first two trains were scratch built by WED, hardly what we could call off the shelf. The car rides were also custom engineered. The carrousel was vintage and restored, not exactly off the shelf, either. The only real off-the-shelf rides I can think of are Dumbo and the Mad Tea Party. It's not that any of the attractions you mentioned were especially inventive, but there was a certain amount of work put into them to make them “Disney.” The off-the-shelf rides at DCA, and especially the midway games, seem to lack that special touch. I do like the sight of that giant orange from across Paradise Bay, though.

Re: Disneyland's sponsored “attractions” such as Monsanto's Hall of Chemistry and Kaiser's Hall of Aluminum Fame:

Oh, true. Oh, how so true. I had completely forgotten about those. And let's not forget Innoventions, both the Epcot and Disneyland versions. I think a big factor in this complaint, though, is that Disneyland hasn't had much of these corporate displays since the House of the Future went away. And at least that was really cool to look at (or so I'm told, I'm far too young to have visited it). But space fillers they all were, and eventually Imagineering will find something better to do with the buildings.

Re: Disney building the same attractions at multiple parks due to the small percentage of guest overlap:

You know what? Disney's research is right. I'm a left-coaster, and I visit Disneyland far more often than WDW. I like having A Bug's Life, MuppetVision, and Tower of Terror on the West Coast. And even though the base attraction is the same, the queue and exterior theming is always somewhat different. Just having it in a different park makes it feel different. Sure, I don't want an exact duplicate of MGM or Animal Kingdom in California, but it's nice to have some of the attractions in a more convenient location.

Re: Limitations of the California theme:

Well, I have to disagree with you on this point. I think the California theme is far more limiting than, well, a dozen different countries and The Future. Disney is already stretching by putting in the Bug's Life attractions. Sure, they fit into the farm theme, but what do they directly have to do with the state of California? Maybe they could turn the entire area into Pixarland. Pixar is a California-based company, after all.

And how are they going to expand within the California theme? An El Capitan climbing simulator? A virtual tour of California lighthouses? Oh, I know, they can theme the security check in front of the gates to the Mexican border crossing.

As far as off-the-shelf carnival rides, I meant figuratively, as in an established ride type with a coat of Disney theming. Disney spent a lot of time and money theming DCA's rides, the only problem is that many are literally off the shelf and themed to... a carnival.

Hastin wondered:

The point that I'd like brought up is: “Didn't Disney learn from their mistakes?!”

You're right, Epcot and Animal Kingdom had their problems. Shouldn't those problems cause Disney to change something?

You're also right...

Except that Disney doesn't view these 10 “problems” as problems. They view them as strategies to expand their market, save money and maximize their return on investment. Financially, sometimes they pay off (Disney-MGM), sometimes they don't (DCA).

And, here are a few readers who praised me, many because they, too, thought I was defending DCA...

Maus squeaked:

Thanks so much for this article debunking a lot of DCA complaints. I like this park. It's actually my number six, too, but only because MGM has Tower of Terror. So next year...

Anyway, I've been saying these things to folks for two years — but I don't have a Web site to express myself!

Jeff B. wrote:

I agree with you 100% on every point that you made. DCA isn't a perfect park, but it's not nearly as bad as some make it out to be and unfairly compared to Disneyland. DCA will improve in time.

Dan Y. lauded:

I just wanted to thank you for your well thought out article. I'm so sick of people climbing on the “we hate DCA” bandwagon. I also agree that, while DCA is my least favorite of the parks, there is still much of value there.

Wes added:

I want to thank so much for the DCA story that pretty much stated to “Give DCA a Break!” Thank you! I am really tired of hearing that “DCA is boring,” “not fun,” etc. I personally love DCA. I wouldn't mind Disney building a state themed park for each state in the U.S.

I also read the one comment in that story about carnival rides. First off, isn't Paradise Pier supposed to be like a carnival? DCA has one of the best roller coasters that Disney has ever made and is worth at least two times so that occupies time. DCA has a great playful theme to the Paradise Pier area so theming was not spared. The theming in the other sections was also authentic. Yeah, DCA is still young and it doesn't have many rides, but like you stated, that is normal. DCA is a nice atmosphere to correspond with the very child-oriented Disneyland. DCA is going to have a good future with attraction such as Tower of Terror and many others. Time will tell.

Jerry wrote:

I really enjoyed your article “California Reamin'.” I have looked on in amazement as DCA has been absolutely trashed over the past two years. I have not been to Disneyland since I was about 10 (40 years ago), but I have visited WDW at least once a year for the past 10 years so I know a little about Disney theme parks.

When I read the complaints I wonder “What's their beef?” I look at the attractions DCA opened with:

  • California Screamin' – E-ticket
  • It's Tough to be a Bug – E-ticket
  • Muppet Vision 3-D – E-ticket
  • Soarin' Over California – E-ticket
  • Grizzly River Run – E-ticket
  • Disney Animation – If not an E-ticket, darned close.
  • Sun Wheel – If not an E-ticket, darned close.

So you have 5 E's and a couple of more almost-E's. Try to come up with that many for Animal Kingdom. It can't be done. Even the Disney/MGM Studios and Epcot would be hard pressed to claim that many E's, especially before Tower of Terror, Rock and Roller Coaster and Test Track were added. DCA will also be getting what I consider to be the single best attraction in all of Orlando: Tower of Terror.

To a certain extent I think Disneyland's guests have become a little spoiled. All these years they have had the park with the most attractions and lowest ticket price of any American Disney park. Now a new park opens that doesn't duplicate Disneyland Park and they are all up in arms.

My wife and I are going to Disneyland for five days this fall. We both are really looking forward to spending a couple of days at the California Adventure. And yes, I'm certain we will find enough at DCA to spend two days there. I can easily spend two days at Animal Kingdom and come away wishing I had more time there. Some folks just don't know how to enjoy a theme park.

Sal wrote:

I have to compliment you on today's article on Disney's California Adventure. It is about time this article was written by someone, as it was long overdue. Through all the anti-DCA articles that constantly repeat the same basic complaints just rephrased and exaggerated, your article was breath of fresh air.

It is fairly obvious to me that the people who enjoy bashing DCA pay absolutely no attention to the precedents that you have listed from past Disney parks because it throws a huge wrench into their arguments. And they wouldn't want that, would they?

I personally feel that if you go to a theme park looking to hate it, you will and if you go open minded to how this is not supposed to be the typical Disney theme park, you may actually enjoy it. I have experienced both, and let me tell you, I like being in the latter group a whole lot better.

I look forward to the future to see Disney's California Adventure grow as its sister park did its first decade.

Vincent R. wrote:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Ever since DCA opened, I have been amazed at the complaints of true Disney guests. Although I'm in Atlanta, I am one of those few who actually visits both North American properties each year.

I love DCA. I thought it was a unique combination of Disney's Boardwalk Hotel and Disney's MGM Studios. I fell in love with DCA from day one. The esplanade is very well designed, and Downtown Disney is superb.

The first time I went to Epcot, I was underwhelmed. The first time at Disney's Animal Kingdom, bored. I didn't get upset as I paid for a park hopper pass, so I didn't feel as if my money was wasted.

DCA is a wonderful theme park. What brings DCA down a few notches are all the Disney bashers who are obviously so shortsighted, they have nothing else to do but complain about instant gratification.

Makes sense why disappointed visitors to DCA may react harsher than at WDW. Like you said, at WDW you typically have a park hopper. If you're bored or underwhelmed at Park A, you can always spend the rest of the day at B, C or D.

John D. debated:

In today's “I want it all now” society, it was refreshing to read your article about DCA. If Walt had opened Disneyland in 2001 rather then the tranquil and bygone days of the 1950s, his park would most likely have been greeted with the same ridicule leveled at DCA. It was only through Walt's dream of a forever changing park that has kept his dream alive and Disneyland open the last 50 years.

I live in Arizona, where in the late '50s a very similar park to Disneyland was opened called Legend City. Similar in size, It opened with many of the same rides Disneyland had at the time (jungle cruise, Autopia, same off-the-shelf dark rides, etc.) and Legend City thrived throughout the late '50s and '60s. However, it never really changed any of its original attractions, eventually lost attendance, fell into disrepair and today is a sprawling office complex never to be seen again.

There is a lesson to be learned here. There must be a balance between substance and profit. Just like a bank, Disney is in the business to make money not a charitable organization with a mission to entertain the world. If that was there mission, Walt would have moved on to far more profitable ventures — he was a true businessman and was driven by success, learned from his failures, and was never scared to take on something new when everyone around him advised him otherwise. You could call him a true visionary!

Although we live in Arizona, we are annual passholders and visit Anaheim at least a half-dozen times a year. As a family, we very much enjoy DCA (including getting a tortilla as a snack midday!) and it's often difficult to pry my 11-year old daughter and her friends away from DCA to venture over to the far more conservative place we all love and call — Disneyland!

Janice B. noted:

I thoroughly agree with your article. We live in Anaheim and our family loves DCA. We often see Aladdin twice a day. Muppets are always funny. Some people don't want to pay to watch their kids climb on ropes and tires — my son thinks that is worth a million bucks! He could spend the day there. We have been to WDW six times in the past seven years. We were there the week Animal Kingdom opened — not much there. Still, plenty to love. MGM — not a lot there — still plenty to do. Epcot — my kids' favorite!

I think it has a lot to do with the type of people you talk to. Some people want nonstop ride action. I see how they can be disappointed. Maybe we are the exception. My kids can spend all day at Disneyland and never go on a ride. We can spend a week at WDW and spend half a day at Magic Kingdom. There is just so much to see at the small parks. It's a kinda “stop and smell the roses” thing. Some people just can't do it.

P.S. My 8 years old thinks Mulholland Madness and the almost-twin in Animal Kingdom are great rides. Who cares what the grown-ups think?

Fred C. shared:

Thank you very much for the article comparing DCA's problems with the other parks. I really enjoy DCA and agree with most of your comparisons. I used to travel to Florida frequently, and was there and stayed on property shortly after the opening of the Magic Kingdom (huge, but not as active as Disneyland), Epcot “Center” (again huge, but not much different than DCA upon opening although full of animatronics), and the Disney-MGM Studios (not much to do except visit with animators who moved there).

Allen wrote:

Excellent title for an excellent article. I think my experience growing up in Texas and visiting WDW almost every summer exposed me to “modern” (that is, post-Disneyland) Disney parks more than most who visit DCA. From my first visit to DCA 10 days after it opened, I noticed certain areas lacking, but was amazed that Disney got something “right” by building a park with more than a handful of things to do its first year.

Thank you for doing the research on how DCA stacks up with former parks.

Timothy W. wrote:

I enjoyed your take on the DCA dilemma. Having visited Epcot, and MGM before they were fully “developed,” I can see that DCA should be well on its way to be bigger and better, as time goes on. We live in an instant gratification, “on-demand” society, and therefore, when we are asked to be patient and wait for things to grow or improve, we show disgust, bitch and moan, and then move on to the next bigger and brighter distraction.

I myself can wait till Disneyland is repaired, and DCA is a fuller experience. If I need Disney, Florida is only two hours away. Complaining does nothing more than raise your peeve levels. I complained to WDW once, and their answer was to throw some free passes my way. I felt good at the time, but they just bought me off rather than solve the problem.

There is so much to see and do in this great big U.S. of A., I can't worry about how overpaid Eisner is or how much could have been done with the bonuses they wasted on him. I was going to visit Anaheim this summer, but decided instead to see the real thing and go to the Black Hills in South Dakota. Maybe if more people stayed away, they would finally get the message.

John M. wrote:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! (Have I thanked you enough?) Your latest piece on DCA was what I've being saying for two years.

One point I would love to add: “DCA doesn't attract stand-alone full day admissions and is therefore a colossal failure.” Does Epcot? Does MGM? Do any of the secondary parks create huge revenues for Disney, or do they contribute to the whole? The “Disney” parks will always be the anchor of any Disney resort, with the other parks serving to keep people on Disney properties longer. Financially, the bottom line is how well the RESORT is doing, not individual properties.

What I'd love to see is a point-by-point debate on your entire article between you and well, you know who. Something live with lot's of mudslinging. Not verbal — actual mud.

Mudslinging would be okay as long as it's authentically themed to the La Brea Tarpits.



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(Send an email to David Koenig)

David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999) (All titles published by Bonaventure Press).

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.