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Alex Stroup and Kevin Yee
Reader reViews!

-Bear raft ride
Read about this new park
at the
D-I-G Preview Site!
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  DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE 
- will it flop or fly?


Readers React:
The reViewing continues with the readers!
 
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Reader reViews for 5/23/00

First off, let me praise you two for this interesting take on editorializing. Very nifty. I've been very keen on the debate of DCA.

It's a very interesting situation which no one is really commenting on: this is the first time anyone's been able to have this much info on a new Disney Park as it's being built. Everyone is judging it as it's being built. We are watching it come into being. This to me is VERY EXCITING regardless of how it turns out.

I wish I lived in southern CA just so I could check it's progress in person. It's almost a shame that this is happening because the park is getting bad word of mouth before anyone's REALLY seen it. From what I've seen, it looks like a bunch of UGLY buildings. But that's before the landscaping (which will make a HUGE difference) and any of the theming (small as it will be, it will STILL be better than any SIX FLAGS) 

My biggest concern was echoed by the two of you. Will my visit to DL be harmed by unwanted views of DCA? The one view I'm NOT looking forward to is seeing the Roller Coaster and such as I enter by car. That view being the first view of the resort taints it terribly. I hope the landscaping somehow hides it from view. And I LOVE the sight of a roller coaster normally. I am definitely one who believes the Paradise Pier section will be fun. I love that atmosphere and from what I can see, Disney is producing a glorified nostalgic version of the seaside parks. Minus the seediness and cheapness. (Except for the WILD MOUSE which is SO UGLY. Hopefully something will obscure it somehow...)

And what's great is I can enjoy that and then move on to OTHER areas that are totally different. Being a huge fan of Coney Island's Wonder Wheel, can tell you that it will be great. Plus, you'll get a GREAT view. I wish we got better views of some of the other areas. The Grizzly mountain looks nice, but we still can't really see much of the other areas. I'm assuming the farm and winery area will attain their look COMPLETELY through landscaping. 

As I watch the park getting more complete, I am more encouraged that it will be a nice park. Not as nice as DL, but then NO PARK is as nice as DL. Not even WDW's MK. Financially, I think the park will do okay. It's going to definitely require FULL HOTELS. And at the prices Disney is charging that may be problem. I'd love to stay there, but not at $300. I think we're all hoping to be pleasantly surprised when the gates open. And I'm hoping al the crabbing online is making a difference at the DISNEY EXECUTIVE level and forcing some changing for the better at the park. More animatronics maybe? I look forward to your next debate.

- Gregory
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Dear Gregory, 

I agree with you on a lot of different levels here. You'll get no argument from me about hotel costs, or the inherent beauty of Disneyland. And you're quite right that the public has never had a chance to watch a Disney park being built like this, so we're both more hopeful and more critical than we'd otherwise be. Thanks for the note!

- Kevin
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Hi Guys!

Love reading these debates...

I, for one, am not impressed with DCA, but I am trying to keep an open mind. I love the deeply themed rides- the classics and even the ones like Alien Encounter. I have even been to DL Paris- the best Magic Kingdom (and Space Mtn!) of all. Had I not even heard of Disney Seas or Westcot, I'd view DCA differently. 

I think DCA will be 'somewhat' on par w/Disney's America. I guess I just keep thinking- in 30 years will we be celebrating the anniversary of Grizzly River Rapids? Of course not. There is nothing lavish about DCA. Where are the signature attractions? Animal Kingdom at least got "Countdown". If "Soaring" is it or GRR, we may be in trouble. 

I remember the opening of Haunted Mansion in '69. It was groundbreaking. Even Soarin' can be compared to Back to the Future at Universal. Yeah, DCA has large elements of MGM Studios and Tough to be a Bug (a great show!) but so what. What is special and noteworthy about DCA except Disney proved they could squeeze a park and a mall in the Dland parking lot! I am keeping my hopes on Phase Two. Some think it is a red herring by Pressler. I hope not.

A friend of mine, a high level VP for a large investment firm says Eisner is on his way out. I hope so- maybe Imagineering and the parks could restore its weakened reputation. Maybe this should be your next debate- the benefits or not of replacing Eisner....

Thanks and have fun,

- Mark
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Dear Mark, 

I hear what you're saying about the lack of a lavish approach here. Not every ride can be an Audio-Animatronics extravaganza along the lines of Pirates of the Caribbean, but you're right it would be nice to have at least one. Still, there's this to consider: isn't a park full of nice but not overwhelming detail better than a parking lot, which was here before? I'd rather have re-used WDW rides than nothing at all.

- Kevin

Hey Mark -

One comment you made really struck me as something important for us to remember. "Had I not even heard of Disney Seas or Westcot, I'd view DCA differently." What we need to remember is that most people haven't heard of Disney Seas or Westcot. Most people will not be trying to place DCA into some greater Disney canvas.

I've been to a Disney park six times so far this year. The average guest probably doesn't visit more than two or three times per decade, if that. I think that Disney is going to find that for the average guest, DCA is a wonderful experience. It could be that Disney has finally built a park that aims for the average guest.

- Alex
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I agree with many of the points both of you brought out. I have been following the construction since its beginning, and formed my own opinion before even reading the negative reviews about DCA. 

The problem I see is that Disney's main concern is not about pleasing and wowing guests, like Walt's main objective. Their goal is simply to make money! Nothing more, nothing less.

Eisner couldn't be more different that Walt! Ever since he has been in charge, the changes that have occurred over the years point to the fact that he is out-of-touch and only concerned with making money. Unfortunately, DCA may well be the straw that broke the camel's back. Look at all the great Imagineers that have left the company lately! Did they "really" leave to make more money elsewhere? To have a better opportunity? Perhaps they left because they simply had enough with seeing Disney diverting from its original goal: To entertain guests in a way that lets them forget about the "real" world and allows them to live in a fantasy world for a day. 

Think about it...if you were an Imagineer, and your talents and creative ideas were always under the scrutiny of costs and pinching pennies to the point where the final product was a completely watered down version of what you originally intended, wouldn't you be "embarrassed" to even claim you had any real part in the making? Not to mention the fact that your ideas are being shot down by people who DO NOT have anywhere NEAR the creative mind that you and your fellow Imagineers have and therefore are OUT-OF-TOUCH with what would please the general public and amaze them to the point of wanting to return again and again.

This is exactly what we are seeing lately: First with the so-called "new" Tomorrowland, and now DCA. And this is just considering California. The original Disneyland was a huge success because the man in charge, Walt, was himself an Imagineer. He had a creative mind's eye that new exactly what would bring smiles to peoples faces, and his main goal WAS NOT about making money hand-over-fist.

DCA will draw crowds when it first opens because of all the hype behind it...people want to see whether it is a successful project or a flop. But after 2 years, the real light will shine through, and a book will arrive on the best-sellers book shelves entitled "Disney's California Adventure: Why it failed!"

- Tom
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Dear Tom, 

Ohhh, it is very tempting to just agree with you across the board. And for the most part, I do agree. But playing devil's advocate here, what if this whole "Money Second" attitude we all associate with Walt was just well-tuned propaganda? 

Disney sells a brand, an image. Maybe Walt was just better at selling without it FEELING like commercialization, which is a critical difference. Still, there is much wisdom in what you say here.

- Kevin
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Hi Tom -

You may be right, and in a couple of years we will all be wondering if Disney's one year schedule to return DCA back into a pristine parking lot is too aggressive. But I would be amazed if DCA will ever be viewed as a complete failure. Most people just don't expect as much out of Disney. 

I was on a plane recently sitting with a mother and her daughter. They were obviously returning home from Disneyland and we talked a bit. They both said that their favorite ride was - gasp! - Rocket Rods. They'd ridden it several times and had never noticed the cinder block theming.

I'm not saying that we are wrong to place the highest expectations on Disney but rather that not meeting our expectations does not mean that Disney will suffer financially.

- Alex
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Hey guys,

It was real interesting reading your thoughts on DCA... but is it possible to get this into a three-way dual? This is a topic that I, as a Disneyland cast member and big fan, would really like to discuss in a forum such as this. I'm sure you all probably have received a lot of mail regarding this issue, but there are many topics that the two of you may have left out of or pointed out lightly in discussion. I have to think of DCA in two separate ways: 1) local frequent Disney visitor and worker, and 2) Disney fan living in either northwest or northeast coasts.

Now looking from a frequent visitor standpoint, DCA looks very disappointing. The attractions look no different than those found at Six Flags or Knott's... just a little fancier. Now that is what Disney is known for doing, taking something and making it a lot better, but is there anything in DCA that will really knock the socks off of us? 

Kevin, you mentioned the simulator attraction, that I admit sounds interesting, but is there anything else that is screaming for us to ride (maybe California Screamin' coaster, no pun intended). Sure it will be a fun coaster but it isn't even close to what the Disneyland coasters offer in terms of creativity. The rapids ride had potential of being the NEW mountain that CA needed but from what I read about it, it's nothing more than a mountain rapids ride. No animatronics, no characters, no story, nothing. That's disappointing. At least the rapids ride at Animal Kingdom had a "save the forests" theme. 

Now, everything else offered in this new park is very low scale (such as those carnival attractions found in Paradise Pier) or could be found at another existing Disney park (Muppet Vision, It's Tough to be a Bug 3-D). Also from what I heard, the Imagineers had little to do with many of the attractions, another method of cutting corners, no doubt. On a final note on this point of view, a frequent visitor probably wouldn't want to fork out $40+ on this theme park unless there was something that could not be offered anywhere else. Hopefully that will be the "Disney Magic", that could be found nowhere else. This would be mainly the case if Disney charged separate admission to the parks. If both parks combined cost someone under $50, it would not be that bad... unless DCA was so horrid that nobody wanted to pay extra for it and not go.

Now on the view point of an out of state Disney fan, it 'would' definitely give me more incentive to visit Walt's original playground and also take a look at Disney's latest. But I would also be even more disappointed if it were not to my full expectations. A theme park opposite of Disneyland from the same company has to be up to par at least, right? One would assume so, but DCA simply isn't going to be. At least not yet. 

I remember how disappointed I was at Walt Disney World when each theme park didn't feel as "full" as Disneyland alone was. But since I'm not really an out of state Disney fan, I couldn't honestly say if I would choose to visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World. I suppose it would depend on which one was closer and if you had relatives there or not. But either way, I would have very high expectations of DCA if I were out of state. So high that DCA couldn't' help but be a disappointment. Imagine camping outside a theater for Episode I and getting Battlefield Earth instead. Not a happy camper...

So to wrap it all up, I'm looking forward to DCA's opening, but my expectations are very low right now. I don't think it will be the money maker that Eisner and Co. were hoping for... since you need to put in $$$ to make $$$$. To me, it's just a hodgepodge of Universal, Six Flags, and Knott's rolled into one, with a Disney name. I guess I have the same mentality that Alex has... I find it difficult to get excited about the park but would love to be proven wrong.

-David
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Dear David, 

You have continued the tradition begun by our other readers with your thoughtful insight here. I'd put out the caution I did with the last letter - any park is better than none at all - but you're quite right that this is not up to Disney's usual standards. PROBABLY. And that "probably" needs to be said; after all, it's not open yet. 

Still, we have enough info to have an idea, and I think you're on the right track. You're also correct to point out the issue of cost. This may be "better than nothing" but is it worth $42 for a day's visit? Probably once, yes. But for repeat visits?

- Kevin
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Kevin and Alex,

Well done, interesting views on DCA. First of all Paradise Pier is supposed to invoke the history and culture of what California is. It would be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower (the Parisians hated it when it was built). I think the Disney fans will embrace Paradise Pier when it opens.

On the economic side of DCA, this was a good idea. How do you both define profits? Or going bust? I define it from the onset of building. How much does it cost. How long does it take to recoop the costs. Westcot (even though it looked good in drawings) was overdone (no room to expand) and too expensive. Disney would have spent well over 2 billion on Westcot alone (not including Anaheim's 1 billion for infrastructure) opposed to DCA which cost less than 1 billion. DCA was not built to compete with Disneyland but to supplement it providing an extra day for guests. 

The quality is there with Ca. Soaring, Muppet Vision, It's Tough to be a Bug and Superstar Limo. As far as Disney is concerned, they are up one billion which allows them to quickly start phase II of DCA (which most likely will include Rock and Roll Coaster, the Armageddon Show and hopefully, Tower of Terror) and phase III and IV thereafter. Just today, the O.C. Register reported Disney having preliminary expansion talks with Anaheim officials for a third park on the 80 acres one block from DCA (the Fujishige property bought in 1999 and earlier land Disney bought in 1997 which is a cast mamber parking lot). Disney continues to purchase land around this area hoping to bring the 80 acres to 100 (wouldn't a lean and compact Disney Seas be nice). With the one billion saved, it's practical and doable. No dates have been set on the third park.

The Block: I live in O.C. and I have to respectfully disagree with your idea that The Block does not have a teenager problem. They do and this has been their problem from the onset. Many adults will tell you that they keep away precisely because of this. We in O.C. are counting down the days until a quality entertainment/dining/retail district opens up. The Irvine Spectrum is nice but Downtown Disney sounds better.

- Robert
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Dear Robert, 

You weren't the only one to call me on the issue of teens at the Block in Orange, but I honestly don't see it as a problem. Oh well. It's nice to see some people are still optimistic about DCA, and you're right that Westcot would have cost quite a bit of money. Rather than refute that, I'd prefer to ask a pointed question: couldn't Disney exist with a slightly less profitable bottom line in the short term if it meant long-term health and interest in the theme parks? 

I worry that short-term thinking dominates the corporate culture now, and some of this is stock-price related (more to the point, related to Eisner's stock option bonuses).

- Kevin -

Dear Robert, 

"How do you both define profits?" From the corporate perspective Disney will define profits by asking themselves whether over the lifetime of the park the company has made more money than if they had just left the money in the bank. Disney isn't going to close the park unless it experiences at a net operational loss, and does so for a long time, but they aren't going to be really happy unless it provides a good return on investment (ROI).

I do like your idea that Disney is up a billion dollars just because it decided not to spend $2 billion on the new park. If that thinking were good then Disney could just not build any park and put a big $2 billion profit in their next annual report. Just remember, when it is so important how much money you spend, but rather how much you get back for it.

- Alex
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I would just like to comment on the success of DD by comparing it to a similar project, Universal's City Walk in Orlando. CW has been doing very well since it opened and is really pulling in crowds from all sectors (tourists,locals etc..) It also has only two parks backing it and one hotel (soon three). So if this is any indicator DD should be doing fairly well. 

This comparison could also be expanded to include all of Universal Orlando with them also having one major themed park with immerse environments (IOA) and one with nice rides but no unifying theme (USF) but I won't go there right now.

- Jeremy -

Dear Jeremy, 

Penetrating remarks, my friend, if indeed CityWalk Orlando is doing well (and I have no reason to doubt you here). 

I might caution that the situation is not perfectly analogous for two reasons. First, Universal Escape is off the beaten path a bit so the audience is captive in a way (something that's not true of Anaheim).

Second, at Universal the new park is an excitingly detailed theme park, whereas at California the new park is the less themed counterpart. Whether the analogy holds true is something only time will tell.

- Kevin
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Hello!

I just discovered this site and I enjoyed your dual review.

I am too a Northern California Disneyland fan and I have been following the development of DCA with some interest. As a life-long Disneyland fan (WDW is just a weak Disneyland with lots of room for people) I agree that the beauty of Disneyland has always been the total experience; entertaining rides, fun shows, great fireworks, beautiful landscaping, (generally) polite guests and great cast members. To even speak of Great America in the same breath as Disneyland is unthinkable.

I think that there will be some disappointment in the new park (a whole lot based on a lot of internet posts) but I think these same people who love Disneyland now would have been disappointed with the park when it opened in 1955. There was no POC or HM or Matterhorn when the park opened. Lines were long, landscaping was no where near "mature." But the park has evolved. Attractions have come and gone. It improves with age (despite missteps such as Rocket Rods.)

With the incredible growth in the amusement park industry primarily focused on building bigger and faster roller coasters, I'm sure Disney is feeling a little pressure to also build. I also think that the guests that are putting the most of this pressure are local annual passholders. I think ultimately the Paradise Pier section of the park will fulfill its job as providing some bigger thrill rides. Clearly the difficulty with this section of the park is theming the queue as this is supposed to be an interpretation of the coastal amusement park. Without themed queue's there will be long switchback lines (Does Dumbo come to mind - that line just always looks bad.)

I think there will be some fondness for the themed area as there are a lot of Baby Boomers who remember a beach side amusement park from their childhood. SF's "Playland at the Beach" comes to mind; long since gone but many adults who went there as a kid often wish it was still there. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk still draws many from Nor Cal (I prefer it to Great America or Six Flags Marine World) and I think Paradise Pier will represent the fond memories for the adults bringing their kids or grandchildren.

Will the park compare with Disneyland? No way - but I don't think any park ever will. It is the granddaddy of them all and it has look and feel that can never be duplicated. However DCA does look like it will have some fun and interesting attractions (even for many of them being off-the-shelf rides.) I think in many ways it will be a nice contrast and a nice way to spend a day. On a nostalgic basis, I am excited to see the Wild Mouse coaster which is similar to a ride that used to exist at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. At this point, that is my first destination when I hit the park.

- Chris
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Dear Chris, 

I'm looking forward to the Wild Mouse, as I've never ridden one despite my trips to several coaster parks, some of them traditional parks. Ditto the Wonder Wheel. I understand your stance here, and it's a mature one. DCA cannot be DL. 

But I disagree that Disney should point to current trends and proclaim that thrill rides are what people want. It's a cliché, but Walt really did make his theme parks great by appealing to the entire family. Lest we forget, there were many more coasters in the United States in the 1920s than there are now. The thrill movement waxes and wanes, in other words, while immersive story-driven narratives will age much better. I could picture DL without Space Mountain, if it came to that, but I could not imagine DL without Pirates of the Caribbean.

- Kevin

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We want your feedback! Mail us both by clicking here.

Note: We're always happy to read your further comments, but our next mail column will center around the subsequent reView topic, and not any longer on this one.

 
Dual Reviews

Alex and Kevin debate current events and review Disney books.

This column is about opinions; unfortunately, we don't know any important Disney insiders so they are just our opinions. We are bringing this column to you as two ordinary Disney fans, much like yourself. We hope you enjoy and respond.

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