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Mouse Tales
A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
Why are we all so passionate about DCA?
For two years, Disney watchers have debated the virtues and shortcomings of Disney's California Adventure. Many anxiously await the arrival of a world class attraction they see destined to turn Anaheim into a days-long destination resort. Others see it as a blemish on Disneyland's exterior, a low budget, off-the-shelf quickie, devoid of originality and doomed to failure.

For two years, I've held my tongue. I've tried to keep an open mind and withhold my opinion as to whether DCA will be a "good" or a "bad" theme park until I've actually been inside. I've refused to be a cheerleader or a naysayer.

I'll admit, on paper, DCA doesn't look that impressive. Still, I don't think it's supposed to be. It was calculated to make the maximum amount of money, and that it should.

Grizzy Peak
Grizzly Peak

My first visit to DCA held a few surprises. I found the whole park beautiful, particularly the majestic Grizzly Peak. Soarin' Over California was a delight, one of the few attractions anywhere—and the only film-based attraction—that I would ride over and over again.

I loved the Animation exhibit. The "hub" of the building, with artwork and clips seemingly dancing around the walls, was breathtaking. "Drawn to Animation" was fun, as were the interactive displays. I especially enjoyed dubbing my own voice into scenes from Disney classics—once I learned I could ad-lib. In my version, the Seven Dwarfs marched home from the diamond mine singing "Love Will Keep Us Together."

Muppet Vision 3-D, It's Tough to Be a Bug, and the whitewater raft ride were enjoyable, but vaguely familiar. Hadn't I seen them somewhere before?

Superstar Limo left me flabbergasted. I still have no idea what was going through the mind of the ride's designers—not to mention the executives who approved it.

Paradise Pier
Paradise Pier

I didn't care much for the Paradise Pier section, but it seemed to be the most popular area of the park. It did provide one moment of relief. The other Disney theme parks succeed in keeping out the outside world. I had feared that sightlines would be a problem at DCA, which has no berm but plenty of high-flying attractions constructed a few yards from public streets. Imagine seeing a liquor store while walking through Frontierland, Fantasyland or Adventureland. Paradise Pier was the only area of DCA where you can't help but see the real world. Yet, it didn't bother me, probably because city streets and businesses are a natural background for a Coney Island-type amusement park.

I don't expect many return viewings of the wine making, bread baking, tortilla grounding, or lettuce growing. Golden Dreams, too, was fine, but I'm in no hurry to see it again.

Bakery Tour
Bakery Tour

By mid-afternoon, we had seen everything we wanted to see. We went home happy—early, but happy. Not a great park, but likely a down payment on one. Its modesty puzzled me: why are so many people so passionate about a place that seemed so… so… innocuous. This is the place that has driven people into hysterics? What did I miss?

I thought back to the movie we saw the night before, Miss Congeniality. Formulaic but cute. The audience didn't appear to be squirming in its seats. We laughed at most of the jokes and seemed to enjoy it. No one walked out or threw anything at the screen. Yet, no one applauded at the end. It won't win any Oscars. I'm not expecting a sequel.

That didn't stop movie critics from alternately praising it or panning it, while presenting their subjective views as objective fact.

In the same way, early visitors to DCA have loudly touted DCA as a hit or a flop. Personally, I can't imagine too many people intensely loving or absolutely hating the park. There's nothing offensive about it and only a handful of awful attractions. There are a few E-ticket rides, but only a few. The parade didn't scare small children, but then no one was humming the theme song afterwards.

Golden Zephyr
Golden Zephyr

So why all the fervor? One reason might be because for years, Disney fans have been either dreading or drooling over the idea of a second gate in Anaheim. And after that long of expending so much emotion over a park they've never visited, the actual visit becomes anti-climactic. There are no surprises. We already know if we love it or we hate it. Our enjoyment is not based on the quality of the park or its attractions, but on our preconceived notions.

Possibly, we're suffering from some myopic condition, such as:

(1) The Brainwash. These poor souls support Disney no matter what it does. They never question the company's motives; it can do no wrong. If a guest gets hurt, it's his own fault, no matter what happened. Every inch of Disneyland is sacred. Disneyland churro carts pack more entertainment than anything at Six Flags. Light Magic was genius.

Brainwash victims have loved DCA from the moment Disney told them they would.

(2) Starvation. Every year Disney World in Florida gets at least one fancy new themed hotel or time share resort or golf course or E-ticket attraction or entertainment complex. In Southern California, however, Disneyland subtracts more attractions than it adds.

Southern Californians are so starved for a new Disney anything, they'll be grateful for anything. These are the people who loved the New Tomorrowland. Sure, the biggest attraction is on "temporary hiatus." Sure, the two other new attractions are woefully unpopular. Sure, the New Tomorrowland was just a fancy paint job. But look how shiny and sparkly everything looks! There's no arguing that DCA is shiny and sparkly.

Walt Disney walking through Sleeping Beauty Castle -Publicity photo  Disney
Walt Disney walking through Sleeping Beauty Castle -Publicity photo Disney

(3) Isolationism. Others worship not Disney, but Disneyland, circa 1967. For them, Disneyland is such hallowed ground that a second gate should never be built, no matter how inventive and wonderful. Inimitable Van Arsdale France, the late founder of the Disney University, often played the Disney cheerleader in public, but in private he gave me the impression that he wished Disneyland had joined Walt in the deep freeze after the Haunted Mansion opened. He thought Orlando, Tokyo, Paris, "all these little Disneyland franchises" detracted from Walt's masterwork.

These folks will never visit DCA.

(4) Squeaky Wheel Syndrome. Others will complain about DCA no matter how good, bad, or indifferent it is. They figure the more they complain, the more improvements Disney will make. They are fond of telling you that, "Hey, whining saved Mr. Lincoln—twice!" They do have a sensible goal, though: they want to keep Disney accountable and make sure the company gives them the best attractions imaginable.

These folks will visit DCA just to point out its flaws.

(5) Jan Brady Disease. Let's face it, DCA can never compare to its big sister, Disneyland. The original Magic Kingdom is bigger. It has about three times as many attractions. The Carrousel isn't the only ride for a 3-year-old. DCA has Grizzly Peak; Disneyland has its own mountain range. Its theming is exotic and immersive. A first-time visitor could never see everything in one day. Most of all, Disneyland has given us 45 years of cherished memories.

Comparisons, though, are inevitable. The parks charge the same admission price and share parking lots and trams. Their entrance gates face each other.

When these folks visit DCA, they probably should be strip-searched for matches.

Hopefully, we've all learned something today. DCA defenders, it's okay to be disappointed by the new park. And DCA detractors, please don't ruin everyone else's fun. Give DCA a few decades.

You can write to David atthis link..

Why are we all so passionate about DCA?


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.

You can contact David here.


Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)


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