In my recent musings on Disney's California
Adventure, I wondered how such a pleasant yet trifling place
could generate so much passion, both pro and con. Readers responded
in forcefortunately not with force.
|Jeff Schinkel of
Fremont, California, wrote:
You hit the nail squarely on the head regarding DCA and
its supporters and detractors. I will confess that I am
probably more on the "brainwashed" and/or
"starved" side of the Disney meter. Reason: 38 years
of great Disneyland memories, especially the past 10 with my
So it's no surprise that I truly enjoyed DCA. Okay,
tortillas I can watch being made at Chevy's. But after reading
so much negativity from MousePlanet regularswaaaaay before
they actually visited the parkI was expecting coin-op
rides of the K-mart parking lot variety.
DCA is a good park now. What excites me are the possibilities.
Some of the "isolationists" (I love that label!!)
who never ever want anything added, subtracted, improved
or removed from Disneyland seem to forget that Disneyland
opened with a lot of temporary or non-working attractions
in 1955. And plenty of naysayers grumbling that it would never
work. We all know the story of Walt Disney instructing gardeners
to place signs bearing exotic names in front of weed patches.
I saw no weed patches at DCA.
DCA will grow and improve and the New Isolationists of
DCA will spring forward around, say, the year 2012. They'll
start Save the Orange Stinger sites. They'll hold conventions
at Burger Invasion. And, damn it, you know they'll complain
if the tortillas go away, too. The new park will become new
sacred ground, because over the years, they'll have happy
DCA memories and they'll want to preserve them. And they'll
show video to their grandkids bragging about how they were
there when it all began. (I know I will. I can hear it now:
"Wow, Grandpa! They used to give you free tortillas?
Well, I've blabbered on too long. I really just wanted
to say that you got it right, especially when you pointed out
that a trip to Disneyland or any theme park is more about the
attitude you bring along with you.
Thanks for a great article, and thanks for keeping an
I enjoyed your article on DCA, and found myself nodding
my head in agreement or empathy much of the time.
Superstar Limo? What the heck is the matter with that
ride? I tried to explain it to somebody who said it sounded
cute. I said I thought so too, before I went on it, but I just
couldn't tell her how it went so horribly wrong. Maybe it's
the overall toneso pandering, so smug, so faux-satirical.
Maybe it's the bizarre minimatronic wax museum characters from
the company's other products that are sure to become obsolete
within a couple of years. Perhaps it's that they dared to
theme the show building like LAX, which after waiting in line
outside for a long time to get into some serious theming,
seems like a sad shameful letdown. The ride itself: too slow
for a thrill ride, too fast for any enjoyment of the sets,
which were chaotically arranged and did not focus your
attention properly. Mm. I think I'm finally starting to
articulate what I didn't like about it.
Whew. Sorry. Let's talk about the good things. Soarin'
is a treat, and I've already done it four times. Great
pre-show! The Animation exhibit is just gorgeous, and I didn't
even go there the first time because I just assumed it would
be minimal, like the rest of the Hollywood area. Boy, what a
great secret is tucked in that building!
I took a few of my friends from different backgrounds on
different occasions, and they all agreed on a few things
(completely on their own, and with no prompting from me!).
There are way too many restaurants and not enough attractions
(I would argue the restaurant situation might be better if
they all weren't so similar). And $43 is ludicrous to spend on
such a park, and all agreed somewhere around $30 would be a
little more fair.
So there's my rundown. I wasn't prepared to think too
much of the place, but after spending a few days there, I have
to admit, it's kind of grown on me with a little bit of magic
all its own. The park has its own logic and its own rhythms,
which made itself clear to me only on repeat visits. I find
myself really enjoying the feeling of Paradise Pier at night.
(I believe that one of WDI's very strongest points now is
knowing how to light a theme park at night. Wow!) Cutting
through the Big Sur road to get to Hollywood. Eating free
tortillas. Getting a really good ice cream cone. It's a park
of little details, which exist in time to become little
"moments," some of which I already hold dear.
Anyway, glad you enjoyed yourself overall. And I think
you're right, the park is just a "down payment." I'm
sure more is to come, and probably pretty quick, as they see
their "experiment" start to sour guest relations in
a hurry. So, I'm sure, the best is yet to come.
|Many did give DCA enthusiastic
reviews. Chris Kitamura wrote:
I liked your "review" of DCA. You seem to be
very unbiased (emphasize the very) with the park. I haven't
heard too many opinions like that, especially on MousePlanet.
I do disagree with you, slightly. I do like the park a lot!
Not more or less than Disneyland, but the same as that park.
It's geared more to teens and adults. Disneyland and DCA seem
to complement each other because of Disneyland's ability to
appeal to kids and older adults (I'm thinking grandparents
taking their grandkids for some family fun). DCA's theming
environment was terrific! I really felt like I was in each of
the landmarks of California. The park itself had a feeling
like the Disney-MGM Studios park has.
Even though it was cheap to do and is more for making
money, the company did a great job. I like the rides and the
"lands." I am passionate about the park, but not
because I'm a brainwashed Disney fan. It is well done, and a
great companion to Disneyland!
|DCA also has its detractors. CNTLI wrote:
You seemed to hit the nail on the head with your latest
article, "Why all the Passion?" While agreeing with
nearly every point, I have a small rebuttal. Coming from a
longtime cast member who has visited DCA, I was very
disappointed with what I experienced. While I suffer from your
"Squeaky Wheel Syndrome" and "Jan Brady
Disease," I expect Disney (particularly the theme parks)
to not only meet my expectations, but to EXCEED them. Disney's
newest theme park did not meet my expectations, it fell far
short of my glaringly low expectations. That's why I have
become adamantly opposed to it, despite the few "diamonds
in the rough." Disney's attitude towards profitability
while sacrificing quality scares me.
Unfortunately, Disney now thinks
that Exceeding Expectations is too expensive; apparently their
research shows that, considering their built-in customer base,
there are higher profit margins on Meeting Expectations. That is
their goal; it's up to each of us to decide how well they
|And, Mark J Guttag wrote:
Well, I'm a critic of DCA and I don't fit into any of
the five categories you listed. For example, I am critical
of DCA despite the fact that I believe it will have
wonderful detail work on may of its buildings. One thing the
recent management of Disney has generally done well in my
humble opinion (IMHO) is detail work at the parks as evidenced
by Animal Kingdom, Disney-MGM and New Tomorrowland at WDW
(but not at Disneyland, which was a major disappointment to
me from a "Disney detail" standpoint and I would
really like to speak to the idiot who approved the Sorcerer
Mickey Hat for D-MGM, ruining a fantasy Hollywood view that
rivaled the view up Main Street in its attention to detail,
I may like classic Disney quality level attractions, but
I am quite willing to replace attractions like the Tiki Birds,
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, etc. if these attractions
are no longer popular. I've personally thought that the real
"spirit of Walt" as evidenced by his own tenure
running Disneyland was to revise or replace the old with something
new, if the something new was perceived to be better. Walt
probably removed more rides in the 10 years or so he ran Disneyland
than any president of Disneyland has done in any 10 year period
since Walt's death. What he didn't do was just rip out something
old and let the area sit idle for years as has been done with
the skyways and submarine rides at Disneyland and WDW.
To illustrate two of the specific things that bother me
about DCA that represent, a more major underlying thing that
bothers me about DCA and today's management, I would like
to comment on the first part of (3) from your article.
(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.
I do worship Disneyland, circa 1967, but not in the way
you have stated in the rest of your paragraph. Two major things
I worship about Disneyland 1967 are:
1. Disneyland's commitment to give the guest the best
theme park attractions on the planet: Carousel of Progress,
Adventure Thru Inner Space, The PeopleMover, It's a Small
World and Pirates of the Caribbean. Some of these attractions
may be dated by today's standards, but for 1967, they were
2. Disneyland's feeling that they owed it to the guest
to make news attractions that moved masses of people so guests
would not be faced with ever increasing lines as Disney increased
in popularity. Look at the five attractions listed above that
were added in 1965, 1966 and 1967; all of them handled over
2000 guests per hour, and in the case of Pirates and It's
a Small World, almost 3000 guests per hour.
I look at DCA and don't see a commitment to either of
these two things.
With respect to #1, compare the headliner attractions
of DCA with the headliner attractions at Tokyo DisneySea:
- Soarin' over California
- California Screaming
- Grizzly River Rapids
- It's Tough to Be a Bug
- MuppetVision 3D
- Animation Studio
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- Aladdin Show
- Voyages of Sinbad
- Storm Chaser
- Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
- Mermaid Lagoon
The only attractions at DCA that I might trade for one
of the attractions at TDS is Soarin' over California and the
Animation Studios, based on what I know about the attractions
at DCA and TDS (and admittedly, I've been to neither park,
but as a long-time visitor to Disney parks, I can make some
With respect to #2, consider that in 1967, Disneyland's
attendance was probably 7 million or so (it was 6.7 million
in 1966 according to Richard Schickel's book, "The Disney
Version" and I assume Disneyland's attendance increased
in 1967 with the addition of Pirates). Interestingly, Disney
is projecting a yearly attendance of about 7 million at DCA.
However, I don't think too many people would seriously argue
that the total capacity of the attractions at DCA is the same
as the total capacity of the attractions at Disneyland in
1967. In fact, in operation, all of the attractions at DCA
might have trouble just matching the capacity of the five
attractions added to Disneyland in 1965-1967 that I have mentioned
Which brings me to the more important concern, at least
for me, that I think underlies my concern about #1 and #2:
the people who currently make decisions about the attractions
added to Disney theme parks do not really "love"
theme parks; they just look at theme parks as another revenue
For comparison, take one of the movie companies owned
by Disney: Miramax. The people who run Miramax are famous
for "loving" to make movies. Do they release a non-artistic
money makers? Absolutely, Scary Movie being the most recent
example. In a business, the bills have to be paid after all.
But they also release artistic movies periodically that they
know are unlikely to make money, because they are the movies
they want to produce.
Similarly, one of the things that made Disneyland great
was that it was run by people who loved theme parks, Walt
himself being the most conspicuous example. Disney didn't
"need" to upgrade its attractions with an expensive
attraction like Pirates of the Caribbean to fend off the competition.
In 1967, there was no real competition to Disneyland in the
theme park arena. But given that building an attraction like
Pirates was both technologically and financially feasible,
Walt, being a theme park lover, went ahead and built it. And
Disney has been rewarded by guests for Walt's love of theme
parks ever since.
In contrast, I don't see many attractions at DCA that
look like they were inspired by someone wanting to build the
best attraction that was financially feasible in 2001 (in
contrast to TDS which will include many such attractions).
What I see all over DCA are attractions where making a great
attraction was either not considered or rejected as costing
I, too, am often critical of what
Disney does. Their current business model, though, is to spend
as little as possible on new theme parks (since they know people
initially will visit it when it's new), then add big marketable
attractions every year or two to sustain attendance. As a fan,
this disappoints me, but I admit it does make sense business-wise.
I'd also love to see Disneyland expanding
and updating, butlet's face itif management thinks
it's not going to get any new people in the gates, why do it?
Unfortunately, in the real world,
the Disney Company's greatest concern is not us fansit's
Mark quickly responded:
I think your "clumsy success" article about
DCA was the one article I have read that came closest to my
own opinion of DCA. The relatively cheap cost of the park
and the proximity to Disneyland almost insure it will make
money in its first few years, almost no matter how mediocre
the attractions. Of course, I didn't foresee Disney angering
the Disneyland annual passholders, the people Disney will
need to fill up the shops and restaurants at Downtown Disney
(similar to what happens with the locals hanging out at Downtown
Disney in Orlando)
Oh, that even one attraction was added to the parks every
year or two to sustain attendance.. Consider that at least
two of the four WDW theme parks have had a net loss of attractions
in the last six years: the Magic Kingdom lost the Subs and
the Skyway and will replace them with the Magic Carpets of
Aladdin 18 months after the Skyway closed (plus both Hall
of Presidents and the Lion King puppet show are now closed,
apparently for several months, so the MK is even down more
attractions currently). Epcot traded World of Motion and Horizons
for Test Track, so Epcot is down one attraction (but on the
positive side, has picked up an afternoon parade).
Since opening, Animal Kingdom has added Asia and the mediocre
Kali River Rapids ride (which has a great queue) and lost
the even more mediocre Discovery River Boats. The "big
additions" since 1999: Triceratops spin (in 2001, a Dumbo
clone) and Primeval Whirl (in 2002, a wild mouse). The one
park that most closely follows the pattern of adding something
new periodically is Disney-MGM which seems to have something
new, either major or minor, almost every year. Fantasmic in
1998, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in 1999, Doug Live and Sounds
Dangerous in 2000, Who Wants to be a Millionaire in 2001.
No problem with only adding a ride or two a year per se;
I would have preferred DCA been built a piece at a time if
it could have ensured attractions of Tokyo DisneySea quality.
However, as even Richard Schickel, not exactly a friend of
Disney, noted in The Disney Version, what really brings in
the money is how happy people feel about visiting a Disney
park, so happy that they feel an obligation to support such
a wonderful place. Attendance numbers don't tell the full
story on this.
No question that Disney's greatest concern is its wallet.
However, I'm not even convinced Disney is doing a particularly
good job of making all of the money it could, particularly
over the long run. I see a company that has lost $840 million
on a Go.com investment that, to me at least, seemed doomed
from the outset and a company that for all of its famous "synergy"
does a very poor job, IMHO, of promoting its theme parks on
the cable channels it owns. For example, I've seen more specials
about rides at Cedar Point on The Learning Channel/Discovery
Channel than I have about the rides at Disney on The Disney
|Robert Meyer wrote:
I looked over your profiles for the people who have
feelings about DCA. After going though the list, I don't fit
into any of the groups. Currently, I have no plans to visit
DCA. I am interested in a couple of the rides, but not enough
to pay a full admission for them. Perhaps when a Tower of
Terror opens up and a couple of new rides replace the
obviously lame stuff.
I accept Epcot and enjoyed my stay there tremendously.
DisneySeas sounds pretty cool, too. I find the ride mechanics
for the Tokyo version of the Pooh ride incredibly fascinating
(and I am not a Pooh fan)!
I do love Disneyland. I stayed 30+ hours when Star Wars
opened. But I don't care for the new Tomorrowland and I hated
Light Magic. I have even considered never going to Disneyland
again as prices increase. I believe sometimes complaining in a
public forum is necessary to get things fixed at Disneyland
and occasionally management will fix things on their own. I
believe one problem I see with Disney right now is most of the
management looks at their work as being a job without
commitment or passion. Great art and entertainment come from
passion and pride in your work, I do see evidence of it at
Disneyland but not always.
So, is this another category or do I just straddle a few
of the others?
|Similarly, Allen Huffman
Excellent reading and excellent words, David. It's rare
I read anything on DCA that I don't have a problem with, but
you hit a lot of nails on the head. Now I just have to figure
out which of the profiles I belong in
|And Cindy Stephens echoed:
Hmmmm, I'm not inclined to love everything Disney does,
I'm not starving for new Disney entertainment, I'm not
myopically attached to Disneyland, I don't feel the need to
point out every flaw I might see, and I don't feel the need to
compare DCA to Disneyland because I know it's not meant to be
Disneyland. I just wanted to see what Disney had to offer, and
I had a great time at DCA, and I thought they did a terrific
job at what they set out to do, though of course it's not
perfect, as no park is.
How about a category for people like me?
Won't you all join me in the
category I didn't mention: Average Disney Fan. This minority
realizes DCA is just a theme park not a place of worship, that
it may or may not appeal to me or others. When (or if) we visit
DCA, there will be things we like and things we dislike. We
might complain, but we won't organize picketers into a formal
|I think Bob Gurr summed
it up best:
I enjoyed your ideas on why folks get in an uproar,
especially trying to create categories to put them in.
Long before you were born, America had stuff to totally
focus on. The Great DepressionIf we all don't do something
we all are gonna starve. World War IIIf we all don't do
something together, even if it's a sacrifice of fun, we may
have to learn a permanent foreign language. Even Korea gave a
bit of focus, so did Vietnam.
Guess what? There's been no Big Focus ever since (unless
Monica counts). I think folks flap about in all directions
trying to latch on to any kind of focus, no matter how trivial.
Look at the Survivor Syndrome
now look at the DCA Syndrome.
Look past all this trivia and see the regular folks on
they might just enjoy a nice day any place
with their loved ones
doesn't have to be anything profound.
And maybe they never see hype
or Passion for The Lost
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.)