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The Great, the So-so and the Ugly
Well, the overhaul of California Adventure completes phase one, with entertainment department honcho Anne Hamburger revamping all the outdoor offerings at the new park. This past Sunday, the 1st of July, I was able to see most of the new shows and will provide you with a quick rundown. (Also be sure to check the DIG update page, as there is a review of the new Club Buzz offering across the way in Disneyland's Tomorrowland up on the site today too.)

Before I start, I should mention that Ms. Hamburger came up to me just after we'd seen the new Goofy show, and introduced herself. I think both our smiles were just a bit forced - but I appreciated her making the effort. (I do know how critical we have been of her.) It was good to finally meet the person behind all the entertainment changes, both good and bad at the resort.

I was able to see most of the new offerings at DCA in one afternoon - and this expanded schedule will add to what there is to do in the park for visitors. Sadly not all are the shows are home runs - although there is one clear winner, and another that basically should be closed as soon as possible. The remainder - with some tweaks in their rather lackluster scripts - would be ok to fair. We'll see how the shows progress through the summer and we'll update this page and reviews as changes are made. Each area's new entertainment options are listed below, with photos where we could get them. (As always we need to note, the performers, in both the good and bad shows, are working very hard to pull all this new stuff off, they should all be commended for their hard work.)

Keep in mind that according to Pressler's master plan, the new park was originally supposed to abandon the character based type of entertainment seen across the way at Disneyland, in favor of hip and edgy stuff. Needless to say, it didn't quite go over. The focus now is to use the Entertainment department to quickly deploy shows and try and counter the fact the park is lacking in things for younger kids to do. It sort of fell on Ms. Hamburger's plate (no pun intended there...) to try and shore this area up, while they get the time to start on putting in more kiddy / family rides.

Hollywood Pictures Backlot

Where the Hollywood area used to be deserted most of the day, now it has almost continuous entertainment from three new shows (plus the rather awful Steps in Time show which continues in the Hyperion Theater.) The idea behind the continuous entertainment here is not only to keep you amused, but also get some foot traffic into the nearby Hollywood & Dine buffeteria and the shops located nearby.

Goofy's Beach Party Bash: Donald directs Goofy and Max in a beach movie, live! (Replaces Lights, Camera, Chaos!)

This is the only new character show that actually features their voices -as the rest of these offerings in the park have them mute, while the singers or announcers spend way too much time talking through their shows telling you what they are doing.

Plot in a nutshell: Goofy and son Max are making a movie, Donald Duck is the diva director, Mickey and Minnie save the Goofs from a mishap, and have a dance party with them.

Like the new Club Buzz offering over across the way at Disneyland, they have pretty much failed to reach the adult audience with this by not layering in more adult content above the storyline - they were aiming pretty squarely just at the kids. It's also too complicated - requiring way too much in the way of explaining what they are doing, which isn't such a good idea when you have the large foreign visitor component that the Disney parks pulls in.

There are some nice audience participation bits for the kids (they get to "slate" a shot by clapping their hands, they also get to dance a bit) - but the audience at the afternoon show we caught seemed a bit subdued. Since the show kind of peters out after the last song for character meet and greet (as many of the other character shows also did) - there's no real sense of a finale for it.

It's a bit better than what it replaced (Lights, Camera, Chaos!) - but the script could use a lot of tightening, the area desperately needs shade (the heat and sun may have subdued the audience a bit due to this) and the writers need to comprehend they are also writing for adults, not just the children.

Cruella's Story: Cruella tells her own version of 101 Dalmatians.

Two words sum up what needs to be done here: More Winston!

He's the bright and bubbly assistant that bounces his way around the set getting ready for the big scene the director and Cruella will be doing. Once the director comes in, the charming Winston pretty much gets relegated to the background. While the director works hard (and even has some good lines to keep the adults amused) his character is just too overbearing to continue to carry most of the show.

Cruella is, well Cruella - the performer is great in the role. But, as Sue Kruse mentions in her review, once she arrives on the scene, the show falls apart. Kids, who had been recruited to be the "puppies" Cruella is after, get to wear cute masks, and bark ONCE, then whimper ONCE, then they just stand on the stage while Cruella and the Director gab on and on and on.

Give us more Winston, give the Director and Cruella less dialog, and have the kids do more than just stand there, and this could be a charming show. At least they didn't forget about the adults on this one. (Nice staging all across the street itself by the way.)

Chance to Shine: Movie extras entertain Guests with stories of "the business."

Whatever you do when you visit the new park, make sure you fit in a performance of this little gem.  It has no stage, the poor girls just have to work the cement out in front of Hollywood & Dine and they sing their hearts out for eight grueling (it's hot out there!) performances.

But there is talent here - and they overcome everything they have going against them to pull off one of the best things I've seen at the Disneyland resort in a long time.

Almost entirely sung - and acted to the HILT by three performers who literally could drop into a Broadway show they are so slick - they tell the story of an extra's life on the backlot. Each gal (one saloon charmer, another Carmen Miranda type, and an actress from a space movie) tells of her one big break, and also does a small skit with a selected member of the audience.

Even when they pick someone as awful as yours truly (did I feel targeted that day, or what?) they just charm you into doing something to entertain the crowd, and have the adlib skills to turn every situation into a funny one.

Sue Kruse and I were so impressed with this show, we saw it three times, each time appreciating the work the gals put into it ever so much more. We also marveled at how much different they were in each performance even with such a tight / locked down script.

My favorite? The Carmen Miranda gal - who does Faith Prince down to the facial ticks.

Anne Hamburger - more of this type of show please, this is exactly what people expect of Disney - Broadway quality. And let's hope they do find a more heavily trafficked area for them to perform in (maybe across from Award Weiners, near the Off the Page shop on the main drag through the area?) so the crowds can really see them strut their stuff.

Golden State

Donald's Vision: Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, and Pluto search the Golden State for the picture perfect spot to paint.

A female J. Audubon Woodlore type chats way too much while the ducks try and figure out how to paint a picture. A total waste of time - made worse by being performed without a whit of shade for the poor viewers.

If a kid dies of sunstroke on this one...

To give credit here, where it is due, the performers do try hard, especially the rather annoying narrator. But they can't overcome a bad script, and the lack of any character voices, which just makes for a very boring (and way too hot) show.

California Zephyr: A conductor and engineer shares stories and songs of the railroad.

Storytelling and juggling by a railroad conductor and engineer - the guys try hard, but they seem out of place here. Most patrons nearby were either too busy trying to find shade, suck down their ice blended mochas, or try and cool off as they did their act. The stuff appeared to be written only for the smallest children, leaving the adults a bit bored.

ArtVentures: From corn husk dolls to painting chop sticks, kids can create their own works of art to take home at various craft locations.

This is pretty pitiful for a Disney park - yes, there's no cost, and some people like putting little colored loops on straws - but save it for day camp.

We noticed very few kids did this activity, it was mostly adults. Stands were set up in the farm and wharf areas.

Max joins "La Feet" (an act in the amphitheater): Max joins the big finale!

We missed this one.

Mickey's Garden - Chip n' Dale wreak fun and mayhem in Bountiful Valley Farm. Help Mickey put the pieces back together.

We wished we missed this one.

This was worse than awful, it should be shut down and fixed right away. The script speaks only to the most simple minded - Mickey is wasted, as is Chip and Dale - the character voices are missing, making them look dumb.

Sue Kruse covers this more extensively in her review - I simply do not want to waste your (or my) time with it.

Condor Flats

Minnie "Earhart": Minnie lands in Condor Flats

Basically this is a character meet and greet - with a song and cheerleading rally for Minnie beforehand.

Now mind you, they make a big deal out of Minnie flying into the park. They pull the nearby gate open, and I keep expecting Minnie to make her entrance in a cute little airplane or something...

...yes, that's a luggage cart she finally comes in on. Hardly worth the effort, no?

Again, the writing here suffers from the same problems as most of the the DCA character shows do - it only is thinking of the kids, and not the adults. The character being mute really drags the show down.

Paradise Pier

Captain Rustworthy: Listen to the Captain tell the tale of his vessel's demise.

We couldn't locate the Captain, nor the Chip and Dale show that was promised on the Redwood Challenge Creek Trail.

In summary

There's one winner, one real loser, and a whole lot of stuff that needs a tweak.

With the reduced admission for adults, and the free entry for kids - plus the Electrical Parade returning this week - I would venture to say the park at this point in time is worth a visit, in relation to the price charged. $66 for a family of four is a good value now, as opposed to what they tried to do when this place first opened.

As a consumer, I do appreciate Disney is trying to rectify things. It's just sad to know a lot of this last minute very expensive scrambling could have easily been avoided - if they'd just kept their focus on the customer in the first place.

ALSO:

Sue Kruse also reviews the new DCA entertainment offerings

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