Jeff N Orange County -- February/March 2001 -- Disneyland
"Its Gonna Be OK" (My mixed feelings on DCA)
Last February we made press day at the unveiling of Believe, and that awful parade and the rest of the 45th Celebration, I was privileged to meet Cynthia Harris. We exchanged pleasantries and I let her know how concerned I was about the quality of California Adventure's attractions. She soothingly laid her hand on my arm and said "It's gonna be OK".
Her words rang in my ears as I walk in the first time at DCA. I also remembered what was said at the Ryman-Carroll event last year, John Hench commented about the lack of architectural detail at DCA. Bob Gurr called it Disney's "economical park experiment". If these are the comments of senior Imagineers, it's no surprise that the public feel somewhat ripped off.
John Hench told the story of Walt lecturing the then young WDI'eers. He even told how obsessive Walt was with making sure the original Stagecoach ride was supported with real leather suspension. John said, "I told Walt that no one would notice that kind of detail". Walt cocked an eyebrow and poked him in the chest with a bony finger and said "People are OK. Just remember that. They may not know what they are seeing or even understand it, but they will appreciate it"
That being said, It's sad to see all of the holes in DCA. But I confess I continue to go and explore (just like Al Lutz and the rest of the naysayers), and it is a great addition for us local AP's, (but Westcot would have been better for just a few billion more...) So this is what we have. We can complain and boycott, jump up and down. Or we can attempt to appreciate this conglomeration of Disney MGM with a dash of California Spirit. My cup is half full.
Disney's California Adventure is ... OK. It's not wonderful, but it's not the devil either. Trent Schwartz said it well in an email to me, "it really reminded me of an early Disney-MGM studios." I had the same feeling. Overall what DIG was reporting is true, and I see what Al says, coming from a deep and inexplicable love of Disneyland myself. However the pixie dust is in DCA, you just have to look for it a bit harder. (I purposely tried to not read any reviews for the last 6 months, just to be as fair as I could). I skipped the preview days, opening day and wanted to give it an unbiased chance. I opted for a cool February mid weekday that had sparse attendance. Basically it was the hotel guests and I.
Hands down the most Disney attraction is the Disney Animation attraction. They have taken the "shuffle the herd along" element completely out of it (compared to FL). If you love the animated features, you'll be thrilled. Step in Time is worth seeing, I found SuperstarLimo whimsical, The Muppets as funny as always and the entire Hollywood area "a step in the right direction" (an inadvertent Sherman quote).
The rest of the park truly centers on California, lumping the Golden State area along side Paradise Pier. Bugs Life fits into the weakest area, Bountiful Valley. I'm sure the irrigation displays will be a hit once it gets hot, but move the tractor and the gardens and build a ride already! The Grizzly Peak area is the best theming and the ride is 3 of four stars. Make sure you see the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. My wife and I love our National Parks (It's our other annual pass we invest in) and this takes Tom Sawyer's Island in that direction.
California Screamin' is a good thrill along with the rest of Paradise Pier. I rode it 4 times which is a little much. My advice don't try and look at the Matterhorn during the loop, no matter what the kids tell you, it took me an hour to get over it (I won't go on about each ride, we have all been to a carnival or King's Island before)
Golden Dreams is my favorite attraction expressing the California Spirit. Yes the Whoopi thing is a lil' corny, but it's a Disney attraction, what do you expect. The montage during the song "Just One Dream" finale is truly moving. They should have built the animatronics! The Disney's Eureka!--A California Parade attempts to capture the diversity of the state and is full of gags and over the top floats and performers. It reminded us of the Imaginations parade at DLP (although I liked DLP's theme song much better).
Soarin' over California is worth the price of admission. I was dreading it because I find Back to the Future dismal. The imagineers worked through the low budgets and accountaneers and have a stunning attraction here. We are suckers for natural scenery and the ending .. well I won't give it away. I will ride this every time I go.
It's possible though for the California theme to elude one. I have lived in the East, NY, WV and FL. But I am flat out, hands down, IN LOVE WITH CALIFORNIA my last and best adoptive home. This is a great place to live and work. Dreams come true and go belly up all the time. That said, I buy into the "California Dream" hook, line and sinker. So I get the theme. I'm one of the few, I know, but I get it. (Just wait now that I wrote that we'll have an earthquake punctuated by rolling blackouts, cringe) In any case, I'm a sucker for the "take pride in California storyline". It works for me.
I'm in danger of drowning in my own words I know But... My mixed emotions are more succinctly..
The negative - look at the latest c**p they are trying to sell the tourists.
The positive - I live here and it gives me another place to unwind and have some fun.
C'mon don't tell me you never walked into your local Disney Store just because Pressler was running them! ;-) It's anyone who lives outside of a couple hours from here that is ripped off. A complement or Destination resort was not what they were after. There is nothing wrong with the concepts of AK or DCA. It's the execution and motives.
"We want to grab them upside down and shake every dollar (note not "penny") from their pockets while here" a nameless Disney executive quoted during DCA's opening.
Is it any wonder then that they had no intention of providing a lasting legacy, a destination resort that would require long term investment? It's more of the make it now, day-trader mentality, that is being so disillusioned by reality of the long term planners, the tourist interested in an enriching experience, and the publics voting with their feet and wallets. P.T. Barnum would be proud of 'em.
With me living here it is OK. But I wouldn't be jumping on a plane to CA anytime soon, unless it was a layover to TDS this fall.
As I sit at Mondavi's vineyard sipping my Merlot, I remembered Cynthia's words. And she was right. She didn't promise me the moon or that it would blow my socks off, but it truly is "OK". All of the hassle and trouble of construction will pay off eventually. Yes they have no "Persistence of Vision" (thanks Paul) and lack the depth that Roy (Sr.) had designing WDW's MK or WDI had in designing Epcot. But wishing won't bring those days back. Complaining makes us feel better but it rarely is productive. All of the complaining and cynicism won't rebuild DCA or change management. They will however have to build more, new and better attractions (which they have done in every park). The younger generation, who don't remember Walt or the parks before Euro Disneyland won't see the frugality and downright stinginess in places, and will love everything Disney and buy every pin they can afford. And you're going to claim that I was having wine induced delusions but it really is "OK". They will build more and upgrade and all of the cynics will at least visit to check it out when they come back again and again to Walt's park , because it is next door to where the magic all began.
Sorry this is so long ...but , I've been saving up.
Jeff N Orange County