Missing the Sights and Sounds of Disney California Adventure

by Todd Pickering, contributing writer
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Having completed a successful amble around Disneyland Park, now I am hankering for a tour of Disney California Adventure. I am using my imagination and the magic of the MousePlanet archival photos to get us through the longest closure of the parks out here in California. For those of you missing Buena Vista Street, the good news is that shops and restaurants (Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, Smokejumpers Grill and Carthay Circle Lounge) will be an extension of Downtown Disney District opening in November.


The Red Car Trolley Boys along with a Hollywood neophyte called Mickey Mouse sing about a suitcase…and a dream. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

I walk through the gates just in time to catch the Red Car Trolley pull away from the wonderful station on my right full of Red Car Trolley Boys (and a girl) singing "California Here We Come". Well, I suppose there isn't a better way to enter the park than to follow that Trolley while marching in time to the music and singing along. It is great looking at all the shop windows. I especially like to see the multitude of stuffed animals on display at Big Top Toys.


Big Top Toys brings out the kid in anyone! Photo by Todd Pickering.

I stop at the fountain to take in the spectacular view of the "castle" of this park in the form of the Carthay Circle Theatre, a lovely reproduction of the movie theater where Disney's first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered in Los Angeles. On Buena Vista Street it houses a restaurant and lounge. The memories of all the exquisite cocktails and sumptuous meals I have enjoyed there cause me to go left and head into Hollywood Land.


The Carthay Circle takes the place of Sleeping Beauty Castle over at DCA. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

I have to take a quick peek at the gorgeous 1960s façade of the Monsters Inc. attraction. The colors and artwork are fantastic. I walk back onto Hollywood Boulevard and see the Animation Building. Drawing the characters is one of my favorite things to do in the park and it is one of the best souvenirs available at no additional cost! I turn right at the Hyperion Theater where many talented performers have graced the boards in live musical versions of Aladdin and Frozen.


Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! looks amazing all lit up at night. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

The Collector's Fortress dominating the skyline is the next building we come across. This mighty edifice is home to Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! attraction. The lights and sound effects around this area are amazing. Especially at night. It never fails to thrill. Hmmmmm…. This is my fantasy…so what the heck…let's walk through Avengers Campus. How cool it is to see the Quinjet on top of the yet unnamed Avengers' attraction. Over to the right I can see Spiderman flipping around on top of his attraction so I head over that way.

Upon exiting I hang a sharp left and then another left and I am walking down the main drag of Radiator Springs. It is sunset so I have timed it perfectly to hear the song lyrics "Life could be a dream" from that hit song "Sh-boom". All the lights turn on in perfect rhythm to the song just like in the movie Cars. Stepping aside, I see that Mater is parked in front of the Cozy Cone Motel, so I stop to say Hello. We see Sally and Lightning McQueen taking a romantic drive. When I near Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters I see Red the firetruck and he sounds off his siren. I make a right at the statue of Stanley and walk towards Radiator Springs Racers. I love hanging out on the patio of Flo's V8 Cafe and watch the cars race on by.


It's almost as much fun to watch the Racers zooming by at Radiator Springs Racers. Photo from MousePlanet archives.


Heading into Pacific Wharf, turning around to say farewell to Ornament Valley is always in order. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

Before heading onto Pacific Wharf area I look back at the gorgeous landscape that really makes this Land one of the most magical and precise replicas of any Disney/Pixar film out there. There on the stage ready to give me a solo concert are my favorite group in Disney California Adventure, the Grammy award winning Mariachi Divas. Their harmonies and stage presence is unparalleled. I listen to the whole concert and sing along a bit. I especially love the energy of the trumpet. I think the Mariachi Divas version of "It's a small world" might be my favorite and maybe they should play that in the Mexico section of the attraction? I contemplate that as I hang a left and then another left as I make my way onto Pixar Pier.


Guitarrón, trumpet and fiddle are all staples of great Mariachi music. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

Walking over the bridge I love looking at the Pixar Pier sign all lit up. I think more people notice the iconic Pixar lamp moving around at night because the lights give away his/her/their movements. I glance at Lamplight Lounge on my left and dream of a delicious adult beverage as I round the bend and enjoy looking at the four billboards inspired by Pixar films. The Googie architecture of the Incredicoaster with all the sleek lines of that neighborhood is definitely my favorite style of design in all of the Disney parks.


It's so fun to watch Luxo Jr. shine atop an already well-lit sign! Photo from MousePlanet archives.

The giant Jessie in front of Jessie's Critter Carousel always makes me smile. Mr. Potato Head in front of Toy Story Midway Mania doffs his hat and wishes me well. I can hear the tunes of The Pixharmonic Orchestra so I scurry on over to the bandshell to listen to great tunes from Pixar films including the high energy brass section taking the musical lead from The Incredibles score. (This group ended its run before the parks shut down, but this is my fantasy so I brought them back for an encore.)

Next we make our way to the Inside Out neighborhood. If you are a fan of this Pixar film you must ride The Emotional Whirlwind. Don't have kids with you? Grab a cold beer or snack and sit on a nearby bench and enjoy listening to all five of the emotions take turns narrating this attraction (Anger is my personal favorite).


Sadness and Joy always put a smile on your face. Yes…even you, Sadness. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

Rounding the bend at Goofy's Sky School roller coaster I am reminded of the fantastic festivals during Día de los Muertos and Navidad that take place in this corner of the park in November and December. In front of Ariel's Undersea Adventure I reminisce about Mulan's Lunar New Year Celebration and the Tale of the Lion King that ran last summer. World of Color has all of the fountains set at a low bubbling height, bathed in a rainbow of colors that you see at the end of this awesome water show. I love the calm setting of this amazing show that we see when it is all over as the crowds disperse.


The Green Army Men are always worth a stop and salute when driving by. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

Right before I turn left into the Grizzly Peak area of the park I stop and salute as the Green Army Men drive by, drumming in their jeep. The green army toy in charge commands, "At ease, soldier!" I turn on a dime and march into the last section of the park in time with the steady beat of their fading drums. There is nothing more magical then the evening lights through the trees marking your way back to Buena Vista Street. You can hear the wildlife and crickets in the air.


Listening to the rushing water is always a relaxing rush. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

The Grand Californian Hotel lights and Napa Rose Restaurant can be spotted when you get to the beautiful trellis that marks this California Craftsman-inspired hotel. You can hear the rushing water coming from Grizzly River Run attraction. It might be more fun standing on the observation decks listening to people scream as the rafts plunge into a splashing finale. The feel of the mist on one's face is always invigorating. Missing Soarin' Around the World (or California) as I make my way by that attraction or looking to your right you can dream of a camping trip in a vintage Rambler station wagon.


A Rambler station wagon is a great motorcar to take camping. Photo from MousePlanet archives.

Exiting back down Buena Vista Street I am serenaded by Five and Dime as they sing, strum, drum, slap and puff out such classics as "Ain't We Got Fun." Yes, we did have fun and we look forward to seeing all of these things and more when Disney California Adventure opens safely and securely hopefully earlier than later in the year 2021.


It's always fun following Five and Dime down the street as they serenade your stroll. Photo from MousePlanet archives.