Lance’s Armchair Imagineer #7 “DCA Right Side’
#7 DCA Musings Part 2 08/01/13
Hello and welcome back To Lance’s Armchair Imagineer! This time, we cross that compass back into DCA for a look at the other side of this vastly improved Amusement Enterprise. (See my Blog #5 for the rest of DCA).
To the right of the new entrance area is Condor Flats. Only one attraction here, but it’s a real crowd-pleaser. SOARIN’ OVER CALIFORNIA. A quantum leap in technology from the Star Tours days, this virtual hang-glider ride gives the park guests a fun and interactive arial tour of California. Various effects and aromas are shot at the audience which add a dimension of realism. The movement is soothing and, well, soaring. This Attraction is one of DCA’s best and it is a Must-Do. It’s justifiably popular, but there’s a Fastpass Option and it is a fairly efficient line in general. I’m glad my mom had a chance to ride this one. She loved it.
My note here is predictable. I’d love to see a variety of films: Soarin’ Over America, Soarin’ Over Europe, Soarin’ Over Asia, etc. This would be especially helpful in EPCOT where the California-themed filmed is simply called ‘Soarin’.
Condor Flats also has an aviation-themed burger place called Taste Pilot’s Grill. I think the burger/chicken tenders type menu is average for a Disney eatery..but I’m happy to see the recent addition of condiment pumps to replace those little, horrid to-go ketchup packets. (it is even possible I said something into the right ear who made it happen.) This is definitely a run-of-the-mill burger joint…luckily, DCA has a number of great food options.
Across from Soarin’, there’s a cute little outdoor review called MINNIE’S FLY GIRLS.
A trio of ‘Stewardesses’ and an ‘airline mechanic’ are joined by Minnie for a half-dozen or so aviation-themed numbers, Andrews Sisters style. It’s cute, quick, and worth catching if you’re in the area at the right time.
Around the corner from Condor Flats is Grizzly Peak. DCA’s iconic ‘castle’ is a towering rocky Sierra type mountain which evokes a roaring Bear. it’s pretty cool. This mountain is the centerpiece of the whitewater ride GRIZZLY RIVER RUN. Nicely themed, this Attraction, like all rides of this type (The Magic Mountain version is called Roaring Rapids) is like being in a roulette wheel. If it spins a certain way at a certain time, you will get drenched. At the very least, your feet will….so dress accordingly. (Word to the wise…I always have a sealable sandwich bag to protect my phone). No notes here. This ride is exactly what it should be with some very attractive theming. Well, I’d love to see more audio-animatronic fauna. Bears playing in the water, beavers building a dam, etc. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be staying at The Grand Californian, you can dress for this then run back to your room for a change into dry clothes.
Also in the area is the REDWOOD CREEK CHALLENGE RAIL. This is a kiddie paracourse. Another DCA area for parents to sit around while their little ones let off steam. You know I have a knee-jerk reaction against this sort of pre-school attraction and DCA is loaded with them. They’ve recently incorporated a little ‘Wilderness Explorer‘ theming from the movie Up. (to replace the Brother Bear theme) That’s a smart idea. That being said, this is an area I explored once and never need to see again. I feel like I’m in a children’s playground. It’s a little creepy for a non-parent! I would strongly suggest that half this area be repurposed to reintroduce Country Bear Jamboree…which will work well in this wooded setting next to Grizzly Peak.
Something I do like to visit every time is the WDI BLUE SKY PREVIEW CENTER. It is a constantly changing display of upcoming Theme Park Attractions. There’s artwork, models and all sorts of very interesting preview material including a short film. Not only a great peek at coming attractions, but a look into the world of Imagineering. This is something I love…but I bet you knew that. Adjacent to this is The Wine Country Trattoria restaurant. One of the fanciest eateries in DCA. The Lasagna is crazy delicious. They have an extensive wine list, but I’m not the person to rate that. I have no palate for wine. it all tastes the same to me!
Our next stop is PACIFIC WHARF This is a nicely-themed outdoor food court area with a number of great lunch and treat options. There’s also a BAKERY WALK-THROUGH TOUR, but that’s a curiosity at best. I’d be surprised if it survived the next wave f changes.
The highlight of this area is the newly-opened GHIRARDELLI ICE CREAM PARLOR. Swing by the entrance for your complimentary square of fantastic chocolate. This San Francisco Native appreciates that scrumptious taste of home!
Now we cross over to the right side of the loop of Paradise Pier. The large water area with the ugly pluming hosts WORLD OF COLOR in the evening. This water, laser, special SFX show is a stunner. It’s-state-of-the-art, gorgeous, evocative and difficult to describe. I think it has leapfrogged the Fantasmic show by a mile. Like Fantasmic, the Parades or Fireworks, it takes a little planning and patience to get a decent view. I like getting the dinner at ARIEL’S GROTTO, one of several DCA restaurants (Carthay Circle and Wine Country Trattoria are two more) where a meal tab will entitle you to a reserved spot in a great viewing area. There is a also a Fastpass option. This is a Must-Do. It is a delightful feature of this show that the end number is sometimes swapped out to promote the current Disney film. I’ve seen Pirates 4, Tron, and Brave all featured. You know how much I like multiple show options and flexible attraction design.
I have a few comments: As I’ve mentioned before, I think the plumbing for the show should submerge during the day..it has that capability. It’s an eyesore when not in use. Remember Walt’s attitude about The Haunted Mansion? The Park should look clean and nice. Also, some rising bleachers in front of Little Mermaid would be very welcome. I’m not sure if this is possible.
Speaking of Little Mermaid, that Attraction is right here near World of Color. The full name is THE LITTLE MERMAID: ARIEL’S UNDERSEA ADVENTURE. Disney’s latest ‘Dark Ride’. I have mixed feelings about this attraction because while there’s a lot of great work here (especially the amazing main figures and the overall size of the attraction), I see a lot of cut corners….I think that this attraction’s shortcomings were imposed on the Imagineers, not caused by them. Artistically, it works fine, but I wish for the same amount of detail and immersion as Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin or Snow White and Pinocchio. That being said, it’s much better than Winnie the Pooh. It’s definitely worth a spin and the line is never too bad. I stand by my comment in the first Blog that this attraction belongs across in Disneyland. Repurpose the skeleton (ala Superstar Limo into Mike & Sully) and this could be an Up dark ride with suspended cars like Peter Pan. I also think Mermaid would be more popular in a more appropriate setting.
The Ursula figure is one of the smoothest and most fluid (no pun intended) Animatronic figures ever. It’s stunning and I’d love the ride to pause for a few minutes while I’m in her scene so I can enjoy her entire act! The bar has been raised.
There’s a cute in-joke in this ride. When you reach Ariel in the Under the Sea scene, look over your right shoulder across to the wall. You’ll see The Incredible Mr. Limpet poking out of the seaweed (He cameos in the film as well).
Think I’m making that up? Ah, silly reader. Here’s the very last moment of ”Under the Sea” Freeze-frame your own.
Next down the boardwalk is Jumping Jellyfish. A kiddie parachute ride, not worth the time if you’re over 8. Also, the Golden Zephyr. That one’s a lot of fun. A beautiful, old style spinning rocket ride that takes you over the water. Faster and more fun than it looks. Adding a little Disney Theming would be a good idea. I suggest The Rocketeer.
In this area is a very nice revamped eatery. Mediterranean in theme. Paradise Garden Grill. The live Turkish Jazz is different and appealing, I’ve also enjoyed the energetic Irish Folk Group here.
The food choices are unique, tasty and it’s a picturesque lunch spot…especially on a nice day. This is a vast improvement from the cheesy fast food area that was here previously.
In this area is also GOOFY’S SKY SCHOOL. This is a lightly themed ‘Mouse Coaster’. Remember, when the park was first built, it was done on a serious budget. Many of the rides were ‘out of the box’ carnival rides dusted with a little theming. This is one of them (like the retired Maliboomer). My overall comment here is that I go to a Disney Park for a Unique Disney experience. A State-of-the-Art Imagineered experience available nowhere else. Many of the DCA rides are available at non-Disney parks. This is a problem. Fortunately, the recent overhaul of the park has gone a long way to correct this issue. A few rides along these lines remain and In this Armchair Imagineer’s opinion, they should be seriously themed up (like the Silly Symphony Swings) or replaced entirely. I vote the latter for Goofy’s Sky School. I’m sure they can come up with a better attraction using the space and concept. The re-theming is superficial at best. More successful are the next three items.
SILLY SYMPHONY SWINGS, MICKEY’S FUN WHEEL, and GAMES OF THE BOARDWALK. All three of these attractions are perfect examples of stock amusement park experiences Imagineered into more unique Disney Park attractions.
They’ve also reengineered the Swing ride so it no longer has a weight limit…..appreciated by this Blogger.
Also, take a spin through the circus-type retail stores to the right of the games. They have some fantastic details. While you’re at it, take a good look at KING TRITON’S CAROUSEL. It’s really gorgeous.
TOY STORY MIDWAY MANIA is one of the best Imagineering experiences in the park. The real time CGI (not unlike Turtle Talk With Crush) is amazing to watch, the gameplay is smooth, fun, and varied. The attraction overall is gorgeously designed and, yes, this is a Must-Do. I think Lassiter rode Buzz and said “Oh. We can do better than that” and they did.
Because it’s me, I have two comments about this otherwise exceptional Imagineering triumph. First, it needs a Fastpass option. this ride has a perpetual 45-90 minute line. Always. Even worse, the queue is a tedious, winding series of Magic Mountain type switchbacks.
My second criticism comes from the first. The simultaneously built Florida version has an amazing queue. It’s as dense and well-designed as Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin. You’re in Andy’s room at toy scale. Gigantic toys and games make up every detail of the room. many classics not seen in the Toy Story films. it’s a huge amount of fun just to wait in line. Here are a few photos from Florida so you can see what I mean…
The first time I rode this and Tower of Terror, I was in Florida. Excited when I heard they were also in California, I was very disappointed in both for the truncated versions that materialized. To repeat myself from an earlier blog, while the lack of an interesting queue is a shame, the evisceration of Twilight Zone from the Tower of Terror is inexcusable. The first is probably just a question of space, the latter is clearly a cost-cutting measure. They should tear down the tower and build it correctly! I’m repeating myself from Blog #5 here.
Yeah. I’m really displeased about that. Moving on….
The last Paradise Pier attraction is the CALIFORNIA SREAMIN’ coaster. It’s a fantastic medium-sized coaster. Fast and very smooth, makes a great loop and always worth doing. Smooth as glass, the opposite of the bumpy Matterhorn. There’s a Fastpass option, but the line isn’t always daunting. On an off day, you can usually get onboard in under 15 minutes. A Must-Do. I wouldn’t mind if a little Disney theming creeped in. This could be a better Goofy attraction than Sky School. I’d love to hear his silly yell as you loop the loop.
Our last stop on my Two-Blog tour of DCA is definitely my least favorite item this side of Innoventions. That’s right kids…it’s Duffy Time!
DUFFY THE DISNEY BEAR (C) tm is a merchandise character that, for some head-scratching reason, was very popular in Disney Tokyo Seas. It’s been reported that this bland, generic teddy bear in a sailor suit is more popular in the Tokyo parks than Mickey Mouse. Go figure.
Anyway, never missing an opportunity to make a merchandise buck (something I understand, per se), Duffy was introduced at the other Disney theme parks. He has a permanent merchandise and character greeting area on the bridge crossing over to Paradise Pier from the Pacific Wharf. This non-character has been forced on the Disney park-going public with an unjustified aggression. He’s been shoehorned on menus, in parades, merchandise bins, Mouse Ears, you name it. Luckily, he seems to be more of a DCA thing than in Disneyland proper…..mostly. He’s forced on us in the Disneyland Christmas and Halloween Parades.
Why do I hate this bland, generic ‘character’ so much? I guess it’s because he’s 100% merchandising contrivance. There’s no supporting body of work. No films, stories, show, anything. Duffy purely exists as a product. Aren’t there enough actual Disney/Pixar/Marvel/Henson/Gibli/ect. characters around to exploit without needing to make things up and force them on us? He’s a Big Zero. It’s just such an obvious ploy. “We command you to love Duffy!” Listen. I do not mind Disney coming up with new things to make money. They’re a business. The better they do, the more stuff we get. I do object to the contrived lack of creativity and integrity here. I hope it’s not the start of a very wrong-headed trend.
He needs to go.
On a related note, I just don’t understand this Vinylmation thing at all. Mickey-shaped plastic figures painted to look like everything under the Disney sun? Seems contrived and calculated as hell to me to create a new ‘collectable’. I think they will be the Beanie Babies and Pogs on the future….ugly, worthless, overpriced dust-collectors that are ultimately meaningless and difficult to resell.
So, folks….don’t give me a Duffy Vinylmation! (Yes, indeedy, there is such a wretched thing) It will become a Pug Chew toy in five seconds flat!
Lastly, DCA didn’t open well. Lots of out-of-the-box experiences, lots of cut corners, many uninteresting (and even a few downright awful) attractions, all spread thinly over a questionable theme. Poor Whoopi Goldberg was in two of the worst! I took a weekday tour when they first opened. It was a ghost town and it took me less than four hours to see every corner of the place and check out every attraction…but the admission fee was the same as Disneyland which takes at least two or three full days to see everything.
Ending on a positive note. With all the recent upgrades, improvements, additions, and enhancements, this park is finally a worthy companion to The Magic Kingdom. It only took 5 years and over…
ONE BILLION DOLLARS
… to turn things around. Disneyland will always be the Best, but DCA has finally risen to the level of a decent Disney Park….just back off on the kiddie rides and Duffy has got to go.
If you have any thoughts, I welcome them with open arms.
Thanks for Reading and Imagining!
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