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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…


… 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!


(Click the READ MORE button to see Reader Comments and, better still, to add your own!)

13 Responses to “Lance’s Armchair Imagineer #7 “DCA Right Side’”

  • Janice Christensen says:

    As usual I agree with the vast majority of what you have to say and appreciate your take on the attractions especially those that I haven’t had a chance to experience yet. One major disagreement that I have with you here is World of Color. Hated it! Thought it paled in comparison to the 20 year old Fantasmic. Perhaps I was in a bad viewing area (although we did have fast passes), and yes, my feet were killing me at this point, and yes, I may have had a bad attitude, but my impression was that they concentrated mostly on films that I couldn’t care less about and if there was any wind at all it blurred the picture. Shorter people (especially children) couldn’t see at all unless they were put on adult’s shoulders and then it blocked the view of everyone behind them. I had a hard time seeing and I’m 5’7″. I’m sure that there’s someway to have retractable bleachers under some of the viewing areas. I also strongly agree that the plumbing should not be left exposed during the day…ugly, ugly, ugly!

    I’ve never heard of Duffy before, but I strongly agree with you here. He’s gotta go!

    I like the old style feel of Paradise Pier despite it’s lack of Disneyfication, although others in my group agree with your assessment. I love the Silly Symphony Swings and that Zephyr ride too. I’m not much of a boardwalk games person, so that did not attract me, but I did like the feel of an old Santa Monica pier or Santa Cruz boardwalk. Alas, Toy Story Midway Mania was broken down every time we tried to go on it.

    Thanks again for the fun read and artistic insights!

  • Totally the same reaction when I first saw Duffy and the “buy him cause he’s popular in Japan” explanation! Just YUCK. When he’s the first thing I see looking into the door of a shop, I just keep walking instead of going inside (and I love to cruise the shops!) Hate the vinylmation figures with a passion (wouldn’t even give them to the dogs or cats!) But I did trade for the one of a Tiki Bird – to add to my never-ending Tiki Room collection AND because it was NOT in the shape of Mickey.

    I’ll have to look for Mr. Limpet now – loved that movie and was thrilled to see him in the movie of Little Mermaid!

    I haven’t been into the Ghiradelli place – I miss my free warm tortillas and I’m not a major chocolate fan. Haven’t been through the bakery “tour” since the first time, but I am obliged to buy Michael a “Mickey bread” if I go into DCA and can find one – hopefully from a push cart so that I don’t have to wait in line for it in the bakery shop!

    Love the Toy Story Mania, but I don’t usually wait in line when I’m alone – its more fun to compare scores with a friend! I do sometimes spend $2.00 on a midway game to win a new cat toy, though. Generally I don’t go farther into DCA than Cars land, Soarin’ or Ariel when I’m alone – sometimes I’ll walk around the circle of Grizzly Flats to feel like I’ve had more exercise though. I like the rapids, but I’d like them more with your idea of more animatronic fauna – and less chance of spending the rest of the day soaking wet!

  • lance says:

    Janice and Karen! Welcome back!

    Like Fantasmic, World of Color can be great or suck depending on how you get to see it. In either case, it requires a definite time investment or not worth it. Passholders can burn a few hours because you’ll be back soon, but…if you’re paying to get in that day, I’d skip it. You can go on a half-dozen attractions in the time it takes to wait for a good spot. Manage your time.

    Janice, give Midway Mania a spin when you can. It’s pretty great….just brace yourself for the constant 45 minute line through Magic Mountain type switchback. It’s very taxing.

    Come back soon!

    Karen! Your turn.

    Basically, I agree with your comments. You are a fellow Theme Park Warrior.

    Oh. Grab the chocolate….it’s delicious and there aren’t lots of freebies in the park!

    I guess a non-Mickey-shaped Vinylmation is less irritating. If it looks like it’s supposed to, that’s great. Enjoy.

    Thanks for writing in, lovely ladies. You were definitely the first up this month. I appreciate your enthusiasm.

  • Daria says:

    Oh my–so much good stuff here to play with; I feel like Mr. Sinister with a lab full of X-Men to annoy. (Hey, Disney owns Marvel now, so all the non-comics folks have to start catching up for the sake of geek humor)! We’ll see how long my recovering knee holds out, Lance:

    Let’s start with the fact that as much as I appreciate your desire to have a bigger Disney thumbprint at DCA, I have never had a problem with the original intent of the park: A genuine California Adventure featuring the iconic architectural and agricultural charms of our home state. If I recall correctly, much of the massive acreage was intended to mirror the experience of the famous Panama–Pacific International Exposition of 1915–a World’s Fair styled exhibition which celebrated the rebuilding of the city of San Francisco as it arose from the cinders of the earthquake of a decade before (oh yeah…and that new canal in Central America that brought ships to San Francisco in record time). In fact, that now gone but very enjoyable introduction to our state’s history, “Golden Dreams with Whoopi Goldberg,” was showcased within the grand image of the beautiful Palace Of Fine Arts, originally created for that exposition of nearly 100 years ago. It was foolish to do away with what was (A) a lovely tribute and an educational outing about our state for citizens and tourists alike and, (B) a nice, cool sit-down for the walking wounded. There is never enough of that at a Disney park!

    I like Paradise Pier for its impression of a traditional seaside amusement park, such as the long-lamented Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica. (My dad was one of the guys who created those fabulous fiberglas seahorses and the King Neptune statue there, so I have fond memories of POP). As far as I’m concerned, if the giant pie-eyed Mickey affixed to California Screamin’ isn’t enough to remind folks that they are in a Disney park, nothing else will nor needs to do it. As the world’s biggest Aqualad fan (the original kid–not the new guy), I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see his favorite teenage hyperbole “Jumpin’ Jellyfish” honored with a ride at DCA, and it fits perfectly with the nearby King Triton’s Carousel and now the Little Mermaid ride. Maybe Disney should have bought DC Comics to get Aquaman and Aqualad; at least they are proud mer-people and would never sell out to live on land. (As IF)!

    The new Carthay Circle Theatre edifice and its amazingly good restaurant almost sort of make up for the old entrance to DCA with the sensory overload of The Beach Boys and The Mamas And The Papas music…but only just. Obviously, if Disney wants to evoke the feel of the 1930s L.A. that Walt Disney knew, all the 1960s surfer stuff had to go. Why, then, is there nothing of “The Rocketeer” either in that area or in Condor Flats–the most obvious place for a character steeped in 1930s aeronautics lore? (I ask this for the same reason that I ask why other live-action Disney fan-favorites like John Carter and Princess Dejah or the Marvel heroes can’t be found taking photos with fans over in the Hollywood Studios area). I would doubt that Disney is having licensing issues when they had no trouble putting out a new Rocketeer figure recently. I would far rather see my actual favorite Walt Disney Pictures stars than that annoying “Phineas And Ferb” dance party which blocks the walkways every afternoon intended for a horde of kids who are now hanging out on the other side of the park enjoying “It’s A Bug’s World.”

    Lastly, the curmudgeon in me misses the original feel of DCA because it was clearly made with adults in minds. The wide walkways, plentiful benches and availability of more “adult” libations seemed to be a nod to those of us who manage without the “need to breed,” shall we say? Because of the above and the general lacking in four-foot high mice and a certain surly duck, the stroller brigade tended to head over to the Magic Kingdom instead. Now that DCA is, in affect, Pixar Park, the demographic has changed. Something within me is thrilled that even young kids suddenly know who Oswald The Lucky Rabbit is, but I don’t really want them to become too attached to my favorite areas of DCA. So…make mine Marvelous and I’ll buy the first round at the Carthay Circle!

  • Lance says:

    Hey Daria. Your wealth of California lore is always interesting and helpful.

    The stock argument about DCA is “We’re IN California….why visit a Theme Park about California?” My take on this? I don’t really care what the theming is if the experience hung on it is a great one. DCA wasn’t so great when it opened, now it is. Frankly, I am less interested in the educational, historical stuff than in straight-up Disney Imagineering (Cars Land being a stellar example of the brand of craft I like).

    Of course, as a native San Franciscan, I know a bit about the Pan Pacific Exhibition. In fact, my High School job (the Summer of Star Wars if we’re being specific) was as a Docent at the worlds largest and best interactive science museum, The Exploratorium, located, as you know, at The Palace of Fine Arts (recently moved to Pier 15). So you know I enjoyed seeing a scaled down version of a Home Town Touchstone associated with a great time in my life.

    Your note about Rocketeer in Condor Flats is brilliant. Of course, I’d love to see more Hollywood-type characters in the Hollywood area. If I must see a Deja Thoris face character….so be it. Of course there are many other Disney characters that could pop by. Herbie, Nemo, Davy Jones, etc.

    They gotta get something going with Oswald besides games and merchandise…otherwise, he’s not a lot better than Duffy (or the confounding popularity of Betty Boop, who no one has seen on screen large or small in decades….yet, lotsa’ fans.) Hand it to marketing, I suppose, but I always like it better when the character is FROM something enjoyable and familiar.

    I may be repeating myself but Walt’s very first impulse was to create a place where parents and children could both enjoy the same stuff. Whenever an attraction leans a little one way or another (sometimes inevitable), it is open to a little questioning.

    And never fear about geeking it up on my blog… If that’s welcome anywhere, it’s here.

    As always, thanks for giving me so much to chew on.

  • Cee Bee says:

    Lance, let me first say thanks for this blog entry. I haven’t made it over to the new DCA yet, so it’s interesting to hear what it’s like through the eyes of those who visited the park before and after the makeover.

    Having said that, I’m obviously outnumbered here when it comes to choosing between the original DCA and the new DCA. Frankly, I liked it the way it original was. It lived up to its name and showed visitors what the old California amusement parks were like. I remember The Pike (where at about 9 years old, I got my first migraine), POP (I wish we had photos of the fixtures Dad created there), and Santa Monica Pier. The original DCA may have been a bit limited regarding attractions, but it was still a nostalgic experience that reflected the simplicity of what the first California amusement parks were like juxtaposed against Disneyland, which reflects what amusement parks are like now and will be in the future.

    Like you, Lance, I’m a native Californian (we’re as rare as hens’ teeth), so I personally liked the fountain just inside DCA’s old entrance. I quite enjoyed just sitting there watching the water flow while I listened to The Mamas and The Papas and the Beach Boys. As Daria said, the wide, less-cluttered walkways enhance the experience and is once again in direct contrast to the narrow, congested walkways in Disneyland.

    I, too, miss the Whoopi Goldberg exhibit because it was a chance for visitors to learn a bit if California history. After all, the majority of people who live in California are from somewhere else, so Whoopi’s exhibit was a fun history lesson (and a cool, relaxing place to take a load off one’s feet).

    I enjoyed Ariel’s Undersea Adventure so much that I went on it twice when I visited DCA not long after the ride was completed. The colors are rich and lovely, and I like the bubble effect that makes you feel like you’re under water. Daria and I had one suggestion about the ride: At one point in the ride, they might have tried a red wig and a fan to give Ariel’s hair that ‘floating-under-water” look as opposed to the bulky, solid mass that looks odd suspended in mid air. Just a suggestion…

    By far, my favorite ride in either park is “Soarin’ Over California” because the ride is not only exhilarating but probably one of only 2-3 rides (if not the ONLY ride) in DCA that lives up to the title of the park by giving riders a bird’s eye view of some of the most iconic and uniquely Californian landmarks. I have to disagree with you, Lance, about making other “Soarin’” rides for Disney parks. While yes, “Soarin’ Over Italy,” or “Soarin’ Over France,” or “Soarin’ Over Sweden” would be better suited to Euro Disney, I think even there people might be put off by it if their country isn’t represented. It might become politicized, which defeats the purpose. At DCA, people obviously want the ride to feature iconic sights of California, and no other locales would fit the former “theme” (i.e., a California Adventure).

    I have to agree with you about Duffy, Lance. I didn’t know anything about who Duffy was and, therefore, I was confused by all the Duffy merch in DCA. Why does Disney need the character? I understand that the character is popular in Japan, but why create him in the first place with no backstory? As I always say, “If there’s a dollar to be made, Disney’s all over it.”

    Lastly, from what I’ve heard from others and read in your blog, Lance, other than Ghirardelli Parlor, the bakery, and the Red Car, there doesn’t seem to be much left that makes DCA a California experience. Therefore, I think they should change the name to either Pixar Park (since that’s what it seems to be now), or call it Disneyland II.

    Whenever I finally get over to DCA again, I’m sure I’ll have other thoughts to share with you, Lance. In the meantime, please keep sharing yours. Thanks again for writing!

  • lance says:

    Hi Cee Bee! Thanks for writing. Great to hear from you!

    Great letter. Let’s tackle it in some sort of order!

    I guess, overall, I have a knee-jerk reaction to infotainment. I’d rather go on a ride than to a (well-produced) lecture. Many folks felt the same and the criticism in and outside of the Disney empire pushed out the farm exhibits, California History lectures, etc. The Disneyland experience spoiled them. Nostalgic as Disneyland can get, it is still talking a modern and progressive approach to (in Walt’s words) an Amusement Enterprise. Remember, Disneyland was the first ‘Theme’ Park…before that, were Amusement parks and fairs. Doing a boardwalk, however nice, is following, not leading. Walt was all about taking things to the next level.

    I say, it they are going to the trouble to recreate the boardwalk experience from days of yore (not a bad idea in itself)…they should pull the trigger and buy a stretch of actual beachfront and do the grandest one ever. A fusion of all the very best ideas from these types of places throughout the early 20th century with an Imagineering spin. You know they could. I have fond memories of San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach. Within walking distance of where I grew up, but torn down when I was a kid. On my last visit to SF, I got a DVD on Playland and Sutro Baths (the latter town down before I was born, but I’d play in the dangerous ruins!) SF’s two great amusement parks.

    I went all the time to Playland, but you know, my fondest childhood memories were always about the annual Disneyland trip. Even as a kid, I knew the Magic Kingdom was something special.

    That being said, I love the heck out of EPCOT’s World Pavillion…a Disneyfied International World’s Fair…which is ALL about Edutainment and pretty much a virtual tour of the world. (though they are missing some key pavilions (Russia, Brazil, Australia, South Pacific, etc.).

    I like the new BUena Vista street fine…and it’s definitely a California experience. It’s just not generic, theming towards a period Hollywood as Walt first arrived. Also, things like Grizzly River Run, Challenge Trail, Pacific Wharf seem to give California a decent presence in the park.

    Arial has had a few tweaks since it opened. The story I heard was Lassiter went through and had some notes. One was the animated Ariel at the beginning was CGI, now she’s traditional animation, looking more like the film itself. The other tweak is her hair in Under the Sea. It used to be a piled swirl (looking for all the world like an orange Dole Whip!). JL didn’t care for this, so now she sports that ponytail look. I think the effect works ok. I also love the going underwater effect. Some nice, classic Imagineering there.

    You definitely have a good point about maybe changing the less appropriate name, but I doubt that’s happening anytime soon. That would be too bitter a pill and admit a complete fail in the concept department. This renovation does that in a less self-critical way.

    I loved your letter. It definitely articulately stated a new point of view….and a very legitimate one. That’s really the reason I wanted to do this whole blog. So…well done.

    Looking forward to your return and feel free to add your thoughts to the older postings. They are all active.

    Cheers (where did I get that?)


  • Duffy is a craze in the Tokyo parks along with the special flavored popcorn.

    There is a treat at that Brother Bear kiddie playground though …

  • Okay – Sometimes the helpful ranger for Russel is a lovely California Asian mix lady who used to be Pocahontas – she will steal your breath away. Shhhh!

  • Much of DCA works well.

    I have to do the Cars ride, but I will defend this park, it is the closest to Tokyo DisneySea here.

    Look, at 55 – I remember both the Pike and POP. My first time at Disneyland – I was one-ish. I love the theme parks.

  • lance says:

    Sparky. Thanks for writing….multiple posts yet.

    Since you’re the only one I know to have enjoyed the Japan parks, there’s much I would like to know from you. I hear great things about Disney Tokyo Seas and really want to check it out one of these days. Let me know if you have room in your luggage.

    Is Duffy All That in the TDS park? That’s what I’ve read in a few places. I also have to admit that when I see a group of Duffy Ear wearing teens in DCA, they seem to be Japanese tourists. I guess the character (‘property’ more like because there’s no discernible character as far as I can tell) was created as a partial mascot for TDS which is why his default look is a sailor suit.

    So, what the Hell is wrong with using Donald?!

    Your babe in the Wilderness Challenge Trail is noted….but I think any misbehavior will get you a session with The Cone Of Shame.

    Also, nothing really to defend about DCA. I think they have it right now. That cool Billion was well-spent. I have notes throughout my 2 DCA Blogs, but they are minor tweaks compared to how I felt when the gates first opened. It’s all been uphill since Superstar Limo went bye-bye.

    Come back soon, boss. Maybe we could plan a group trip when it cools down a bit.



  • Thoma says:

    I have read the other comments here and I find myself of mixed mind. I do not remember all of the original attractions at DCA and I thought it was wanting as a Disney experience. On the other hand, I do recall nostalgia over the feel of the place. I, too, remember Playland in SF, the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, and the Santa Monica Pier. Like some others who have commented here, I was born in CA – Anaheim, to be exact… Here’s the thing: as much as the rides and attractions at the Paradise Pier area reminded me of childhood haunts, I have to say that I was not all that fond of them when I was a kid – at least as compared to Disneyland.
    I think that the updates have been well thought out and I really like the look of Carsland (though I have hardly ridden any rides yet). Soarin’ Over California is a signature ride for this park and I really wish the one at WDW was themed to the I-95 corridor or Florida rather than being our ride masked so as to make you wonder where it was filmed.
    I agree that Rocketeer theming would be a great improvement to Condor Flats!
    I actually will add my voice to those who liked the Edutainment stops, whether at DL or DCA. A place to sit and watch an informative show can be a blessing after hours of hiking around a hot, sticky park – especially if there are crabby kids involved. I really miss and lament the loss of the Circle-Vision theater in Tomorrowland and while I never saw Whoopi Goldberg’s piece in the ‘Palace’ building, I think I would have liked it.
    Duffy is an ill-thought out marketing idea. I think that Princess Sofia the First may be cut from the same cloth, but I am not sure. Every decade or so, something gets tried and the faithful all scratch their heads and thing, “what made you think this would work”? I think that those of us who talk to the staff need to make it clear that characters with no film or story behind them are not welcome and won’t be supported.
    With regard to World of Color, I like it but I can see how some would prefer the more character-driven nature of Fantasmic. I note that they are significantly different and I am fine with that.
    I love California Screamin’ – would I add theming? I don’t think so. The Anaheim resort needed a real, major coaster in order to compete with Magic Mountain and this was a brilliant inclusion. The fact that it blended well with the Paradise Pier was a huge plus.

    What I miss in this park is the lack of a railroad. The addition of the big red cars to the Buena Vista and Hollywoodland areas are good, but not the same. A Disney park without a real train seems to lack Walt’s heart and soul to me.

    This seems to have been a bit rambling, but I do appreciate the work you have done, Lance and I love reading the other comments. Thank you, sir!

  • lance says:

    Hi Thomas, thanks for writing. You’ve given me a lot to think about and I’ll save my most Global comment for last…now, let’s talk…

    It is funny that the Florida Soarin’ doesn’t talk about California per se…they really need a different film or three. The infotainment stuff is well done, I just want more escapist experiences for my Disney buck. Many want more of a spectrum. I’m expressing a personal preference not a condemnation about that sort of thing…same for ‘kiddie’ areas. Clearly, these things are needed. That being said, I’ll take the wonderful Little Mermaid ride over a film on the History of the State….no matter how well produced.

    Thankfully, I dont know who Sophia The First is…but if it’s actually a Princess character they made up ala Duffy (not ‘real’ from anything, just merchandise based on nothing)…that’s even more idiotic because they already have a wide range of Princesses from Snow White to Vanellope and Leia! No need to make up new ones just to hawk.

    Very good point about a railroad! Definitely what Walt would have done. Actually, there’s a practical reason if you want to get from the Hyperion to the pier area. That’s quite a hike.

    Ok….here’s what I was holding back, considering the whole Pier thing….

    Yes. Walt had a nostalgic streak…look no further than Main Street.

    But past Main Street, the park goes beyond. Into Fantasy, Adventure, The Frontier, even the World of Tomorrow. Walt was a guy who looked ever forward…..always pushing the envelope. You know the list: First Synch sound, first color, first feature length…. Before Disneyland, ‘Amusement Enterprises’ (In Walt’s quaint phrasing) were County Fairs, Boardwalks, traveling circuses, frontier towns, and so on. Disneyland was created as the very first ‘Theme Park’. Though it seems obvious now, it was mind-blowing in the 50′s. He was really rolling the dice and thinking ahead.

    So, to me, it doesn’t seem very Disney to just upgrade an old idea like a Boardwalk amusement park…even if done well, there’s very little of a visionary nature about it. Hear his voice in your head when I say: “You know, folks want to be surprised, dazzled. They want to see something new”. So, I’m saying what would be beyond the idea of a Disneyland-type Theme park? That’s the target. Not a spiffed-up boardwalk.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion.

    Thanks,Thomas for the though-provoking and intelligent comments. I hope you return soon.



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