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Robert's Tour, Part Five -- Disney's California Adventure

Are things getting any better at Disney's second Anaheim theme park?

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Published: July 16, 2004 at 10:47 PM

Anaheim, California -- If you are under the impression that no one ever goes to Disney's California Adventure after reading reports on some other websites, allow me to relieve you of that notion right now.


A visit to California Adventure requires as much planning as a visit to Disneyland, because the lines here are as long as at any theme park in Southern California. Discounts helped push California Adventure to one of the industry's highest percentage increases attendance last year, according to Amusement Business magazine, and the past two days saw hour-long standby lines at midday on all of California Adventure's top attractions.

Of course, lines don't always correlate to attendance. Shorter operating hours, coupled with lower attraction capacity, can force long lines at ever sparsely attended parks. And California Adventure opened two hours after Disneyland this morning, closing shop three hours before its older sibling tonight. While the turnstile numbers might not yet be eliciting smiles in Burbank, enough people are coming to California Adventure that a visitor can no longer expect to walk right on every attraction.

As usual, I arrived before the park opened, to get a jump on the crowd and bag as many attractions as I could before early afternoon. But a little reconnaissance the day before lead me to think that a counterintuitive approach might help me breeze through California Adventure more quickly.

Logic would dictate that you go to the big new attraction first, in this case, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. But Disney's operating Tower of Terror at full capacity throughout the day, leaving it with one of the shorter standby waits in the park at midday. So I opted to go the other direction, and visit several busy attractions in Golden State and Paradise Pier earlier in the day.

First stop: Grab a Fastpass for Soarin' Over California. That in hand, I hiked back over to Paradise Pier to ride California Screamin'. (Apparently, Vanna ran out of “g”s when Disney desi'ned this park. Which is appropriate, 'cause DCA's bank account hasn't been showin' many G's ever since.)

Five minutes later, I was on board. After Xcelerator's zero-to-80, two-second launch on Wednesday, Screamin's launch seemed as brisk as the morning rush hour on the Hollywood Freeway. (Which, for non-Angelenos, means not very at all.) Throughout the ride on this faux woodie coaster (it's really steel), each element seemed dialed back a notch from where it should have been. The launch is step slow. The dips are a few degrees too flat, the turns nudge you rather than shove. Even the visuals are obscured by sound barriers on the south side of every crest. It's as if designers decided that a “Disney coaster” needed not just to be clean and pleasantly staffed, but dulled-down as well.

I left the ride feeling more indifferent than thrilled. And that was a reaction I'd feel throughout my day at California Adventure.

Next up was Maliboomer, a moonshot ride themed to be one of those bells a strongman would try to ring by smashing down a hammer. Except that there's no strongman. And carnival attractions aren't among the first 57,000 things that come to mind when thinking of Malibu. The Santa Monica pier, maybe, but I guess no one at Disney could think of a dumb pun for that. (The Santa Moonica?) Anyway, the blast up was okay, I guess, but then we bounced harmlessly up and down for a few seconds, just like on the kiddies' Jumpin' Jellyfish (come on, Vanna, there's gotta be a “g” on that board *someplace*), but 50 feet farther up. Feh.

After Maliboomer, I picked up a Fastpass for the Grizzly River Run on my way back to the front of the park to ride Soarin'.

Soarin' reminds me of my wife's favorite attraction at Epcot, Impressions de France. Both films are travelogues, set to music, taking viewers on a whirlwind tour of scenes from around the cities, mountaintops, farms and countrysides of the two relatively similar regions.

But while moviegoers watch France from traditional theater seats facing a 180-degree screen, California Adventure visitors watch Soarin' from handglider-style seats, suspended from the ceiling, watching an IMAX-style presentation. Much, much more impressive.

Well, it would be if the nearly 25-year-old France movie didn't eat its lunch. Disney's opted against a voice-over on Soarin', forcing the visuals and music to carry the film's narrative. They can't handle the burden. The conceit of flying across the state traps the camera in the air, where it can never close in on the faces or expressions of the people on the ground. Visual acrobatics could save the effort, but after opening with an impressive shot along a Sierra river, the film mostly offers up fairly straightforward images, as if the aircraft could rarely swoop too far nor the camera pan too freely.

And Soarin's derivative score reminds me of the unimaginative strings one might hear as background music during a Matlock rerun. Hardly the Saint Saens organ symphony.

On to the Tower of Terror. Some readers have jumped over me for writing that I thought Universal Studios Hollywood's Revenge of the Mummy a more impressive attraction that this.

Well, having given Tower a second look, I still believe that.

Look, Tower boasts a more impressive introduction, and an outstanding queue. But as fellow TPI'er Kevin Baxter pointed out, it's all first act. The narrative never reveals an irony -- that Twilight Zone moment -- which would raise this attraction to greatness. You know, where we find out that the monsters are really just us. Or that while we're finally alone in the world to read now, our glasses are busted. Instead, we bounce up and down in the dark for a few seconds. Fans loved the Twilight Zone for more than spooky talk about fifth dimensions. They loved and respected the show because it exposed life's consequences to an indifferent world.

Tower of Terror never lays out any consequences for the rider. We walk into a haunted hotel, board a service elevator, bounce up and down, then get out and leave. Mummy, on the other hand, offers a complete narrative arc. (One paragraph summary: An eclipse unleashes Imhotep's curse. Riders succumb to it by entering his tomb and viewing his treasure. Imhotep claims the riders' souls, damning them to the underworld, but then the eclipse breaks, Imhotep is defeated and riders return safely.)

Don't get me wrong, Tower of Terror will entertain most any rider. No one who visits California Adventure should miss it. But while I enjoyed the ride, I do not consider it as impressive as Mummy, or the original Tower of Terror in Florida. Disney could have done better. Give it a go, though. Your mileage may vary.

From joining the standby queue to finishing the ride, Tower took just 30 minutes, leaving me plenty of time to walk back over to the Grizzly River Run for my Fastpass reservation there. Grizzly, along with Soarin' and Muholland Madness, offers a single rider line, which normally I would recommend to any solo visitor like me. But today, I wanted to test my tour plan, so I stuck with the regular standby and Fastpass return lines.

Grizzly soaks it riders better than any other tub ride in Southern California. Its flume design spins the tub throughout the ride more aggressively than any other such ride in the area. And Grizzly offers a few intentionally leaky pipes, along with a strategically placed geyser at the end, to mop up whatever dry patches the whitewater might have missed.

Yet, like Knott's Bigfoot Rapids, Grizzly soaks you in silence, without the music or characters that elevate Splash Mountain over the likes of Knott's Log Ride. How hard would it have been to give Disney's Country Bears a new home here?

Again, on every attraction, California Adventure comes up a step short. Perhaps that's why so many visitors seem frustrated, or at least left cold, by this park. Some may complain about the theme. And I agree that I'd rather see attractions tied to the extensive history and mythology of California than to contemporary themes. But half-hearted execution provides the greater problem here. It's as if the park was designed by a committee, worried about keeping costs down and not offending anyone, rather than entertainers with a strong vision they wanted to share.

So here we have a park for the lowest common denominator of Disney fan -- the ones who thought Atlantis and Home on the Range were just swell. For a couple bucks, I'll rent those flicks for my kids. But I won't spend $40 to take the whole family to see them in the theater.

And that's ultimately how I feel about California Adventure. Show me another aggressive discount -- like the ones Knott's offers -- and I'll bring the family back to this park. Without one, however, I'll save the full-price expeditions for Disneyland or Universal instead.

  • Read the rest of the articles from Robert Niles' Summer 2004 Theme Park Tour
  • Readers' Opinions

    From Scott Carter on July 17, 2004 at 3:25 AM
    I disagree Robert,I think DCA is a way better park then Universal,heck it already has more to do then Universal.I think you and Kevin are too hard on DCA,its a fledgling park,its not as bad as you guys make it.
    DCA has its problems,no doubt,but it also has its gems and I think this park has a ton of potential.
    I am glad to see attendance is getting better,the more people who come to this park the more money Disney will be willing to spend on new "stuff" =)



    From Chuck Campbell on July 17, 2004 at 6:40 AM
    I visited DCA back in 2001 with some friends and did enjoy the place; that being said, it still needs work.

    I agree with Robert that DCA needs to use the history and mythology of the Golden State to make it distinctive. Take the new ToT, for example (which I haven't experienced, but my one of my nieces loved). Instead of using the same story as the Florida version, why not use the story of, say, San Jose's Sarah Winchester--the woman who believed that as long as she kept adding on to her house, she would never die and the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle would leave her alone? The Hollywood Tower could be the product of a wealthy Hollywood family who shares Sarah's bizarre beliefs, who keep pushing their workers to constantly "improve" and expand the hotel, thus ensuring their own immortality. One "dark and stormy night" (my apologies to Edward Bulwer-Lytton for stealing his most famous opening line), they're riding the elevator to inspect their latest addition on the top floor, lightning strikes, yadda yadda yadda. Guests today would ride the "service elevator," perhaps as "investors" interested in buying the old place, and have one chance at escaping the fate of the original builders (who are, indeed, immortal in the Twilight Zone)--plunging straight down (while the hotel, a malevolent force all its own) tries to pull them back in. Very California and very Hollywood, I think. Not very artfully expressed on my part, but there you have it.

    In fact, turing the whole Hollywood pictures area into a sort of rundown, "haunted" backlot might be good way to go.

    From TH Creative on July 17, 2004 at 8:49 AM
    What makes Robert's reviews so unique is that they focus on HOW to have fun rather than whether or not you SHOULD be having fun.

    I look forward to hearing about your upcoming visit to Orlando.

    From Robert Niles on July 17, 2004 at 9:23 AM
    Will someone at WDI hire Chuck, please?!?
    From Scott Carter on July 17, 2004 at 11:43 AM
    Robert,
    would you agree with me in saying DCA has improved alot since its openeing in 2001? and that its heading in the right direction?
    From Robert Niles on July 17, 2004 at 1:58 PM
    It's certainly improved, and therefore heading in the right direction (unless you shorted Disney stock!). But DCA exists in a no-man's land for theme parks between great storytelling and great thrills, offering neither.

    Plus, the layout of this park is perhaps the worst in the country. My wife declared it to have horrible feng shui. Whether you believe in that stuff or not, the fact remains that the park is not as easy to navigate as Disneyland, or any other hub-n-spoke or grid-layout park. In fact, DCA's layout reminds me of the old TPI logo -- a line splitting off to a spur on the left and a loop sloped upward to the right.

    A great new attraction or two won't raise this park to the level of Disneyland or Universal Studios. Only a substantial rebuild of much of the park and many of its attractions, under the direction of inspired creative leadership, would do that.

    Universal Studios Hollywood *has* done that over the past decade, so the task's not impossible. Whether Disney's upper management is willing to spend the money necessary, or even able to identify such a leader, are other factors to be determined.

    From Scott Carter on July 17, 2004 at 2:42 PM
    DCA has the worst layout in the country? you really think DCAs layout is worse then USHs? I think its easier to navigate through DCA then USH.USH has all those escalators which are pretty annoying.
    at any rate,I do agree with you on one point,I dont think the California theme is the problem,I also believe its a execution issue.I think with the proper ideas/concepts,the CA theme can work very well.
    From John Franklin on July 17, 2004 at 4:07 PM
    Let's face it, DCA is nowhere land. Why do you think I refer to it as California Missed Adventures.
    Disney missed so many ways to make it more like Disney's Seas (in Japan), but would not spend the money. Of the four new parks that Disney built during the last decade (Paris' Studios, WDW Animal Kingdom, DCA, and Japan's Disney Seas), Disney's Seas is the most beautiful and successful. Whereas Paris' Studios might bankrupt Paris Disneyland. And Animal Kingdom and DCA are half day (at most) parks. It is a fact that DCA is a monkey on Disneyland's back and will take a decade or more to fix.
    Just be thankful that Superstar Lemon is shut down for good.
    From Matt Rogers on July 17, 2004 at 5:51 PM
    Scott, USH may be hard to navigate through but they are doing their best with what they got. Just be glad you don't need to walk up those stairs!
    From Chuck Campbell on July 17, 2004 at 5:52 PM
    Thank you, Robert--may I use you as a reference?

    DCA's layout is a problem. I'm not surprised that Hollywood Pictures was often a ghost town (at least before ToT)--the inclination of your average visitor is to head off to the right (especially because Soarin' and GRR are in that direction), but Hollywood Pictures is a dead end off to the left.

    I agree that USH's layout is a pain to navigate, but remember that it was not designed to be a theme park in the first place--it's a working movie and TV studio. In fact, USH reminds me of Walt Disney's original idea for Disneyland: a small park in front of his studio to entertain guests.

    From Scott Carter on July 17, 2004 at 6:31 PM
    you think the average guest at USH goes up and down those escalators at USH thinking "boy these are a pain but gee it was never meant to be a theme park,so I guess its ok" ?? of course not,it doesnt matter what it was intended to be,its still a pain and its still annoying to guets.
    DCA might have "dead ends" or whatever else,but its not nearly as bad as USHs layout.
    From Kevin Baxter on July 17, 2004 at 7:03 PM
    Oh, please. Just because USH has those escalators doesn't make the layout awful and it doesn't make DCA's good. DCA has TWO deadends, which should NEVER be in any park. DL has two now also, and they ruin what used to be a perfect layout.

    To make matters worse, DCA has long meandering pathways that lead to nothing or very little. Did the path really need to loop all the way over to Soarin'? Had they done this right, they would have created the path to go right through Grizzly Peak, so people wouldn't have so long to walk without anything to look at. The Pier would have connected right to the Wharf so that whole boring walk between the water and Grizzly Peak would have been unnecessary. But then while we are at it, the whole damn park would have actually opened COMPLETE, so it wouldn't be the joke of the theme park world.

    Has DCA gotten better? That's certainly questionable. Aladdin was okay and ToT is needed, but other additions have been wholly unnecessary. Two decent attractions for a third-size park is not much of an improvement. And attendance numbers show that most people agree.

    From alex morehouse on July 17, 2004 at 7:18 PM
    I read the part about how The Hollywood Pictures Backlot is often a ghost town. I hear ya! I think it's just that the section needs to be modernize. I think they need to replace the Hyperion Theater with a Stunt Show based on the "Scary Movie" stunt show. That's just one. They need to replace the Muppet Vision 3D with another ride. Maybe it can be a kid's simulator like "The FUNtastic World Of Hanna-barbera," but themed to the Disney Channel shows called "Kim Posssible's Disney Channel Adventure." That's 2. Next would be "Superstar Limo" on the chopping block, and replace it With "Mickey and Friends At The Movies," where Mickey and his Friends live through some of Hollywood's most awesome movies like "Spider-Man," " The Mask," "Indiana Jones" and so forth. That is what needs to come and go!
    From Scott Carter on July 17, 2004 at 7:23 PM
    "Oh, please. Just because USH has those escalators doesn't make the layout awful"

    yeah it does,it makes it a pain,just how you think the DCA deadends are a pain.Its bad layout.

    "Has DCA gotten better? That's certainly questionable. Aladdin was okay and ToT is needed, but other additions have been wholly unnecessary. Two decent attractions for a third-size park is not much of an improvement. And attendance numbers show that most people agree."

    according to AB DCAs attendance went up 13% while USHs dropped 12 %,so what does that say about USH? at least DCA is on the rise...and im sure DCA will beat USH this year again.

    From marcos mintos on July 17, 2004 at 7:40 PM
    I also agree that DCA does have its problems. But USH, like I've said before, doesn't compare. The RotM ride (not a rollercoater) was really bad. It stunk. If I want to see a bunch of shows i can see some really good ones at my local theatre. Ya, those awful escalaters were anoying, but did you see the people taking the stairs!?!?
    From Robert Niles on July 17, 2004 at 8:56 PM
    Fair point about USH's layout. You know, the split between the lower and upper lots at USH is so extreme that I've reconciled them as two different parks (under one admission) in my mind. I would never think of bouncing back and forth between them. When I visit USH, I do one then the other. Period.

    Which, I guess makes USH's layout so bad that my mind's figured out how to make it okay. But DCA's is bad enough that it is not intuitive, but not so bad that it forces you to consciously figure it out, like at USH.

    So DCA's in no man's land. Again.

    From Scott Carter on July 17, 2004 at 9:11 PM
    cool articles by the way Robert,its stirring up some intresting debates!! keep the great articles coming!
    I might not always agree with you but I respect your opinion.
    From Chuck Campbell on July 18, 2004 at 8:42 AM
    Scott, I actually do think of USH more as a studio than as a theme park (unlike USF, which was specifically designed to be a theme park), but I agree with you that the "average" guest wouldn't. I still the remember the old days when USH offered just the tour and a visitors center--and how as much as I enjoyed the tour, I always ended up with a throbbing headache at the end of the day, thanks to the heat and the smog.
    From Robert Niles on July 18, 2004 at 6:54 PM
    Greetings from Orlando!

    For laughs, check out what some of the folks at MouseInfo.com have to say about my report: http://www.miboards.com/showthread.php?t=17043. Shout out to TP2000 (whoever he/she is) for actually *reading* the report.

    Two things immediately popped into mind after stumbling across this:
    1) I find it amazing that people will talk about a TPI report *on other sites* but won't post a response here.
    2) How simplistically must one write a report so that no ideologue will read into it some straw-man's opinion which simply isn't there?

    From Jason Herrera on July 18, 2004 at 7:19 PM
    My favorite quote was the one about you losing credit for working with the LA Times. That was classy.

    Robert, I've got to ask you. What the hell do you care what other people have to say about your site, your POV, or your article?

    I'd believe a lot of these people will never post here because of the attack dog, Kevin.;o)

    From Louis Schillace on July 18, 2004 at 9:25 PM
    I LOVE Disney's California Adventure. The Tower of Terror was just the addition the park needed. What would make DCA more complete though would be opening up the Tower of Terror area to a bugs land. This would more of a circle not causing guests to go back to the enterance every time. You would be much more engulfed in the experience of the park and feel like there are more places to discover. PLUS a night time pyrotechnics show on the water would COMPLETLEY revive the park.
    From Scott Carter on July 18, 2004 at 9:40 PM
    I love Cali Adventure too,I was there today and the park was really crowded.I think its really evolving into a great place,I think the next few years for DCA will be great,especially with Matt Ouimet in charge.
    From Kevin Baxter on July 19, 2004 at 2:35 AM
    Scott, you are delusional. Now people may complain about USH's escalators, but I don't necessarily consider them part of the layout. Like Robert said, it's like two parks. No one complains about the distance between DL and DCA or USF and IOA. True, there are only four things down there, which is probably what makes it seems like such a pain to take the whopping 2-minute trip.

    The park reminds me of AK, with the endless train going to several small attractions. The problem with USH is the escalators actually lead to attractions people want to go to. Could I live without it? Of course, but the vast majority of the park is much easier to get around than DCA. The biggest two rides in DCA are much farther apart than the biggest two in USH, and THAT makes DCA much worse to me.

    And what exactly does DCA's attendance boost have to do with improving quality? It has NOTHING to do with it. DCA's attendance fell after opening, then increasing AP sales bumped up its attendance to original levels. You say it is crowded, but you cannot be more wrong. MiceAge chronicles its attendance and it has been either the same or worse. That is not crowded. I repeat: Just because you see people in one area, that doesn't make the park itself crowded.

    Furthermore, the park will NOT be great in the next few years. There is nothing on the horizon for the next two years unless they finally give the green light to the Monsters Inc overlay to Superstar Lame-o. Considering Disney takes two years to create a ride of worth, DCA won't be anywhere near "great" for another decade. At the least. You may like it, but the public has spoken with their wallets.

    From Kevin Baxter on July 19, 2004 at 2:54 AM
    Oh, what is up with the poster over there posting it as TSI? Does that mean something or is it just lame?

    Gawd, that Nemo88 is a moron! He is the type I have tried desperately to drive away from this site. We don't need people with blinders on littering this site with crap that provides no help whatsoever to the many people who use this site to better their vacations. "Disneyland is so great!" is useless, and I don't even understand why anyone would want to waste their time on a message board all the time with such lameness. Nothing is perfect (except for me) and nothing is perfectly awful, at least in the theme park world. Even the worst parks have soemthing worthwhile and the best have their problems.

    For example, my favorite park is IOA, but that doesn't mean I can't complain about how sucky StormForce or Flying Unicorn or the fact that they haven't built a decent ride since they opened in 1999 without being a "Universal hater." Yet, say one bad thing about Disney, no matter how deserved and you are "biased." Which is even more retarded when they are claiming Robert is biased against Disney after writing a good DL report AND after he used to be a CM. Being "biased" against a single park is just stoopid and shows a severe lack of understanding of the English language. That's like claiming someone is biased against spinach.

    Why were you even on there, Robert? Any site that wastes that much time whining about Al Lutz isn't a site anyone with a brain should be bothering with.

    From alex morehouse on July 19, 2004 at 9:05 AM
    There are many ways that Disney can improve quality in DCA, Kevin. First, they need to properly theme the areas of the park. Give the Hollywood Pictures Backlot a Beverly Hills theme with beautifully themed replicas of the street. Secondly, the Paradise Pier area can be given an underwater theming with coral reefs and fish. Thirdly, Condor Flats can be given an aviation theming. Meanwhile, another way to improve quality is the food. If they are going to serve hamburgers, BEEF THEM UP! I went to USH, and when me and my parents ordered hamburgers, they were thick! Even though it wasn't cheap, it was well worth it! Meanwhile, Disney serves up frickin' little hamburgers, and charge a crapload of money for it! And speaking of that, they also need to lower prices. There is only so much to do there, I would say the appropiate price would be $30.00. Here is also another way to improve the quality: make a better ride! Crack open the vault, and put in more technology into these attractions, or try and research and invent new rides.
    From Robert Niles on July 19, 2004 at 10:29 AM
    Hey, when I get bored, I check my log files for the HTTP-Referrers. I get curious about who's linking to us, and what they're saying.

    In answer to Jason's question, I do care what others think about TPI. I want the public to consider this an impartial, insightful and indispensible consumer guide to theme parks and the related vacation destinations. Of course, a few individuals will always be too dense to see the various shades of gray with which we paint the places we cover. They'll insist on reducing everything to black and white. Those simpletons can't be pleased. But I can get a good laugh out of reading their words now and then.

    From Bill Jonke on July 19, 2004 at 12:55 PM
    My favorite line I heard at my last visit to DCA was something I overheard from an older gentleman, and it got me laughing. He said something to the effect of "Where else can you go to get an $8 hamburger?"
    From Chuck Campbell on July 19, 2004 at 4:36 PM
    Sigh--Disney did serve a good burger at DL once upon a time. Remember the Tahitian Terrace in Adventureland? The place actually served lunch one summer and featured this thick, juicy burger that was every bit as good as you could get at an off-the-park restaurant. DL really should've kept that place--they missed the boat on the return of "tiki culture."
    From Bill Jonke on July 19, 2004 at 4:51 PM
    I remember when the hamburgers were good, and reasonable. I also remember a couple of years ago when I almost had a heart attack when I found out that DL was selling water for $2.50 a bottle, a small one at that! I'm sure it's more now. I can go to WalMart and pay just about the same price for a case! Remember Tomorrowland Terrace? They had good burgers too. I also got a kick out of the kitschy costumes the cast members wore. Nothing wrong with that!
    From Chuck Campbell on July 19, 2004 at 5:35 PM
    Know what bottled water costs at Kings Dominion in Virginia? $3.25! And since that place is always under a heat advisory, they really clean up.
    From Bill Jonke on July 19, 2004 at 9:09 PM
    Times have really changed. I also remember when you could buy antiques at the One of a Kind Shop, and again you never felt like you were being taken. Not so with all the "branded" plush that's being sold today everywhere in both parks.
    From Billy Barf on July 20, 2004 at 7:45 AM
    Soarin' reminds me of my wife's favorite attraction at Epcot, Impressions de France
    Wow, I thought I was the only one who liked it for something besides a place to snooze. Though I do wish Disney would replace the print more often, or switch to DLP or something similar, as it's looking very faded and gritty.

    Good report on DCA. Such a welcome and refreshing change from Kev-blow's fey hipster manque.

    From Rip Russell on July 24, 2004 at 6:23 AM
    For those WDI folks grimacing in Glendale, and the execs sneaking a peek at this from Burbank, I have to ask two simple design questions about Disney's California Adventure. First, if the late Walt Disney's first rule of amusement park design is to always have a visual "weenie" at the end of each line of sight, why does DCA not have any? The park is visually, well, dull. Lacking are the natural eye magnets like the castles in all Magic Kingdoms worldwide, and even at EPCOT's World Showcase. But not at DCA. This absense of "something more exciting around the bend" deflates the senses, lowers expectations and sends the patron in to a subconsious tailspin. No wonder so many walk out of the park feeling like they just kissed their sister.

    Secondly, why did the designers create so few truly shaded areas in DCA? Orange County boasts more than 300 days of 8+ hours sunshine, and yet the majority of DCA's park benches are in completely unshaded areas. Sure, there are fledgling trees sprouting up, but I don't want to wait ten years for them to mature enough to provide useful shade. This asthetic setback further bewilders the patron.

    When EPCOT opened in October, 1982, the park wisely contained transplanted mature greenery, which gave it a feeling of permanence. This is something, evidenced by the wide swaths of bare concrete and asphalt, that sorely is missing at DCA. A boon for dermatologists. A bust for DCA.

    From Adam Villani on September 19, 2004 at 2:17 AM
    I just came back from visiting California Adventure for the first time after visiting Disneyland dozens of times since childhood. My overall impression basically doesn't contradict Robert's. I think it's a good park, but by pricing it the same as Disneyland, Disney's trying to convince you it's the old park's equal, but it's far, far from it. Luckily my girlfriend and I got in free after being signed in by a Cast Member friend. It's definitely worth visiting, but no way is this place worth full price.

    One nice thing about this park was that we never had to wait in any long lines. This was on the Saturday two weekends after Labor Day. We got into the gates of the park a little before noon, picked up fastpasses to Soarin', and then headed over to TZToT, where we only had to wait about 10 minutes before reaching the first elevator. As good as the ride is, I must echo Robert's critique that there's no real Twilight Zone connection with the ride. I guess the vibe is more with maybe the Hammer or Universal horror movies. TZ was always about creeping you out rather than thrilling you, and about concepts and irony mroe than just "well, there's a haunted hotel where some weird stuff happened." But I loved the effects and the ride was very different from other drop rides I've been on (never been to Orlando.)

    After that the 12:40 Aladdin was starting, so we caught that... I surprised myself by really loving this show. It doesn't hurt that Aladdin is probably my favorite Disney animated movie since Jungle Book, but I think it even beats the shows at USH.

    After that we had time for Soarin', which holds the distinction of being a unique design of a ride. The hangglider mechanisms and the wind did a great job of enhancing the experience. I only wish it had been longer and maybe had some narration to tie things together better thematically. A very fun ride, though.

    Man, I could write a lot more, let me try to keep it shorter... I'm not going to critique Paradise Pier because my motion sickness problems really started giving me a hard time here. After that.... uhh... resolved itself, the tortilla factory was actually a nice way to rejuvenate myself. The bread factory wasn't as good.

    I'm probably in the minority in preferring the Muppetvision 3D to It's Tought to Be a Bug; the bug movie had better effects, but I think the Muppet one was wittier. A Bug's Land kinda points out a problem with DCA... it's the best themed area of the park, but its rides are strictly kiddie fare.

    After DCA closed at 8, we headed over to Disneyland until it closed at 11. Even with all the closed stuff and the much bigger crowds at DL, its "magic" was still clearly evident. PotC is quite simply the best (dare I say "most artistically successful?) use of theming on any ride, anywhere. The new Winnie the Pooh thing that replaced my beloved Country Bears (just as the movie was coming out... nice synergy, guys) was a very worthy addition to DL's roster of dark rides, but let's hope that rocking motion stays unique to this ride. After hitting those and wasting some time in line for the French Market, we basically went with whatever looked like it had the shortest lines. Even most of the things in Fantasyland had formidable looking lines at 10:00 at night. After a day of near walk-ons at DCA, we didn't feel like waiting 45 minutes for Peter Pan. Anything that can cut down on queue lengths at DL, though, has to be tried. Their capacity is very high, but it's just so darn good of a park that the demand is just staggering.

    So, back on the subject of DCA, it's a fun place with a lot of neat stuff, but it's nowhere near as well-designed or packed with greatness as Disneyland. And I wouldn't be making that comparison if Disney didn't invite it by pricing it the same as the big park.

    From John Erickson on October 4, 2004 at 3:43 PM
    I think DCA is a nice park. It was not supposed to be another Disneyland part 2, just as Epcot, MGM and Animal Kingdom are different. It's supposed to be a different experience. I don't particularly like the boardwalk design-personal taste. However I do think they need to aggressively add to this park, despite its handicap of space. Disneyland however has the same problems. Rides and attractions taken away over the last 10 years with nothing new added. This is supposed to correct itself now that Cynthia Harriss is gone. In the last year as a passholder I've gone to DCA about 75% of the time since nothing new is happening at Disneyland.

    Also, Universal Studios is a joke in Southern California and a big ripoff. I didn't like it back in the 80's and it's of much less value than DCA hands down. Florida is a totally different story, but still not the best from any theme park fans ratings. Knotts is okay but again, a victim of space. Cedar Point has tried to fix it up, but it's fairly hopeless. I also like Screamin', I think Soaring is awesome as do most park visitors-it has a worldwide reputation and I'd suggest anyone get a Fastpass for it. Also, Grizzly is excellent. The characters are supposed to have limited exposure at this park because it's NOT Disneyland. I'm glad they're not included in this ride either!

    From Kevin Baxter on October 4, 2004 at 8:08 PM
    It's funny how many Disney apologists are able to read the minds of everyone else in the world. Last time I went to DCA, there were about 20 people in line for Soarin' early in the day. One trek through the park and it is already obvious that the big attraction (Soarin') is NOT the most popular. It isn't even the second-most popular. It would be lucky to be third.

    But then again, this isn't a Disney website. We are a theme park fan website, and theme park fans ask a little more from Disney than those who are way too enamored of the Disney name.

    From Anthony Murphy on April 28, 2005 at 8:23 AM
    I just came back from it and I thought it was pretty good! Now I am more of a Disney World man, but I made the trek over to the other coast and I was very happy with DCA. However, one of your main issues with the park is "why not go see the real thing". You are probably right, but I have never seen the real thing so this thing is good for me!

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