An Insider's look at the Disney's California Adventure changes
Published: October 21, 2008 at 6:21 PM
Since I live in Southern California, that will be my focus, though I am planning to fly to Orlando a couple times between now and next spring to look in at the Central Florida theme parks, too. This week, I'm starting with a look at Walt Disney Imagineering's "Blue Sky Cellar" at Disney's California Adventure.
This is the new "preview center" for WDI's rehab of Disneyland's second gate, detailing the plans that have been known to Internet readers for more than a year. I'll forgive the curious name for the center ("sky" and "cellar" - huh?), which appropriately reflects the conundrums that have plagued this park since before it opened. (A themed look, or a contemporary one? Family friendly, or adult oriented? Disney quality, or off-the-shelf carny rides?)
The Blue Sky Cellar stands in the old Seasons of the Vine building behind Grizzly Peak, just up the path from DCA's entrance.
Walk inside, and you'll find a cozy display of concept art, scale models and a looped film detailing the planned changes and additions to California Adventure.
Cast members mingle, offering to answer your questions, giving this location what I'm guessing is the largest current cast member-to-guest ratio for any attraction at any Disney theme park. ;-) Hey, that's a good thing. Kudos to Disney for staffing this place right.
Here's the concept board for the retheming of Paradise Pier, already underway with this summer's debut of Toy Story Midway Mania. The sketches here show the revamp of the Orange Stinger wave swinger as "Silly Symphony Swings," complete with Conductor Mickey on top.
Here's the scale model for the new look Paradise Pier, complete with Mickey replacing the Sun Wheel:
Compare that to the same view, in real life, that I snapped this morning:
One problem with DCA that Disney's Imagineers won't be able to fix is the park's orientation. Entering the park from the north, opposite of Disneyland - where you enter from the south, leaves you shooting into the sunlight when taking pictures of many DCA sights.
In addition to the Paradise Pier changes, Disney will retheme Mulholland Madness as Goofy's Flight School, evoking the Goofy Barnstormer coaster at Florida's Magic Kingdom, though the DCA ride will retain its current Wild Mouse track. Disney's also tearing down the Maliboomer space shot and replacing the Golden Dreams theater with a Little Mermaid dark ride. (Previously discussed here and here.)
But my son was drawn immediately to the concept art for Cars Land, debuting (in his opinion) in way-too-far-off 2012.
The image that interested me though, was this one of the planned new DCA entrance:
Hmmm... does that, um, look familiar?
Disney reps said that the new design for the front entrance of California Adventure isn't final (indeed, no concept art ever is... until the final blueprints are drawn up). But the use of the Disney's Hollywood Studios main gate design further demonstrates that the concepts of these two parks are converging: 1920s Hollywood meets today's Pixar animation with a few themed thrills mixed in.
Take a look at the "new" DCA map, as shown on the Screening Room wall at the Blue Sky Cellar:
... and compare it with today's DCA guidemap:
Will these changes and additions work? I hope so. Cars Land looks like a blast. You won't find a bigger fan of historic L.A. than me, either. (Heck, I'd love for Disney to find a way to fit a Philippe's in here somewhere.) As Los Angeles is tearing down its past, I find a smidgen of comfort in being able to see a bit of the "old" L.A. down the road in Anaheim.