Theme Park Insider

Here's why Disney is even happier now that it fixed California Adventure

October 17, 2017, 2:15 PM · The original version of Disney's California Adventure wasn't going to pass the test of time. If any fans weren't yet convinced of that, just imagine what PR mess Disney would be enduring today if it hadn't junked its first take on Disneyland's second gate.

Anyone remember this?

The Daily Beast today tells the story of the DCA 1.0 sign that would have caused Disney immeasurable public grief if it were in the park still today, following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. (I'm quoted in the article, and the piece references an old Theme Park Insider discussion post I'd long forgotten.)

Fortunately, Disney trashed this sign years ago, when it transformed the old Hollywood Pictures Backlot into Hollywood Land, then recreated the park's entrance as Buena Vista Street, dropped the possessive in the park's name, and gave us what Insiders now call DCA 2.0. Fans have rewarded Disney's changes with strong attendance and revenue growth for the park, which had been languishing for years in its original form.

Disney's California Adventure was conceived in cynicism. The concept grew from focus group research rather than any creative impulse to tell a story. It didn't bring visitors to any fantastic time or place. It just gave us a slapdash collection of retail locations and pretty standard amusement park rides, dressed up with a bunch of signs featuring puns and wordplay in an attempt to provide an overlay of entertainment to the whole mess.

The "Casting Couch" gag (and I do gag when thinking about it) was one of those. Many visitors groaned over it at the time, but there is no chance that anyone would find the humor in it now, after #MeToo and the outpouring of stories about the way that Disney's former production partner harassed and abused actresses over the years.

If Disney was trying to mock the casting couch, its sign didn't do that. (Putting a garish "closed" sign across it might have worked, though.) Instead, the sign came off not as mocking sarcasm but as a cynical attempt to play harassment for a laugh.

Disney's been down this road before, of course. Many of you might now be thinking of the recent controversy over the company's decision to revamp the auction scene in Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney for years got away with that depiction of human trafficking because (1) people didn't see the scene that way and (2) the pirates committing the crime all faced death by the end of the ride, anyway. When Disney changed the attraction to add Captain Jack Sparrow, not all the pirates faced punishment anymore. Add to that the increasing public awareness of what constitutes human trafficking, and Disney wasn't able to escape criticism for the scene any longer. So it ordered the change.

People want to be part of an experience that works. (I get into that issue in my Orange County Register column today.) If entertainment is going to make people uncomfortable, it should be because that was the creator's intent — an effort to get people thinking about something.

All those old DCA 1.0 signs got people thinking about was how much they'd rather be over at the original Disneyland park, instead. But these days, seeing photos of those old signs now gets me thinking how happy I am that Disney made the changes that it did to California Adventure.

My RobertNiles.com column this week:

Replies (3)

October 17, 2017 at 4:59 PM · Whoopi Goldberg “rape rape” is gone from DCA but still on ABC’s The View. Anyone that still supports Roman Polanski must go.
October 18, 2017 at 3:10 PM · I am 100% shocked this joke ever made it in a PC environment like Disney (or California) in the first place! This seems more like what Hard Rock Park was about, before it croaked. If DCA was a stand alone without the backing of Disney it would have been gone just like them too.
October 18, 2017 at 3:19 PM · But that DCA sign is an intrinsic part of Hollywood history and culture! How dare Disney whitewash history again. First, Pirates! Then Six Flags takes down the confederate flag! What’s next in this PC madness?!?!
/s

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