Disney is Changing California Adventure's Condor Flats into Grizzly Peak Airfield
As we mentioned at the end of yesterday's post
, the Condor Flats land at Disney California Adventure has closed, and it is not coming back. At least, not with the same name and theme.
The park's new guidemaps have greyed out the area,
And the construction walls have announced the new name, "Grizzly Peak Airfield."
The main reason for the refurbishment is to upgrade the projection systems on Soarin' Over California, the only attraction in the land. Screen-based attractions in theme parks ought to look better than anything a visitor can see on his or her television at home. With recent rapid advances in consumer electronics, that's not a sure thing any longer. Expect to see parks move toward more aggressive refurb schedules for screen-based attractions until either we hit the next tech plateau or the parks just surrender and decide they can live with an inferior product. (Some will. Some won't. Your predictions welcomed in the comments.)
While they're at it, Disney's taking this opportunity to strengthen one of the weaker themed areas in the park. A test pilots' desert airstrip could provide a solid theme for an entertaining land, but Disney didn't really develop that theme in any meaningful way. Soarin' Over California is a gentle tour of the state in vehicles that look like giant hang gliders, not a high-G thrill ride through the skies in high-tech jets. There's nothing in Condor Flats that evoked a feeling of exhilarating, seat-of-your-pants, "The Right Stuff"-style exploration of the frontier above us. Instead, we get a rather barren short transition between the lush Grizzly Peak and the delightful new Buena Vista Street.
Timing didn't help anyone develop fondness for this area, either. California Adventure opened in early 2001, just months before the 9/11 attacks that created a national fear of flying. Instead of providing an inspiring narrative that could help visitors move beyond that fear, Disney made ham-handed design decisions that, if anything, subconsciously referenced the attacks, with an airplane flying through the facade of the Taste Pilot's Grill restaurant and having the center stripe of the Condor Flats runway line up perfectly with the scorched exterior of the Tower of Terror across the park.
Disney's new plan for the area will make the former Condor Flats an extension of the much more beloved Grizzly Peak, with better landscaping and decoration to match the rest of that land. The "Airfield" part simply acknowledges the presence of Soarin' Over California, which — as one of the more popular attractions in the park and its original hit — ain't going anywhere. But instead of being contained within a desert testing ground, Soarin' Over California now will take off from something like a mountain valley national park airstrip, which is probably a more appropriate way to frame the attraction. Heck, cut the opening shot of the Golden Gate bridge and the film could start with us flying above a "nearby" Sierra Mountain river.
The new Grizzly Peak Airfield, with the refurbished Soarin' Over California, is scheduled to open by this summer.
Update: If you're wondering where to get a burger at California Adventure, now that the Taste Pilot's Grill is closed, Disney is serving burgers at the Paradise Garden Grill during the Grizzly Peak Airfield refurbishment. So it looks like we'll have to wait a few more months for the skewers to return to the PGG, after their annual disappearance for the Viva Navidad holiday menu.
I agree completely with the idea to refurbish attractions with old projection systems. I was just talking about this with my wife the last time we were at WDW. Mickey's PhilharMagic, One Man's Dream, Muppetvision, It's Tough to be a Bug are just examples of attractions that need to be taken care of.
"Screen-based attractions in theme parks ought to look better than anything a visitor can see on his or her television at home."
Grizzly Peak Airfield sounds great. I hope that Disney does not bring Soarin' Over the World to California Adventure. Disney fans would enjoy a new and improved version of Soarin' Over California, but Disney should keep the magnificent Jerry Goldsmith musical score and the same beautiful locations showcased in the original Soarin' Over California. This is my favorite Disney attraction. I hope they don't ruin it.
Just got back from a trip to Florida and I was shocked at how outdated the projection in some of the attractions seemed. Worst was Mickey's Philharmagic. The screen was so ludicrously dim a packed holiday theater could barely make out the characters. Last time I rode Simpsons in Hollywood it was similarly lacking in brightness.
Not so sure about this one. I don't think it was executed well, but I appreciated the homage to the salt flats and architecture at Edwards Air Force Base, which hosted Chuck Yeager's Glamorous Glennis, the space shuttle, and all. That is such a huge part of California's history. Changing it to a mountaintop air strip, like Catalina Island's Airport in the Sky, just doesn't seem as fitting. I will be open to seeing what the changes are, but I do hope they do indeed have "The Right Stuff."
I really like Grizzly peak absorbing the condor flats
Great news! I can't say I've been to California Adventure in the last ten years, but when Disney wants to, they can really theme a land, and I'm ecstatic to see that this is happening. It sounds like it's going to be well worth the investment.
There's space for a small ride there! While quite repetitive, they could put a ride similar to the jets at Disneyland so that kids could fly around the peak! DCA still needs a bit more to do. They could also reduce the restaurant size to add something... Thoughts?
So glad they are finally doing something with this area. I didn't know what the area was supposed to represent until someone pointed out the air field painted on the asphalt. With other more iconic airstrips in California like Moffett Field or the old LAX air tower, I really didn't understand the theming here. Still not sure what the monorail has to do with Grizzly Peak, but glad to see it is finally getting some love.
Robert, about your 9/11 comments: Didn't the Tower of Terror open a few years after the park opened, as one of the fixes for the park's lack of popularity? In which case, the designers of Condor Flats couldn't have predicted that the runway would line up with the Tower of Terror. It was just an unhappy coincidence with where they decided to locate the new attraction.
Why wouldn't they call it Piston Peak Airfield? They should use their own IP.
Perhaps they should refilm the pre-show of Soaring with Patrick Warburton wearing Ranger outfit. That will change the effect from an airline feel to the recreation and parks feel. Any ideal of what the store will change to?
I just wish they would finally install Soarin' Over the World. How long have we been hearing about that new version? Five-six years? What's the hold up?
Film projection is not prohibitively expensive and calibrating a film projector is very easy to do.
Robert Parker: I had a similar thought! How cool would it be to be able to glide over the raft attraction in a chair-lift! From the "flats" up to the top of Grizzly Peak and back. That shouldn't be to expensive to build.
The Simpsons Ride debuted at both Universal parks on 2008. That's 7 years ago. In technology terms, its about 2 generations ago. Perhaps it is a hope, but I'm sure Soarin' will get a significantly better result.
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