In 2001, Disney California Adventure Park opened with high expectations as the newest member to the Disney Parks family. What happened instead was a financial and marketing flop leaving Disney execs scrambling to piece together some kind of semblance for Disney fans. Author Lisa Baxter was there at ground zero as a member of the Store Operations team and shares her experiences working in the fledgling theme park.
From torrential rains to guests searching out non-existent characters to the quick exits of high-profile partners Robert Mondavi and Wolfgang Puck, the first year of operation of Disney California Adventure was rough. Then came 9/11. Following the tragedy, Disneyland Resort fired off not one but two rounds of cast member terminations resulting in low morale and less cast members to perform the same amount of work. The magic had dimmed.
Quick fixes, such as the return of Disney's Electric Light Parade and character interactions (Mickey is on vacation in California!), helped sparked interest in the new park. The dirt settled and A Bug's Land colonized for younger guests while Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular kicked off a 13-year run at the Hyperion Theater. From there, the park continued along with a few additions and removals until a 2012 overhaul brought in the much-needed Cars Land complete with E-ticket attraction Radiator Springs Racers. Buena Vista Street replaced Entry Plaza giving the park entrance a 1920s Hollywood vibe which included Red Car Trolley and the return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
Now, almost 20 years since that grand opening date, Disney California Adventure Park is considered a success. The park can look forward to positive changes for the next 20 years including the opening of Avengers Campus which is set to assemble soon.