Disney California Adventure is the second theme park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, located adjacent to Disneyland that opened on February 8, 2001. The park is adjacent to the south of Disneyland and southeast of Downtown Disney.
To all who believe in the power of dreams, welcome. Disney's California Adventure opens its golden gates to you. Here we pay tribute to the dreamers of the past: the native people, explorers, immigrants, aviators, entrepreneurs and entertainers who built the Golden State. And we salute a new generation of dreamers who are creating the wonders of tomorrow, from the silver screen to the computer screen, from the fertile farmlands to the far reaches of space. Disney's California Adventure celebrates the richness and the diversity of California... its land, its people, its spirit and, above all, the dreams that it continues to inspire. —Michael D. Eisner, February 8, 2001
To all who come to this place of dreams, welcome. Disney California Adventure celebrates the spirit of optimism and the promise of endless opportunities, ignited by the imagination of daring dreamers such as Walt Disney and those like him who forever changed- and were forever changed by- The Golden State. This unique place embraces the richness and diversity of California... Its land, its people, its stories and, above all, the dreamers it continues to inspire. —Robert A. Iger, June 15, 2012
History and Development
Originally, the Disneyland Resort's second theme park was to have been WestCOT, a West Coast version of EPCOT Center, including versions of that park's Future World and World Showcase. It would've featured attractions similar to those found at Epcot, but instead of Spaceship Earth, it would've had SpaceStation Earth, a 300-foot golden structure much bigger than the 180-foot Spaceship Earth.
WestCOT faced significant opposition from local residents, and the park's price tag of nearly $3 billion would prove unviable in the wake of Disney's financial problems with Euro Disneyland. In 1995, the WestCOT project was scrapped in favor of a California-themed park called "Disney's California Adventure", to be built on the land then occupied by Disneyland's massive parking lot, alongside a new resort hotel and shopping district, some portions of which would take over portions of the original Disneyland Hotel. This would turn Disneyland into the much larger Disneyland Resort, a multi-day entertainment destination in the vein of its much larger sister resort, Walt Disney World. Construction began on Disney's California Adventure in 1998, alongside the new Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Downtown Disney District.
Early years (2001-2006)
Disney's California Adventure opened on February 8, 2001, with high expectations. In a January 2001 article in the Los Angeles Times, Disney executives ambitiously expected the park to reach capacity on some days, forcing the park to turn guests away. However, the park would not reach these expectations, and suffered from flagging attendance. Guests were underwhelmed by the small number of actual attractions and the quality thereof, compared to the much higher number of shops and restaurants. With thrill rides like California Screamin' and Maliboomer, guests complained that there were not enough attractions for younger children. Unlike Disneyland, which has a high tree line and a large berm surrounding the park, limiting guests' view of the surrounding neighborhoods, California Adventure was much more exposed, with nearby hotels, power lines, the Anaheim Convention Center clearly visible, thus spoiling the immersion that guests could find in other Disney parks. In 2001, California Adventure saw 5,000,000 guests compared to Disneyland's 12,300,000. The park lost two major sponsors in October 2001, when Wolfgang Puck and Robert Mondavi closed their restaurants in the park. Superstar Limo, the park's poorly-received lone dark ride, closed less than a year after park opening, in January 2002.
In order to address these criticisms, Disney added new entertainment offerings and attractions such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It! and Disney's Electrical Parade in 2001, A Bug's Land in 2002, Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular in 2003, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in 2004, and Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! in 2006.
Expansion and redesign (2007-present)
In 2007, Disney CEO Bob Iger addressed the perceived subpar quality of the park and stated, "Any time you do something mediocre with your brand, that's a withdrawal. California Adventure was a brand withdrawal." That year, the Walt Disney Company announced a massive $1.1 billion expansion and redesign for the park, which was completed in stages. Toy Story Midway Mania! opened in June 2008. 2009 saw a redesign of portions of Paradise Pier, with the removal of Maliboomer, the retheming of the Sun Wheel, Orange Stinger, and Mulholland Madness to Mickey's Fun Wheel, Silly Symphony Swings, and Goofy's Sky School, respectively, and the opening of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure. The highly successful World of Color premiered in Paradise Pier in 2010. The park's name was rebranded and modified to Disney California Adventure on June 11, 2010.
The park's main entrance area, Sunshine Plaza, underwent a major redesign. The main gate of the park was pushed out further towards the Esplanade and themed to Los Angeles' historic Pan-Pacific Auditorium, similar to the main gate of Disney's Hollywood Studios. In 2011, Sunshine Plaza, which was designed to resemble a stylized California postcard, was closed and completely stripped of its theming, renamed Buena Vista Street and redesigned to resemble 1920s Los Angeles, as Walt Disney may have seen it upon his arrival there. The park's Sun Icon was replaced by a replica of the historic Carthay Circle Theatre, a Los Angeles movie palace that premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. The Carthay Circle hosts a restaurant and 1901, a lounge accessible only by members of Club 33. Tracks were laid down Buena Vista Street and into Hollywood Pictures Backlot, now renamed Hollywood Land, to make way for the Red Car Trolley, a replica of the Pacific Electric Railway and the park's first transportation attraction.
On June 15, 2012, the California Adventure was rededicated by Bob Iger, and Buena Vista Street and Cars Land opened. Cars Land opened with three new attractions based on the Disney/Pixar Cars franchise, including the "E-ticket" Radiator Springs Racers, a high-speed dark ride based on technology originally designed for Epcot's Test Track.
Following the redesign and opening of new lands and attractions, attendance and reception of the park increased significantly. In 2012, the park welcomed more than 7,000,000 guests for the first time. Two days after the rededication, the park reached a record 45,000 guests in a single day.
In 2014, Condor Flats, an original land themed to a desert airfield and opened with the park in 2001, was closed for refurbishment. In May 2015, it reopened as Grizzly Peak Airfield, now a subsection of Grizzly Peak. The more cohesively-themed Grizzly Peak Airfield is set as a 1950s National Recreation Area, though its signature attraction, Soarin' Over California still operates as it did in 2001. In 2016, the attraction became Soarin' Over the World.
The Disney California Adventure is separated into several different lands.
When it opened as Sunshine Plaza, it served as the entrance plaza to the park, and was anchored by several stores and quick-service restaurants, including Greetings From California, Engine Ears Toys, Baker's Field Bakery, and Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream. The latter three locations were integrated within a replica of a Western Pacific Railroad California Zephyr EMD FP7 locomotive and rolling stock.
As part of the re-imagined park, Sunshine Plaza was transformed into Buena Vista Street, representing the Los Angeles that Walt Disney saw when he first arrived there in the late 1920's. Transportation to Hollywood Land is now provided by the Red Car Trolley attraction. Buena Vista Street officially opened on June 15, 2012.
Hollywood Land (formerly Hollywood Pictures Backlot) is divided into two areas: one representing Hollywood Boulevard and the other a movie studio backlot. Many of the building facades in Hollywood Land are inspired by real-life buildings in the Los Angeles area. Attractions in Hollywood Land include Disney Animation, Mickey's PhilharMagic, Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!, and Disney Junior: Live on Stage!. Shopping destinations include Gone Hollywood, Off the Page, and the Studio Store, while dining is provided by Award Weiners and Schmoozies!.
The Golden State was divided into several areas: The Bay Area, Condor Flats, Golden Vine Winery, Grizzly Peak Recreation Area, and Pacific Wharf.
As of Summer 2015, Pacific Wharf is now its own land, The Bay, Condor Flats, and Recreation Area names were discontinued, Golden State became known as Grizzly Peak, and Golden Vine Winery is now a part of Pacific Wharf.
Pacific Wharf includes dining locations such as Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, Lucky Fortune Cookery, and Pacific Wharf Cafe. There is also the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, the first Ghirardelli location inside a Disney park. Attractions include The Bakery Tour and the Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar.
Paradise Pier, located at the south end of the park, is a tribute to the beachside amusement parks of early 20th century California. Paradise Pier features a sprawling bay, which plays host to World of Color as of June 11, 2010. As of January 2018, Paradise Pier is in the process of being split into two distinct themed lands: Paradise Gardens Park and Pixar Pier, each comprising the northern and southern half, respectively.
As part of the re-imagined park, Paradise Pier underwent a transformation into a more elegantly-designed beachside amusement park, with more Victorian-inspired architecture and less of the carnival-style theming the park was criticized for in its early days. The now-highly popular Toy Story Midway Mania! was added in 2008. The Sun Wheel was converted to Mickey's Fun Wheel and the Midway Games were completely redesigned in 2009, and the Orange Stinger was removed and replaced with the Band Concert-inspired Silly Symphony Swings in 2010. Mulholland Madness was converted to the Victorian-style Goofy's Sky School, and the Omnimover attraction, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, opened in 2011 on the former site of Golden Dreams.
Pixar Pier is split into several "neighborhoods", each themed to a different Pixar Animation Studios franchise, though retaining Victorian aspects. An Incredibles-themed neighborhood is anchored by the Incredicoaster (formerly California Screamin'). A Toy Story neighborhood is anchored by Toy Story Midway Mania!. An Inside Out neighborhood is home to Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind. Pixar Pal-A-Round anchors a fourth neighborhood celebrating Pixar films as a whole, with the attraction's gondolas re-themed to Pixar characters while retaining Mickey Mouse's face on its northern side.
Paradise Gardens Park comprises the remainder of the former Paradise Pier on the west and northern sides of Paradise Bay, with attractions such as The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Silly Symphony Swings, and Goofy's Sky School.
Main article: Cars Land
Cars Land is a 12-acre addition to Disney California Adventure and opened on June 15, 2012. Cars Land represents Route 66 and the California car culture, and is based on the 2006 Disney/Pixar film Cars. Cars Land includes three new attractions: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, Luigi's Flying Tires, and Radiator Springs Racers. Luigi's Flying Tires is an updated version of the Flying Saucers, an attraction that operated in Tomorrowland at Disneyland from 1961 to 1966. Radiator Springs Racers, the centerpiece of the California Adventure expansion, is a massive E-ticket thrill ride similar to Epcot's Test Track technology.