home > columns > cast member experience > The Mountain Geek - The Mountain Geek goes to DCA Part II
 The Mountain Geek

I never really thought Disney would finish work on Disney’s California Adventure. Even as the old parking lot was walled off—for years it seemed—and construction wore on, I’d never thought I’d see the day when DCA opened.

When it finally did open, I said to myself “Where did the time go?” At last, we’d be able to see whether all of the skepticism and worries about the park were true, or if Disney finally decided to do something right. From what I read in the newspapers, and especially on several websites, it seemed as if the skepticism was worthy or existence. Low attendance, poor marketing, high prices, lost attention-to-detail…everything I hated about the new Tomorrowland, Light Magic, and many of Disneyland’s latest flops seemed to be par for the course at DCA.
But when I actually went to the new park, I was pleasantly surprised. Bare in mind, it wasn’t busy while I was there, and I didn’t have to pay to get in. And if these two factors were different, it’s very likely my thoughts about the park would have been much different too. But that having been said, I decided (for once in my life) to become ‘a glass is half-full kind’ of person. Especially when it meant talking about Disneyland, a place meaning quite a lot to me as a kid.

One of my former fellow cast members told me they considered the park “Six Flags Over Katella.” “Great…” I uttered. And as I walked into the park, I do have to say I was unimpressed at the entrance. When walking through the main gates at Disneyland, I always felt as if I was in a different world, even before I passed beneath the train tracks. It was an experience I took part in once a year: the smells, the sounds, the feelings were completely different. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown older, but entering DCA, hearing the Beach Boys, I felt as if I was in Huntington Beach. Maybe that’s what the designers of the park wanted me to feel; after all, it is Disney’s California Adventure. But that feeling of magic, that feeling of being in a Disney theme park…was missing. And how will duplicating Huntington Beach help attract locals? My skepticism was growing.

As I walked through the park, one of my first thoughts was about the abundance of space. Not unlike EPCOT Center in Disney World, at least when compared to Disneyland, there was a lot more space given to thoroughfares. It seemed like a place that could handle big crowds; too bad it seems that theory isn’t really being put to the test.

The first attraction we headed towards was Soarin’ Over California. The queue was unimpressive, as were most of the queues in the park. Unlike Indy, where the queue is intriguing, and makes you excited about the ride…this queue was boring. The boards along the interior of the queue were barely readable. All in all, not very promising for an attraction that—I was being told—was one of the best in the park. But once the ride started, I must say, it was pretty incredible. Nothing totally groundbreaking for Disney, it seemed like a combination of Star Tours and CircleVision, but suspended in the air. But the experience was different enough to call it a quality attraction. For those of you unfamiliar with the ride, the seats are suspended in the air, so you’re actually “flying” as you’re watching the presentation, with your feet free to kick around down below. They tell me once you’re in the air, you don’t actually move…but I’m not so sure. The real kick was a device above where you’re hanging that actually pumped out smells of where you are. So when you’re flying over the mountains, you smell pine trees; when you’re flying over the beach, you smell the salt water…pretty incredible.

So after Soarin’, my spirits were up…at least ONE ride was worth it. Whew! We walked through the Grizzly Peak recreation area, which was pretty well done. But again, nothing ground breaking. It seemed like Critter Country meets Knott’s Berry Farm. Anyways, more on this section of the park later.

Next was Paradise Pier. Paradise Pier was my biggest fright; I thought it was possible Disney could pull off the other two “lands” (Hollywood and Golden State) but this one…no way. That being said, it wasn’t too bad. It was colorful, active, far from dull.
Some rides (the Zephyr, Jellyfish, and the Orange Stinger) I could only look at, and roll my eyes. “Who would want to go on those damn things?” I told myself. Reminded me of Magic Mountain. The Sun Wheel was another one I was apprehensive of. The queue area was boring, but it seemed to be pretty efficient. Once I realized the premise behind the attraction, i.e. that it wasn’t your ordinary ferris wheel, I accepted it a little more. The inside cars, the ones that rolled around on the inside of the wheel, were pretty incredible. For those of you that haven’t visited the park before, not all of the cars are fixed to the outer rim of the wheel as in other theme parks; they’re free-moving ‘vehicles’ that roll around on a track towards the center of the wheel, and back to the outer rim. I was actually a little leery each time the car started rolling towards the outer half of the wheel. Anyways, as I exited the attraction, it was interesting enough (maybe just because I never get out) to make me smile, and say “that one was worth it too.”

Mullholland Madness was worth it, but again, nothing groundbreaking here. It’s a smaller roller coaster, but it’s fast enough and jerky enough to make you think you’re going to fly off the edges and go sailing into the crowd. Before I compain about the lack of atmosphere on the ride, I must remind myself that if Disney was going for a carnival type atmosphere (what is the world coming to), then they nailed it. Note: this ride is not nearly as fast as it was when the park opened, it seems as if Disney was a little nervous about the speed of the cars as they swung around the track (my opinion), so it was slowed down.

The “E” ticket ride in Paradise Pier is California Screamin’, without a doubt. Disneyland’s first real roller coaster is this. Much faster than any of the coasters in Disneyland, this ride was a blast. The queue was lame, no surprise really. But the trains were outfitted with the same style sound systems in Space Mountain (great, maybe they’ll be inoperable in a year or two). These make the ride a great experience. After your train leaves the station, you’re propelled to 60 miles per hour in less than four seconds for the journey up to the top of the lift (it seems as if Disney said ‘to hell with the traditional chain lift, that takes to long’). The ride itself is fantastic. It’s long enough to not feel gypped. The loop (oh yeah, there’s a loop) isn’t exactly circular, it’s more like an upside-down teardrop, which multiplies the g-forces. Only two complaints: many of the drops are enclosed, which makes for a claustrophobic experience. Maybe if there were strobe lights or something inside it would be better. Also, you’re immediately reminded you’re in Anaheim. There are terrific views of the Convention Center and Anaheim Hilton & Towers; disappointing.

Back to previous page


Important Notes

All opinions expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of the disneygeek or of this site.