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02/08/02 DCA 1 Year Later... another draft..
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02/08/02 DCA 1 Year Later... another draft..

Its hard to believe that Disney's California Adventure has been open a year already. It seems like yesterday that they blocked off the Disneyland parking lot and started moving dirt around. Then structures started to appear. Then recognizable facades and quick glimpses inside kept our interest. Then last February we were finally able to experience this "new kind" of Disney park. It was touted by supporters as being the next generation of theme parks. The second gate Anaheim had always been missing and needed. By detractors it was described as a tacky carnival that should not carry the name Disney. I think the park is somewhere in between these two. Its been a rocky first year, but then again most (not all) Disney parks have had rough openings. I see some problems with the park that can be described as "fundamental flaws" but then again I am just a paying customer like the rest of you with no real background in designing, marketing, and expanding a theme park. I do know what I like and what I dislike though, so that is the basis for my comments. So the following ramblings are just my thoughts looking back on the first year of this new park. They are in no particular order or logic….

Let us start off with what I liked. There are enough negative comments floating around the internet already (and more to come later in this column). I think the park has made several great entertainment changes over the course of the year. The many "street" performers and groups have been enjoyable (Groove 66, Vocal Flight, Chance to Shine, etc..). The Goofy Beach Party show on the backlot is not that bad. The Disney Electrical Parade was a nice addition (I wish it was at Disneyland instead but that is another issue). Blast is an amazing show that plays to large crowds in the Hyperion Theater. There have been several misses too, but I think that is to be expected. You cannot please all the people all the time (Lights, Camera, Choas, Disney's Steps in Time, and Luminaria).

I think I have become spoiled by DCA and its light almost nonexistent crowds on most visits. I have used it as an escape to get away from people most of the time. If we went to the Disneyland and there were wall to wall people or long lines we knew DCA was only a couple minutes away with wide open walkways and short lines. We used this new park as a retreat for periods of time. You could walk onto the Sun Wheel and get a great view and a relaxing ride for a few minutes.

The new park does have several attractions that we have become our favorites. Among those are Soarin' Over California(unique ride, relaxing, great score), the Sun Wheel(great views), the Bakery Tour(free food, need I say more), and the live entertainment around the park.

Well I am starting to run long, so let's get to the negative for a bit.

I have never been fond of the theme of the park. California just does not draw me in. I guess it's the fact that I have lived here for the last 16 years. Also I think I am still wishing for Westcot, DisneySea, or even Disney's America. All three of those concepts really intrigued me. I thought I was over it until DisneySea opened this past October in Tokyo and from all reports appears to be an incredible park. I think its part jealousy too. I have watched over the years as Orlando has gotten grand parks (EPCOT, Animal Kingdom) and just a park the Studios. I was assuming the place that started it all would get a "grand park". Instead we got a park that I have heard described by many as a perfect "land" for Disneyland, but not a separate $40+ admission. It seems that many agreed with this and the park was part ghost town for much of the year. An aggressive program of discounts and free tickets did drive some people into the park. Now the aggressive new Annual Passholder program should too. I am waiting (and so are many people I know) for them to create a one day park hopper ticket. I have several friends who want to experience some of the new park, but also their favorite Disneyland rides too in a day. Only time will tell, but I think this would be an interesting move, and a good way to get some more people through the turnstiles. They have experimented with offering 2 one day/one park tickets for a discounted price. I am curious how well it was received and if people used it to park hop. We got several positive emails from people who had.

The second issue I have with the new park is the "re-use" and use of so many "non-Disney" attractions. I really enjoy having attractions that are unique to each Disney park. I understand that economics dictates some of this, but then again how come other attractions that are "duplicated" in parks are E-ticket attractions for the most part, yet DCA gets duplicated movies, and old movies at that. As for what I consider "non-Disney" attractions I am talking mostly of Paradise Pier. I know you can make arguments about these attractions being unique, rare, modified, etc… but after a while a spinning ride, rollercoaster, swing ride, etc… are just that. Add on top of that midway games and you have a non-Disney environment to me. Yes its highly themed and has great detail throughout the section, but I just do not like it. Maybe if it was a smaller focus, say for example everything from Golden Dreams over to the Maliboomer were gone it would be better. You would still have a boardwalk, etc to fit the theme but it wouldn't take up so much real estate and number of attractions.

I guess it really boils down to the park is lacking several "D" & "E" ticket attractions for the whole family and lacking of attractions that can occupy you for a while that you want to go back to. For example let's look at a Disneyland Classic. Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride lasts for over 10 minutes and almost every time you go you find something new to look at or detail that you think might have changed. Where as at DCA you have California Screamin' a 3.5min ride. The longer attractions at DCA (the films) are good, but after you experience them once or twice you are done for a long time.

So in conclusion, yes I finally made it around to that.... the park has had an interesting first year. Is it the year I was hoping for, not really. Was it the year I was expecting, definitely not. The park has started to grow on me... I think it is because I have come to acept the fact that I am stuck with it like it or not. And it is better than the alternatives -> No Park, Six Flags, or Knotts. Yes it is no where near Disneyland, but then again give it 46+ years and we will see what evolves. I think I can sum it up in a word... dissappointed. I was hoping for so much more and set such a high bar that it would have been hard for any park to achieve.. but Disney used to always go over the bar with room to spare. Oh well, now we can sit back, and enjoy watching the park mature and evolve.

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