It was not my intention to milk this topic for a third installment, but everybody seemed to be having so much fun with it that I threw caution to the wind and here we are again. This week I will going beyond the Disneyland berm. Buckle up.

If you’d like to get caught up, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2

For a recap, here is the set-up for the column:

How do you get people to evaluate and document what they see and how they feel within the environments that they live, work, and play? That is a question I am frequently asked during my day job. After facilitating something north of 750 community meetings and charrettes, I have come to learn that a process built on curiosity, clarity, creativity, will generally gain the confidence of the people and they will feel the magic (when apprehension turns into awe and delight) and work toward a great big beautiful tomorrow. Given the chance, the right tools, and the right strategy, community stakeholders tend to make good choices. Amazing, eh? Like I said, it’s my day job.

Do you have to go to school to learn what are the proper elements that make up spaces that are alive, functional, and beautiful? No. Inside, everybody knows what is right. Most of the time they just do not know how to articulate what they are feeling. My experience has shown me that the best places are those that share these three elements in abundance; quality, variety, and surprise. Places that have a higher degree of life tend to be filled with such moments. Isn’t that why we go back to the parks so often and fight to keep them whole?  Although each of these elements may seem subjective, ask enough people and you will be amazed how common their wants and desires are.

When you look at a specific place, I try to keep this in mind. Every act of construction should be an opportunity to either repair, enhance or embellish the public realm. If not, just leave it alone. Kind of like the theory that people are less critical when rides change at the parks as long as they are being replaced by something superior.

With all of that said, it is hard to manage something you cannot measure. So I suggest this ranking system. Identify a specific space or experience and tell us whether it is exceptional, acceptable or regrettable. Go ahead. It will feel good.

By the way, if you are interested in preservation issues, it is not too late to go to the California Preservation Foundation Conference at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Garden Grove on Friday. I will be on a panel discussing cultural tourism. The event started on Wednesday with most of the action taking place on Thursday and Friday. For more information visit

Also, if you want to learn about exciting new things that are happening in Santa Ana, TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) is hosting a walking tour of the Santa Ana Arts District and a panel discussion on May 9th Called Downtown rEvolution. There is also a networking mixer. I will be moderating the panel discussion. It only cost $15 for non-members.  To learn more, visit: Downtown rEvolution

EXCEPTIONAL: Universal’s Creative Way to Make You Want to Pay More

One of the next big problems for the theme park industry is the $100 a day one park ticket. Right now the price of a ticket to Disneyland is $87 and a ticket to one park at Walt Disney World is $89. Even Universal can be pricey. One day without a deal in Hollywood is $80 and in Florida it is $88.

That $100 is just a big, big gulp. The first one to do it (likely Disney) is going to get bashed in the press. Now this happens every time there is a price hike but that milestone is also going to be a millstone, deserved or not.

Disney and Universal are going two different directions. If you plan to fully utilize the new Disney MyMagic+ program, you will realize that park-hopping is really a bad idea. The system wants you to stay in one park. Decide to go to a second park and watch your perks melt away.

With the addition of a Harry Potter simulated train ride attraction connecting the two parks at Universal Orland Resort, all of the sudden you have one giant park that already costs more than $100. If you only have a one park pass at USO in the future, you are going to feel like you are missing out. Open that wallet. 

Disney might want to get in on this act by connecting all of the parks directly with Monorails. A lot more folks would pop for those expensive Park Hopper tickets, don’t you think?!

EXCEPTIONAL: Animation Building Loop

At the heart of the Disney experience are the animated movies. The lobby for the Animation Building may be one of the best 20 minutes you spend at the park. Surrounding the large space are comfortable sofas for the adults and plenty of room for the kids to run around. On a hot or rainy day, it makes for a fine retreat.

This is the second loop since the Park’s opening in 2001. The updated reel includes a lot more Pixar projects and gone are such stellar titles as Atlantis. Some of the screens are static drawings, frequently concept art. The smaller screens are sometimes animated or show more concept art. The blend makes for a wonderful tribute. Grab a drink. Find a seat. And enjoy one of the best moments at DCA.

REGRETTABLE: Exposed World of Color Fountains

Imagine if the show infrastructure for Fantasmic was unable to reset. The light poles remained in the up position all day, the stage on the island was in production mode, and all that ugly infrastructure was on public view all day long. This would make the Rivers of America a lot less magical, wouldn’t you agree? Then why is it they can’t fix the World of Color fountains in the Paradise Pier lagoon?

I am sure when they were working on the concept for the World of Color show, they thought they could pull off some magic like the way they hid a Fantasmic out of view until it was time for the show. The clever solution was to place the fountains on a platform that could be sunk below the water during the day, rise up for the shows, and come up all the way out of the water for maintenance. Did not quite work out that way did it?

Maybe it was the earthquake that hit the area just as the show was opening. Maybe it is just being lazy. Maybe it is just too expensive to make repairs. Whatever the reason, it’s ugly.

What to do? How to make lemonade out of the lemons? They created a show called Instant Concert: Just Add Water. Does it feel like a band aid? Yes. I say now the Park is a hit, why not spend the extra money and fix the problem!

REGRETTABLE: The Marketplace and Starbucks

I have no problem with Starbucks being served at Disneyland. However, I do have an issue with where they plan on putting the dispensary. May I suggest that the former location of two previous coffee venues between the Mad Hatter and the Disney Showcase? Back in the day, this used to be the home of Hills Brothers. The location is in the right place, as soon as you enter the park. It is just out of the way to not break up the flow of guests entering the park. And it would not mean taking over half of a block on Main Street for coffee. Walt always wanted something in this space and the current blank wall is in a prime real estate spot.

ACCEPTABLE: Radiator Springs Curios

Due to the success of the Wizardry World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, the entire theme park industry is going through a time of reflection. The fact that Universal is out Disneying Disney came as quite a surprise to many. For awhile, Disney was suggesting that the new Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom was going to be the answer, but that project becake less and less exciting every day. Instead, the publicity machine started to suggest that Carsland at DCA was truly the answer. And they may be right. It has been a long time since Disney did something with this much attention to detail.

With the success of Carsland and its retail shops, my hope was that this would be the return to creating retail experiences that augment the theme of the land in which they belong. This was something that Disney pioneered but gave up on long ago in favor of selling generic OneDisney merchandise, plush and Vinylmations.

When the land first opened there were three stores. Ramones was an instant hit filled with all sorts of unique merchandise (and the one time when I was happy to see a store expand). The whole Low & Slow line of products is especially cool. For those looking for Cars related toys, Sarge’s Surplus Hut was the place to go. And then there was Radiator Springs Curios. So much time spent on the outside and so little thought on what was inside. Here you could find the same stuff you could find just about anywhere else at the resort. Somebody must have been paying attention.  What was one of the best themed stores now has the merchandise to match. The store provides the link between Carsland and Route 66. Now if they could just add a couple of benches on the porch that are people sized…

REGRETTABLE: The new Matterhorn bobsleds

I love the Matterhorn and was downright giddy when I learned there would be a single rider line added. Then I got into one of the new bobsleds. Really? I am not tall. 5’9” I believe. What lawyer designed these things? Maybe they should give out knee pads for anybody over 6’. And by adding all of the seatbelt safety gear, the things must weigh a whole lot more than before and I frequently hear about how rough the ride is now. If you need a lesson in torturing guests, the new bobsleds are your example.

And that wraps up this series . . . or does it?! What do you find Exceptional, Acceptable or Regrettable?

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Sam Gennawey is an urban planner who has collaborated with communities throughout California over the course of more than 100 projects to create a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. Sam is a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Planning History Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving municipal, county, and private sector planning documents from throughout Los Angeles County. Sam is the author of Walt and the Promise of Progress City which you can find on Amazon.